We’re living in a device heavy world. It’s not uncommon for any given person to have a laptop, a desktop computer, a smartphone, tablet, and e-reader and use them all on a daily basis both for work and play. It used to be that only professionals and business people carried this kind of hardware, but now it’s practically uncommon for the average person not to have multiple devices. But while executives might have the room (and salary) to build a cushy home office, not everyone has the space to dedicate even to a full sized desk. If you find yourself working (or surfing the ‘net) from the comfort of your sofa, it might be time to upgrade to a laptop desk.
Laptop desks are ideal for more casual computer users for a couple of reasons, but maybe the most important one is that they’re small. Even a petite desk for a desktop computer is a pretty hefty piece of furniture, and in a house where everyone has one (or two, or three) devices, that might be more space than you want to share. One solution is having a shared family computer, but this option is less appealing the more connected we become. Ultra compact laptop desks offer the ergonomics of a full sized desk but do it in a much, much smaller space, making it possible for everyone in the family to have their own.
Most devices these days are designed to be free-roaming: laptops, notebooks, tablets, and e-readers are all meant to be portable and used on the move. Where desktops are fairly well tethered, a good laptop with a decent battery life can be used almost anywhere. Laptop desks reflect this key difference, and are lightweight and almost always equipped with wheels. That means they can be picked up, carried, rolled, or adjusted as easily as the laptop itself, making anywhere you choose to sit (or stand) and work a viable “home office.”
But desks aren’t just something to set your computer on – they’re designed to keep your body in the right posture – something that smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and even laptops are notoriously bad about. Because the screen and keyboard are so close together (or even one in the same) these smaller devices encourage you to curl up around and hunch over them, which can slouch your back and put a crick in your neck. Laptop desks, while petite, will at least keep your laptop at a comfortable, usable height. Many are even adjustable – vertically to match the height of the chair you’re sitting in, and also the angle of the main desk or mouse area so you can get your screen, keyboard, and mouse at angles that are comfortable for your wrists and neck.
This portable, adjustable setup allows you to turn almost any part of your home into a usable workstation, whether it’s your sofa, an arm chair, office chair, or just-a-chair chair. What I especially like about laptop desks is that you can keep everything you’re working with all together. If you set up a laptop on the dining table or even just on the sofa, if you want to move, you have to move the laptop, the cord, the mouse if you’re using one, and any other books or paper you might be working with. With a laptop desk, your work won’t be interrupted by dinner time. Because everything is neatly contained on a movable desk, you can easily roll your whole setup into another room if you need a little peace and quiet, or just a change of scenery.
If you’re in the habit of working or surfing the ‘net from your spot on the sofa, laptop desks also make for a functional alternative to a side table. Similar to designer TV trays, these are basically slightly taller side tables that only have legs on one side and an especially wide top. This simple design twist allows you to pull the table top over your lap while you’re sitting on the sofa, meaning you can sit comfortably while keeping your laptop directly in front of you and out of your lap. When you aren’t using it, just push it back into place beside the sofa. This is also great for tablets and e-readers if you want to keep a cup of coffee or some snacks close at hand while you’re cuddled up under some blankets.
All that said, the biggest problem with using a laptop while lounging – either on the sofa or in bed – isn’t your posture, it’s that setting a laptop on your lap or blankets restricts the flow of air, which can cause the laptop to become very, very hot. This isn’t good for your laptop, and it doesn’t feel too great on your lap, either. But if you really want to recline rather than sitting at strict 90 degree angles, consider investing in a laptop tray instead of a laptop desk. These are often incredibly inexpensive – they can cost as little as about $20 – and resemble old fashioned breakfast trays. They keep your laptop just slightly elevated, promoting air flow (some even have built in fans for cooling), and often have an adjustable tilt so you can adjust the screen, keyboard, and mouse to comfortable angles no matter what position you’re lying in.
How would you use a laptop desk? To give everyone in the house a place to work, to turn your sofa into an internet haven, or something else entirely? Let me know in the comments!