Here at Digital Foundry, we've weighed in on some of the top gaming peripherals on the market, from the best gaming mice and mechanical keyboards to recommended gaming headsets and monitors. Now it's time to look at an underappreciated part of your gaming arsenal - the humble mouse pad or mouse mat. This surface affects how your mouse movements are translated into in-game actions, so it makes sense to make sure you're not being held back by an old, dirty or simply unsuitable mouse pad. That's why we're taking a look at the best mouse pads, from cheap and cheerful budget options to the best premium examples available.
We've gone with five battle-tested recommendations to start, and we'll look to add to these in the coming weeks and months as we have a chance to try more examples and fill out the types of mouse pads you're most interested in. As well as making recommendations, we'll also look at the more basic principles of mouse pad design and explain what options are out there by answering some frequently asked questions. Let's get started with some great entry-level options, before we move onto more specialist examples.
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Best cheap gaming mouse pad: SteelSeries QcK Mini
You don't have to spend a lot to get a good mouse pad. SteelSeries' QcK Mini is our favourite cheap option, offering a good gaming surface for less than a tenner. The small size, 25x21cm (10x8") is the cheapest option, but the medium size (32x21cm, 13x11") still fits in our budget too. Note that you are giving up some niceties here, like a thicker design and a more durable stitched edge, but these are understandable omissions given the price. Regardless, you're left with a highly usable cloth pad that's easy to take to LANs and will fit even in cramped conditions.
Best mouse pad for gaming: Corsair MM350 Champion Series
Thicker mouse pads provide added comfort and help guarantee a flat surface even on a bumpy desk, so the 5mm-thick Corsair MM350 Champion Series is a natural choice here. We tested the X-Large 45x40cm (18x16") size, which provides more than enough space for 180-degree flicks in CS:GO at 400 DPI. The stitched edge is flat and soft, protecting the mouse pad without affecting comfort as some poorer mouse pads do. All in all, this is a strong option for anyone looking for a good balance between speed and control in games of all genres.
Best mouse pad for control: Zowie G-SR
The most popular mousepad among CS:GO professional players is this one, the Zowie G-SR. The large 47x39cm (18x15") size provides enough space for gaming at any sensitivity level, while the slightly rough surface is ideal for maximising control, allowing you to stop your mouse on a dime once you see an enemy's head poke out of cover. That means you'll need to push your mouse a little harder to glide, but in games where accuracy is everything, this mousepad is certainly worth it. If you'd prefer a smaller option, the 34x30cm (13x12") Zowie P-SRis also available at a lower price.
Best hard mouse pad: Corsair MM800 RGB Polaris
If you prefer a hard metal mouse pad, the Corsair MM800 RGB Polaris is a nice choice that offers a good mixture between speed and control. Unlike most RGB mouse pads on the market, this one includes a USB passthrough port - which can be a convenient place to plug in a wireless mouse dongle. The MM800 is large enough for most people too, at 40x34cm (16x13").
Best desk pad for speed: Glorious Extended
Glorious are well known for their cheap but well-made gaming mouse pads, with the Extended offering more than enough space for your keyboard, mouse and other peripherals at 28x91cm (11x36"). If you need a larger size, you can pick up the taller XXL Extended at 46x91cm (18x36") or the ridiculous 3XL Extended which is 61x122cm (24x48"). No matter which size you choose, you get stitched edges for long-term use and a durable, machine-washable design. Glorious get bonus points for offering a "stealth" option, which omits the logo, and a white colourway.
Best desk pad for control: Xtrfy GP2 XXL
This no-nonsense desk pad is among the biggest on the market at 120x60cm, with the extra vertical length providing enough space to rest your entire forearm on the desk and still have plenty of space for mouse movement above. The stitched edges of the mouse pad are nicely flattened, and were comfortable right out of the box. The surface on the GP2 is textured to provide a slightly rougher surface, making it easier to stop moving your mouse at the right position, so it pairs well with an ultra-light gaming mouse that requires less force to get moving. The branding here is minimal, with a small Xtrfy logo in one corner. All in all, a solid example of a large gaming mouse pad - the only drawback is that this mouse pad doesn't appear to be for sale in North America.
