If you spend hours every day hunched over a laptop at your desk, get a laptop stand. Paired with a mouse and an external keyboard, a laptop stand can help fix your posture and reduce neck and arm pain. After months of testing 11 laptop stands at a coworking space and in my home office, I found that the Rain Design iLevel 2 works best for most people who use the same desk all the time. It’s sturdy, it’s adjustable for a wide range of humans and laptops, and it looks nice. It’s also expensive, but no other laptop stand we tested matched the iLevel 2’s stability and adaptability.
If you need a laptop stand to take between work and home, or to use while traveling, the Roost Laptop Stand is the best portable option we tested. This lightweight model folds up into a long, thick stick; although it’s easy to set up and collapse, it doesn’t sacrifice stability. Switching between the Roost’s three height settings is a bit tricky, but doing so gets easier with practice.
If our top two picks are too expensive, but you want a laptop stand that looks nicer than a stack of books, the best option is the Rain Design mStand. This sturdy, aluminum platform has a hole for cable management and a nook to store your keyboard, but unlike our other picks, it isn’t adjustable.
If a laptop stand just isn’t in your budget, you can use pretty much anything to raise your laptop screen to eye level. We like books—except for stability, they’re just as effective as any fixed laptop stand, and you can even customize the height and colors. We recommend using wide, flat books (think textbooks, cookbooks, or coffee-table books) to create a stable base.
Laptops are ergonomic nightmares. When you’re using a computer, the top of the screen should be just above eye level, and your keyboard should be just below elbow level. This arrangement isn’t possible with a laptop alone: Because its screen and keyboard are so close together, you either have to hunch forward and crane your neck, or raise your hands and arms, straining your shoulders and wrists—sometimes both at the same time. If you use your laptop for long periods, you need to at least raise your screen or lower your keyboard, but most likely do both. Raising your gaze by using a stand-alone monitor is ideal—many monitors have a larger height range than a laptop on a stand, and a bigger screen gives you more room to work—but if you don’t have the budget or space, the next best thing for your posture and health is a laptop stand (or stack of books), plus a separate keyboard and mouse.
A good laptop stand should raise your laptop so that your eye level is 1 to 2 inches below the top of your screen when you’re sitting (or standing) up straight1. (Do not use your laptop’s keyboard and trackpad when it’s propped up on a stand, which is no better than hunching over the laptop on your desk. Instead, use an external keyboard and a separate mouse or trackpad.)
Everyone has a different body, a different laptop, and a different desk setup, of course, so it’s impossible to recommend a single fixed-height laptop stand that will work for everyone. And if you work at a sit/stand desk, you need to be able to adjust the height of the screen to account for your sitting and standing postures. This means that most people should get an adjustable laptop stand so that they can tweak the laptop’s height as needed.
A stand designed to hold your expensive laptop must also be sturdy, and it shouldn’t wobble or shake while you’re typing on a nearby keyboard. Beyond those requirements, a laptop stand doesn’t need much; cable management is a nice bonus, and the stand shouldn’t be too ugly, since you have to look at it all the time.
A portable stand must be light, designed to fold up fairly small, and quick and easy to set up and break down. But it still needs to be stable (though we’re more forgiving in this regard, since that’s harder for a compact, lightweight stand to achieve).
It’s tough to find comprehensive reviews of laptop stands, so with those criteria in mind, we looked at 38 models and tested 11: the Aidata LHA-3, Allsop Redmond Adjustable Curve Laptop Stand, AmazonBasics Laptop Stand, AmazonBasics Ventilated Adjustable Laptop Stand, Elago L4 Stand, Furinno Adjustable Vented Laptop Table, Goldtouch Go, Griffin Elevator, Rain Design iLevel 2, Rain Design mStand, and Roost Laptop Stand. We tested each model with a variety of laptops on a variety of desks with a variety of people, across the span of several months.
The Rain Design iLevel 2 is the best laptop stand for the widest range of people and laptops thanks to its easy-to-use adjustability and simple, sturdy design. It’s expensive, but no other laptop stand we tested was as quick and simple to set up for different heights, laptops, and postures.
