If you spent hundreds of working hours using lap desks, you'll definitely get a feel for what to look for, what to avoid, pros and cons, comfort level needed, etc.
This buying guide was written so you DON'T have to do that...and instead, read on to get all the information you need to buy the right one for you.
First, what's a lap desk
It's a firm, portable surface often used on the lap, usually to work or read.
It's made of either plastic, PVC, PET felt, polyester, rubber, wood or bamboo. It weighs between 800gr to 3kg and costs between £20 to £50.
It's often used with a laptop and may or may not be completely flat, as portable laptop tables could be considered lap desks.
Benefits of a lap desk
Desktop computers are great, but the use of laptops, tablets, and phones have become increasingly popular over the years.
Nowadays many people don't even own or are provided with a desktop computer and just use a laptop.
However, while mobility and portability are key advantages, the use of a laptop comes with a few downsides.
Unless you're working on a desk or table, you'll often work on the couch, in bed, from a chair, with the laptop directly on your lap.
On your lap, your forearms can't really move freely because you must keep your laptop in balance. Using a mouse isn't possible and the trackpad isn't as efficient. You often have poor posture, with your spine curved, your wrists bent, making you uncomfortable, causing back pain, headaches and potentially carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful disorder caused by compression of a nerve in the wrist.
The heat from the laptop can also slowly burn your skin (and damage more sensible parts of the body...). This may not happen immediately, but after constant exposure, it can cause something called toasted skin syndrome, or the more scientific term Erythema Ab Igne, a hyperpigmented skin rash that appears after exposure to heat.
You might think a pillow under your laptop is a good solution, but it would still be unbalanced and the lack of airflow under the laptop could make it overheat.
A lap desk (also called laptop tray) can solve all of the above, as it addresses the 'MECS' framework: Mobility, Ergonomic, Comfort, Setup.
Laptops being portable computers, a lap desk is quite portable as well.
Most designs are lightweight enough to weight barely a kilogram to 2-3kg, which means you can carry it around without too much effort.
They're also small compared to a rising desk, maybe not backpack-small but small enough to easily store away or transport into cabin luggage.
Ergonomic is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so that they fit the people who use them. It's about designing for efficiency and comfort in the working environment.
Laptops are far from being ergonomically designed versus traditional desktop computers. For example, a laptop’s keyboard will often force the wrong posture on your wrists, especially when not working on a desk or table.
Lap desks introduce a more ergonomic workplace. By elevating the height of your laptop, your posture will be improved through:
- the reduction of the head’s inclination angle
- the reduction of neck strain
- the reduction of wrist extension
Sleeping aside, the human body is not meant to be in the same position for long periods of time.
You get less and less comfortable after 15 to 30 minutes in the same posture, but a good lapdesk will usually increase this time window.
The firm surface will offer stable support, reducing the amount of time you need to move to keep your laptop in place.
It'll also absorb the laptop's heat, removing the uncomfortable feeling of the increasing warmth on your body and eliminating any of the health issues mentioned.
Lapdesks are portable enough to be set up anywhere in just a few seconds. All you have to do is rest your laptop on it.
Larger lapdesks will accomodate the use of a mouse and other small items: pens, phones, tablets, coffee cup, etc. You can get a pretty good setup working on your laptop, using your mouse and having your phone/tablet in proximity. This style of lap desk helps mimic the high productivity of an office setup from the comfort of your couch.
As they come in different sizes, shapes, colours, materials and features, it's easy to get confused on what to look for.
There are four styles of lap desks:
It’s the most minimalistic style. It consists of a firm, flat surface, just large enough to fit a laptop and nothing else.
It provides an adequate surface for your laptop, keeps your legs away from the heat, and aids with your posture while using it on a bed or couch.
Their size varies but, in most cases, they can fit laptops 11 to 15 inches. Weight will be around 500gr to 1.5.kg.
✅ Small size
❌ Low productivity
❌ Simple design
An enhanced version of the simple lap desk: slightly bigger to offer additional features like a phone/tablet holder, an area for your mouse and more.
They'll fit all sizes of laptops and weigh around 1 to 2kg.
