Hard or soft surface mouse pads? We've got your answers

Older Mouse with Ball for Movement

The mouse pad. A relic of the times when mice required a tactile surface for rotating a ball. However, through the evolution of mice, the mouse pad has stayed ever vigilant. Is it the dependability, or the customization that makes a mouse pad so everlasting? Whatever it might be, we’ve got your answers.


Whether you’re a esports competitor, or a regular user of mice, odds are you’ve seen or used a mouse pad in your life. And if you’re perusing this, chances are you’ve decided now is the time to purchase one.


But what makes a good mouse pad, the best mouse pad? By the end, I’m hoping to provide some answers for you, and help you in your journey.


Let’s assume you’re new to the world of Keyboard accessories, and mouse pads are entirely undocumented territories for you. What terminology do you need to know?

Terms

 

D/CPI: Also known as resolution, Dots or counts per inch is essentially the ratio between your mouse movements, to your cursor movements.Having a 1 CPI translates to each inch you move your mouse, your cursor will only move one pixel. (Which is just a horrid thought.)

RGB Keyboard with different colored keys

RGB: RGB simply stands for Red Green and Blue. When used in the discussion of images and color theory, it’s how light interacts with environments and which incremental values add up to make what color. However, when it comes to gaming and keyboard accessories, it simply means that you have LEDs that can emit colors.


Glide: Sounding rather obvious, the glide refers to the feel of the mouse when used. If you’re experiencing a lot of drag or friction, that will negatively impact the glide. More drag means less glide.


Laser or Optical: Both laser and optical refer to the method of which mice track and record movements. Mainly up for debate over which is better though the gaming community, for the most part, has taken the optical route.


Qi: You’ve probably heard it described as wireless charging. Some mouse pads are beginning to venture into Qi as an added bonus, however as it’s a new bit of technology, there are some inevitable hiccups.


With all that squared away, the real cost benefit analysis can begin. Hard or soft surface mouse pad, which is better?

Office Desk with Mouse and Keyboard, Black and White

Depending on your gaming room setup, or your personal office (we don’t judge) the answer can be as easy as, “yes, get this exact mouse pad” or it could be something more like “weeeelllllll…” Our aim it so assist with the latter response and hopefully provide you with some insight into your mouse pad future.


Before we begin, I will inform you that some aspects of a mouse pad will inherently make it more expensive. If you’re looking for a customizable, RGB, 12’’ by 20’’, Qi charging mouse mat that also is a functioning hand warmer, odds are you’re going to be spending more money.


Other things to remember are the mouse pads footing, as well as any textural differences. If you’re searching for more of a smooth surface that doesn’t delve into the micro texture landscape, you’ll easily be able to narrow your search. Word for the wise, not all great mouse pads are great for all.


That being said, do keep your budget and longevity in mind as you search. Opting to spend more might be beneficial in the end simply for the endurance. Without further ado, let us begin the battle of hard vs soft mouse pads.

The Hard Mouse Pad: Pros and Cons


The best hard mouse pad is almost legendary or fictitious in some gaming circles. You might be coming to this with some preconceived notions about the hard mouse pad, but allow me to bring up some points of contention and you make the deductions yourself based on your needs.


A significant factor that you might not be thinking about instantly is cleanliness. A hard mouse pad is, without effort, going to be more sanitary. Cleaning a hard mouse pad is simplicity itself by just running a towelette over it and returning to your business. It’s anticipated that they won’t accrue a layer of dirt or staining simply due to their nature. 


Which material you decide on heavily relies on what mouse you possess, how you want your mouse pad to feel, and lastly its appearance. Glass mouse pads are definitely slick and more “modern”. Nonetheless, without the correct mouse you’re literally treading the air for any DPI. The typical materials you’ll see for a hard mat are: Plastic, Rubber, Aluminum, or the aforementioned glass.


Hard mouse pads are also more likely to incorporate RGB colors at a reduced cost. That isn’t to say that you can’t find a soft cloth gaming mouse pad for $10 that has RGB colors, but would you really trust that? I wouldn’t.


