You can scroll, shop, and work from your laptop anywhere you can get internet. We’ve all known that for years now. But if you’ve tried working from bed, you’ll know it’s more comfortable in theory than in practice. Neck problems from peering down at the screen and thighs that feel like they’ve been grilled under your heating laptop become a high price to pay for the convenience of working semi-horizontally. Chances are you need a lap desk. They’re portable, so you can make a desk of any spot, and can be used for reading, eating, and jotting down notes from the comfort of, well, anywhere that’s comfortable. To find out the best lap desks to buy, we spoke to people who regularly type, scroll, and write physical notes using a lap desk.
What we’re looking for
Laptops come in different sizes for varying needs. I’ve noted the width and depth of each one below so you can easily see which desks will fit your device. After comparing the sizes of the most popular Apple, Google, HP, and Lenovo models, I’d say the average laptop has a screen between 13 and 15.5 inches wide; each desk on this list can comfortably accommodate those. If you have a slightly bigger device (one that’s closer to 17 inches, like an HP Pavilion) or want space for a notebook alongside your device, you’ll also find a couple of options below.
Cushioned or standing
The two main kinds of lap desks either sit directly on your lap or have little foldable legs attached to them so they can also be used as tray tables (think classic breakfast-in-bed tables). All of the straight-on-lap desks that we heard about are cushioned for extra comfort.
Best lap desk overall
Dimensions: 21 inches wide, 12 inches deep | Cushioned
This is my favorite lap desk, and I picked it up based on the recommendation of former Strategist tech writer Jordan Bowman. He has used the LapGear for years, “and it’s especially nice to have while watching YouTube videos or working while lying around the house,” he wrote. The desk’s built-in cushion nestles on your lap and keeps everything balanced. Bowman particularly likes the cell-phone tray, which props your phone up alongside your laptop. For me, the best feature is the mouse pad. As someone who’d often just grab an old magazine to use as a mouse pad, it feels like a luxury. I have the espresso shade (to match my desk’s color scheme), but the lap desk is available in six shades, from silver carbon to a pretty pink. It’s big enough to comfortably fit a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.
Best lap-desk tray
Dimensions: 17 inches wide, 13 inches deep | Cushioned
Issy Sampson, deputy digital showbiz editor at News UK, always dreamed about a job for which she could work from bed. “It turns out in practice, it’s actually really hard. Issues include my overheating laptop burning my legs or sliding off my legging-clad lap as I furiously type on deadline,” she wrote. After using a makeshift lap desk (i.e., perching her laptop on a breadboard), she decided to invest in the real thing. Her pick — which like the LapGear desk also comes in a marbly option — leaves enough room for a laptop with a screen between 13 and 16 inches wide, and the entire thing is cushioned for extra comfort as you work. “When I first waved my new ‘desk’ down the camera at a team catch-up meeting the following week, everyone mocked me,” says Sampson. “But since then, 7 out of my 14-strong team have secretly contacted me to admit they’ve done the same thing.”
Best memory-foam lap desk
Dimensions: 18.5 inches wide, 14 inches deep | Cushioned
“Even if you’ve got a plush office setup at home, I recommend getting a lap desk because there are going to be those times you feel like working in bed or on the couch,” says Sarah Brown, Violet Grey’s executive director. The desk she uses from Sofia + Sam has all the bells and whistles: an LED lamp, a memory-foam cushion, a cushioned rest for your wrist, and an extending slot that can hold a phone and a mouse. But there’s no opening to feed a phone charger through, so you’ll have to make sure your device is charged before getting comfortable. It’s big enough to fit a 13- or 15-inch laptop and has a little slot for a tablet in case you’re more of an iPad worker.
Best lap desk with legs
Dimensions: 21.8 inches wide, 13.9 inches deep | Cushioned
Architectural designer and blogger Sade Akinsanya has been using a version of this classic lap tray for years. It’s a multitasker that she says she reaches for “when I want to work from bed, when I want to eat and watch Netflix, when I want to photograph something.” The desk’s 3-inch legs slot comfortably over your body when you’re lying down, and at 21 inches wide, the desk can fit larger laptops or smaller models along with a notepad. It has a stand for propping up a phone and a tablet, so you can stream on your phone as you snack in bed — but, again, there’s no slot through which to feed a phone charger.
Best lap desk to prevent overheating
Dimensions: 15.5 inches wide, 13.8 inches deep | Standing
Meredith Talusan, author of the memoir Fairest, uses a similar wood lap desk with legs. Her favorite of them all, which she takes with her on holiday, is from Songmics. “I like that it tilts and has that piece of wood that stops your laptop from falling down and even has a little drawer to keep your stuff in,” Talusan says. The desk has a few cutout holes to prevent your laptop from overheating. Also, the tiltable desk brings your laptop or tablet up to eye level, saving you some neck strain.
Best extra-wide lap desk
Dimensions: 20 inches wide, 14.9 inches deep | Cushioned
Stevie Remsberg, New York Magazine’s senior art director and visuals manager, says her laptop gets so hot when she’s working that she can’t put it on her lap directly. Instead, she perches it on this laptop support desk from Ikea. “I needed something to sort of prop it up, and it just seemed crazy to bring a whole table. It made more sense to have my laptop on my lap. This thing works great. It has a beanbag cushion on the bottom, so it’s comfortable too,” she says. And if you’re wondering how to keep it clean, the cushioned cover is conveniently machine washable.
Some other desks we’ve written about
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