When it comes to productivity and accuracy while working at your computer desk or worktable, the right lighting is vital. Without suitable lighting, it can be uncomfortable squinting at your work in dim lighting and cause eye strain. Desk lamps are designed to provide the proper task lighting for reading, writing, crafting, computer work, and more. An attractive desk lamp also adds an appealing element to your workspace.
There are various types of desk lamps available—and a host of features to factor in—when shopping for the best desk lamp for your home. Read on to learn what to look for and to find out why the following lamps are some of the top performers in their respective categories.
- BEST OVERALL: TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp
- RUNNER-UP: Tomons Swing Arm Desk Lamp
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: DEEPLITE Clip on Lamp Touch Control
- BEST CORDLESS: Luxe Cordless Eye Friendly LED Desk Lamp
- BEST CLIP-ON: CeSunlight Clamp Desk Lamp
- BEST ADJUSTABLE: TW Lighting IVY-40BK LED Desk Lamp with USB Port
- BEST ORGANIZER: NovoLido LED Rechargeable Desk Lamp
Types of Desk Lamps
The best desk lamp comfortably illuminates the tasks and projects you’re working on while inhibiting eye strain and glare. Ideally, the lamp will also suit your overall decor and style. Here are some basic styles you’ll likely come across while shopping.
Ideal for tasks that need targeted light, like drafting or drawing, a swing arm lamp has an adjustable arm that pivots and swings into different positions so you can control its height, brightness level, and light directions. This style allows you to move the light across the width of your desk without having to pick up and move the entire lamp.
The best swing arm lamps have durable joints and are made of robust metal materials such as brushed nickel, aluminum, brass, and bronze. They also feature several adjustment options to control the intensity of the light.
While swing arm lamps have a moveable arm, there are desk lamp models that adjust in other ways. Some feature telescoping poles to alter the height up or down or allow for tilting the head of the lamp up or down or both. The most flexibility can be found in a gooseneck lamp—so-called because of its supple metal body reminiscent of the neck of a waterfowl—which you can twist and bend into various configurations.
If desk space is limited or you tend to collect clutter, a lamp with a built-in organizer is a great asset. These lamps contain storage openings for pens, notepads, and other little work essentials that can take up space on your desk. The organizer is built into the base of the lamp, so there are no extra trays or bins to compete with your desk space. Choose an organizer base that’s the right size for your desktop and the number of office supplies you need at your fingertips.
A clip-on lamp won’t take up any surface space on your desktop; rather, it clamps or clips onto the side of your desk, a shelf, or any area near your desk sturdy enough to hold it. A clip-on is an adjustable lamp without a base and is especially handy if you don’t have a permanent workstation—you can tote it with you and clip to a kitchen table, bookcase, or wherever. Clip-ons are also quite compact, so they’re easy to stash away when not in use.
Designed for detail work like drafting, jewelry repair, and craft projects, a magnifying desk lamp features a magnifying glass surrounded by a ring of light. These lights allow you to see intricate and small objects with clarity, and enlarge the small details in your projects. Magnifying lights increase visibility significantly and dramatically reduce overall eye strain.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Desk Lamp
Once you’ve narrowed down the lamp style you’d like for your home office or elsewhere, keep these features in mind as you shop for the model that will serve you best.
Desktop real estate goes a long way toward determining the size of your lamp. There’s no set rule when it comes to size, but the lamp should be proportional to your work surface. In general, they should not be more than 1.5 times taller than the surface of the desk, and the diameter of the lampshade should be smaller than the width of the desk.
To find the right height for your desk, measure the height of the monitor for your PC or laptop, and use that to be the approximate height of your lamp. Don’t forget about the lampshade. It might not take up surface space, but it can become a hindrance if it’s bumping into your monitor or blocking your view. In general, the shade length should be about 65 to 90 percent of the base length or about one-third of the fixture’s total height. If you have a small desk but want a large lamp, consider a clip-on.
All desk lamps provide task lighting, but before you select a specific type, determine what the primary use will be. If you need to illuminate a large space, select a taller lamp: The taller the lamp, the greater the area it can cast light on. If you share a desk or work on a variety of tasks, a lamp that offers different light intensities and the ability to be angled and manipulated is likely best for you.
If you have an outlet or powerstrip available at your workstation, you can go for a corded lamp. If not, there are plenty of cordless options—some are battery-operated and others have USB charging ports. Battery-operated lamps are the most portable and tend to cost more because of the rechargeable batteries in the lamp. However, they can also be less powerful, depending on the battery quality.
Portable lamps with lithium-ion batteries are more powerful and last longer per charge. If you opt for a battery-powered light, choose one with energy-efficient LED bulbs—they’ll last longer between charges.
The right kind of light bulb will help illuminate your work without harming your eyes, but not all lamps can handle every type of bulb. Here are the basic light bulb types commonly used in desk lamps.
- Halogen bulbs offer a bright natural light that makes it easy to focus on text and decreases eye strain. Note that halogen lights can get very hot to the touch.
- LED bulbs produce a bright white light and remarkably less heat than any other type of bulb. LEDs do cost more than other bulbs but average about a 50,000-hour lifespan.
- Incandescent bulbs—the original light bulbs used since the late 1800s—produce light from the heat of the filament burning inside the bulb, giving off a warm, slightly yellowish glow. They are inexpensive but not energy efficient.
