With the ripe combination of portability and power, today’s notebooks are becoming increasingly popular and replacing desktops as primary computers. And one notebook accessory that many consumers seem to be keeping their eye on is notebook stands. These angled risers that sit on your desk provide ergonomic and organizational solutions to transform a notebook into a makeshift desktop station. But which stand is right for you? Looking for a stand with passive or fan cooling? Or is a stand with comfortable ergonomics and stylish aesthetics more important? What if you want one with a little bit of everything? With these various factors in mind, we tested 11 different notebook stands to see if they’re any better than just putting a notebook on top of a few stacked phonebooks (which in many cases, they weren’t).
Finding a use for this tray was a little difficult. The "desk" is supposed to act as a heat barrier between your notebook and legs when sitting down. After about 30 minutes of intense usage it became apparent that although the heat our thighs experienced was not quite as hot as direct contact, there was no measurable dissipation taking place. We tested the tray with the included MouzPads, which attach to either side of the desk to add just over 4&1\2 inches for you to move your mouse. These snap-on pads were designed to allow "avid FPS gamer(s)" to play PC games on their HDTV using their laptop. Not a bad idea provided your laptop cost $4K and can game on HD resolutions; now only if we had room enough to move our mouse more then two inches, it might have been practical. Futura contacted us to say they were aware of the problem and will be releasing new MouzPads this October. Until then, the only reason to use the Laptop Desk as opposed to any smooth slab are its portability and grip pads.
Update: It seems Targus is selling the Laptop Desk Futura as well; rebranded as the "PA243U | Targus Laptop Portable LapDesk". LapWorks representatives have confirmed that the Targus model is indeed their Laptop Desk Futura rebranded and distributed through the Targus retail channel. Keep in mind both products are exactly the same (including price) despite their separate brand and model numbers.
This Aluminum stand was one of only two stands in our roundup to include active cooling. The two 70mm fans can spin at 1,800 or 2,500rpms, with a scroll wheel to adjust their speed. When testing the cooling power of the fans on max settings, we found they did a poor job cooling the entire bottom of our laptop. Yes, they lowered temperatures, but only for two small areas lying in immediate vicinity to the fans. We attribute this to the fact that the fans suck air out from under your laptop, blowing it under the stand, instead of blowing air directly onto the bottom of your notebook. Since the tray measures 12 and a half inches wide, any medium-large laptop sticks out off its edge; luckily the NB-400's Aluminum alloy construction is sturdy enough that the limited size doesn't affect the unit's support. The included USB ports are a plus and we applaud this stand for its sturdy frame, but with the poor cooling performance and a $30 price tag, we would hesitate to buy this unit over simply employing a stack of textbooks.
Easily one of the most stylish docks in this roundup, we were eager to see if the Alto performed as well as it looked. Aesthetics aside, this was also the only dock to include a keyboard. Not quite your standard QWERT keyboard, this puppy dished up a surplus of function keys. During intense FPS frag sessions, we found the key registry to be a bit off, but outside of gaming this flaw was never noticed. With convenience in mind, the Alto includes well-placed USB ports and a discrete wire management system. Although we liked to have seen a more advanced wire management similar to that of the Targus Ergo-D Pro, the inclusion of one at all is better than nothing. One feature we found lacking was the ability to adjust the stand's height, which is only either completely propped up or down. When propped up, the stand appears a bit flimsy upon first glance, but was surprisingly strong enough to hold up to our most punishing weight tests. The Alto has near everything you could want in a laptop dock, including a keen panache that may even have Apple fans feeling a tinge of jealousy. Form and function comes at a price though, as the Alto was one of the more expensive setups we reviewed.
For the LapDawg, we had to throw out our usual battery of tests because this stand is quite unique. It's designed to do more then simply act as a laptop stand; it's a fully collapsible table, platform, tray, whatever you can shape it into. The Dawg’s Aluminum tray is very wide at almost 18 inches with fully adjustable legs attached to either side, each split up into three sections. Each leg can be individually rotated a full 360 degrees and locked at any degree. Adjusting these legs was simple (literally a snap) and we had fun coming up with different positions for the Dawg. Sadly this is where our fun ended as it soon became quite apparent that the Dawg’s versatility was its only strength. When weight-testing the stand in a variety of positions the legs would bend under even 10 lbs of pressure, despite the documentation stating support for 26.5 lbs. The stand had very few positions we felt comfortable placing even our 15" notebook on. Throughout our testing the three joints on each leg began to loosen and the unit swayed from side to side when in a full upright position. At full height the Dawg measures just over 21 inches tall making it a bit short to use as a table while sitting down on anything but the floor. Worse yet, the table costs a hefty $130. The LapDawg does absolutely nothing that merits its price, but receives bonus points for being versatile and reminding us of Wall-E.
