One of the most important "peripherals" when talking about hardcore PC Gamers is the mousepad, it directly impacts the control and tracking of your mouse, being by helping you in moving your hand more precisely or just by helping your mouse glide easier, it certainly plays a role in your in-game performance.
Choosing the right mousepad can also help in the durability of your mouse, after all the feet beneath it - it is what makes mice slide around so well - wears over time, and depending on the surface you use it they might last longer or wear out much faster.
Happily it is very easy to understand the types available in the market and nowadays there are many options available, some are very cheap while others can cost over 50USD, happily there is always that middle option, so let's go over them.
First we need to understand the kind of materials that are used on them, we will not go scientifically in depth on what material X or Y exactly do to your hand and mouse feet, but will cover the aspects that are most relevant to help you choose one.
These are the most common found around for purchase, they can be really good options for people who are on a budget but are still looking for a nice level of performance, most will actually offer what 99% of gamers will need and for many reasons. They have not only become very cheap but can have very good quality and last a long time while offering excellent sliding capabilities and nice visuals - if that is one thing you are looking for.
It is important to note that we mostly recommend models in this categories with stitched corners as they tend to last much longer, examples of pads with bad glue underneath have been plenty in the past and it is better not to take the risk and avoid those ones, usually the cheapest available in the market.
Now about its advantages: they feel very nice to the touch of your skin, mainly the speed variants that have a much smoother finish on the top. They should last you around and over a year - if well taken care of - and are extremely easy to transport, after all they are basically cloth material and easily bend to your liking, the only suggestion is not to make 90° with them.
Rigid pads are usually the best option if you are looking purely from a performance point of view, they offer extremely smooth slide with almost zero wear of the surface itself, more and more companies are beginning to produce and sell them as well, so prices have gone down by quite a lot now.
But something cannot be so good without any downsides, right? And well, yes, you are right. The main issue with these is that they were the mouse feet very quickly, it is not rare to see someone replacing their mouse feet with a new set below one year of use in one of these.
One thing to note before you buy any hard pad is that their surface can also come loose after a while, so do not buy the super cheap options because they might "break" faster than a cloth pad would after a while, and that is not what we want to see from these.
Here we have a "breed" of mousepads that are becoming less common as its counterparts have developed much further in the last few years. They try to mix the sliding capabilities of rigid pads with the folding capabilities of cloth pads, but unfortunately what has come out until now was not something many people have enjoyed.
In trying to combine "the best of two worlds" the worst also came together, with most of them coming loose from their base and presenting wear and tear at their edges, reason why they have not been popular for a while now and are very hard to find for sale, especially for gamers.
Here is the newcomer to the pad industry, the hybrids are showing excellent progress where semi-rigid pads failed to do so. They are still pretty new to the scene but have already taken their place at the heart of many people, one example I can think of when talking about hybrid pads is the MadCatz Glide 19 or Glide 38, the only difference between them being their size.
They bring many good aspects from the Rigid and Soft pads, they have incredible sliding capabilities with the softness of a soft pad, they can also fold just like one but won't wear out the feet of your mice in a short time.
By now you might have already guessed what is their disadvantage, and it is the price. These hybrid pads are certainly not cheap, for instance the ones mentioned above cost cost 24USD for the 19 (12x15 inches) and over 50USD for the 38 (35x15 inches), which is very expensive considering you can easily find very good soft pads with 35x15 inches or bigger for less than 30USD.
Speed or Control?
Even though Control pads have been slowing fading from the market you can still find some examples for sale, and also many people who enjoy them.
Their names, well, they basically describe exactly what they are on about. Speed pads are meant to slide as much as possible - considering the materials used - while control pads offer you a nice slide but with a bit of resistance, helping you control your mouse a bit easier. Some very rough Control pads were sold back then, such as the Cougar Control I, it was so rough that it would irritate the skin after a long period of use.
This is literally a choice that you should make by your own taste, I personally prefer speed pads but have already tried control ones as well, so just go to a store if possible to test, if you enjoy one over the other then go for it.
The color and stamp might affect tracking
Yes, unfortunately stamps and coloured pads can affect the quality of tracking of your mouse, especially the ones that have incredible low LOD (Lift off Distance) like some Zowie models. At least the good news is that this has been a very minor problem as sensors have developed in a major way, where the likes of the Pixart PMW 3389 have become extremly common and the 3399 models are slowly being introduced into the market.
These new sensors have auto-adjusting LOD and almost none present any issue in tracking in most surfaces, including control stamped ones. It was funny sometimes because Zowie's own mousepads would present tracking problems with their mice, their LOD was so low that it would skip tracking on a GTF-X, for instance.
Happily to know if your mouse might have tracking issues with a specific mousepad, just check if it has ajustable LOD, even if it is manual, because if it does then you are most likely not going to face any issue and just enjoy headshoting people in Counter-Strike matches while using your new mousepad.
If you have any question or doubt let us know in the comments, we will always reply as soon as we see them, take care!