mouse pad : Computer Hardware Buyers’ Glossary

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mouse pad  mouse pad
a foam rubber pad that sits on your desk. The more irregularities on a surface, the easier it is for the sensor to track your movements. Some very expensive laser mice can even work on glass or ceramic. The more expensive ones are often called mouse mats. The original idea was the mouse pad provided traction for the mouse’s mechanical rolling ball. Today, you want as slippery a surface as possible so the Teflon feet will slide smoothly. Finding room for the pad can be a problem for people like me whose desk is usually covered in books and papers. These cost about $1.50 CAD wholesale. If you buy one retail, you might pay up to $20.00 CAD for it. Normally a retailer will be happy to throw in a free mouse pad with another purchase, if you ask, especially if it is imprinted with advertising of any sort.

With optical mice, you want as slippery a mouse-pad surface as possible to give you fine control of mouse motion. You also want something with an intricate, variegated, micro pattern (not a solid colour) to give the optics something to notice moving. Game players particularly go in for fancy mouse pads to get every last drop of control. Modern mice are not as picky about the surface pattern.

Why Black Mouse Pads? Cleaning
Purchasing Mice
Miscellaneous Notes Mouse Feet
My Ideal Mouse Pad Links

Why Black Mouse Pads?

I was puzzled why nearly all high performance mouse pads are solid black. You’d think you would want a black and white micro grid or millions of tiny coloured dots to create a tracking pattern. I think I solved the mystery by peeking under my mouse at the way light reflects off my new black mousepad. The surface feels smooth, but it is actually pebbly, with millions of very tiny bumps and grooves. The red LED (Light-Emitting Diode) light reflecting off it forms a fine network of thin spidery bright red lines. The lines form where the angle of the surface is just right to reflect light back. This is just what the sensor needs, an intricate, high contrast pattern to track. The black helps enhance the contrast. On the other hand, my Logitech M310 mouse definitely prefers a light surface, even a plain white surface. On a darker surface the cursor moves very slowly. It does not seem to notice it is moving. Silk-covered (not silk-screened) cloth pads are very slippery and don’t wear the mouse feet off so quickly. Ideally you want to try out a pad with your own mouse before you buy.

There are several kinds of optical mice:

Which kind of mousepad is best for for each kind of mouse I do not know, however, I suspect expensive black mousepads are intended for expensive red laser mice. Infrared mice must have a light-coloured mouse pad. They will barely work with a black one. I have ordered light 3M mouse pads with micro-patterning for our Logitech M310 and M325 mice. but they have not arrived yet.


Here is a sampling of premium mouse pads, smallest first. Visit the various manufacturer websites to see their complete lines.
Premium Low Friction Mouse Pads
Manufacturer Model Size
in inches
in mm
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Deviant Art Digitally Printed 7.75 x 9 19.05 x 22.86 $10.00 USD Digitally printed with your choice of artwork from their galleries. This is an ordinary mousepad, not a high performance surface. The dimensions and price depends on the artwork you select.
3M 3M Precise Mousing Surface 8.71 x 9.21 221 x 233 $17.00 USD Granddaddy of the high tech mouse pads. Uses a microgrooved surface. Light coloured. Claims to extend battery life by 75%. Presumably mice are smart enough to turn down the power of the beam if they are having no problem tracking moving micro patterns. This is what I use myself. It works very well. It is a little on the small side. It is no thicker than a piece of stiff paper. The adhesive backing works perfectly, but I guess 3M has had some practice at that.
steelseries steelseries QcK mini 9.8 x 8.3 x 0.23 250 x 210 x 3 $10.00 USD Cloth surface. Danish company that makes over a dozen different models.
Razer Kabuto 11.03 x 7.68 x 0.39 28 x 19.5 x .10 $20.00 USD black. Micro-fibre.
XTracs Zoom 8.5 x 11 216 x 279 $15.00 USD Thinner than a credit card. Has a hexagonal honeycomb pattern. Only ship to the USA.
Gearhead logo GearHead MPD3000BLU 9.45 x 10.63 x 0.16 24 x 27 x 0.4 $4.00 USD Sky blue.
Razer Vespula 11.8 x 9.45 x 0.16 30 x 24 x 0.4 $35.00 USD black. Two sided. Gel rest. Designed for gaming.
Razer Manticore 10.04 x 13.98 x 0.09 25.5 x 35.5 x 0.22 $58.00 USD
XTracs Ripper XL 14 x 17.5 x 0.125 356 x 451 3.2 $20.00 USD Can be rolled up. This is the mat the Xtracs Pad-o-matic computer program recommended I buy. However, I was looking for something more colourful. They only ship to the USA.
XTracs Ripper XXL 36 x 18 914 x 457 $26.00 USD Sleeps eight, ridiculously huge. For comparison, my anti static mat is only 60.96 × 58.42 cm (2 × 1.92 ft) and my entire desk surface is 1.47 × 0.74 metres (4.83 × 2.42 ft). It would cover 40% of my desk surface. I think they intend you also rest your keyboard on it. Cloth surface. Only ship to the USA.
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Miscellaneous Notes

