Laptop Stands vs. Laptop Arms: Which is Best For You?

If you’ve seen pictures of my desk setup, you know that I love a good laptop stand. I had to write a whole article on the benefits of laptop stands

To summarize that article, the major three benefits included having an ergonomic viewing height, better ventilation, and freed up desk space. 

Lately, I’ve started seeing some setups that were actually using desk clamp laptop arms instead of a laptop stand. I had to try this out myself, because the desk space requirement is reduced dramatically! 

I had an old VESA monitor mount laying around from before I got my ultrawide monitor. My ultrawide monitor was too big and heavy for this mount, so I decommissioned it. Here’s a list of the most solid ultrawide monitor arms for a better experience. 

Instead of purchasing a laptop stand arm, all I needed to purchase was a VESA compatible laptop mount. This is what I ended up purchasing:

Laptop Tray Steel Notebook Holder for Monitor VESA Mount Stand Fits VESA 100x100 mm Mounting Holes with M4 Screws, 22lbs Capacity with Vented Cooling Platform
  • Metal Tray for Laptop: Helpful in providing an ergonomic workstation for your laptop/notebook, making laptop stand on a VESA mount
  • Compatibility: This mounting plate fits any VESA 100mm x 100mm holes, hold up to 17.6lbs. Compatible with most VESA mounting arms in the market
  • Versatile:Designed with a protruding bottom lip protects laptop from sliding forward, and extra ventilation holes significantly improve airflow to keep your laptop cool
  • Measurement: Boasts a black matte finish and measures 12.6" x 9". Mounting hardware is included to easily attach the tray to your VESA mount
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Ended up being a little cheaper than getting a whole new laptop stand. 

Now that I’ve been using this desk clamp laptop arm instead of a laptop stand for a while, I have a good feel of the pros and cons. This article is going to be a complete comparison between laptop stands and laptop arms that clamp to your desk. 

Key Takeaways

  • Laptop arms that clamp to your desk seem to have more benefits, but require your desk to be up to the task. They are more expensive compared to laptop stands. 
  • Laptop stands are a simpler solution with fewer moving parts. They however take up more desk space and are easier to knock over. 
  • Check out various laptop and monitor setup ideas that use both of these stands.

Similarities Between Laptop Arms & Stands

These two items are very similar. Here are the things they do equally well. You will get these benefits regardless of which solution you choose. 

Ergonomic Viewing Height

Both of these solutions are able to raise your laptop. That lifts your screen to a more ergonomic friendly height. 

Instead of looking down at your laptop screen, you can look straight ahead at it. This can make a big difference in your posture by not forcing your neck to tilt downwards for hours at a time. 

Laptop Stand vs Laptop Arms (4)

Everything on a laptop is optimized for minimum size. They don’t think about ergonomics at all. 

When you use a laptop stand or laptop arm, this also forces you to use external peripherals, you suddenly have a super comfortable working setup.

Better Laptop Ventilation

When your laptop is on your desk, it has the standard “designed” amount of ventilation. The manufacturers give your laptop feet to lift it above your desk surface so it can breathe. 

Both laptop stands and laptop arms take this a step further. They give you a large perforated plate that your laptop sits on. 

Laptop Stand vs Laptop Arms (9)

That lets your laptop pull in more air with less effort. If you are a power user and need to squeeze out every little ounce of performance from your laptop, either of these laptop stand solutions will help.  

If you’re interested in even more ventilation, we compare laptop stands to cooling pads here

Free Up Desk Space

Laptop stands lift your laptop from off the table. As a result you typically have some room underneath your computer. This is space that was taken by the laptop before the laptop stand was introduced. 

Not all laptop stands offer extra space under your laptop. This laptop stand from HumanCentric is a perfect example. Don’t expect to store anything under this laptop stand. It’s clear this was made more for looks than functionality.

HumanCentric Laptop Stand for Desk – Laptop Riser for Desk in Space Gray Aluminum Compatible with MacBook Stand, Black Walnut Wood Laptop Stand, Ergonomic Laptop Holder, Computer Stand for Laptop

But normal laptop stands offer a decent amount of storage space underneath. I liked to place my planner and my current book under my laptop stand. 

Nulaxy Laptop Stand, Ergonomic Aluminum Laptop Mount Computer Stand for Desk, Detachable Laptop Riser Notebook Stand Compatible with MacBook Air Pro, Dell XPS, More 10-16" Laptops - Gray

Laptop clamp arms take up even less desk space. They just need a small space to clamp, and everything else is freed up desk space. It’s a pretty dramatic increase in space compared to a laptop stand. 

Protects Laptop

Both solutions lift your laptop off of your desk. So if you accidentally spill your coffee or something all over your desk, your laptop is safe. 

It has its own little “safe space” that isolates it from all the commotion that could happen at your desk. 

Anything that protects my laptop gets a big plus from me. Laptops can get pretty expensive and I usually take all the steps I can to keep my laptop a little bit safer. 

Comparison Between Laptop Arms vs Stands

Alright, now let’s start highlighting what each of these laptop stand solutions shine in different categories. This is what actually makes these two solutions different. 

