The magical modern mouse pad

Are mouse pads important for modern gamers? They seem almost redundant in an age where gaming mice will work on anything from glass to the weathered back of great uncle George. I even lamented about it in a column about gaming mice a while back. That said, there is a fair bit of technology to consider when discussing mouse pads:

Material

Manufacturers use a range of different materials for mouse pads, but you’ll rarely see them state what is used on the specifications list. This is because the materials are as basic as neoprene (which costs next to nothing for a large roll), rubber compounds covered with cloth, or plastics in some of the harder pads.

There are a few manufacturers who use a mix of other silicon or rubber compounds, and some have tried their hand at anodized aluminium, but for the most part the materials used to make mouse pads are cheap and easily available elsewhere.

XFX WarPad

Does size matter?

Mouse pads come in a range of sizes, with brands like Razer marketing each with their own pros. In the Razer range of soft pads you have Alpha, Omega, extended, and standard, each at different price points.

These larger mouse pads are seen frequently at LANs, because they aren’t an inconvenience to transport, and nothing is more annoying than running out of mouse pad while you’re gaming. The price difference between the standard and oversized mouse pads is so low that most tend to go for the larger pads “just in case” you need more mouse area.

Various sizes of mouse pads are only available for soft mouse pads however, with the harder (more expensive) pads taking a one-size-is-good-enough approach. These hard pads are much closer in size to the standard size soft pads; strange considering the popularity of the larger soft pads, but not unexpected when you look at the price increase between soft and hard mouse pads.

A soft Razer Goliathus mouse pad (large edition) has a gaming area of 444mm x 355mm, and retails locally for around R150. A hard Razer Ironclad mouse pad on the other hand has a gaming area of only 320mm x 270mm, and retails for closer to R450.

Razer Goliathus

Hard pads are an option

Despite the increase in price, hard mouse pads are an option. They are unwieldy transport, and they are sometimes incovenient to position on a gaming surface, but once you’ve got it in place it offers all of the benefits of a soft mouse pad, and a few more.

Durability is of course the main benefit of hard mouse pads. Unlike the cloth covered soft pads, the hard pads will last for years assuming you take care of them during transporting. Their surfaces also stand up to degradation far better than soft pads in my own personal experience.

Razer eXactMat

Dual sides, bang for buck?

There are also various dual-sided mouse pads on the market, offering both speed and control surfaces for gamers who like to switch between them for different game types.

I have personally never needed to switch from a control surface to a speed surface for different games; I’d rather just up my mouse’s sensitivity on the fly, and it seems I’m not alone. An informal poll of around 20 gamers with dual-sided mouse pads showed they very rarely switched sides between games, with most only doing so to show off their pad to their friends.

That said, dual-sided mouse pads do offer the option of both without buying two mouse pads, so if you’re the type of gamer who absolutely needs speed and control options, dual-sided pads offer a bang for buck solution to the problem.

Other features

There are other features on offer from some mouse pads, include wrist-rest gel-pads. While there aren’t many gaming pads that offer this option, it’s a nice to have for gamers who game at high DPI settings and don’t need a large range of movement.

SteelSeries Diablo III QcK Barbarian Edition

Features that aren’t

Mouse pads offer mention a range of extras in their features list that aren’t actually features are all. These include:

Non-slip rubber bases – This isn’t a feature, this should be on every gaming grade mouse pad as standard. There is nothing more useless than a mouse pad that slides around the table while you’re trying to game.

Artwork and pretty lights – Jazzing up a mouse pad with built-in lighting or artwork from your favourite game isn’t a feature either. As with all decorations that don’t serve a purpose, it’s there to simply enhance the look of the mouse pad, and does not provide any real gaming benefit.

At the end of the day gamers want mousepads because they do offer enough benefit to justify a small price tag, but when a gaming company releases a mousepad for over R600, alarm bells start ringing. Investing R200 on a mousepad that should provide a few years of gaming comfort seems like a fair deal though, and with so much choice in the mousepad market there’s sure to be something for everyone.

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The magical modern mouse pad

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