✅ High productivity
✅ Comfortable +
❌ Heavier +
❌ Large size +
This style of lap desk comes with a cushion or pillow under its base, to offer more comfort for your legs and reduce the heat felt from the laptop.
The cushioning is made of either memory foam, standard foam, microbead or cotton. It may be fully horizontal or at an angle for a better posture. It can also be fully padded (the whole underside) or with two cylindrical pads (one line at the back and another at the front)
Some lap desks may have removable cushions (so you can wash them), but not all of them.
✅ Comfortable +
❌ Can get dirty
❌ Low productivity
Elevated lap desks (also known as laptop tables) come with legs, like a mini-desk. It can look similar to a breakfast table used in bed.
This style is usually more comfortable as your laptop is even more elevated, improving your posture. The flat surface is also high enough to be above the legs, so no weight rests against them.
The legs are often height-adjustable and foldable, making it quite versatile as a flat lap desk or elevated laptop table, at your preferred level.
They'll fit all sizes of laptops and weigh around 1.5 to 3kg.
✅ High productivity
✅ Comfortable ++
❌ Heavier ++
❌ Large size ++
How to Choose
Obviously, some look better than others and everyone has different tastes, but there are specific factors to consider.
For professional use, comfortables lap desks offering better postures should be used. For more leisure use, any of them will do.
Simple and cushioned lap desks with lighter weight are best recommended for children.
Don’t sacrifice the visual factor for practicality. You will probably use your lap desk often so don’t choose one if you don't like the look of it.
Lapdesks made of wood or bamboo are usually quite beautiful.
Lap desks giving you a good posture and reducing/removing the heat on your legs are the most comfortable.
Also, some models offer specific features that can be comfortable for some but not for all i.e., a wrist rest.
A comfortable lap desk will also improve the user’s productivity. Users can also work in the same posture for longer periods of time.
A larger model with enough space for a mouse is better suited for professional use as productivity will be improved.
Mobility is essential to some people, and lap desks can be quite bulky.
If you’ll use it mostly in one place, any style will be well-suited.
If you need to carry it around, then simple lap desks will be best.
- If you use an optical mouse, consider the surface material of the lap desk: if the tray doesn’t come with a mouse pad, there is a risk the mouse doesn't function properly.
- Consider how slippery the lap desk surface is: if you move, your laptop could slide and fall. Look for a tray that offers anti-sliding pads/edge or ones made of materials not prone to slip such as bamboo.
- If you need your phone or tablet close by, consider the ones that have space for them, including made-for areas ie. phone stand slot.
- Read the reviews: customers will often comment on the comfort, quality, stability and durability of lap desks.
Our Recommended #1 Lap Desk
After spending hours testing multiple ones in different settings and environments, our recommended lap desk:
- is large enough to fit any laptops.
- has a mouse pad area for extra comfort.
- is ventilated to prevent laptop to overheat.
- has an area to hold your phone/tablet at proximity.
- is sturdy enough so the laptop doesn't slip if you move slightly.
This ready-to-use lap desk has a minimalistic design with a well-finished look. It's made from Moso bamboo, a lighter, eco-friendly material with minimum impact on the environment and weighs only 1.5kg.
It has enough space for a laptop, mouse, tablet and phone while providing good stability, making it one of the most versatile options.
The multiple ventilation holes let the air flows naturally to keep your laptop cool, without burning your skin.
✅ Strong and sturdy
✅ Easy to carry with handle
✅ Polished finish
✅ Embed mouse pad
✅ Phone & tablet slots
✅ Charging hole for phone/tablet
✅ Ventilation holes
✅ Beautiful design
Some of the recent reviews from customers who bought it:
"Looks nice and does the trick"
"Awesome for working on the sofa"
"My laptop is addicted"
"Its good and feels nice"
Urban Hideout is also rated 9/10 on Trustpilot.
Interested in buying it? You can find additional info + see the Lap Desk in 3D and Augmented Reality on Urban Hideout's website, where you can purchase it.
That's a wrap! We hope this guide was helpful and that you'll find what you need. Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.