Unlike many of the other stands in this roundup, the Traveller doesn't pretend to be something it's not. It is simply a stand used to prop up your laptop on your desk, and admirably succeeds at that task. The Traveller adjusts to five separate heights to bring your laptop to a suitable eye level. Unfortunately, it was a little difficult to lock the stand in place and it became a minor nuisance to change heights once the supporting bracket was finally locked. At the base of the stand are two surprisingly robust fold-out metal tabs used to support your laptop. Despite the Traveller’s simple design and polycarbonate body, it also withstood our weight tests without collapsing or breaking. You can even fold up the unit to be as flat as a magazine and slide it into its included travel sleeve to bring it along on work trips. The Traveller reliably serves its purpose, and the included extras don't hurt one bit.
Clearly aimed at MacBook users, this stand matches the brushed aluminum finish that MacBook Pro users have come to adore. In fact, the stand could easily be mistaken for an Apple product based on its design (and no doubt its price). Built to be a fixed docking station, the mStand is not portable at all; the points it loses in convenience however are gained back in durability. Due to its solid metal build, the mStand can easily support laptops of all sizes. On the back of the stand is a sizable hole for wire routing. During testing, we found this hole somewhat counterintuitive to its purpose; wires that would normally escape out the back of your laptop were now pushed forward toward you if routed through the hole – we can’t see this being useful if your notebook’s USB ports aren’t on the back (like in all Macbooks). Apple fans alike will love this stand, and as they've become accustom to, shell out some serious greenbacks for the sake of style.
The APC Ergonomic Notebook stand offers plenty of mobility on the desk but lacks portability. While this notebook stand size and weight is not meant for traveling, its ergonomic design allows users to rest comfortably while at the desk. The stand offers 3 different locking positions to adjust to your level of comfort. However, we would like to have seen a few more positions available. The folding retainer allows for easy access to front optical drives and the concave stand allows air to flow through the bottom for passive cooling. APC also implemented four USB 2.0 ports to the back, which seems to be standard on many notebook stands today, allowing easy access for your mouse, keyboard, or external hard drive. We wouldn’t have minded a couple of USB ports in the front, though.
Targus is well known for their distinguished notebook accessories, mainly their notebook bags and cases, but their Targus Laptop Stand with Removable Chill Mat will give them something to brag about in the cooling department. The stand provides both passive and fan cooling. The optional Chill Mat with two powerful, yet noisy, fans can be attached to provide more cooling power to the notebook. We found the Chill Mat to be, however, a bit hard to remove and at times felt like it was going to break in the process. The stand is sturdy enough to handle the heaviest notebooks and the cradle can fit even the thick notebooks. This is definitely a positive, as other stands seem to have trouble supporting the bulkier notebooks. Opening up the stand reveals the ability to adjust the it to four different angles and also exposes an inner compartment to store cables and small accessories; and by small we mean a couple of thumb drives and maybe a fun-sized Snickers bar.
For Kensington, ergonomics is no joke. Kensington’s Notebook Stand features a color-coded hand chart, which allows you to measure the size of your hand and adjust the stand to its corresponding color and angle. What we failed to understand, though, is how this feature has anything to do with ergonomics. The notebook stand is designed to act as an elevated notebook screen so its mounted clipboard panel blocks off use of the keyboard. Without access to the keyboard, the angle of the stand has no effect on your hands. With that aside, Kensington’s detachable 4-port USB hub and clipboard panel are the only things to “hoo-rah” about for this notebook stand.
This notebook stand doesn’t have as many features as most notebook stands would offer. No USB ports, no cooling, and no adjustable height. But if simplicity is what you’re looking for, Griffin doesn’t disappoint. The sleek (and a little Mac-esque) Elevator sets your notebook 5 ½ inches above the desk at eye level to help with ergonomic-conscious user. The sure-grip pads aren’t as “grippy” as we would like them to be, as heavier notebooks (anything above 7 pounds) will slide a bit. The brushed aluminum stands are a bit wobbly and can shake with the slightest bump. After extended use, we found that notebooks with less grip on the bottom could eventually slide off the stand. Thankfully, no notebooks were damaged in the testing process! The Elevator is a bit pricey for its lack of features, but its stylish look makes up for it.
Targus does not disappoint, again, with its Ergo D-Pro Laptop Stand. This stand is sturdy, even supporting up to 27 pounds in our tests. It offers a document stand in the front with tabs to adjust the angle. In the back, it provides wire management guides as well as a lockable compartment, although the compartment is quite small and can fit nothing more than a few cables or a thumb drive. The grilled back allows air to dissipate through the bottom. There are no built-in USB ports, though, but a separate port replicator is available for purchase as an extension. The D-Pro is not at all portable as it weighs in at a hefty 7.7 pounds, but that is expected when the suggested weight capacity more than five times the weight of our laptops. The steep price tag will hurt your wallet, which is unfortunate because the Ergo doesn’t match up to other stands in its price range (such as the Logitech Alto Cordless).