Working on a laptop is great, because you can take it with you to work anywhere. But in spite of the name, keeping your laptop on your lap isn’t a very good idea. First of all, laptops can get fairly hot. Although the risk of actual burns is low, did you know that you can toast your skin by repeatedly keeping a hot laptop on your lap? And the heat isn’t good for the laptop, either. You might notice the computer slowing down if it gets hot —and, heat shortens the life of your laptop’s battery. Heat can also affect the hard drive .
Using a laptop isn’t great for ergonomics no matter how you slice it, since you can’t adjust the height or angle screen and the keyboard separately. The best thing to do is to raise your laptop to a height that balances comfort between typing and viewing the screen—at the very least, a few inches off your lap. To do this, you can use a lap desk.
There are many options for lap desks and laptop trays ranging from little more than a rigid platform to trays with lots of bells and whistles. The choice you make in a lap desk depends on exactly how you use it, but there are some general guidelines to follow when making your selection below.
How will you use your lap desk? If you’ll use it occasionally, you might consider one of the types that’s a platform with some cushioning on the underside. Those will keep your laptop stable and will protect your body from the laptop’s heat, although they aren’t usually as good at keeping your laptop cool.
If you plan to use a laptop tray often, consider a model with additional features, like a slot for your cell phone, cord keepers, or a small lamp. Some models can even multitask as a laptop riser that you can use as a standing desk conversion.
Size and Weight
As mentioned above, the best thing about a laptop is its portability. And, depending on how you plan to use your laptop tray, you probably want to be able to move it from place to place—so check the weight listing before you buy to make sure it’s not too heavy.
You’ll definitely want to do some measuring. Find out how wide your laptop is, then look at the width of the lap desk to make sure your laptop fits securely on its surface. If you’re planning to use a mouse along with the laptop, you’ll want some extra width to have room to move the mouse. Always choose a lap desk that’s wider than your laptop, to give it plenty of stability while you type.
Believe it or not, you should also measure yourself. Your laptop tray won’t do you any good if it’s too narrow to fit your legs under it—or if it’s too wide to fit in your favorite easy chair.
You’ll definitely want something sturdy enough to hold your laptop, and last for a long time. But there are pros and cons to various materials; for example, a wooden platform is very sturdy, but it might be heavy, and doesn’t help your laptop stay cool. Options with bottom cushions may not be removable for cleaning. Plastic models are lightweight and certain designs can help keep your laptop cool, but they may not be very sturdy for long-term usage. Collapsible aluminum models are also lightweight and help with the laptop’s heat, but can move around when extended to maximum height.
With the huge range of options available for sale, you’ll easily be able to find a lap desk that fits your budget. With prices ranging from about $15 to hundreds of dollars, you’ll have to weigh the above considerations when it comes to making your final choice.