The iLevel 2’s laptop platform tilts upward when you slide a knob on the front of the stand from the left to the right; the stand lowers your laptop when you slide the knob back to the left. Other stands we tested—such as the Aidata and Furinno models—had complicated, confusing, or unstable height-adjustment options.
Though the range will vary slightly depending on the depth of your laptop, the iLevel 2 raises the back of a laptop (where the hinge is) roughly 6 inches above the desk surface on its lowest setting and about 7¾ inches at its highest level. That range is tall enough to raise a laptop to eye level for most people sitting at a desk. Quickly switching between height settings is also easy, unlike with other stands we tested.
If you frequently transition between sitting and standing, and if you’re over 5 feet 8 inches tall, the iLevel 2’s top height may not be high enough for you to use while standing.2 If you’re using a sit/stand desk, you’ll probably be better served by the taller Roost Laptop Stand, though that model is harder to adjust. If you’re 5 feet 8 inches or below, the iLevel 2 should work fine on a sit/stand desk.
We tested the iLevel 2 with an assortment of laptops, from tiny 11-inch Chromebooks to hulking 15-inch machines. All the laptops we tested fit and sat sturdily atop the iLevel 2 without wobbling or bouncing. When we tested a heavier 15-inch laptop on a less stable desk (such as a sit/stand desk near the top of its height range), we noticed a bit of bounce in the stand and laptop screen while typing on an external keyboard, but most people with most laptops on most desks shouldn’t have a problem.
The aluminum stand helps to conduct heat away from your laptop and looks stylish on your desk. The open-back design also provides a handy location to stash cables and other unsightly desk necessities; many cheaper stands are completely open and don’t have room to hide anything.
The biggest drawback of the iLevel 2 is its high price tag. But if you’re going to use a laptop stand at your desk every single day, it’s worth spending extra for one that looks nice, remains sturdy, and allows you to adjust it to fit your exact needs. Your neck will thank you. (If the iLevel 2 is too expensive, take a look at our fixed-height pick—which is less expensive, but not adjustable—or our free recommendation, which you can set up using things you already own.)
If you work while traveling, or if you commute between multiple workspaces and want a stand to use both at home and at your destination, we recommend the Roost Laptop Stand. Quick and easy to set up and break down, this model weighs about a third of a pound and folds down to roughly the size of two large Snickers bars end to end. And like the iLevel 2, the Roost is adjustable and rock solid.
The Roost is lighter and easier to transport than the other portable options we looked at. It weighs just 6 ounces—less than half of the Goldtouch Go’s 15 ounces—and it requires fewer steps to erect and fold up. To unfold the Roost, you just pull the two rubber feet apart until they stop. The Goldtouch Go requires at least five steps before you can put a laptop on it. Though the Goldtouch Go’s flat, tablet-sized shape is a bit easier to shove in a bag, the Roost’s foot-long candy-bar shape (along with its included carrying sleeve) isn’t difficult to store in most bags.
Because portable laptop stands fold up or break down for transport, they’re not as stable as desktop stands. In our tests, however, the Roost was stable and well-balanced, even with 15-inch laptops that weighed over 5 pounds. The stand’s rubber feet and laptop grips minimize vibration and hold the computer firmly so that it doesn’t slide around or shake when you type.
The Roost can raise a laptop a bit higher than our other picks. Its lowest point is about 7¾ inches off the desk, while its highest is around 9½ inches. That’s roughly the same adjustment range as the iLevel 2 but with about 2 inches of added height across the range, so it’s a better option for tall people. But the Roost’s height is more difficult to adjust than the iLevel 2’s: To lower the Roost, you must press the white latches behind each pillar with your index fingers and then gently press down until the stand goes down one or two notches. (Roost’s directions say you can make this adjustment with the laptop on the stand, but doing so made us nervous about the expensive laptop.)
