When dreaming up the perfect gaming battle station, most users spend the majority of their time thinking about their favorite keyboards, high-DPI gaming mice, comfy headsets and high refresh-rate displays. Often overlooked in a PC gamer’s peripheral budget, mouse pads are actually an essential part of the PC gaming experience. A fancy gaming mouse without a reliable surface is like a knight without his loyal steed.
While most modern optical and laser sensors have evolved to become great at tracking on all sorts of odd surfaces, having a reliable mouse pad makes a big difference for any type of competitive PC gaming. Nothing is quite as cringe-inspiring as a mouse paired with a random house-hold object or bare surface.
We've tested a variety of mouse pads, from cloth to hard surfaces and everything in between to pick the best one for each category. There's no singular best mouse pad that fits all, so we've broken them down into the best for each type.
Unlike most of the hardware we test, mouse pads aren’t nearly as mechanically complex. This means they don’t require rigorous switch testing or complicated software simulations, so we use more practical tests instead. When we receive a new mouse pad to test we do what we do best: Play lots and lots of PC games.
Since mouse pad preference between games can be highly subjective, we try to separate and categorize similar mouse pads for testing. First we put each mouse pad into its ideal gaming environment, noting where it excels and where it falls short. For example, an oversized cloth mouse pad would be paired with low DPI settings and a competitive FPS. We then switch between mouse pads of the same category and note the differences. Each mouse pad is tested with a minimum of two gaming mice (laser and optical) and put through several hours of gaming with multiple titles.
After examining performance in games, we test speed and accuracy with the use of a free training simulation for gamers called AimBooster. We run each mouse pad through the basic "Speed" training at 1920x1080 several times and note any variance in scores. The simulation is designed to improve your reaction times and precision, which makes it a great tool for testing how well a mouse tracks on a mouse pad. After thoroughly examining the performance of each mouse pad, we finally look at any additional features to choose our favorite. While most of our time is spent in our practical performance tests, we also take a great deal of consideration into specs and features such as slippage, weight, dimensions, and durability.
In the end, we always recommend gamers find the type of mouse pad that is most suitable for their gaming style before fully committing to an exact model. Some of the games we use to test mouse pads include: Starcraft 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, League of Legends, DOTA 2, and World of Warcraft.
When comparing mousepads between the top gaming brands, it’s hard to make a decision based purely on performance alone. Most of the big players in the market use similar high quality materials, so it’s often a small difference or feature that sets our best pick apart from the rest. Some of the other mouse pads we tested are worth a mention.
ASUS ROG Sheath
The ROG Sheath is ASUS’ massive extended mousepad with stitched edges that’s spacious enough to fit a full-length keyboard, mouse and so much more. Compared to our extended champion, the Corsair MM300, the Sheath actually offers quite a bit more depth (440mm vs 300mm) which could be preferable to some, but this proved to be problematic for our monitor stand.
Our previous pick for best RGB mouse pad, the Razer Firefly was one of the first mouse pads to incorporate RGB lighting. It syncs up nicely with other Razer Chroma products, but loses top honors due to less-bright LEDs and the lack of USB pass-through.
One of the categories we didn’t cover in this guide is double-sided mouse pads. These hard mouse pads feature two separate sides with varying surface textures that allow you to switch things up on the fly. After testing four separate models, we found very little difference in tracking on both sides, but Corsair’s MM600 pulled slightly ahead with its ultra smooth “speed” side.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable cloth mouse pads due to its simple design and affordable cost, the QcK is Steelseries’ bread and butter mouse pad and for good reason. While it may be lacking some of the bells and whistles of the other cloth mouse pads we tested, the quality of the surface and performance of the QcK definitely warrants mention.
Like Steelseries, Razer has consolidated all of its cloth mouse pads into a single line with varying sizes. While the Goliathus has similar high quality materials and features to our winning cloth mouse pads, the distractingly vibrant green design feels like a step backward from Razer’s transition to sleeker designs seen in its newer hard mouse pads and logo redesign.
The Razer Sphex is a very unique mouse pad that essentially turns an area of your desk into a hard mouse pad. Skipping the usual plastic core and rubber base, the Sphex is a textured surface with an adhesive backing that attaches to your desk, making it a cost effective way to mimic the feel of a hard mouse pad.
Reflex Lab Large Gaming Mouse Pad
One of the many “off-brand” competitors found primarily on Amazon, Reflex Lab offers several cloth mouse pads that actually compete toe to toe with some of the more developed brands. Their large and oversized gaming mouse pads are very competitively priced but a chemical-like odor (that went away after time) and the amount of time it took to flatten out after removal from packaging makes their materials and quality questionable.
Roccat Kanga and Corsair MM200
Roccat and Corsair both offer economic versions of their cloth mouse pads that feature thinner surfaces without the bells and whistles. Unfortunately, with such a minimal difference in cost we find it hard to recommend the lower end models when their premium versions are so well worth the spend.
With countless brands offering mouse pads from every corner of the world, it’d be impossible for us to test each and every one of them. We do try our best to include every new and popular model in our tests, but it’s still a massive marketplace that is always growing with constant additions.
That being said, we are always on the lookout for new models and features that catch our eye and will continue to update this story with new developments. Your feedback and suggestions are also always welcome. Some of the newer mouse pads we’ll be testing soon are the Steelseries DeX mouse pad, Razer’s Sphex V2 and the largest mouse pad we’ve ever seen, the Glorious 3XL.
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