If you're going to invest $50 or more in a great gaming mouse, it couldn't hurt to plunk down just a little bit more for a great mouse pad to go with it. While mouse pads aren't the absolute necessity they were back in the days of ball mice, they still provide a comfortable, streamlined surface that won't wear down your mouse or get it too dirty over time.
Of the models I tested, I liked the Turtle Beach Drift the best. It's unpretentious, elegant and, best of all, cheap. However, models from Logitech, SteelSeries, Razer and smaller companies performed similarly well.
What to Look For
Before you buy a gaming mouse pad, you should know that you may not need one. Most modern gaming mice possess a feature known as surface calibration. Using this feature, the mouse's sensor will detect what kind of surface you're playing on and adjust its feedback accordingly. As such, practically any surface can be the ideal mouse pad.
When hunting for a mouse pad, there are only a few major factors to keep in mind: material, thickness and size. Some companies, such as SteelSeries, offer sizes ranging from mini (9.8 x 8.3 inches) to XXL (36 x 18 inches), which suit gamers who either have limited desk space or play at very low dots-per-inch (DPI) sensitivities and need much more space than the average user. Other users prefer enormous mouse pads so that they can rest their keyboards on them as well.
Other mouse pads, like the Razer Firefly, are unlike anything else on the market, and combine expensive electronics with otherwise-simple pads. No matter which one you pick up, you might want to consider using a wrist rest as well; gaming mouse pads facilitate the movement of mice, and aren't generally thick enough to make your wrist significantly more comfortable than it would be if you were to rest it on your desk.
How We Test Gaming Mouse Pads
Mouse pads usually require no setup (save for ones with electronic components, like the Razer Firefly). Just flop them down on your desk, straighten them out and you're done. As such, the only thing we evaluate is how well they perform in-game.
To test a mouse pad's game performance, we run it through a number of different games — including first-person shooters, real-time strategy titles and massively multiplayer online experiences — to get a feel for it across different genres. I used a Razer DeathAdder Chroma mouse to test each mouse pad, as it's a high-quality peripheral that can adjust to almost any surface.
Best Overall: Turtle Beach Drift
Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideThe Turtle Beach Drift's beauty is in its simplicity. This microfiber mouse pad is smooth up front, with embroidered edges and a resistant back to keep it from moving around. There's a pleasant red Turtle Beach logo to give it a little zest, but other than that, it's pretty straightforward — just pick the size that's best for your setup, and let fly. The Drift worked well across all genres I tried, and the embroidered edges always let me know when I was running up against the edge of the pad and had to reset my hand.
What Owners Say: The Turtle Beach Drift received 4.7 out of 5 stars from Amazon user reviews, and there was not a single review under 3 stars. Users like the microfiber material on the Drift's surface and the wide variety of sizes available. The larger sizes irked some customers, but that's what the smaller ones are for.
Thickness: 0.1 inches
Runner-Up: SteelSeries QcK Mouse Pad
Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideIf you like having a lot of options, the SteelSeries QcK Mouse Pad is a good place to start. The standard version of this mouse pad is small enough for a desktop and thick enough to support a wrist, but with no embroidered edges and only a small, white SteelSeries logo in the corner. You can get it in a variety of sizes, shapes and thicknesses, which should fit your setup no matter how much space you have. I was able to play at the top of my game for Titanfall, Heart of the Swarm and Assassin’s Creed Unity, thanks to its smooth surface, and choosing the right size for my desk made a big difference.
What Owners Say: The SteelSeries QcK is the best-selling gaming mouse pad on Amazon, which makes sense, given it 4.6 out of 5 stars. People love its low asking price, size selections and overall performance. A number of customers have pointed out that the mouse pad tends to get frayed over time, though, and may not last more than a year or two.
Best Dual-Sided Pad: Corsair MM600
Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideThe Corsair MM600 is not cheap, but it's worth every penny. This hard mouse pad features something to please just about any kind of gamer. A reversible design lets players switch between a smooth surface and a rough one just by flipping the peripheral over. First-person-shooter players can glide around the mat with ease; turn-based strategy players can move the mouse slowly and thoughtfully; and gamers who consume multiple genres can transition back and forth at will. Four rubber nubs at each edge of the mouse pad keep it firmly in place, no matter which side is up.