Plus, a hard mouse pad is going to potentially save you a fortune in scratch prevention. We’ve all used our mouse before on a hard wooden table top and, at the end of the session, looked down at our embarrassment. And depending on the level of decimation, no amount of walnuts will save you, or that desk.

Scratched Wooden Cutting Board

Lastly, and I’m only barely qualifying this as a pro, the hard mouse pad is the exact size as shown. Unless you strike down on it with furious anger, a hard mouse pad will always be the same size and take up the equivalent space. There won’t be any alterations, it won’t wrinkle and absorb things, it’ll just always be the same rigid size. If you’re looking for that dependability and consistency, look no further. 


The mentality behind barely qualifying that as a pro is because for some, that’s easily a con. The hard gaming mouse pad is going to be the same size, it’ll never fold up neatly or compress into a 1” diameter roll that can fit in your pocket. It will always be the same size. Thankfully they aren’t inherently thick so storing isn’t a true nightmare. 

"Mind the Gap" display for railways

Another con to the hard mouse pad is the defined edge. Likely not a catastrophic issue as it can be easily remedied by adjusting the sensitivity. However, you could potentially find yourself dropping your mouse right off the edge. Your hand might slip and oop, there you are. In the nebulous of gaming and comfort. Alone.


Speaking of slippage, if you’re buying that $10 mouse pad, odds are you’ll have issues with traction. It is imperative that a  hard mouse pad be heavy and sturdy. If it isn’t, it’s just an incredibly inefficient paper weight. 


Check to see if the mouse pad you’re eyeing has natural rubber padding, and/or is weighted enough that even if you did fall once again into the nebulous void, you aren’t going to (accidentally) throw your mouse pad through the window on your venture back.

X-Ray of Hand with Mouse

Also in that ambiguous region of neither pro nor con, the height of a hard mouse pad might cause some pain or it might paradoxically help. Depending on your posture, we recommend looking at this article we wrote about MSDs, adding a slight lip might cause you to raise your arms to be more flat, thereby preventing RSIs or other ailments.


Alternatively, it could force you into a bad habit of pressing your wrists into the table top, leading to the development of RSIs. Either way, there will be an impact on your posture that will occur due to a hard mouse pad.


The concluding concern a hard mouse pad owner faces is the increased likelihood of mouse degeneration. Unfortunately, that’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds. The degeneration in this sense is referring to the wear and tear the feet, or skates, of your mouse will experience through use. When employing a harder mouse pad, you’ll likely experience a higher degree of degeneration which in turn would require additional purchases.


Arguments for Hard:

  • Cleanliness: Easily cleaned
  • Tactile response: Provides more opportunity for improved D/CPI
  • Higher RGB inclusivity (and cheaper options)
  • Possible easy storage and use

Arguments against Hard:

  • Possibly not easily stored
  • Higher contrast between edge and table
  • Possibility of slippage without anti-slip rubber base
  • Increased angle of wrist could lead to muskuloskeletal problems

The Soft Mouse Pad: Pros and cons

Red Mouse on Yellow Circular Soft Mouse Pad

When looking at soft or cloth mouse pads, you’ll notice a recurring trend of customization options and high quality details. Detailing could range from your favorite splash art to a perfect iteration of your backyard. In this fashion, the softer mouse pad will, in all likelihood, be more in line with your personality and your room aesthetic. 


Not only are more appearance options available, but there are also far more options in terms of sizing. It’ll be effortless finding a small mouse pad but it’ll also be just as straightforward to find a “mouse pad” that’ll cover your entire desks surface area, and possibly more if that’s what you desire.

Soft Mouse Pad - DeclanTM Flickr, no alterations made

Similarly to the hard mouse pads, these cloth surfaces will assist in the prevention of most desktop disasters. You can roll out your large mat over your desk and there will be no uncertainty over making a single scratch or mark anywhere. There are other things you’ll have to worry about, of course, but we will get to those in a moment.


