Desk Mats vs Mouse Pads – The Differences Explained

If you’re having a hard time deciding between a desk mat and a mousepad, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article, we’re going to cover the key differences and advantages so you’ll have clear expectations for whichever pad you go with. At the end of the day, a mousepad or desk mat is a pretty important piece of a workspace.

You will be using either of these at all times while at your computer. With all this use, it’s worth giving either choice some thought.

Key Takeaways

Here are the major summarized advantages of desk mats and mousepads.

  • Desk mats offer larger surface protection, can dampen keyboard noises, and make typing more comfortable. 
  • Mousepads are smaller, more affordable, and have more options that might interest serious gamers. 

Keep reading for all the little pros and cons of each one of these solutions. 

The Difference Between Desk Mats & Mousepads

Here’s a quick table outlining the major differences between mousepads and desk mats. This quick reference table covers everything from size and functionality to appearance and price.

FeatureMousepadDesk Mat
SizeTypically smaller, designed for mouse movement range only.Larger, covers a significant portion of the desk. At a minimum, your mouse and keyboard.
FunctionalityProvides a smooth surface for the mouse. Offers both mouse movement surface and desk protection.
Desk ProtectionMinimal protection against spills and scratches.Provides better protection for the desk surface due to the larger surface area.
Keyboard CoverageDoes not cover the area beneath the keyboard.Often covers a larger area, including the keyboard.
Price RangeGenerally more affordable due to the smaller size.Can be more expensive, especially for premium options.
AppearanceAsymmetrical appearance on the desk, only on the mouse side. Symmetrical appearance that is centered with your workspace. 
Multipurpose UsagePrimarily designed for mouse use.Can also function as a writing pad or laptop rest.

Advantages of Desk Mats

Let’s get into all the advantages desk mats specifically have over mousepads. We touch on these in our article on what is a desk mat?

Desk Protection

Desk mats cover a much larger area than mousepads. Some desk mats just have enough space for your mouse and keyboard (that’s what I use). While other desk mats can cover the entirety of your desk. 

This gives your desk a good amount of protection. You can use a large desk mat as a coaster, a writing area, etc. All while not worrying about damaging your desk’s surface. 

A desk with a nice top surface can be pretty expensive. Having your keyboard and other random items sliding around the surface of your bare desk can take a toll in the long run. 

Increased Wrist Comfort

At a minimum, desk mats can support your keyboard and your mouse. This means your wrists no longer sit on the hard desk surface, but instead sit on your soft desk mat. 

This makes those long typing sessions at your desk much more comfortable. I won’t go back to using my keyboard without a desk mat or desk pad underneath!

Dampens Keyboard Noises

Some keyboards can be pretty loud and make some high-pitched clicking noises with every keystroke. A desk mat has a bonus side effect of dampening out these high-frequency noises. 

Instead of your keystrokes being reverberated throughout your entire desk surface, your desk mat absorbs these noises. 

As a result, you have a much smoother and more quiet working environment. If you or your partner has a loud annoying keyboard, get them a desk mat! 

This won’t make keyboards completely quiet, but it will eliminate some of the higher pitches noises that are made louder when placed directly on your desk. 

Keeps Keyboard In Place

Even though most keyboards have rubber feet, they often don’t stay in place. This is mainly due to either surface picking up debris and as a result, they are not very grippy anymore. 

When you place a keyboard on a desk mat, the keyboard sinks in a tiny amount and does a much better job of staying in place. 

Logitech Desk Mat - Studio Series, Multifunctional Large Desk Pad, Extended Mouse Mat, Office Desk Protector with Anti-slip Base, Spill-resistant Durable Design, in Mid-Grey
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If you’re tired of your keyboard moving around with the slightest touches, a desk mat will improve this pretty dramatically. Especially if your keyboard has some weight to it. 

Uninterrupted Desk Mat Area

The last benefit here is one that is not very obvious. When you don’t use a desk mat and just have a mousepad, you essentially create a border around your mouse. 

Some mousepads can be pretty big, which can make this border pretty annoying. It forces you to keep your keyboard a certain distance away from your mouse. 

