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Hard Pad verse Soft Pad? Which is better for gaming?

equipment May 31, 2021

Let’s start with the Pros and cons of the hard pad, something most of you probably haven’t experimented with. If I were to guess a number, I’d say over 95% of gamers use a cloth pad.

Back when PC gaming was born and gaming companies were creating all kinds of new products, I was always looking for new equipment to try out and hard pads were definitely one  of them. During my early competitive career, I competed with all types of hard pads. Ones made out of smooth flattened steel, a pad made out of frosted matte finish glass, and 2 sided reversible plastic pads. I even had a pro Quake3 friend who used a plastic cutting board as a mouse pad. Basically, any surface can work as a mouse pad as long as it isn’t too reflective which causes the laser and sensor to reflect back into itself.

Alright, so here's what I believe are the advantages of hard pads.

  1. Due to their super flat and hard surface, it is much easier to control the small micro motions because there is less surface friction. Much less surface friction, I’d say it takes at least 3 times less force to move the mouse on a hard pad compared to a cloth pad. And that's because the cloth pads are made of woven fibers. If you’re a high sensitivity player, someone who is primarily a wrist player, and/or you like using a claw grip, you may want to look into experimenting with a hard pad.
  2. Hard pads also glide smoother and more consistently because the mouse does not indent into the pad if you apply down force. For example, when using a cloth pad, because it's soft and has a cushion, if you push down on the cloth pad with the mouse, it will sink into the pad and create a different glide.
  3. With hard pads, you don’t have to worry about a rubber base that has a bunch of air pockets in it which creates tiny surface inconsistencies. Cheaper cloth pads will have large air pockets, check the bottom of yours.
  4. Because hard pads are not made of porous material like cloth pads they are much easier to clean and you don’t have to worry about them absorbing sweat and oil from your hands which dirties th3em over time and also changes the feel. 

As for the disadvantages, They’re generally more expensive, difficult to find in larger sizes, and can cause more rubbing or skidding with sweaty hands. When I competed on hard pads, I used a small hand towel to rub off any moisture between rounds. Another small thing is that some hard pads have sharp edges, so I’d recommend covering them with some kind of non-stick tape like painters tape. 

Alright, now let’s talk about soft pads, or cloth pads. Something you’re all probably familiar with. On the surface level, one might think that all cloth pads are made the same, but I assure you, they are not. They definitely have different surface frictions, because some are more flattened than others, some might use a different blend of cloth fibers while others use different weave patterns - all factors that affect the feel.

Here are why I believe cloth pads are so popular and also their advantages over a hard pad.

  1. Soft pads are cheaper in cost and you can purchase them in larger sizes with more design options. The larger sizes are great for those who prefer more forearm placement and need a larger surface area for their swipes and flicks. A must have for low to medium sensitivity players
  2. The cloth material and rubber base adds layers of cushion which is much more comfortable than a hard pad
  3. I think cloth pads are more user-friendly because they aren’t as high maintenance as a hard pad. With hard pads, there is a need to constantly remove any moisture from the surface and the hand. Where as cloth pads innately absorb moisture.

A few disadvantages of cloth pads is that the cheaper ones tend to fall apart at the edges if they are not stitched correctly, the feel of the surface friction changes over time as it absorbs sweat and oil from the hands, and cloth pads are not as effective as hard pads in controlling micro-movements.

A quick tip, if you’re as OCD like me and feel every single lint or spec of dirt on your mouse pad, you can use a lint roller to clean that up as well as using a micro-fiber towel that doesn't shed lint.

Check out my YouTube video on hard pad verse soft pads here