Best RGB desk pad: XPG Battleground XL
The XPG Battleground is a great choice desk pad, offering an ultra-wide form factor measuring 900x400x4mm. The edges of the pad are relatively smooth, making them comfortable to lie your arms down for extended periods, while the XPG branding adds a bit of visual interest without going too over the top. The RGB functionality is decent, with options for seven different colours and a number of effects without the need for software, and the use of a detachable cable makes sense for travel or storage. The Cordura fabric used here works well, offering excellent speed while also being more durable than regular cloth. Hopefully we'll see this material adopted by other manufacturers in the future.
Frequently asked questions
What materials are available?
Cloth is the most common material for modern gaming mouse pads, as it is soft, comfortable and machine washable. However, harder materials like plastic and metal are also available, which provide more rigidity at the potential expense of comfort. If you're not sure, we recommend cloth mouse pads for most people, but it's worth trying a hard alternative if you get the chance.
What thickness is right for me?
Thickness largely influences how consistently flat your mouse pad will be. A thicker, more rigid mouse pad will be better at spanning gaps and accounting for any bumps on your desk to ensure for a flat playing field. As a secondary consideration, a thicker mouse pad can be a little more comfortable for your arm. We'd characterise ~2mm or less as a thin mouse pad, ~3-4mm as average thickness and 5mm or more as thick. Generally, thicker mouse pads are also more expensive as they require more material to produce.
What size is right for me?
As a general rule of thumb, the lower your mouse's DPI setting, the larger your mouse pad should be. The goal for games like shooters is to be able to turn 180 degrees without needing to pick up your mouse. At 3200 DPI, even a small mouse pad is sufficient to look behind you in one motion. A medium mouse pad works well at around 1000 DPI, while for 400 DPI or below you'll need a relatively large pad. If you're trying to play with a lower DPI to increase your accuracy, choosing a bigger mousepad is crucial.
How much should I budget for a good mouse pad?
Entry-level mouse pads are available from around £10/$10 or less, and it's often possible to get them for free with purchases of other products or from a friend. A professional-grade mouse pad can be had for £20/$20, while fancier models made from more exotic materials, offering extra thickness or other features can cost anywhere up to £50/$50. Unless you have very particular requirements, we don't recommend spending more than £25/$25 on a mouse pad unless you're going for top-end components and peripherals throughout.
What's wrong with just using my desk?
Not much! Loads of people use whatever surfaces they have and get on just fine, particularly if you're willing to invest the time and care into keeping your desk clean and free from dust, scratches and debris. However, a mouse pad is usually worth the small investment it requires. For example, the top of your desk hasn't been designed to offer a smooth mousing experience, so you may find that you have to expend more energy to get your mouse moving than you would on a slicker surface. Similarly, if your desk is super slick or at all reflective, you might have issues with your mouse jittering a bit as you try to aim. A good mouse pad also won't wear down the feet of your mouse, ensuring it stays in good working condition for longer. Consistency is key to improving your in-game performance, and even a cheap mouse pad will provide a more consistent exprience than a bare desk.
Are RGB mouse pads worth it?
It's up to you! If you appreciate having a colourful setup, then an RGB mouse pad can be a nice complement to your LED-encrusted mouse and keyboard. It's especially powerful if you pick up all of your peripherals from the same manufacturer, as you can then get a synchronised setup that can look pretty neat. Here are some of our favourite RGB mouse pads, including one budget option and three from bigger names.
However, there are some limitations to RGB mouse pads you should be aware of. Firstly, they're harder to clean, as the circuitry inside might be vulnerable to spilled drinks and likely can't stand up to the inside of a washing machine. Secondly, they require power, so you'll need to dedicate one of your USB ports to powering it. However, if you keep these drawbacks in mind, RGB mouse pads can still be a nice addition to your gaming environment.