Another major, and I mean major, favorable factor to a cloth mouse mat is how compact they can be. If you’re untroubled by wrinkles or possible creases, they can be as compressed as you’d like. An additional bonus to this stems from their fundamental softness. You won’t uncover to your dismay that your mouse pad is shattered simply because you hit that speed bump a little too fast.


With these mouse pads, you’ll also likely be paying for some comfort. This will also be an inconclusive pro or con as it could likewise improve or worsen your posture. If you find the comfort of the softer mouse pad to be too tantalizing, you’ll likely be compressing into your wrists which isn’t beneficial in the slightest. 


Unfortunately with every pro, there is a con and a soft mouse pad is no exception from this principle.

Double Sink Drawing in Black and White

Cleaning is rough. Not solely because you have to soak and rinse them, but due to the nature of a soft mouse pad, you’re going to be doing more cleaning in general. Depending on your usage, you could find yourself cleaning your mouse pad as part of a regular routine.


There are also the details. Nothing beats finding that perfect image for your mouse pad that really ties your gaming room together. But then the despair of using your mouse and just ripping that image off… it’s tough. It’s a pain I honestly wouldn’t put on even my enemies.


If you’re searching for RGB, there are quite a few possibilities when it comes to the soft mouse pads. I will say though that if you’re planning on moving around quite a bit between desks with your mouse pad, 


Since these cloth mouse pads can be developed with any number of materials, finding the one that perfectly suits your play style or preferred comfort will be its own challenge. You could find your ideal image, the exact size that suits you, and not know what the material will truly feel like until you’re waist deep in a session and realize, it’s not all that great.


It should also be noted that there is a possibility of grabbing a cloth mouse pad that has an intense odor to it. Something about manufacturing the plastics or whatever material used, could make it possible for a lingering scent to permeate for a while. Yes this is also possible for a hard mouse pad, but it’s less likely.

Spilled Milk top down view

Lastly, there is the possibility of spillage. When using a soft mouse pad you face the potential inevitability of spilling a drink and racing to clean it before your mouse pad does. If you find yourself to be the sort that enjoys a beverage on occasion by the computer, keep this in mind.


Arguments for Soft:

  • Very customizable
  • More size variants
  • Extremely compact and maneuverable
  • Could provide some level of ergonomic support

Arguments against Soft:

  • More required deep cleaning
  • Designs can easily wear out
  • Very few RGB options (that are affordable)
  • Frequently have harsh chemical scent to them

Bonus


We’ve given you quite a bit to think about and you might be feeling a bit overloaded. However, I just wanted to leave you with a few more aspects to keep an eye out for as technologies improve. 


There’s the Qi charging that was mentioned earlier. Some drawback currently to mouse pads that use Qi charging are that they don’t really charge. Kind of a large set back I know, though I don’t imagine this will be a problem for all that long

Frayed Linen
Watch out for anti fraying possibilities with the close mouse pads. If you’ve got your favorite mouse mat, you don’t want the edges to end up all worn out and frayed simply because they aren’t sewn the right way.

 

Also keep an eye out for the world of the double sided mouse pad. These are pretty cool and offer up a soft and hard side so you can get better ideas for what might be best. Currently though, the two sides might not be all that different and you might end up getting two hard surfaces of varying degrees. 

 

New Age Wireless Mouse

A cool concept that doesn’t directly apply to the gaming community but is cool to check out. There have been some advances in the use of wireless mice and how they function. In fact there are even some mouse pads that will act almost like a conduit for your wireless friend and can even charge them while doing so. Neat stuff.

Conclusion


Finding the best mouse pad is entirely up to you and your preferences. It won’t be possible for anyone to guide you with absolute certainty towards one mouse pad over another, however it is entirely possible for us to instruct and inform. 


Don’t be concerned over aesthetics too much as you’ll absolutely be able to find something cohesive for your video game room or office. After all, the best mouse pad is one that provides you the support and comfort needed to complete your tasks.


Whether it’s hard or soft, a mouse pad is there to provide something for you. Make sure you know what you’re looking for and you’ll find that something.

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