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.
Do You Really Need a Mouse Pad?
As discussed above, mouse pads are not as vital as they once were. On mice with surface tuning, a mouse pad is often ancillary, especially if you have a smooth, even, resilient surface underneath. Wooden desks can stand up to most mice, as can formica, stone, and other opaque materials.
On the other hand, if you play competitive games — or are simply rough on your mouse — you could damage either your peripheral or the surface underneath it. In cases like this a $10 mouse pad could save you from having to sink hundreds into a new desk. In my experience, the average mouse and desk surface are totally harmless to one another, but a good gaming mouse can last for years. If you're going to invest $80 in a top-of-the-line peripheral, another $10 or $20 will not hurt in the grand scheme of things.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Size: 14.0 x 10.0 inches
Thickness: 0.2 inches
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.
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.
Size: 11.8 x 9.4 inches
Thickness: 0.2 inches
Kingston HyperX Fury Pro
If you can get past the Kingston HyperX Fury Pro's wordy moniker, you'll find an inexpensive, no-frills, plain mouse pad that's nonetheless tough, resilient and effective across a wide variety of genres. The mouse pad's soft material makes it easy to clean and transport, and its coarse underside ensures that it won't move around your desk. You can buy it in a wide variety of sizes, making it equally suitable to small and large setups. Kingston makes pretty good mice and keyboards as well, so this could be a good companion for the company's peripherals.
Thickness: 0.15 inches
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