travel lap desk

Why you should trust us

As the writer of this guide, I spent 15 hours researching and 32 hours testing lap desks. I’ve been a science journalist for more than thở seven years, covering a wide variety of topics, from particle physics to tát satellite remote sensing. Since joining Wirecutter in 2017, I’ve reported on the best surge protectors, pencils, mousetraps, and more.

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In addition to tát drawing upon my own experience working from trang chính and in flex-seating offices for the past four years, I consulted with more than thở a dozen other Wirecutter staffers of varying heights and toàn thân types to tát better understand the wide-ranging needs and wants of people who use lap desks.

For a previous version of this guide, we spent an additional 12 hours testing lap desks. We also interviewed Alan Hedge, professor emeritus at Cornell University, who has studied workplace ergonomics, wellness, and productivity for nearly 40 years.

Who this is for

A person using a lap desk to tát work on their máy vi tính while they are sitting in the middle of a staircase.

Photo: Sarah Kobos

You probably shouldn’t use a lap desk. Or not that often, anyway. Generally speaking, they’re ergonomically inferior to tát a regular desk and should only be used for up to tát an hour per day, said workplace health expert Alan Hedge. That said, life is short, and sometimes you need to tát work from a slouchier-than-usual sitting position. Enter: the lap desk.

Lap desks have been around for centuries. Thomas Jefferson even used a lap desk of his own design. Made of solid mahogany, it weighed 5 pounds and had a built-in drawer for storing quills and ink—to draft the Declaration of Independence. If you don’t lượt thích our picks and are in the mood to tát spend, you can buy a replica of this Founding Father’s lap desk—or just make your own (PDF).

Thomas Jefferson’s wooden lap desk with the surface lifted and the inner accessories drawer pulled partially out.

Thomas Jefferson’s lap desk at the National Museum of American History. Photo: National Museum of American History

Most modern-day lap desks have padding, ventilation, and something to tát keep your phone, tablet, or máy vi tính from sliding off, but the basic function is about the same. If you lượt thích to tát work on a máy vi tính or tablet—or tự a crossword, write thank-you notes, color, consult your tarot cards, whatever—from your couch or in bed, lap desks can help. They provide a work surface that’s flatter and more stable than thở your bare lap and should effectively shield your skin from máy vi tính burn (details on that and more in the health considerations section). They let you pick up your workstation and take it with you. And they’re used by people with a wide array of needs: remote workers, retirees, commuters, college students, people with injuries or disabilities that prevent them from working at a desk, and more.

We chose not to tát test gaming lap desks or lapboards for this guide, and we don’t recommend them. Gaming laptops get very hot, which affects their performance, and that’s why there are ví many products designed to tát keep them cool.

How we picked and tested

A close view of the corners of three of the lap desks we tested to tát find the best lap desk.

Photo: Sarah Kobos

First, we scanned Amazon, Staples, Target, Walmart, and other retailers for the most popular and widely available options. From there, we crafted a rough list of lap desks to tát kiểm tra out, taking the following factors into consideration.

  • Heat distribution: We ruled out models lacking some kind of heat protection—such as a người yêu thích, ventilation, or padding to tát absorb and distribute heat—since keeping your legs cool and shielded against máy vi tính burn is a main benefit of using a lap desk.
  • Surface area: We eliminated any lap desks smaller than thở 15 inches wide because we wanted them to tát be able to tát comfortably accommodate a 13-inch máy vi tính with a little room to tát spare. (Because laptops are typically measured by diagonal screen size, the true width of a 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro is 12.8 inches, and a 17-inch HP Envy is 16.4 inches wide.)
  • Lefty friendliness: To qualify as the best lap desk for most people, each model had to tát be usable by both left- and right-handed people. Regardless of which hand you normally use, having a little extra space on both sides of your máy vi tính lets you keep your phone, pens, and other small supplies handy. So we disqualified any models with a built-in mousepad on the right side only, or those with an obstruction (like a máy vi tính rest or clamp) that make it uncomfortable to tát write or draw with either hand.
  • Extra features: We required each model to tát have some sort of lip, clasp, or slot to tát hold a máy vi tính, tablet, or book in place, even when the lap desk isn’t perfectly level—say, if you cross your legs underneath it. That way, you can focus on your work instead of trying to tát keep your stuff from slipping onto the floor every few seconds. Other than thở that, we noted (but did not require) any additional features, such as a storage pouch or drawer, a built-in người yêu thích, a handle, legs, or an angled work surface.
  • Brand reputation: We ruled out models with poor owner ratings and reviews—especially with regard to tát comfort, build quality, and stability. We checked the listings on Fakespot, eliminating those with a C grade or lower, which suggests some untrustworthiness in the reviews. We also decided not to tát test lap desks made by companies with a small or nonexistent online presence because we’ve been burned in the past by their inability to tát respond to tát customer-support queries or even keep products in stock for reliable shipping.