You no longer choose the distance between your keyboard and your mouse. 

With a desk mat, you don’t have to worry about this at all. You can keep your keyboard and mouse as close or as far from each other as you’d like! It’s a completely uninterrupted surface! 

Large and Versatile Surface

Deskmats don’t have to just do one thing. Most typically use a desk mat with a mouse and keyboard on top, but you can do a lot more. 

I’ve seen folks use a laptop and a mouse. A notebook and a laptop. Laptop and coffee, the list goes on forever! 

When you have a desk mat, you don’t have a specific purpose-driven pad (unlike a mousepad). You instead have a very versatile surface that you can have any combination of items on! 

Advantages of Mousepads

Though we listed a bunch of desk mat advantages above, that doesn’t mean mousepads are all bad. Here are some of the benefits if you choose to go the mousepad route. 

Dedicated Area For Mouse Only

When you use a mousepad, you essentially give your mouse a dedicated area where it can live. You will be much less likely to use a mousepad as a writing pad or a coaster. 

That can result in your mousepad lasting much longer as it would be subject to less wear and tear. 

mouse on desk mat with planner in corner

You also have zero chance of slamming your mouse into your keyboard during some intense gaming. You will likely feel the mousepad border instead. 

A dedicated area for your mouse definitely has its benefits. 

More Control Options for Hardcore Gamers

If you are a hardcore gamer, you try and get every advantage possible with your desk setup. That includes very specific mousepads.

Different mousepads have different friction levels which results in different gaming experiences. Most gamers want to feel like their hand is floating over their mousepad with very predictable resistance. 

Check out this video from Optimum Tech on how all these different mousepads affect his gaming experience. 

If you are a gamer, you will have many more gaming-oriented options if you shop for dedicated mousepads. 

Desk mats are more of a multipurpose solution, so they are less likely to have the same surface variety as mousepads. 

Side note for gamers: check out our article on the best battle station desk accessories.

Are Keyboard Deskmats Good For Gamers?

Desk mats are perfectly fine for most everyday gamers out there. This is because most desk mats use similar, if not the same materials as mousepads.

Also, many of the gaming-oriented mousepad manufacturers are catching on to the desk mat trend, and are making their mousepads large enough to be desk mats. 

Plus, they have large RGB desk mats which are hard to pass up if you’re a heavy RGB gamer.  Check out this RGB desk mat from Razer below:

Mousepads Are More Affordable

Because mousepads only need to support the mouse’s travel range, they are smaller than desk mats. This makes them more affordable than the equivalent desk mat. 

The SteelSeries QcK gaming mousepad below is going for under $15 at the time of writing! SteelSeries is known for its gaming-oriented mousepads too. 

Smaller means less fabric and less fabric means lower costs. With that being said, budget desk mats and mousepads are both very affordable and can be easily found for under $15. 

Why I Always Recommend Desk Mats

I always recommend desk mats to people these days. As you can tell from the list of benefits we covered, there are too many advantages to pass up compared to mousepads. 

With desk mats becoming more popular, these large pads come in a huge variety of designs and colors. This makes your workspace super easy to customize. 

The desk protection, wrist comfort, and boosted aesthetics were the main three factors that made me switch to a keyboard desk mat, and I haven’t looked back since!  

If you want to learn more, check out our article on how to wash a desk mat and why you should stay away from felt/wool desk mats.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does A Desk Mat Work As A Mouse Pad?

Yes, all desk mats will work perfectly well as a mousepad. Today’s mice are optical and can actually operate on any surface that is not reflective or transparent. That inspired our article: Do we even need mousepads anymore?

Most desk mats of similar materials will offer the same protection and provide the same smooth operation as a mousepad. 

I’ve owned three desk mats in the past few years and have used all three with a mouse effortlessly. 

Can You Write on A Desk Mat?

Desk mats can work very well as a writing surface. 

The only time you can run into trouble is if you u have a super plushy desk mat and are writing on a single thin sheet of paper with a fine-tip pen or pencil. 

If you typically write in a notebook or something similar, a desk mat will be a perfectly fine writing surface. 

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I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!

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