GeekDad Review: Slate Mobile AirDesk

Reading Time: 4 minutes
iSkelter Slate Mobile AirDesk
iSkelter’s Slate Mobile AirDesk (with an 11-inch MacBook Air and iPad Mini). Photo by Brad Moon.

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work from home for the past five years. While I have an office in the house, one of the advantages of a gig like this is the ability to set up shop anywhere if the mood strikes. If it’s a nice sunny day, I might grab a laptop and head up to the living room. Maybe sit on the porch or back patio if it’s warm enough. Or hang out in the rec room with the kids if we’re enjoying yet another “snow day” school cancellation. The problem with moving my workspace to a more casual location — like my favorite armchair — is the lack of a decent work surface.

The Slate Mobile AirDesk from iSkelter is the best solution I’ve found so far. It provides a big work surface with a mousepad, a slot to prop up your smartphone or tablet, cord cutouts and thermal protection. It looks pretty cool while doing it too — not that there’s usually anyone around (besides the dogs and cats) to witness it in action.

What Is it?
A laptop desk made out of a block of bamboo, with holes cut for ventilation and cables, a built-in flush-mounted mousepad and “display doc” slot cut to hold a smartphone or small tablet vertically. In its Kickstarter phase, the Slate raised $110,000 in 15 days.

The Good
Most laptop desks I’ve used suffer from being too small. No such issue here. The Slate Mobile AirDesk has plenty of workspace, including not just the luxury of room to operate a mouse, but an actual built-in mouse pad. It’s built to accommodate up to a 17-inch laptop. For power users and multitaskers, a slot (itself equipped with a cutout for a power cable) holds a smartphone or small tablet upright and at a slight recline — perfect for viewing as a second screen.

Slate by iSkelter
Image copyright iSkelter

Despite being extremely solid and heavy in appearance, the Slate is surprisingly lightweight. The combination of bamboo and those holes means it weighs just 3.5 pounds — a lot less than you might guess by looking at it.

The 3/4-inch thick bamboo slab not only provides a stable and comfortable work surface, between the natural materials and the ventilation holes, you can say goodbye to laptop leg scalding forever. Those holes also make for very handy cable conduits and they’re big enough for virtually any power connector to fit through.

The finish of the Slate is almost glossy with very smooth edges, so if you’re worried about splinters, don’t be. The corners are nicely rounded too.

Finally — this may sound superficial, but I appreciate good design and use of natural materials and the Slate Mobile AirDesk just plain looks good. It’s attractive on its own and I love the way the natural wood finish contrasts with the aluminum case of my MacBook Air.

Things To Be Aware Of
I’m not going to come out and call these the “bad” things about the Slate, just things to be aware of.

First, the holes. They are a big part of the design, adding visual interest, keeping it lightweight, promoting airflow and providing endless cable routing options. But they can also require some fussing around to place a laptop that has bumpers or feet on the bottom so that it’s level (and doesn’t have one foot in a hole).

The display dock is a handy feature but I’m just a tad leery of it. The slot holds a mobile device rather loosely and for someone clumsy like myself, an accident where the smartphone or tablet takes a tumble seems all too plausible. A rubber lining for the slot would offer a more secure grip and eliminate any concern about the bamboo possibly scratching the device.

Finally, while I appreciate the amount of workspace the Slate provides, it is big compared to other laptop desks (22.5-inches by 11.5-inches). That makes it ever so slightly too wide to use while sitting on my favorite armchair. My second-favorite armchair (and all the other chairs in the house, for that matter) are fine, but I do wish the Slate was about half an inch narrower.

Where Can I Get It?
You can buy it on Amazon in the standard configuration and if you’d like to customize it a bit — left or right mouse pad and size of display dock — you can order one directly from iSkelter.

It may cost more, but I’ll take the Slate MobileAirDesk over any other laptop desk I’ve seen to date — and speaking of cost, since I first began the review, iSkelter has dropped the price from $129.99 and is now offering a $98 sale.

Disclosure: iSkelter provided a sample for the purposes of this review

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