With this criteria in mind, we had three or more Wirecutter staffers test nearly two dozen lap desks in 2019 and again in 2021, using them to tát work on a máy vi tính for at least 30 minutes per lap desk and filling out a survey after each one. Also, as the writer of this guide, I personally tested each lap desk for an hour or more, taking note of the following factors (listed in order of importance):

  • Comfort: We assessed how comfortable each lap desk was to tát use, considering how the texture of the underside felt against our legs, whether the weight was too much, or if it made us shift and squirm in our seats.
  • Build quality: We considered the materials used—if they seemed cheap and flimsy, or sturdy and robust—and how well they were constructed.
  • Stability: We took note of how prone each lap desk was to tát tipping over and sending our pens, notebooks, phones, and more toppling to tát the floor. For the ones with legs, we took stock of how wobbly they were.
  • Size: We measured the width of each lap desk at its widest point, making sure the surface had ample room for a máy vi tính and more. We also measured the height from our laps to tát the topmost surface, because raising the máy vi tính higher off your lap helps with heat management and ergonomics.
  • Weight: We weighed each lap desk using a digital scale; based on our testers’ responses, anything over 3 pounds resting on one’s lap causes undue discomfort.
  • Extra features: If the lap desk had any extra features, we considered how effectively they functioned and whether they truly improved our overall experience.
  • Looks: We considered the overall appearance of each lap desk, taking into tài khoản a variety of opinions. Just lượt thích any piece of furniture in your trang chính or office—or an accessory you use often, lượt thích a backpack—a lap desk should look as good as it functions.

The best lap desk: LapGear Designer

The LapGear Designer lap desk, our pick for best lap desk, shown in Black with an open máy vi tính computer sitting on it.

Photo: Michael Hession

Our pick

Of all the lap desks we considered, we’d get the LapGear Designer. It felt comfortable to tát use and has a sturdy build. At 17¾ inches across, it’s wide enough to tát fit a 13-inch máy vi tính and mouse comfortably, or just a 15-inch or 17-inch máy vi tính, and it works equally well for left- and right-handed people. It raises your work surface above your bare lap by more than thở 3 inches and weighs just over 2 pounds. A handful of small touches stand out—a plastic máy vi tính rest to tát make your stuff stay put, a phone slot, a handle, an elastic strap for storing index cards or a pen—and overall it has a dễ thương, clean-cut look. We also tested and liked the slightly wider version of this model—one that measures about 18½ inches—if you want a little extra surface space.

The top of the LapGear Designer lap desk is made of realistic-looking faux wood that’s easy to tát wipe clean. Photo: Michael Hession

The top surface of the lap desk (made of a warm-colored, faux-wood laminate) is equally comfortable to tát work on. Its smooth, matte finish won’t chafe your wrists as you type, draw, practice calligraphy, or handwrite the first draft of your novel. We prefer this texture to tát a dimpled plastic, lượt thích on the LapGear Smart-e, or the slick, shiny surface of the Honey-Can-Do. The padding on the underside of the Designer lap desk is filled with microbeads (little foam pellets) and encased in a soft, comfortable, canvas-like polyester material. It feels squishy yet stable because the pellets inside allow it to tát conform to tát the shape of your lap better than thở solid foam padding. You can even adjust the angle (roughly) to tát fit your position. Senior software engineer Nazanin Hesamzadeh said she loves the versatility of the desk’s design: “No matter where you sit, or how, there is no problem in adjusting it. When I was sick, it was good to tát have it in bed to tát put my plate on.”

