I was skeptical of the Steelseries 5L when I first read about it. When something is advertised as both a “hard and soft” mouse pad – the best of both worlds – it awakens the skeptic inside of me. After having used it for several months, I am glad that I gave it a chance.
The Steelseries 5L is taller (meaning height off of the desk) than the pads I’m used to, but I didn’t mind. The softness makes it comfortable to rest on. The mouse does glide smoothly over the surface. The smooth surface is great for those who enjoy high-sensitivity gaming, but the surface is controlled enough and large enough that it is also excellent for low-sensitivity purposes. Obviously applying a lot of pressure to the mouse will slow it down.
The Steelseries 5L was definitely able to impress me. You might be wondering how the 5L pulls off the claim that it works like a hard mouse pad, but feels like a soft mouse pad. The 5L is so named for its 5 different layers of material. On the top layer is a hard plastic coating that gives the pad its smoothness. Beneath that is a layer of cloth, which gives it the cloth feel we are used to. The third layer, made of a soft foam, gives the 5L some softness and makes it comfortable to rest one’s hand upon the pad. The fourth layer is like a frame, and holds the mouse pad in shape. The final layer is the base, composed of a rubber that is sure to hold the pad in place.
Please keep in mind that this is a very large pad (15 x 11 x .2 in.) and you should check your desk size before buying it. The only users that won’t enjoy the feeling of the Steelseries 5L are those who have small desks or who want something as smooth as a glass surface or an adonized aluminum surface. The 5L is a smooth pad, but truly hard surfaces are smoother. I am becoming quite fond of the soft, smooth surface.
We were initially concerned about the durability of the 5L. Hard surfaces usually last about three times as long as soft surfaces before showing wear. We wondered how the 5L would fare with its hybrid hard/soft surface. According to long-term users, the 5L’s durability is fantastic. We spoke with many hardcore gamers who had been using the pad for three years, and there were no problems to speak of. Steelseries seems to have done a great job constructing the 5L. There are only a couple pads like the 5L, but the 5L offers the best performance and best durability of them all. After many years of serious 40-hour-per-week usage, the 5L only displays some fraying on the edges and a lightly worn (but still usable by hardcore gamers) surface. Fraying will be more significant if you rub your wrist against the edge of the pad, rather than raising your wrist.
Cleaning the 5L is not as easy as cleaning a hard surface, but you really wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s also not as hard as cleaning a cloth surface. The plastic-covered cloth seems to not absorb liquids like a cloth pad would, so you’re left with a surface that isn’t sticky. Just use a wet cloth to clean up spills, and you’re good to go. One user reported that the pad had no stains or spots after multiple soda spills. Seriously, though, I think something is wrong with you if you spill near your computer multiple times in one month.
Let’s check out the marketing claims made by Steelseries. Does it feel soft like cloth? Check. Does it offer a smooth surface like a hard pad? Check. Does it hold up like a hard plastic pad? Check. Does it do all of this without any trade offs? Pretty much, check. The price might be the only trade off, but you get what you pay for here. Click through to get the Steelseries 5L or just look at the current price you can get it for. Head back to the mouse pad reviews main page for more mouse pad info. If you think you might want any other soft surface, I think you’re missing out. This is the best “soft” pad out there.