Fluorescent bulbs offer even coverage across your workspace with very natural-looking light. They are energy efficient, last almost 11 times longer than an incandescent bulb, and do not give off much heat.
Adjustable desk lamps allow you to move the light without physically picking up the lamp. Adjustability features are useful if space is limited or you must vary the type of light you need on a daily basis. Some adjustable lamps merely swing or swivel, some feature a bendable neck so you can curve the light toward wherever you need illumination, and some have a telescoping feature to adjust the height up and down. There are lamps available with more than one adjustable feature, so the extent of adjustability varies.
Dimmable vs. Fixed Lighting
The brightness of your desk lamp is mainly due to the bulb type, but some desk lamps have switches that let you alter the brightness level. Fixed lighting is useful for single task lighting. Dimmable lights can save energy and change the ambience of your space; they require bulbs designed for dimming switches and, while these bulbs tend to cost more they can make up for it in energy efficiency.
Some desk lamps boast convenient features that will help in your day-to-day routine:
- Organizer compartments hold paper clips, pens, pins, and pencils contain clutter.
- Digital displays tell the time and are helpful if you don’t have space for a clock.
- Charging stations let you charge your smartphone, tablet, or other device as you work.
- Occupancy sensors automatically turn on the lamp as someone enters the workspace.
- Smart lamps are compatible with smart technology to control color and brightness with your voice or electronic device.
Our Top Picks
The best desk lamps provide essential task lighting, help reduce eyestrain, and add a decorative touch to your work space. The models below are some of the best desk lamps on the market.
Featuring a combination of five color modes and seven brightness levels, this sleek, compact lamp allows you to create the perfect lighting for your workspace. Its energy-efficient LED bulb will last for years, providing soft, stable, and non-flickering light.
The TaoTronics’ lamp head rotates 90 degrees left and right and 135 degrees up and down so you can cast light exactly where you need it. It features touch controls that allow you to lightly slide your fingers along the touchpad to adjust the brightness level and lighting mode. There’s a single USB port on the back so you can charge your devices overnight. Though very modern in style, it’s inconspicuous enough to blend in with most decor styles.
With its attractive Scandinavian style, this simple yet elegant lamp features metal, wood, and an exposed cable design. But the Tomons Swing Arm is more than just good-looking—it’s adjustable and energy-efficient. Though categorized as a swing arm lamp, it can move up and down as well as from left and right. You can also adjust the lamp’s height via the three joints on the body. It comes with an energy-efficient E26 LED light bulb that casts a comfortable light that won’t cause eyestrain. While it lacks a lot of bells and whistles, it’s timeless and made of quality materials that will last.
Cast a dependable work light on your desk with the DeepLite clip-on lamp. This touch-operated rechargeable lamp has three brightness levels, and its 360-degree gooseneck body lets you aim the light in any direction. It has a 2.7-inch wide clamp that attaches firmly to a desk, table, or headboard—and it can also stand upright on a foam-padded base that won’t scratch surfaces and keeps the lamp from sliding.
The 5-watt LED bulb is energy efficient and casts daylight-quality light at full brightness without flickering. The battery lasts up to 2 hours on the high setting and as much as 6 hours on low. It comes with a 3-foot cable to charge the battery via an outlet, power bank, desktop, or laptop. The Deeplite is suitable for kid’s rooms, dorm rooms, camping, or travel as well.
This energy-efficient LED lamp offers three lighting modes and six levels of brightness—that’s 18 unique settings to get the ideal illumination for your space. It features a touch panel control at the base and rotates and twists up to 360 degrees. Made from high-grade aluminum with a rubber-coated base, the lamp is water-resistant at the base and extremely durable.
The LED panel will last over 50,000 hours and remains cool to the touch. The lamp has a built-in 2000 mAh high-quality lithium polymer battery, that supports up 40 hours runtime after 3 hours of continuous charging—a pretty impressive battery life. If you want a cordless lamp you can rely on, the Luxe LED will fill the bill.
A clip-on light, regardless of its illumination capabilities, is only as good as its grip. Fortunately, the CeSunlight Clamp lamp features a strong clip pedestal with an anti-skid cushion that keeps the lamp in place without damaging the surfaces underneath.
The lamp features a flexible gooseneck arm that bends and turns to hold any position with ease. It has six illumination and three light color modes, plus a memory function that lets you customize your preferred light color and brightness level. Though it can’t illuminate a large area due to its relatively small bulb/head area, this economical clip-on makes for terrific task lighting.
A gooseneck design provides excellent flexibility, and the TW IVY-40BK is a stellar example. It’s able to twist and turn to nearly any direction and height you need and boasts three touch-sensor brightness levels. A highly efficient LED bulb is included, and you can charge your phone via the USB port on the base. This versatile light is ideal for students, professionals, and anyone else who needs a dependable—and bendable—workplace light.
Ideal for students and small workspaces, this four-in-one desk lamp offers several desirable features in one compact package. There’s a pen/pencil holder, a slot for a mobile phone, a USB charging outlet, and a high-quality LED light. It boasts two light color modes (warm and daylight) and an adjustable gooseneck body. The lamp is cordless and runs on a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. A 5V-1A adapter or a USB device is needed to charge the lamp (neither is included), and once charged, it provides more than 10 hours of continuous light.