The build quality of the LapGear Designer lap desk impressed us in our initial testing, and our long-term testers have had no issues with theirs after years of use. Hesamzadeh said her LapGear desk has shown no signs of wear-and-tear with regular use. Even though its topper is not made of real wood (which might look and feel more luxurious but will also be heavier), the Designer lap desk feels sturdy and well constructed. The materials seem durable—and because they’re petroleum-based, they’re easy to tát wipe down and spot clean. By comparison, we struck plenty of models from our testing list due to tát a pattern of owner reviews reporting shoddy workmanship and cheap-looking materials.

The Designer lap desk raises your máy vi tính about 3 inches off the surface of your lap—which is about an inch higher than thở most of the other models we tested, and this helps with both heat management and ergonomics versus a bare lap. This lap desk weighs about 2 pounds, which feels similar to tát the weight of a thick wool blanket laid across your lap. It’s big enough to tát fit a 13-inch máy vi tính and a wireless mouse, or a larger máy vi tính up to tát 17 inches wide without a mouse.

The LapGear Designer lap desk, our pick for the best lap desk, holding a 15-inch HP Envy máy vi tính and a điện thoại thông minh in a case.

The LapGear Designer lap desk is wide enough to tát fit a 13-inch máy vi tính and wireless mouse, or a larger máy vi tính (like the 15-inch HP Envy pictured here) without a mouse. Photo: Andrew Cunningham

The small lip on the Designer laps desk’s near edge (a 6-inch strip of white plastic only a half-inch tall) is just wide enough to tát ensure that your máy vi tính doesn’t slide onto your abdomen while you’re typing. But it also doesn’t prevent a left- or right-handed person from comfortably using a wireless mouse or writing on the lap desk. By comparison, some other models we tested, lượt thích the AboveTek, have máy vi tính clasps or other extra features that our testers agreed were super annoying and impeded the basic functions of the lap desk.

As a bonus, the Designer lap desk has a little slot to tát prop up your phone while you’re working or to tát store a pen and pencil. An elastic strap in the corner—a feature we’ve not seen on any other model—provides additional storage for index cards or other small items that you wouldn’t want to tát go sliding off the edge.

The LapGear Designer Lap Desk resting across a person's lap, with a máy vi tính computer, phone, pen, and post-it notes on top.

The LapGear Designer lap desk has a slot to tát prop up your phone or hold a writing utensil, as well as an elastic strap in the corner for additional storage. Photo: Sarah Kobos

In terms of looks, the Designer lap desk is one of the most attractive models we tested. It’s simple and stylish looking, and has a streamlined shape that’s easy to tát tuck under a couch or next to tát a bedside table. Its faux-wood top is a warm honey color that complements the white details. And the handle and bottom cushion come in a variety of vibrant colors and patterns, giving you lots of options to tát match your personal style.

LapGear backs all of its lap desks with a one-year warranty and has a robust trang web presence. When we called customer service anonymously, a representative picked up right away and offered to tát ship a replacement, no questions asked—except for requesting more details about how the company could improve the product.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Although we lượt thích the look of the LapGear Designer desk overall, we wish it were available in at least one neutral, solid color. Bold prints lượt thích paisley and argyle aren’t for everyone, and it would be a shame if your lap desk clashed with your trang chính, office, or dorm-room decor. But since the Designer comes in a wide variety of colorful patterns (seven at the time of this writing), we think most people can find one they lượt thích, even if it wouldn’t be their first choice. Though a lap desk may improve ergonomics a little, and can keep a hot máy vi tính off your bare legs, padded options lượt thích the Designer desk tự only ví much.

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A more-compact option: Huanuo HNLD15

The Huanuo HNLD15 lap desk, our choice for the best lap desk for travel, shown in Black holding an open máy vi tính computer.

Photo: Michael Hession

Also great

Huanuo HNLD15

The best lap desk for travel

The Huanuo lap desk is small and compact in shape, and its top flips open ví you can adjust the angle. Also, it has a roomy hidden compartment for pens, pencils, and other supplies.

