Products: laptop stand

by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company LLC

We often accumulate “tolerations”, those small annoyances that interfere with our concentration and productivity but never seem to rise to the level that inspires us to take action. Like barnacles collecting on a ship, they weigh us down, imperceptibly at first, then dramatically. The new year seemed like a great time to “scrape my hull” and clear out some tolerations.

higher, cooler, safer, gorgeous

mStand by Rain Design: higher, cooler, safer, gorgeous

My monitor height was one of my tolerations. Loving my MacBook Pro, I’ve made it my only computer. But placing the computer atop the 200+ year-old wide-board walnut tavern table that serves as my desk, built in a time when no one imagined anything more technologically advanced than a clamp-on manual meat grinder, left the 5’10” me in a state of permanent hunch as I viewed the monitor. How best to raise the monitor to eye level without spending for a separate Apple monitor to use with my laptop?

My local Apple store offered the Griffin Elevator, which has received scads of loving reviews for its near-invisibility bestowed by minimal design executed in clear acrylic. However, a small- though-significant number of users complained that their laptops slipped off the sloping arms of the stand, despite its non-skid surface. The thought of hearing my laptop crash to the floor when I left the room was too much to bear. No matter how beautiful and affordable the Griffin Elevator is, I had to pass it up.

The Belkin Cushtop notebook stand keeps your laptop cool and protects your lap from heat, but raises the laptop just a little over 4 inches — not enough to cure my hunch. It’s primary function was to prevent “quad scorch” that can result from actually putting a laptop in your — who would have imagined? — lap.

A friend whose San Francisco office is a model of chic and functional design, reported that she favors a laptop stand that’s designed for cooling, not elevating; she uses a separate monitor.

A quick check of the Apple store offered the LED Cinema Display. It’s gorgeous and green, made for exactly the purpose I had in mind, it’s the ultimate MacBook accessory, but it costs $899. Maybe next year.

After some searching, I chose the mStand by Rain Design. Its brushed aluminum finish matches the MacBook, but it hardly matters, because the stand is all but invisible. Slipping is ruled out by an unobtrusive “lip” that holds the laptop in place. And the angle of the stand gives me a full seven inch elevation on my laptop — my massage therapist is already singing its praises, as am I. Combined with a wireless keyboard and mouse, I can continue to use my laptop as my one and only computer, without doing permanent harm to my posture.

Total cost for stand, wireless keyboard and wireless mouse: under $200

One of my small goals for 2009 is to improve the ergonomics in my office. I can already check this one off my list.


4 comments so far

  1. Scott Joseph on

    This may be a better solution than what I came up with.
    I recently moved from a desktop to a laptop, making the simultaneous switch from PC to a MacBook, or what I refer to as my first Big Boy computer. Since it’s not a Pro, I was able to use my leftover 19-inch monitor and have a dual screen set-up, which is really wonderful with the Spaces and Explode features of the Mac. But the higher level of the larger monitor and the sit-on-the-desk height of the laptop’s screen gave an upstairs/downstairs configuration rather than the desired side-to-side.
    First fix was to use a couple of dictionaries to raise the level (and heck, with the New Oxford American Dictionary widget now on the virtual desktop, who needs the old books?). But that took up too much real estate.
    So I grabbed a riser from my kitchen cupboard, a plastic-coated metal stand that allowed me to put plates underneath and cups on top. That brings the laptop monitor up to an equal level with the larger monitor.
    But now my cups are all sitting on my plates.
    And the wire stand is positively unchic beneath the sleek aluminum MacBook.
    Your stand is a much better solution, at least aesthetically.

    Margaret responds: It never occurred to me to raid the kitchen for a riser — leave it to a food writer & restaurant authority to think of that! I, too, tested the height by beginning with a stack of books to figure out how much elevation was enough. Any ideas for converting other kitchen tools for office use?

  2. Todd Fincannon on

    I love my mStand. Not only does it position the MacBook Pro display at the correct height, it has a hole in the back into which all the cables disappear, uncluttering my desk. I also store extra cables that I don’t use all the time, like my iPhone cable, out of sight under the laptop. The build quality of the mStand just feels good too: solid, all metal, anodized aluminum that matches the MacBook Pro.

    You can get LCD monitors that cost much less than the Apple Cinema display. You’ll get the best results with the MacBook Pro using a DVI input, which not all monitors have.

    Besides a non-glare monitor at the correct height, my ergonomic setup relies on a desk at the correct height. Currently, I use an Ikea Vika table with adjustable legs. My wrists are also very happy with my Logitech DiNovo Edge Mac Edition keyboard and Logitech MX Revolution mouse.

    I’m still looking for a good solution for sitting on the couch with the laptop when I need to untether myself from my desk. I don’t think this posture can ever have really good ergonomics. The Belkin Cushtop is very comfortable, but it positions my wrists way too high. All the other lap tables I’ve tried have some problem or other. Usually the cushion under the table is not very comfortable.

    Margaret responds: Todd, thanks for bringing up the mStand’s cord management features. I, too, run my cords through the whole in the back of the stand, wind the excess into a compact roll under the laptop, and secure the roll with a velcro wrap.

  3. Jeannie Shea on

    Margaret, I saw the link to your blog post on LinkedIn and was intrigued (one of the few times I’ve clicked to check out a LinkedIn application – I usually just read the notes). I enjoyed reading your blog, you have such a talent for description. I laughed at “clamp-on manual meat grinder”.

    Airflow helps laptops, and a kitchen item we recommend is a cookie-cooling rack. It is cheap, it is unobtrusive, and it will drop the laptop’s temperature. Doesn’t help with the height issue though. We’ve also been testing a laptop tray from “PC Skate” which includes some storage and cord management. Excessive heat isn’t good for the laptop components, including the battery. Especially with new equipment, solving the cooling problem will usually prolong your laptop’s life, saving you money!

  4. Jeri Dansky on

    Jeannie, I love it! I have a cinema display, but I knew I should do something to help with cooling. I just put my MacBook on a cookie rack.

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