Raising the stand’s height level—either to get a higher viewing position or to fold the Roost back up after you’ve lowered it—requires at least two hands and some practice, unlike the iLevel 2’s simple sliding knob. The easiest way I found is to anchor your index fingers on the white latches and brace the bottom rubber stands in your palms. Then press in on the white latches, push upward with your index fingers, and gently squeeze your palms together to close the stand. It’s a bit difficult to get the hang of, but once you’ve done it a few times, folding and unfolding the stand should be fast work.
As with the iLevel 2, the biggest drawback of the Roost is its price. At around $75 as of this writing, it isn’t cheap, but less-expensive options are unstable, difficult to set up, or hard to transport. So far the Roost is the only great portable laptop stand we’ve found. If you often work at a laptop while traveling, it’s worth the cost to save your neck and back.
If you want a fixed stand that looks nicer than a stack of books, the Rain Design mStand is a great option. This stylish aluminum stand feels sturdy and has a hole for cable management plus a nook to stash a keyboard, but it isn’t adjustable like the iLevel 2 and Roost. It’s available in three colors when ordering directly from Rain Design: gold, Space Gray, and silver. Though it isn’t dramatically less expensive than our top pick, we couldn’t find anything under $40 that was worth recommending—you’re better off going with the free solution until you can afford one of our picks.
The mStand raises the back end of a laptop about 5¾ inches off the desk (again, this can vary a bit depending on the size of your laptop), which puts the screen at roughly the right height for most sitting people. You won’t be able to tweak it to fit your height, laptop, and workspace, but using it is certainly better than using your laptop flat on a desk. If you or your laptop are particularly tall or short, though, you’ll be better off with an adjustable stand.
If our other picks are too expensive, we recommend the Ultimate Budget Option: a stack of books. Using books is just as effective as using a fixed-height laptop stand, and you can tailor the height to fit your ergonomic needs by adding or removing books. You can also customize the size, shape, and color, or create a cleverly themed collection of titles. We recommend using wide, flat books for stability, so gather your old textbooks and coffee-table books.
When setting up your stack of books, remember that you want your eye level to fall 1 to 2 inches below the top of your screen.3 And if you switch between sitting and standing, you may want to have a book or two on hand to swap in and out of your setup to account for different desired heights.
The AmazonBasics Laptop Stand is similar to the Rain Design mStand and costs half the price, but it’s uglier—it looks like a library bookend bent into a U shape—and less stable. The stand’s rounded back and shallower slope don’t provide enough support for 15-inch laptops, which in our tests tilted dangerously off the back of the stand. If you want to save money by going for a fixed stand, we recommend using a stack of books instead of buying this stand.
The Elago L4 Stand is an elegant-looking laptop stand, but it lacks cable management and isn’t any more effective than the less-expensive mStand.
In our tests, the Griffin Elevator wobbled under the weight of 13-inch and 15-inch laptops, and it proved to be more difficult to set up than the mStand. It also doesn’t have cable management.
The Allsop Redmond Adjustable Curve Laptop Stand is difficult to adjust, has a limited range, and doesn’t look as nice as our other picks.
The AmazonBasics Ventilated Adjustable Laptop Stand is huge and takes up too much valuable desk space. Plus, its black-metal mesh looks cheap next to the sleek aluminum of the Rain Design options.
Adjusting the Furinno Adjustable Vented Laptop Table, another gigantic model, requires tweaking six knobs to configure it into a shape that might hold your laptop without tipping over.
Aidata’s LHA-3 laptop stand has little range, feels unstable, and looks cheap.
The Goldtouch Go portable stand offers five height options but a range of only 1¾ inches. It doesn’t raise a laptop as high as the Roost, and it weighs more than twice as much. It’s also unintuitive to set up and break down, requiring five steps versus the Roost’s single motion.
The Ergotron Neo-Flex Notebook Lift stand has a similar height range as our top pick, the Rain Design iLevel 2. But the Ergotron is bulky and ugly, and just as expensive.
Originally published: July 27, 2016