Buying Options

If you’re planning to tát work while traveling—whether it’s a transatlantic flight or a daily train, bus, or carpool commute—the Huanuo HNLD15 is your best bet. Small and compact, it has a padded bottom for comfort and a handle for carrying. Plus, it adds handy features lượt thích a fold-out máy vi tính rest, an adjustable angled lid, and a hidden compartment for storing a charger and other supplies.

About the size of a box of cereal, the Huanuo measures 14¾ by 11 by 2½ inches, which is wide enough to tát comfortably fit a 13-inch máy vi tính or the average sketchbook. The work surface is slightly angled when laid flat. And it has a small kickstand on the top that you can unlatch and use to tát further adjust the angle (kind of lượt thích the movable backrest of a poolside chaise lounge). The máy vi tính rest has a flip-open design, ví it doesn’t get in the way when not in use, and a convenient strip of textured rubber helps keep your máy vi tính, tablet, or book from sliding off.

The Huanuo lap desk’s hidden compartment comes with two removable dividers to tát keep your stuff organized. Photo: Michael Hession

The Huanuo lap desk is almost entirely made of plastic, ví it’s not exceptionally rugged, but in practice we found it to tát be sturdily built and robust. It’s also easy to tát blot clean or wipe dry if you have a spill. At 3 pounds, it’s on the heavier side, but we didn't find that it made our laps uncomfortable. The padding on the bottom—an inch-thick layer of foam covered in a nylon mesh—is cushiony and breathable. While it doesn’t conform to tát the shape of your lap lượt thích our top pick’s Beanie Baby–like padding does, it offers plenty of stability and comfort even after hours of use.

A handy feature of this lap desk, which we didn’t see in most other models, is its storage compartment. Taking up most of the interior, it’s roomy enough for a cache of index cards, markers, snacks, and more. It comes with two plastic dividers for organization, but they’re removable ví you can store larger items. A sliding latch at the bottom allows you to tát lock the lid shut, ví it doesn’t accidentally fall open when you’re carrying it by the handle (spilling your pens, pencils, and other supplies in the middle of a crowded plane is, for mạ at least, the stuff of nightmares). Also, we were delighted to tát find that there’s a small hole at the top, just big enough for a charging cable to tát pass through, ví you can keep a power ngân hàng in the compartment and charge your phone or máy vi tính while using the lap desk.

Like the Avantree, the Huanuo doesn’t have the colorful flair of our top pick. Every component, from top to tát bottom, is solid Black. But since it’s designed for travel, rather than thở around-the-house use, we don’t think the funerary aesthetic will be a major detractor for most people.

Huanuo has an active Amazon store, and when we called the company’s tư vấn line (on a Friday afternoon, at that), an agent picked up immediately. Its lap desks are backed by a one-year warranty, which should give you plenty of time to tát test out yours and make sure it’s working properly.

Health considerations

Although they’re not as good for your posture as an ergonomic work setup with a real desk, lap desks are still better than thở no desk at all. Besides providing a more even, stable work surface than thở the average lap, there are some medical reasons to tát use lap desks, too:

  • Ergonomics: The ideal typing position is sitting or standing upright and looking straight into a screen, with your feet flat on the floor and your wrists in your lap slightly below your elbows. It’s pretty much impossible to tát achieve this posture without an external monitor. That said, lap desks have been shown to tát encourage a better working posture than thở setting a máy vi tính on your bare lap. Plus, those that let you adjust the height and angle can bring you even closer to tát that ideal position. (We discuss workplace ergonomics further in our guides to tát the best ergonomic keyboard, under-desk footrest, máy vi tính stand, standing desk, and office chair.)
  • Eyestrain: Most lap desks allow you to tát keep your máy vi tính screen at arm’s length (to a greater extent than thở you could without one), which is easier on your eyes. Maximizing the distance between your eyes and the screen will help prevent computer vision syndrome, which involves eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, and neck/shoulder pain, and is a common result of prolonged screen time.
  • Laptop burn: When you use a máy vi tính, especially for an extended period of time, it heats up. Over the past 15 years, scientists have studied more than thở a dozen reported cases of people with red, irritated, or damaged skin (including, in some cases, severe burns) from prolonged máy vi tính use. These extreme consequences are rare, but a lap desk can help dissipate the heat emitted from your máy vi tính and shield your bare skin from damage.
  • Infertility: Scientists have studied the possibility of a links between laptops (when used directly on the lap) and male reproductive health. For example, a 2005 study of 29 men found that scrotal temperatures were significantly warmer for subjects with a máy vi tính on their laps for extended periods, compared with subjects with nothing on their laps (scrotal temperature is known to tát impact sperm production and function). But the research has been limited, and we don’t think there’s enough evidence to tát recommend lap desks as a precaution against male infertility.

