Many of us spend a great deal of time at our computer. When I am at work, I have an optimized ergonomic layout that maximizes my productivity and comfort. But whenever I travel, such issues invariably decline.
Appallingly, even many five star hotels that proudly offer business work stations in their rooms ignore very basic ergonomic issues. It is common that the desk surface is too high, and sometimes the chairs are too low – even for me and I am reasonably tall (6 ft); such problems are appreciably worse for shorter people.
Some budget hotels offer almost no desk area at all, but might have something more akin to a makeup table, sometimes designed so that when you try to sit at it, you can’t even get your legs underneath it properly.
Anything that can make life easier for us in such situations would be very much appreciated.
There are also many other situations when we could possibly benefit from some sort of work surface. In the car, at the airport, when outdoors, and for the serious workaholic, even in bed.
And so, with that as lengthy introduction, let’s now talk about the E-Stand Portable Laptop Table.
This represents as an attempt to offer a solution to some or many of these situations and needs. Unfortunately, it has some limitations that are not obvious up front, and which detract from its ability to add much value for most of us. But first, let me describe the unit.
The unit is reasonably lightweight, being made of aluminum and plastic, and folds for travel. Folded up, it measures approximately 15″ x 10″ x 1.75″, and it weighs 1 lb 15 oz. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with any type of travel pouch to carry it in.
To use it, you unfold the four legs and splay them apart, and then tilt the surface to the desired degree of tilt (it can be set from a 10° tilt away from you to a 30° tilt towards you). On the right-hand side, there is a small mouse pad surface that can be flipped open (it measures 5.9″ x 5.2″) and can be rotated so that no matter what degree of tilt on the work surface, the mouse pad is level. If you use a mouse with your left hand, you’re out of luck.
There is also a pullout cupholder, but with a hole diameter of only 2.3″ it is too small to fit most cups, which rather than safely sitting in the cupholder halfway down, will be perched precariously with only the bottom inch or less recessed into the holder. Along the side of the table closest to you, there is a metal flap that folds up, presumably to stop your computer from sliding off the edge.
So far, so good. But now, for the issue of actually using it. This was a problem and a disappointment.
The problem is that it can’t really be used on any sort of normal dimensioned chair. A comfortable position would have the laptop table not wedged tightly into your stomach, but slightly further forward, and this creates the probable problem that the front legs for the table will fall off the edge of your seat.
Unless your seat has a front to back measurement of more than about 24″, or unless you are enviably slim with much less stomach than me, you will have a problem. It is unusual for a seat to have 24″ or more of front to back space, because if it has too much front to back space, it becomes uncomfortable to sit on.
It is interesting to note that the two pictures of the stand in use on a seat on the back of its box actually show the front legs to be precariously perched right on the edge of the seat.
This is obviously not a problem if you are in bed or seated on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you. But if you want to use it in a seat, you will probably be out of luck (note also that even if the seat does have enough front to back width, it also needs to be quite wide – the legs are spaced 22″ apart, and you’d probably want to have another couple of inches on each side as safety margin. It is unusual to find a seat that is 26″ wide.
Now for the disappointment. The laptop stand is too high. Ergonomic best practice suggests that when you are typing, your shoulders should be level, not raised, your arms from your shoulders to your elbows should be more or less at your side, and then your arms from your elbows to your wrists should be horizontal.
The table surface stands approximately 11 1/2″ above whatever surface it is on. Tilting the table towards you can slightly lower this. But in all cases, it felt that the laptop on top of the table was way too high, with my shoulders raised up and my arms from elbow to wrist angling up. Interestingly (and confirmed by an ergonomic specialist) it was much more comfortable simply to put the laptop in my lap and to type that way. This seems counter-intuitive, but if you try it yourself, you will probably find that you are in something very close to the theoretically perfect ergonomic position when typing on your lap, but if you imagine your computer raised 11 1/2″ above the surface you are seated on, you will probably agree that it will then be too high for comfort.
So, a great idea in theory, but surprisingly, at least for me, I found it easier to just work with the computer on my knee. Even if you do like the extra height of this laptop table, you will find there are only a very few situations in which you can use it.
The product is available direct from the manufacturer for $34.95 and from Amazon for $39.95 (yes, more than it should be). It is available in four colors and comes with only a very short 30 day warranty.