Hardware

SolutionBase: Make your laptop an even better desktop replacement with these options

Laptops are great when you're going from place to place, but they can be a pain to use for long periods of time. Docking stations help, but they don't solve all of the problems. Here are some accessories that help make laptops an even better replacement for a desktop PC.

If you're a heavy duty laptop user, chances are good that you regularly use your laptop computer in two different types of environments. When you're on the road, you probably use your laptop on your lap for the majority of the time. When you're in the office or at home, you probably use your laptop on your desk or on a table. While your laptop computer by itself is perfectly suited to both these types of environments, you can make working with your laptop computer more comfortable, more ergonomic, and possibly become more productive with the use of a specialized laptop desk.

Now, keep in mind that I use the term laptop desk here as a general description because these types of devices come in a wide variety of configurations. However, you can break them down into two categories: laptop trays for mobile use and laptop stands for desktop use. Some of these laptop desks are designed to do double duty serving both the mobile and desktop user.

In this article, I'll provide you with a roundup of some of the best laptop desks. Let's begin by exploring some of the benefits associated with using laptop desks.

The benefits

While laptops offer a ton of convenience from a mobility standpoint, they also can present you with a host of little problems. For example, if you use your laptop on your lap, then you're familiar with the "hot legs syndrome." If you use your laptop on your desk, then you're familiar with the sore wrists or carpel tunnel syndrome. These are the types of problems that the manufacturers of laptop desks set out to solve. In addition to offering solutions to these inconveniences, many laptop desks offer a host of other beneficial features.

To solve the heat problem in a mobile scenario, laptop trays provide an insulating buffer between your legs and the bottom of the laptop. In a desktop scenario as well as in a mobile scenario, many laptop desk solutions elevate the back of the laptop in order to improve fan exhaust and promote airflow, thus allowing the system to run at cooler temperatures. Another benefit of the elevated design is that it allows you to position your wrists at a more comfortable angle as you type.

For the desktop scenario, laptop stands often serve a similar function as the more traditional docking stations, providing you with an easy way to quickly reconfigure a mobile computer into a desktop computer. Many laptop stands also offer a swivel feature that works like a lazy susan and allows you to more easily share your laptop screen. As you can imagine, this can come in handy in a number of situation such as when you're showing a PowerPoint presentation to a small group of people.

Of course there are a lot of other benefits offered by each manufacturer's unique designs which may make one laptop desk more appealing to you than another. So without further ado, let's take a look at some of the devices now on the market.

Coolpad

The Coolpad from Road Tools is a unique device in that it actually provides you with three benefits—more comfortable typing position, better heat dissipation, and the ability to rotate your laptop 360 degrees. And it can be used on your lap or on your desk.

Constructed of two thin pieces of ABS, a rigid thermoplastic material, that are connected with rotating Teflon bearing, the Coolpad is both lightweight and very sturdy. The unique friction differential bearing system is easy to swivel yet won't move by itself.

The Coolpad comes in two models. The Traveler, shown in Figure A, measures 10.25" (w) x 6.75" (d) x 0.75" (h), weighs about 9 ounces, and sells for $19.95. The PodiumPad, shown in Figure B, measures 10.25" (w) x 8.75" (d) x 2" (h), weighs about 15 ounces, and sells for $29.95. While the Traveler's elevation is fixed, the PodiumPad's elevation is adjustable by way of Lego-like snap-on risers.

Figure A
Figure B

Laptop Desk UltraLite

If you want both a laptop tray and a laptop stand, in a single package that's very portable, you'll want to investigate the versatile Laptop Desk UltraLite from LapWorks. Unfold it on your lap and you have a roomy 22" (w) x 11" (d) x 5/16 (h) laptop tray. Fold it in half to one of the 5 adjustable angles, place it on your desk and you have a laptop stand.

