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Whether you’re studying for school, working from home, making crafts, or just sitting down to pay the bills, having a well-designed workspace is key to being productive. Often, that means having a comfortable desk and chair, but proper task lighting is just as important as quality furniture. If you don’t have a good desk lamp, it’s hard to see what you’re doing, and you could end up with a bad case of eye strain if you’re not careful.
Buying a new desk lamp may sound simple, but the sheer number of options can make it a little trickier than you’d expect. You have to choose the right type, size, style, and extra features to ensure the lamp fits your needs and your workspace.
At BestReviews, our thorough research enabled us to get a close look at the market’s top desk lamps. We’re now ready to pass along the info you need to make an informed shopping decision for your home office or workspace. If you’re ready to buy a desk lamp, take a look at the matrix above for our top five recommendations. For general information on choosing a desk lamp, continue reading our shopping guide.
A banker’s lamp is probably the most classic type of desk lamp. Traditionally, the lamp features a brass base, a green glass shade, and a pull-chain switch. Some banker’s lamps have an adjustable shade so you can direct the light where you’d like to focus.
In a small office or work area, an organizer desk lamp can help you save space. Its base usually features several different compartments in which you can organize small office supplies – pens, pencils, paper clips, and such – without taking up more space on the desk.
Matthew has led IT departments and tech teams in a variety of industries. Currently, he works in the sports gaming industry. He has written reviews and been involved with electronics procurement decisions for a number of players at the business and individual level for over a decade. In his spare time, you may find Matthew playing frisbee, golf, or reading a good novel.
Depending on the type of work you’re doing, you may need to adjust how close the light is to your work surface. An adjustable desk lamp allows you to maneuver the light source closer or farther away depending on your needs. Some adjustable desk lamps feature a flexible arm that you can twist it in any direction you’d like. Other lamps have hinged arms that allow you to adjust the light source in a few positions.
A tree desk lamp usually has three or more light sources on its arm, so it resembles a tree branch. In most cases, the individual light sources can be twisted or adjusted to direct the light exactly where you need it.
If your desk lamp allows you to adjust its brightness level, customize it to the task at hand. For example, working on your laptop won’t require much brightness, but you may want a little extra brightness if you’re reading a book.
If you have a small desk or work area without much room for lighting, a clip-on desk lamp can be a great space-saver. The end of the lamp features a clip or clamp that allows you to attach it to the edge of your desk, table, or other work surface. Clip-on desk lamps are usually fairly small and lightweight, which means they’re more portable than other types of desk lamps.
If you’re doing detail work, a magnifying desk lamp can be especially handy for preventing eye strain and fatigue. The lamp features an illuminated magnifying lens that you can look through to examine an item up close. Most styles allow you to cover the lense so it isn’t exposed when you don’t need it.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
OXYLED® Q3 Ultra-thin Portable
A nice little bonus with the OxyLED Q3 Desk Lamp is that it's portable. You can use it plugged in, or you can charge it and take it anywhere. Being a low-voltage LED lamp, you should get enough of a charge to make this a useful feature – though how long the charge lasts will vary depending on the brightness setting you choose.
Which type of desk lamp lighting is right for you? There are incandescent, halogen, full-spectrum fluorescent, and LED desk lamps.
Incandescent desk lamps are the old standard. They typically have very inexpensive bulbs, a warm glow, and a dim setting. However, they’re the least energy-efficient and have the shortest lifespan of all desk lamps.
Halogen desk lamps are similar to incandescent lamps, but they’re designed to have a slightly longer lifespan. They offer somewhat better energy efficiency, though they still don’t provide noticeable energy savings. Halogen bulbs provide light that’s very similar to natural light.
Halogen bulbs typically offer the closest approximation of natural light, so choose a halogen desk lamp if you want your workspace lighting to be similar to daylight.
Full-spectrum fluorescent desk lamps use fairly inexpensive bulbs, but because they contain mercury vapor, those bulbs must be disposed of carefully. These lamps provide a cool, high-contrasting light that mimics natural daylight. They’re extremely energy-efficient and can last a long time, but they usually don’t have a dimmer feature.
LED (light emitting diode) desk lamps offer the longest lifespan and the greatest energy efficiency of any desk lamp. They tend to cost the most money, too. These lamps provide cool, high-contrasting light that’s ideal for task lighting.
A desk lamp with full-spectrum fluorescent light bulbs is designed for maximum energy efficiency and often lasts up to 10,000 hours.
