In the 90’s, you wouldn’t have a computer without having a mouse pad. Back then, most mice used a trackball-style system to quantify movement into digital signals. This required a surface with a specific texture in order to function correctly, so a mousepad bridged the gap between the style of modern desks and the technical requirements of your mice.
When the optical mouse hit the market, one of the mail selling points was that mouse pads were no longer required. The end result is that, today, very few consumers have a mouse pad on their desk. But if you’re a gamer, you probably want one.
The fact is, even though mice with optical navigation technology don’t need a mouse pad. They still benefit from them. Mouse pads provide an even, consistent texture that helps you make more precise, accurate movements. Mouse pads can also reduce errors common with sensitive optical mice, making your gaming experience better.
SteelSeries is a brand that most gamers will be familiar with. Their QcK Prism mouse pad promises to be the best mouse pad for gamers. But can it really improve your gaming experience? And what separates it from a standard mouse pad? To answer these questions, we decided to go hands-on.
The SteelSeries QcK Prism RGB is a large mouse pad with two key features. It’s got a dual-textured surface. A soft pad in the center is specifically designed for smooth, natural gaming. If you’re looking for something a little more textured, you can simply flip it over for a more precise control surface. Surrounding this pad is the Prism RGB LED strip. This lighting system is capable of syncing up with your computer, producing a variety of effects that change and adapt to your current gaming conditions.
The biggest claim is the fact that this mouse pad can improve your gaming. So we wanted to find out what this mouse pad is made out of, and see how it feels to game on it.
The gaming surface is 11.5 inches tall and 14 inches wide. Most of it is made from a hard, smooth polymer material. Gaming on this surface feels a lot like gaming on a standard desk. There is no additional friction caused by the mouse pad. Moving your mouse around is simple, smooth, and easy. Compared to our wood desk, it’s a definite improvement. But there was a small adjustment period. You moues really zips across the surface area at high speed. You’re able to move quickly, but it was easy for us to overshoot our destination at first. We’d recommend this mode for high speed gaming such as first person shooters, or action games.
When you flip the mouse pad over, you’ll get access to the second, textured surface. This part of the mouse pad is made from a micro-textured cloth. But it doesn’t feel like you’d expect. It’s not soft like a cloth you’d use to wash your dishes. It’s smooth, but has a very consistent texture. This surface does add a little drag to your mouse. You’re able to move it with more precision. Any game where precision and accuracy is important can benefit from this surface. In our eyes, this is the biggest advantage to your entire gaming session.
The LED lighting is all installed along a single strip of LED lights that runs along the perimeter of the mouse pad. But this isn’t just a single strip. These lights are divided up into 12 different zones – three on each side. Each “zone” of lights is capable of producing millions of different colors, gradients, and transitions.
The end result is something that looks like a cohesive lighting system. You might have the mouse pad start with a cool blue color on one side, and transition gracefully into a warm red on the other side. You’d think that this was just a single light strip with a single program. However, you can actually program each of these lighting areas separately.
There are lots of different transitions and effects available. Our favorite was the smooth “breathing” effect. Breathing cycles between every color available, but the transitions are smooth and easy on the eyes. It does a lot to enhance the atmosphere of your gaming session, but doesn’t take any attention away from what’s important.
One of the main draws to the Prism lighting system is the fact that it integrates with the software you’re running on your computer to add a layer of functionality to the lighting. It’s no longer just a stylistic choice, but it also serves a functional purpose.
SteelSeries calls this the GameSense lighting system. Let’s look at an example. Ever run low on ammo in your favorite FPS game? You’re probably pretty adept at keeping an eye on your ammo meter. With GameSense, you don’t’ have to. You can select one of the zones, and configure it to be tied to the ammo levels in your favorite game. When it runs low, maybe you want the bar along the bottom to turn red. You can choose any effect you like, and have it tied to in-game events like head shots, health levels, number of kills, or total points.
In our eyes, this system is better than an on screen display for a few reasons. First, it doesn’t occupy any of your precious screen space. Additionally, it’s easier to notice a color change out of the corner of your eye. If you had a second LCD screen there, it wouldn’t be quite as simple to see. But this is something you’ll notice when it’s important, and yet is easy to ignore when your focus is required elsewhere.
If you’re looking to create the ultimate gaming station, one of the simplest tricks is to purchase accessories that work together. The SteelSeries QcK is part of the Prism series lighting hardware. If you purchase any other prism compatible accessories, you’ll use a single software package to control all of the lighting at your computer.
For example, take a look at our recently reviewed SteelSeries Arctis 5 Gaming Headset. This is one of our favorite examples of Prism compatible peripherials with compatible lighting systems. But if you’re building your gaming station from the ground up, SteelSeries also has mice, keyboards, and more that bear the prism name.
Layout & Durability
At the end of the day, a mousepad is something that enhances the way you use your other hardware. The last thing that anyone wants is for your mousepad to interfere with your mouse. Because of the lighting system, there is a USB cable that needs to be plugged in in order to take advantage of everything this mouse pad has to offer. Fortunately, this is one of the few models that located the cable on the side. This means that even if you’re using a wired mouse, the cables aren’t going to get all tangled up.
Outside of the LED strip and the pad itself, there isn’t a lot to this mouse pad. However, what SteelSeries has done is enclose everything in a solid, durable enclosure can withstand a lot of use and abuse. This is the kind of thing that you might own for years. It’s not going to get damaged or wear out, and should outlast all of the components of your computer. After all, gaming is an expensive hobby, so we need to invest in things that will last.
If you’re used to buying basic mouse pads, you might balk at the price. This is a piece of premium gaming hardware, and it comes at a cost. The high price means that it wouldn’t be our first choice for gamers on a budget. At this point, your money might be better spend on a high end graphics card, or a mechanical keyboard. But if you’ve got a little extra cash to space, you can’t go wrong with this mouse pad.
Overall, the SteelSeries QcK Prism RGB is one of the best mouse pads we’ve tried. There is a definite improvement in our precision and accuracy when using this instead of just our plain desk surface. The main reason you’d choose this pad over another is the face that it has dual surfaces. You can try both and find out which you prefer best, and switch between them when your game calls for it.
The lighting system is also one of the best on the market. Thanks to Prisms integration with your games, it’s not just a fancy visual upgrade. This is something that can tell you when your ammo is low, keep track of your kills, and improve your game in a big way.