When you're ready to hit the road, the device folds down to a compact 11" (w) x 11" (d) x 10/16 (h) size and weighs only 14.5 ounces. The Laptop Desk UltraLite sells for $29.95. Figures C and D show some of the configurations you can set with the UltraLite

Figure C

Figure D

Xbrand Lap Desk

If you're a mobile laptop user who hates to use a touchpad or the joystick-like pointing devices in the middle of the keyboard, then you'll be interested in the Xbrand Lap Desk from Kinesis Corporation. In addition to elevating the laptop up from your legs, this device adds a retractable mouse pad allowing you to easily use an external mouse. The Xbrand Lap Desk, shown in Figure E, sells for $34.99, measures 14" (w) x 10 3/4" (d) x 1/2" (h), weighs 17 ounces, which allows it to easily stow away in a laptop case.

Figure E

Notebook Chill Mat

If you have a very powerful laptop, chances are that it really puts out some heat and can be very uncomfortable to use on your lap. In these situations, you may need to investigate the Notebook Chill Mat from Targus. This laptop tray features a two-fan cooling system that is designed to pull heat away from the bottom of the laptop. The fans are powered from your laptop via the USB port.

The Notebook Chill Mat, shown in Figure F, which sells for $29.99, measures 11.75" (w) x 9" (d) x 0.8" (h), weighs 15 ounces and fits easily in a laptop case.

Figure F

iLap

If you have a Powerbook, chances are that you'd like to have a laptop desk that is specifically designed for your Apple laptop. If so, then the iLap , from Rain Design, Inc, is just the product for you. The iLap is designed to match the Powerbook as it's made of aluminum with a sand-blasted and silver anodized finish. It also comes in five sizes: 12 inch, 14 inch, 15 inch, 15 inch widescreen and 17 inch widescreen versions. So there is a model just for your particular Powerbook.

The iLap, shown in Figures G and H, can be used with or without the front cushion on your lap as well as on your desk. It ranges in price from $49.90 to $69.90.

Figure G

Figure H

LaptopLift

Sometimes simplicity is the best medicine. That certainly seems to be the case behind the design of the LaptopLift. These sturdy handcrafted solid oak stands, shown in Figure I, are designed for use on a desk and simply slip under a laptop and prop it up at an angle that allows you to position your wrists comfortably as you type, as you can see in Figure J. This design also improves airflow under the laptop thus allowing it stay cooler.

Figure I

Figure J

The LaptopLift comes in three sizes—8.5-, 11-, and 12-inches— to accommodate the various laptop designs and they all sell for $19.95.

Xbrand Laptop Stand

The Xbrand Laptop Stand from Kinesis Corporation is an very interesting device in that it essentially converts your laptop into a desktop monitor by elevating the entire laptop at a steep angle. You then have enough room on the desk or table to connect and use a standard keyboard and mouse. Of course the elevation is adjustable to four positions for both comfort and to provide access to front mounted CD\DVD\floppy drives. This stand also rotates 360 degrees.

The Xbrand Laptop Stand comes in two models, the standard, which sells for $69.99 and a USB hub model, which sports four USB 2 ports and sells for $119.99. Both models measure 11.8" (w) x 11.0" (d) x 4.25" (h) / 8.5" (h). Figures K and L show what the stand looks like and how it works.

Figure K

Figure L

Lap Desk - Hybrid

When you're done traveling with your laptop computer, you may just want to curl up on the couch and surf the Net. If so, the Lap Desk - Hybrid from Stacks And Stacks may be just the ticket. The unique molded wood design not only provides you with a great work surface with enough room for your laptop and an external mouse, but also provides a trough area to hold books or magazines as well as coaster to hold a cup.

The Lap Desk Hybrid measures 8" x 30" x 15" and comes in Birch, which sells for $120 and Walnut, which sells for $325.00. Figure M shows what it looks like.

Figure M

Much more out there

Keep in mind that the laptop desks I've shown you in this article are only a sampling of what's out there. To see for yourself, just Google "laptop desk." If you have a favorite laptop desk, please take a moment to let us know about it by visiting the Discussion area and posting a message.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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