A desk lamp’s color temperature refers to how warm or cool the light is. Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K) and typically falls between 2,700K and 7,500K.
Task lighting is usually more effective if it falls on the cooler end of the color temperature spectrum. A measurement of greater than 4,500K is ideal.
Incandescent and halogen desk lamps are usually the warmest options, measuring between 2,700K and 3,000K.
LED desk lamps usually fall between 4,000K and 6,000K, offering a cooler lighting option.
Full-spectrum fluorescent desk lamps typically range between 6,000K and 7,500K, making them the coolest desk lighting option.
For work lamps, look for a “color temperature” similar to daylight – that is, over 4,500K. Old-style incandescent lamps of 2,000K to 3,000K are warm and homey, but they’re not ideal for task illumination.
In addition to the type of lamp you want and its color temperature, there are a few other factors you should consider before buying a new desk lamp: light settings, size, adjustability, and extra features.
Desk lamps that have an adjustable or flexible arm can come in very handy. They allow you to direct light to the area you need it most.
A desk lamp with a hinged arm usually allows you to position the lamp in two or more positions.
A desk lamp with a flexible arm allows you to twist it in a variety of directions for the utmost in adjustability.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
TaoTronics® Elune Dimmable LED
In addition to its multiple lighting options, the TaoTronics Elune Desk Lamp features another trick or two to tempt you. Accessed from the touch panel near the base is a timer function. Simply press the button and an hour later, the lamp will turn itself off. You can't vary the time, but it's a useful feature for those who sometimes fall asleep while reading in bed.
Some desk lamps offer multiple light settings to give you control over brightness. For example, you might choose between a low, medium, or high brightness level. However, for the most control, you should opt for a desk lamp with a dimmer feature. A dimmer allows you to gradually increase or decrease the light’s brightness until it reaches your desired setting.
Choosing the right size desk lamp is key for effective task lighting. Take the dimensions of your desk, table, or work surface into account when shopping for a new desk lamp. If you choose a lamp that’s too large, it can overwhelm the items on your desk and possibly block the view of your computer screen. If you choose a lamp that’s too small, it may not provide sufficient lighting for your work area.
To avoid an irritating, uncomfortable glare, choose a desk lamp with a shade that completely covers the bulb.
In addition to shedding light on your scene, a desk lamp can be helpful in other ways.
A desk lamp with organizer compartments for paper clips, pens, and pencils can help you maximize a small space.
If you often do detail work at your desk, a lamp with an attached magnifier allows you to get an even closer look at your work.
Some desk lamps have a charging station built in. You can use this station to charge your phone, tablet, or other device right in its base.
Halogen lamps offer moderate energy efficiency. Their bulbs typically last 1,000 to 2,000 hours.
Desk lamps vary in price based on the size, style, and features, but you can typically expect to spend between $10 and $75 for a good one.
For a small, basic desk lamp that may not last that long, you’ll usually pay between $10 and $20.
If you’re using your desk lamp mainly as a decoration, a model with a lower wattage is usually sufficient.
For a medium to large desk lamp with some extra features, you’ll usually pay between $20 and $40.
For a medium to large desk lamp with a wide variety of extra features, you’ll usually pay between $45 and $75.
In addition to providing task lighting, a desk lamp can also come in handy if you’re layering lighting sources in a larger room. Pair it with overhead fixtures, floor lamps, and natural light to create the right atmosphere in your space.
Light each work zone separately
For the most effective lighting in a home office, it helps to have dedicated task lighting for each work area. For example, you might have a lamp at your desk and another in your filing area.
Adjust brightness as needed
If your desk lamp has different brightness settings, tailor the brightness to the task at hand. You don’t need very bright light if you’re working at the computer, but you may want to turn the brightness up if you’re reading a book.
When you place a desk lamp near a computer, be careful of the glare. Arrange the lamp so that it is perpendicular to the screen rather than behind it to cut down on glare.
Don’t limit yourself to the office
Desk lamps aren’t just for your home office or work space. They can also serve nicely as bedside lighting or as an accent table light in your living room or foyer.
Q. What’s the best placement for a desk lamp?
A. Ideally, you should position your lamp so it’s 16 inches above the surface of the desk and 13 inches from the desk’s front edge.
Q. What type of desk lamps are most energy-efficient?
A. If you’re concerned about the how much energy your desk lamp uses, it’s best to choose an LED lamp. However, full-spectrum fluorescent lamps are also very energy-efficient, and halogen lamps can be a good option as well.
Notably, incandescent desk lamps are the most inefficient option.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.