What Owners Say: Those who buy the Corsair MM600 generally love it, as its Amazon reviews average out to 4.6 out of 5 stars. Gamers love the dual sides, and find that they get use out of both the smooth and coarse options. They also like the large size, the high-quality materials, the reliable Corsair brand and how well it works with all kinds of mice. Multiple users pointed out, however, that the rubber feet on the corners can collect dust or become worn over time.
Size: 13.9 x 10.7 inches
Thickness: 0.2 inches
Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideThe Razer Firefly is unique in the world of mouse pads, and it's definitely the most unusual peripheral I tested. The Firefly is an electronic mouse pad that features a hard surface and LED lights around the edges, with full Chroma capabilities (16.8 million colors). The mouse pad syncs with other Razer Chroma peripherals, like the DeathAdder mouse and BlackWidow keyboard, to display intricate color patterns. The LEDs looked gorgeous (although I didn't spend very much time looking at them during gameplay), and the hard surface let the mouse glide across it with very little resistance. I appreciated that the Firefly facilitated both comfortable gameplay across all genres and a method of visually spicing up a gaming nook.
What Owners Say: The Razer Firefly has generally positive reviews on Amazon, resulting in 4.4 out of 5 stars overall. Users seem to either love it or hate it, although most came down on the positive side. Aficionados praise the delightful Chroma colors and smooth performance, but detractors claim that $70 is simply too much to ask for a mouse pad whose only claim to fame is colored lighting.
Size: 14.0 x 10.0 inches
Thickness: 0.2 inches
Glorious Gaming Mouse Mat
Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideIf you can get past the Glorious PC Gaming Race name, which references an offensive meme, the mouse pads it produces are both varied and inexpensive. The Glorious Gaming Mouse Mat comes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses, has embroidered edges, and claims to be waterproof (although it did not repel water during my tests). The rear of the mouse pad was resistant enough so that the mouse pad never moved an inch during my tests, and my gameplay experience was as good as on any other peripheral. If price is your most important criterion, Glorious PC Gaming is about as cheap as decent mouse pads come.
What Owners Say: Questionable name aside, the Glorious Gaming Mouse Mat seems to deliver where it counts, garnering a rare 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Owners love the mouse mat's variety of size options, its resistant feel and, more than anything else, its low price. Some users have complained that the mouse pad has a foul, chemical smell, however, and that the edges fray after heavy use.
Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's GuideThe Logitech G240 is about as simple as mouse pads get. The entire apparatus is a slip of black cloth with a little resistant fabric on the back to prevent it from slipping. With no embroidered edges and a blue Logitech G logo near the bottom, the G420 is exactly what it appears to be: a soft surface for your mouse that should help your peripheral glide across your desktop as you play. I used the G240 for the longest of any mouse pads we tested, and have played dozens of games on it over the course of many months. So far, I have no complaints about the way it handles any titles.
What Owners Say: Like the other mouse pads we reviewed, users on Amazon love the Logitech G240, awarding it 4.5 out of 5 stars, with only a handful of reviews below the 4-star mark. Customers like how consistently the G240 performs across multiple genres as well as everyday computing. They note, however, that it may be a little bit bigger than the standard user has room for.
Size: 13.4 x 11.0 inches
Thickness: 0.04 inches
The Razer Vespula earns points for originality right off the bat: It's one of the few gaming mouse pads on the market with a wrist rest built in. The peripheral has advantages aside from staving off carpal tunnel — namely, a nonslip design and a reversible surface. One side offers a smooth feel, which is perfect for MOBA, RTS and other genres where speed is of the essence. Flip it over, and you'll find a coarser surface that enhances fine control for precision genres like FPS and racing. If you have a Razer mouse, you can use the Synapse 2.0 software to automatically calibrate your device to either one of the Vespula's surfaces.
What Owners Say: Amazon users generally have nice things to say about the Razer Vespula, which sits with a comfortable 4.4 out of 5 stars. In general, gamers loved the ability to flip between the two surfaces, as well as the mat's ability to stay in one place without sliding around. Some users found that the plastic started peeling over time, however, and others bemoaned paying for two sides when they started to favor one almost exclusively.
Size: 11.8 x 9.4 inches
Thickness: 0.2 inches