If you saw our gallery of influential Kickstarter projects, you’ll know that Kickstarter has been the starting point for many successful niche products and accessories. The Slate Mobile AirDesk is another good example of a Kickstarter success.
This bamboo lap desk that makes for a stylish and functional mobile work surface for a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro or just about any other laptop. It began as a Kickstarter project seeking $6,500 but ended up raising over $111,000 in just 15 days. Clearly, the demand is there, even though Apple (AAPL) and other consumer electronics manufacturers would never tackle such a small segment.
While many of these products cover the basic requirements for a lap desk — protection from the heat a laptop like a MacBook Pro can throw off, a flat surface to place the PC and somewhere to use a mouse — some are flimsy, some lack sufficient space or cable management, and many I’ve seen are downright industrial and ugly looking.
If you spend any time working on a laptop while sitting in a chair, the Slate Mobile AirDesk is designed to be the ultimate lap desk. I’ve had one for a month now and I consider it one of the best investments you can make in a laptop, Ultrabook or MacBook accessory.
Slate Mobile AirDesk (MacBook Air Accessory): Beautifully Functional
If you invest in a premium laptop like an Apple MacBook Air or Samsung (SSNLF) Ativ Book, chances are that you appreciate not only the capabilities of your laptop, but also its design — the little things the manufacturers do to make sure your experience is better, like the breakaway MagSafe power adapter on the MacBook Air or super bright high resolution display on the Ativ Book. Those details combine aesthetics with functionality.
First and foremost, the Slate provides a solid working surface with room for not only a laptop, but a big laptop –like a 15-inch MacBook Pro. It also incorporates a built-in mousepad. (User can specify left or right side.)
It’s wide enough that the user can center the laptop and still have space to use the mouse freely, making for a more ergonomic position. With my 11.6-inch MacBook Air, there was plenty of room for using the Slate as a wrist rest too.
The 3/4 inch thick solid bamboo surface is strong and thick enough to provide protection from the heat a laptop can throw off, while the holes drilled through the material provide ventilation and cable access. There’s even a slot cut in the desk that functions as a dock (complete with its own cable cutout) so a smartphone or tablet can be easily viewed.
The downside to this is that at 22.5-inches wide and 3.5 pounds, the Slate Mobile AirDesk is best suited for home or office use — it’s a little bit too large for to carry around.
Slate Mobile AirDesk (MacBook Air Accessory): Elegant Design
Let’s face it, the looks of a laptop help to sell it. There’s a reason why Samsung made its Series 3 Chromebook look almost visually identical to Apple’s MacBook Air. People like the elegant aluminum look of the Apple laptop; that’s part of the reason they’re willing to pay a premium for it. Google’s (GOOG) ChromeBook Pixel? It clearly takes design cues from Apple’s MacBook Pro.
There’s nothing wrong with this practice, but it proves the point that looks do matter when it comes to high tech gear.
Had the Slate been available at the time, I would have had no problem forking over the extra money to buy it instead. Like many people, I don’t mind paying more for my MacBook accessories, whether that’s $75 for a Magic Mouse instead of $20 for a generic version or $98 for a laptop desk instead of $20.
So long as the more expensive accessory does the job a little better, then it’s worth a premium — and if it complements the overall look of my setup then that’s just icing on the cake.
The Slate Mobile AirDesk does the job a lot better than most lap desks, while blowing the competition out of the water in the looks department.
The bamboo it’s constructed from complements any laptop. That natural wood finish stands out against the aluminum finish of my MacBook Air, and looks equally smart with black finish Sony (SNE) Vaio Fit 15A I used in the accompanying photo.
The Slate Mobile AirDesk has serious green cred too (the bamboo used is 100% rapidly renewable) and it’s hand-built in the U.S., at iSkelter’s Arizona facility.
- Made from 100% rapidly renewable, natural bamboo
- Surface is drilled with multiple ventilation holes (double as cable access)
- Corners are rounded, bamboo is sanded to a glass-like finish
- 22.5 x 11.5 x 0.75 inches
- 3.5 pounds
- Right-handed or left-handed flush-mount mousepad
- Dock available in 0.5-inch or 0.7-inch thickness (thicker dock will accommodate devices in cases)
For the purposes of this review, I tested the Slate Mobile AirDesk with laptops of varying sizes, including an 11.6-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and a 15-inch Sony Vaio Fit 15A Ultrabook.
Slate Mobile AirDesk (MacBook Air Accessory): Conclusion
If you currently own a laptop PC and you’re using it, well, on your lap — or on a TV tray — then you’re doing it wrong. A well-designed lap desk provides protection, both for your legs and for the computer (the more air that can circulate beneath it, the better). It also provides a stable and ergonomic work surface.
I’ve spent years working part of the day using a laptop while moving from chair to chair, and the combo of the Slate with my MacBook Air (along with an iPad Mini in the dock for second screen e-mail access) is simply unbeatable. It’s a more productive setup and a much more ergonomic one than anything I’ve used before.
While $98 (the current sale price, down from $129.99) may seem steep, I think the Slate Mobile AirDesk provides excellent value. If you wouldn’t balk at investing $75 for a good mouse or a decent keyboard, why scrimp when it comes to a lap desk?
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.