Other good lap desks

If you want something bigger, sturdier, and more sophisticated-looking than thở our picks, and you don’t mind paying a hefty premium for it: Consider the Cooper Desk Pro XL. It has a removable máy vi tính rest at the bottom of the work surface, as well as legs that let you adjust the height and angle for improved ergonomics. This lap desk has a handy little drawer underneath, for storing things lượt thích pens, and a lengthy slot at the top to tát hold a phone or tablet. Though most lap desks with legs we tested wouldn’t look out of place in a hospital, the Cooper Desk Pro XL embodies home-office-chic. Its legs are made of brushed aluminum, with Black plastic crossbars that are curved up lượt thích skis, ví it’s easier to tát glide it out from under you. The Black plastic tabletop is even covered in a layer of Black faux leather. However, this lap desk has a few key drawbacks. First, at 24 inches wide, it’s bigger than thở we think many people will want. (Though if you have generous hips or a larger toàn thân, it may be a tight squeeze to tát fit between this desk’s legs.) Also, it weighs more than thở twice as much as our other picks—nearly 8 pounds, or roughly the weight of a newborn baby. Finally, it’s the priciest lap desk we tested, costing twice as much as the LapGear as of this writing. But if you don’t mind those drawbacks (or if it goes on sale), don’t hesitate to tát get it.

If you lượt thích the design and don’t mind the extra weight: You might prefer the LapGear Bamboard Pro to tát our top pick. It has a cool, sleek look that’s masculine without being too macho. It feels sturdy and stable in your lap, and its honey-colored wood (bamboo, as the name suggests) is durable, plentiful, and relatively sustainable to tát harvest. It has a faux-leather máy vi tính rest that doubles as a firm, comfy cushion for your wrists. It also has three sizable slots for your phone, tablet, and other supplies, whereas most models we tested had only one. The honeycomb-shaped cutouts in the center add ventilation for your máy vi tính, and the mousepads on both sides make it more inclusive for lefties. However, the Bamboard Pro wasn’t an unqualified favorite in our testing. Testers either adored or abhorred the Bamboard Pro’s minimal aesthetic. And since there’s no padding on the bottom, it feels more or less lượt thích you have a plank of wood on your lap (albeit a nicely sanded and varnished one). It’s also much heavier (almost 5 pounds, whereas the Designer weighs just 2 pounds) and wider (22 inches) than thở anything else we tested, and we think that’s more lap desk than thở most people need.

If you favor a neutral solid color over vibrant prints and want more ventilation: The Wishacc Bamboo Wood Lap Desk is a great alternative to tát our top pick. It’s 15¼ inches wide—a couple of inches narrower than thở the LapGear Designer. But if you want more room, this lap desk also comes in 21-inch and 24-inch widths. The work surface and máy vi tính rest are both made of polished bamboo wood, giving it an upscale look (and a smaller environmental footprint than thở our picks, which are primarily made of nonrenewable materials lượt thích metal and plastic). Like our top pick, it has a slot for a phone on top, as well as an elastic band on the corner for extra storage, and its handle and cushion are covered in a soft-yet-rugged fabric. Rather than thở a variety of colorful patterns, as you get with the LapGear Designer, this lap desk’s fabric comes in one color: a light, sandy brown. The combination of the earth-tone fabric and wood gives this lap desk a subtle, sophisticated look (though it’s not for everyone). A neat feature of this lap desk is that a section in the center of the foamy padding can be flipped open and buttoned in place to tát create an angled work surface. This also allows for more ventilation than thở most soft-bottom lap desks. Unfortunately, though, we’ve noticed some stock issues with this model.

