A mouse pad is a critical computer accessory for anyone who uses a mouse of any type. It enhances the use of a mouse or gaming mouse by providing a smooth surface to use, thus improving accuracy and eliminating vibrations. In some cases, they also help with accuracy by providing friction and increase ergonomics by providing a cushioned surface.
There are a large number of mouse pads available in the market with each offering a variety of functions. They also differ in size, material and texture. You can find mouse pads with RGB lighting, wireless charging, wrist rest, etc. You can also find gaming mouse pads and productivity mats. However, they can primarily be divided into two main categories: soft and hard.
As the name suggests, soft mouse pads are made of naturally soft materials such as foam or rubber and covered with a layer of synthetic fabric. Whereas hard mouse pads are made of solid materials with glass, plastic, and metal as the best options. Let’s take a quick look at how the difference in materials affects the price, design, and performance of each type of mouse pad.
Hard vs Soft Mouse Pad: Price
- Soft and hard mouse pads do not differ in price
Interestingly, price-wise, the two types of mouse pads don’t really differ that much. Mouse pads are generally cheap. You can get them in the range of $5 to $100+. In the end, the price of a mouse pad, of course, depends on its brand. But there is no clear answer which of the two is objectively cheaper. The Logitech G440 hard mouse pad, for example, costs about the same cheap as the significantly cheaper SteelSeries Qck soft mouse pad.
Mouse pads can get bulky. Likes, Is that true Big (more on that later). Those that cover all the real estate on your desk are usually closer to the $75 to $100 range. But a small-sized pillow without a lot of bells and whistles will set you back an average of $10-$20, and its material doesn’t play a role. Obviously, mouse pads with additional functions like Qi charging and USB passthrough will cost you more. The Asus ROG Balteus Qi, which costs $79, is a good example of this.
The SteelSeries QcK is a fabric mat that provides a great mouse surface for whatever your needs are, whether that’s navigating around your Windows desktop or paid gaming on your PC.
- Smooth and precise
- Great value
With the Asus ROG Balteus Qi, you get a ton of features like 15 customizable RGB zones, Qi charging, and USB passthrough. This deck will help you to be more accurate in winning.
- USB passthrough
- Qi charging
If you prefer a more affordable solid mousepad, the Logitech G440 is the cost-effective solution. It’s not the lowest-friction mousepad, but it’s a good balance if you also play games that need a little more precision.
- Easy to clean
- Works beautifully
Hard vs Soft Mouse Pad: Design
- Soft mouse pads provide cushioning and are portable
- Hard mouse pads are more durable and easier to clean
Design is one section where it really starts to show the difference between the two types of mouse pads. First of all, there are many physical differences between soft and hard mouse pads. The former is usually available in sizes ranging from eight inches to the size of your gaming desk. Meanwhile, the latter are usually medium to large in size and almost always oblong in shape.
Soft mouse pads usually provide extra padding or relief for the wrist, while hard mouse pads do not have any type of cushioning. The most obvious consequence of this is that it makes soft mouse pads more comfortable, especially for long gaming sessions. However, the extra padding, on top of hosting a rubber body with a layer of fabric, means it will warm up fairly quickly due to the user’s body heat. This can be an inconvenience to the user, especially if the heat results in a slight sweat. They feature plastic or metal bodies, and hard mouse pads don’t have this problem.
However, portability can be an issue with hard mouse pads. Most soft mouse pads can be rolled up and stored in your bag to take on the go. Rigid mouse pads are not able to provide the same kind of flexibility, and thus can be difficult to hold. This is not to say that all soft mouse pads are easily portable. It all depends on the size of your mouse pad and your bag.
In terms of durability, hard mouse pads are recommended. Since they are made of much stronger materials than soft mouse pads, they do not break easily. They also have a greater tolerance towards rips and tears, unlike soft pads. However, solids also have a downside. After years of use, hard mouse pads usually damage the underside of the mouse. This is more common among mice that do not wear protective rubber feet.
Last, but most importantly, soft mouse pads are a hassle to clean. Of course, plastic or metal is easier to clean than fabric. Hard mouse pads can be easily cleaned by wiping them with a sponge dipped in a cleaning agent and drying them with a dry cloth afterwards. For a soft mouse pad, you need to deep clean it by leaving it immersed in water for a while, then use a cleaning agent to remove dirt, and then leave it to air dry. And to make it a little worse, a soft mouse pad is also more susceptible to dirt and stains because its texture makes it easier for it to absorb spills.
Hard vs. Soft Mouse Pad: Performance
- Soft mouse pads are accurate but not quite as fast
- Hard mouse pads are fast, but not accurate
As far as performance is concerned, the main difference between soft and hard mouse pads lies in the accuracy and speed that both achieve. Because soft mouse pads are made of materials that cause friction, you’ll be able to achieve less speed but more precision with these. Thus, it is ideal for anyone who needs tremendous precision in their field of work, such as art or design.
Accuracy comes in handy during video games, too, especially among competing genres. Some examples include FPS (First Person Shooter) and MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games. Lack of friction can make it difficult for you to aim, for example.
It is important to note that a trackball mouse, which is the oldest type of mouse with a rotating ball under it, literally requires a soft mouse pad to operate efficiently. This is because the ball needs some amount of friction to roll or it will be very imprecise in its function.
Due to the negligible friction, hard mouse pads provide much faster speeds but make it very difficult for the user to master accuracy with them. Especially if you have always used a soft mouse pad, it will take some time to get used to a hard mouse pad. You will find that it is relatively easier to navigate but more difficult to stop. However, you can learn how to control your mouse on a hard mousepad with enough practice. And once you get to that point, you’ll be thrilled that it can improve your gameplay.
Hard vs Soft Mouse Pad: Which Should You Buy?
It all comes down to what your priorities and needs are. If you find yourself frequently carrying a mouse pad on you, you may find a hard mouse pad uncomfortable. Likewise, if you don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to deep clean your mouse pad regularly, it’s best to stick with a hard-core mouse pad.
Performance is an important area to think about as well. If you are looking for greater resistance, definitely choose a soft mouse pad. If you want improved speed, a hard mouse pad is your best bet. And again, if you’re using a trackball mouse, you have no choice but to use a soft mousepad.