Think about which factors are important to you before you decide which one to go with. 

Height Adjustability

Winner: Laptop Clamp Arms

If you want to really dial in your laptop’s height, a laptop clamp arm will be the choice for you. 

Many laptop stands are either at a fixed height, or are pretty limited on the height they can actually reach. 

Not only can laptop arms have more height adjustability, they have more adjustability overall! 

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These mounts can be fully articulating. You can control tilt, rotation, and overall position very easily. Plus you can make these adjustments fairly quickly. Unlike laptop stands which you have to lift and reposition as needed. 

Laptop Stability

Winner: Laptop Clamp Arms

Speaking of height adjustability, one reason you don’t want to adjust a normal laptop stand to be super high is because it can be prone to falling over fairly easily.

The higher you place your laptop with a laptop stand, the more top heavy it becomes and that means it can tip over more easily. 

A laptop clamping arm mount does not suffer from this stability issue.  When you push on a laptop that is connected to a mounting arm, it simply moves with the arm while staying in place.

It has no tendency to tip over thanks to all of the linkages that move instead. It performs this way no matter what height your laptop is at. 

Laptop stands are at risk of being tipped over, or even being pushed off a desk if your stand doesn’t have a grippy base. 

I’ve bumped my laptop on the stand before and my life flashed before my eyes. Or my laptop’s life. But mine too, out of fear. The instability made it a risk. 

Desk Compatibility

Winner: Laptop Stands

Laptop clamping arms work by being clamped onto a small section of your desk. Because we are holding a couple pounds off center from the clamp, we need to make sure we have a pretty strong desk. Ideally something solid. 

If you have a desk that is too thin or weak, you will have to follow special instructions to install a monitor arm like this. I recommend checking out the following articles to find out how to mount table clamps to thin/weak desks, and how to mount clamps to glass desks

Laptop Stand

Clamp arms typically have a limited clamping thickness of 2-3 inches as well. If your desk is too thick for mounts, we have a dedicated article on how to get around this as well. 

You know which solution doesn’t care about your desk strength, type, or thickness? Yup laptop stands work anywhere. 

As long as you have a flat surface, a laptop stand can work without fail. That’s what makes this simpler solution a winner in this category. 

Desk Space Gain

Winner: Laptop Clamp Arms

As we touched on in the similarities section of this article, both laptop stands and mounting arms can give you some desk space back. 

However, laptop clamp arms have a significant advantage over laptop stands. Laptop arms need a small 4 inch diameter area to grab onto at the edge of your desk to function. That is pretty much nothing! 

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Laptop stands on the other hand need a decent amount of room to function. Because laptop stands are free-standing, the wider a laptop stand is, the more stable it is. So if you want a stable one, you have to give up more desk space. 

This is not a big issue if you still use the entire area under your laptop stand. You will just have less space to use compared to a mounting arm. 

Portability

Winner: Laptop Stands

If you like to take your setup on the go, a laptop stand can’t be beat for portability. The one I have can be compacted into a relatively thin form factor that can easily be put in a backpack. 

That means you get all of the laptop stand benefits wherever you go. You can move your setup to another part of the house or anywhere else effortlessly. 

Laptop Stand vs Laptop Arms (8)

That’s definitely not the case for a laptop clamp arm. I think of the clamping arms as a pretty fixed desk feature. 

Cost

Winner: Laptop Stands

Lastly, let’s talk about how much either of these cost. 

Like with any device, there are fancy versions and non fancy versions. You can get a $5,000 car, or a $50,000 car. A $1,000 phone, or a $400 phone. 

So when I am comparing price, I am mostly looking at the affordable versions and how they compare in price. There will be anomalies for the boutique brands. 

Overall, laptop stands are cheaper than the articulating clamping arms. They have less moving parts, and just cost less to make. 

From the lower end products, there is not a huge difference, but it could be the final straw on which solution you end up deciding on.

Here are two affordable examples of a laptop stand and a laptop mounting arm. 

BESIGN LS10 Aluminum Laptop Stand

The Besign LS10 Laptop Stand is adjustable, sturdy, and compatible with laptops up to 13 lbs. Its ergonomic design helps reduce neck fatigue, while the aluminum body keeps your laptop cool and stable.

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On the other hand, here are two high end versions. 

HumanCentric Laptop Stand for Desk – Laptop Riser for Desk in Space Gray Aluminum Compatible with MacBook Stand, Black Walnut Wood Laptop Stand, Ergonomic Laptop Holder, Computer Stand for Laptop
  • A gorgeous aluminum and black walnut wood laptop stand: The HumanCentric laptop riser lifts your laptop to eye level for an ideal laptop workspace setup. Elevate your...
  • Designed as a MacBook stand by obsessed laptop users at HumanCentric: The unique design of the laptop holder brings excellence in both form and function to your...
  • Premium construction and materials: The space gray cylindrical base is made from anodized aluminum metal and has a silicone bottom to prevent unwanted movement. The wood...
  • We recommend using this product with an external keyboard and mouse. Some customers also use it as a book or notebook stand when not using it for their laptop. The laptop...
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Dasun

I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!