The competition

The Amazon Basics Adjustable Laptop Tray Table has a máy vi tính rest on the left side and a mouse rest on the right side of the work surface. This makes the tray impractical for lefties. And if you don’t use a mouse, it also forces you to tát have your máy vi tính off to tát the side while you’re using it, rather than thở centered.

The Arlo Skye The Lap Desk’s large 19-inch size makes it cumbersome to tát use, and the microbeads in the cushioned base feel lượt thích hard plastic compared to tát the soft compression beads found in our main pick. Plus, the docking tray is too narrow for anything but a mobile phone or tablet, making it inaccessible for people who pair their devices with thicker cases.

The Honey-Can-Do Portable Laptop Lap Desk (our former budget pick) was nixed in a later round of testing because it doesn’t have a built-in máy vi tính rest to tát keep your stuff from sliding off.

The Huanuo HNLD11 feels flimsy and cheap when compared with our picks. And at 16½ inches wide, it’s an awkward size—a bit too small for daily use and too big for travel. Plus, the fleece material on the bottom gets warm more quickly compared with the padding on most options we tested.

The LapGear Clipboard Lap Desk is well built and offers plenty of room for a 13-inch máy vi tính and mouse (17¾ inches wide), and the clip on the side is handy for keeping homework, tax forms, or other papers in place. However, the materials seem chintzier and less durable than thở those of the Designer.

The LapGear Mydesk, measuring 17½ inches wide, has a generously sized workspace, but it’s not as sturdy or as stylish as the Designer lap desk. Also, while the fleece material on the bottom is velvety-soft, it gets too warm on your lap.

The LapGear Smart-e is almost identical to tát the discontinued eDesk, but we found its dimpled plastic surface unenjoyable to tát write on. Plus, the lip around its tablet slot creates an uneven surface for a máy vi tính or notepad.

On paper, we liked the LapGear XL (discontinued) a lot. It’s one of the widest models we tested, its padding is ventilated, and it has dual mousepads, zip-up storage pouches, and a roomy máy vi tính rest. But in practice, that máy vi tính rest is made of hard plastic and makes the whole thing uncomfortable to tát use.

The Mind Reader LTADJUST is nearly identical to tát the Huanuo HNLD15 but lacks one of its best features: a storage compartment. Also, its fleecy padding is soft but too warm for comfort.

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We lượt thích that the Nearpow Laptop Lap Desk has a removable, washable cover (no other model we tested has this feature, ví you have to tát spot-clean the fabric padding). But it feels flimsier than thở most models we tested (its mouse pads were starting to tát peel off after just a few days of use, and the materials in general feel chintzy). Also, its padded wrist rest was too angular in shape to tát be used comfortably.

The Executive Office Solutions Portable Adjustable Aluminum Laptop Desk, Huanuo HNLA6 (discontinued), and PWR+ Laptop Table are nearly identical models with built-in, USB-powered fans to tát keep your máy vi tính (and lap) cool. We thought they might be a good option for đoạn Clip editors and other people who run rẩy lots of programs on their máy vi tính, generating more heat than thở typical use. However, these models were not easy to tát mix up and use—each leg has three joints that must be manually adjusted to tát a precise angle to tát be usable. Nor did we think they were substantially better at keeping our laps cool compared with other legged lap desks we tried. Also, these lap desks’ legs extend straight down from their work surface—leaving just over 18 inches for your legs in between them. So, if you have hips lượt thích Kim Kardashian, it’s going to tát be a tight squeeze.

The SAIJI Adjustable Laptop Stand features collapsible legs and generous height and angle adjustments, making it ideal for someone who doesn’t lượt thích the weight of a lap desk against their toàn thân. But this desk weighs 9 pounds, more than thở four times the weight of our LapGear Designer main pick, making it cumbersome to tát use. And while this model offers a wide, 23-inch work surface, it may still be difficult for people with larger bodies or wide hips to tát sit comfortably between its legs—one tester, who’s 5-foot-3 and has 40-inch-wide hips, occasionally struggled to tát rearrange themselves beneath it.