My Ideal Mouse Pad

My own ideal mouse pad would have the following properties: The best pad in the world will not do you any good if your mouse feet are worn.

I have discovered your choice of mousepad or mousing surface makes a huge difference in how smoothly your cursor moves. With a bad surface, the mouse does not notice it is moving and the cursor lurches. Further, if the surface has too much friction you cannot finely control the mouse. It sticks and releases in tiny jerks. So in theory the ideal mousepad would have the following characteristics:

Unfortunately, you can’t take mousepads for test drive before purchase. Before you buy, Google the model and see what people who bought it thought. Also I have not even seen a mousepad for sale that lays claims to these ideals. The mousepad I received as a gift disappeared. I do a fair bit of single pixel work drawing and editing where I have to insert the text cursor between two small characters. Both require excellent mouse control. That requires the best possible mouse pad.

Mouse Pad Cleaning

Oddly, next to the screen, I clean my mouse pad most often. It gets slightly sticky from the sweat from my palm which interferes with fine control of the mouse. Every few days, I clean the pad and the bottom of the mouse with a squirt of home-made window cleaner. Be careful not to damage the feet of the mouse with are held on with just a bit of poor-quality adhesive.

You can make a powerful yet environmentally friendly glass cleaner similar to Windex. Here is a recipe for a three 650 mls (1.37 US pints) sprayers full:

water 1.65 litres (1.74 US quarts)
isopropyl alcohol 70% or 99% 240 mls (1.01 US cups)
sudsy ammonia 60 mls (2.03 fl oz)
Dawn dishwashing liquid 2½ mls (0.51 US teaspoon)
blue food colouring. 1 drop (1 drop)

The blue food colouring is optional; it helps identify the sprayer contents as window cleaner. Use a microfibre cloth.

Real World Mouse Pads Sold at Amazon

electronic product image recommend electronic⇒3M Precise Optical Mousing Surfaceto electronic home
asin B0017D5Z40
dim 17.78 × 21.59 × 0.15 cm
7 × 8½ × 0.06 in
Granddaddy of the high tech mouse pads. Light coloured. Micro textured to improve the accuracy of mice. It gives them a micropattern to detect motion. Claims to extend the battery life 75%. Presumably mice are smart enough to turn down the power of the beam if they are having no problem tracking moving micro patterns. It is quite small and thin. They have a vinyl smell and pebbly surface. The mouse make a zipper-like noise as it moves over the pebbly surface. At first the sound was distracting, but then I got used to it. Within 24 hours it had worn off the feet off my mouse, though it still moved easily. It has a tacky backing to hold it in place. The cursor moves very quickly, which suggests the surface is indeed optimal for detecting motion. The cursor moves all the way across the screen when when I move the mouse less then half way across the tiny pad, so the pad does not need to be as big as usual. It has no built-in wrist rest. This is what I use myself.
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Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock

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