One of the aggravations of business travel is the sheer inconvenience of having to place your laptop computer on, um, your lap. Laptops really don’t lend themselves to being propped up on your thighs while you simultaneously attempt to balance the laptop, type coherently, and avoid knocking over that Starbuck’s cup that’s sitting on the floor between your feet.
Solutions to this problem abound. Not good ones, but solutions nonetheless: laptop stands with telescoping legs that fold up to fit inside your briefcase (barely leaving room for your computer); hunks of masonite with padding on the bottom that are so bulky they can barely fit into your carry-on luggage; books (too small); clipboards (slippery and too small to boot); and all sorts of other nonsensical and nonfunctional ideas that you can find on any day at any airport in the country. In addition to being impractical, most of these things have no place to put a mouse, and I’m not that fond of touchpads, even after years of using them. My little wireless Microsoft mouse needs a place to run!
This little annoyance reared its ugly head again when I began to write this blog. I generally try to write in the evenings, when I’m comfortably ensconced in my recliner in front of the TV. I definitely need a lap desk, and it has to be easy to set aside when I leap up during commercials for a quick trip to the loo. Well, when we returned from our Thanksgiving travels, there was a package sitting in front of the door. It was from Targus, a company that specializes in bags, computer gadgets and other gear for road warriors. I’d hate to think how many dollars I’ve spent on their stuff over the years, and with good reason, because it’s useful, sturdy, and worth the price. The last time I filled out a registration card for a product of theirs, I checked the box to indicate an interest in evaluating future products. In response, they sent me a Targus Compact Lap Desk for review. For the last several days, I’ve been using it regularly, so here are my impressions. The photos below were swiped from the Targus website:
I was admittedly skeptical when I removed the lap desk from its package. It is extremely light, so light that you might be concerned about its ability to support the weight of a laptop. The card in the package says, “Fits laptops up to 17”, which would seem to be a tall order given that this thing is folded in the middle. In fact, it’s quite sturdy and flexes very little in use. My laptop weighs 5-1/2 pounds, and when centered on the lap desk, is perfectly supported. It also stays nicely in place, thanks to the eight non-skid rubber pads around the periphery of the desk. These pads also serve another important purpose: when your mouse is on one of the mouse pad areas to the left or right of the laptop, the rubber pads “trap” the mouse at the top and bottom to keep it from sliding off of the lap desk. Everything stays in place with little effort. The corner pads also serve as protection, to keep the rigid platform edges from digging into your wrist as you use the mouse.
The mouse pad areas are a bit small, but I’ve found them generally adequate for my needs. One small complaint: the mouse pad itself is nicely matte finished, but it’s bounded by glossy black, so if you slip past the boundaries of the matte area, your mouse may go haywire as it passes over the glossy surface. My cursor shot all over the screen when this happened. But after a couple of occurrences, I became accustomed to staying inside the lines, and it ceased to be a problem.
Folding the lap desk in half allows you to use it as a stand to support your laptop at an angle on a desk or table (Fig. 2). There is a brace with adjustable stops to set the keyboard angle, and the vent slots improve cooling by promoting air circulation around the computer. These slots are also helpful when the unit is on your lap in unfolded mode. When folded flat, the lap desk is less than 5/8” thick, and weighs about nineteen ounces. It fits easily in a computer bag, and the weight, though not inconsequential, is worth carrying.
All in all, the engineering of this simple device has to be experienced to be appreciated. I’ve found it to be very useful, with very few quirks. But one question still comes to mind: is this chunk of plastic worth thirty bucks? In my opinion, it is. One issue that has always been raised about Targus products is that they are expensive, and I can’t argue with that. But as a long-time road warrior myself, I can only say that their products typically don’t break, and that makes them worth more than the flimsy junk with which they compete in the marketplace. Targus understands that a travel product has to stand up to hard use without failing in service, so they invest extra engineering time and put premium materials in their products. They earn the extra bucks that they charge, and their success is a result of that effort.
The Targus Compact Lap Desk sells for $29.95. Check it out at http://www.targus.com/us/product_details.aspx?sku=AWE56US