Best Clip-On Lamps

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

19 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
162 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best clip-on lamps

Last Updated October 2019

Clip-on lamps stand out for their variety of designs and their versatility, with adjustable necks and the ability to clip onto multiple surfaces. They range in style from large industrial to sleek modern designs to match your decor.

Choosing the right design, material, and bulb type are crucial steps in determining which type of clip-on lamp is right for you. Before you make these decisions, consider how and where you intend to use your clip-on lamp, as a lamp in your workshop will be quite different from one you keep on your office desk. The bulb type you choose will determine the brightness and lifespan of the lamp, as well as its energy consumption.

A decent lamp can last for years and serve a variety of purposes. We break down the basic types of lamps and the benefits of each.

Clip-on desk lamps are designed with flexibility in mind and are ideal for focusing on work or producing the perfect lighting for your work space.

Key considerations

Swing arm vs. gooseneck

The two most common types of clip-on lamps offer different ways to adjust the height and angle of the lamp.

Gooseneck lamps are straightforward with flexible metal coil necks that can be adjusted by simply moving the lamp to your desired position. The ease of adjusting this style lamp makes it the best choice for anyone who regularly needs to change the angle of their light source, like artists or makers. The coil should be of high quality so you can adjust the lamp without it drooping.

Swing arm lamps offer a classic look with a metal arm that hinges in three places: the base, the “elbow” of the arm, and the point where the arm meets the head. Adjusting these lamps may be more difficult than adjusting gooseneck lamps, but not by much.

Another option is a clamp lamp or work lamp, which clamps directly to a surface with a short neck, allowing you to illuminate a large work space like a garage.

Material

The material of a clip-on lamp determines not only its function and longevity but also its look and feel.

Metal lamps are the heaviest and most durable option. Typically made of aluminum or other inexpensive metals, these lamps may be painted or polished. Either way, the result is a sleek look, and a metal clip-on lamp that is likely to last for years.

Plastic lamps are lightweight and available in a range of colors and styles. They are less expensive than metal lamps, but they are also more fragile and may have a cheap feel to them.   

Bulb type

LEDs produce a bright light, measured in lumens, and are likely to last you for decades. While they were once expensive, LEDs are now fairly affordable. They’re a great option if you don’t want to worry about changing bulbs and are looking for a low-energy option. However, some people find the light harsh.

Incandescent bulbs are the classic light bulb, with a glass bulb and tungsten filament. Their brightness is measured in watts. Most incandescent bulbs are fairly high in energy consumption and will need to be replaced every few years.

CFL and fluorescent bulbs are low in energy consumption and produce a bright, even light. Depending on your lamp, the shape of the bulb may vary greatly, giving you different lighting options. Like LEDs, the light can be somewhat harsh.

Halogen bulbs are slightly more efficient than incandescent bulbs and produce a similar light using halogen gas. These bulbs come in unusual shapes and seldom work with a lamp that also accepts incandescent bulbs.

Bulb size and style

The most common bulb size is E26, and some E26-size lamps can accept a variety of bulb types. E12 is another common size, also known as “candelabra” size.

There are a few other bulb sizes, but these are less common. When shopping for a bulb, you should confirm that the bulb will fit the socket of your desk lamp.

Clip size

Clip (or clamp) size can vary greatly, which may limit the number of places you can attach your lamp. Most lamps have clips that open as wide as 1 to 2.5 inches. If you intend to use your lamp in several different places, a wider clip is always a safer option. Clips and clamps work similarly — the main difference is clamps must be tightened to grip a surface. Clamps tend to be sturdier, but any clip should be strong enough to support the lamp.

EXPERT TIP

Clip-on lamps attach with either a clamp or a clip, both of which are straightforward to use and allow you to angle your lamp while it’s attached to almost any surface.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Power source

While most clip-on lamps plug into a wall outlet, some models may operate using battery power or a USB adapter. USB-variety lamps are convenient if you have a crowded outlet or prefer to plug your lamp into your laptop or computer. Battery-powered lamps offer great flexibility, but you should consider the additional cost of replacing batteries.

Brightness settings

Some clip-on lamps, particularly LED models, may have different brightness settings that allow you to easily adjust the intensity of the light. This can help you both reduce eye strain and save energy as you work.

Freestanding

Yes, the selling point of clip-on lamps is their ability to clip anywhere. However, some models have flat clips that allow you to place the lamp on a flat surface. This may require a bit of balancing, but it is a convenient feature to have.

Flexibility and length

Take note of the length of the neck or arm of your lamp. If it’s too long, it may get in the way or even be too big for your space. Too short, and you may struggle to achieve the height and angle you need to work. Flexibility is important as well — not all gooseneck lamps have the same flexibility. The best way to determine a lamp’s flexibility before you buy is to look at pictures and read customer reviews. The same goes for swing arm lamps, as the range of motion can vary from one model to the next.

Additional heads

Clip-on lamps are not limited to just one head. Some may have two, three, or four heads, which can eliminate shadows and allow you to create more even lighting. These are usually only found in gooseneck lamps.

DID YOU KNOW?

The wide range of styles and colors of clip-on lamps makes it easy to choose a model that fits the decor of your workspace.

Clip-on lamp prices

Inexpensive: Clip-on lamps for $7 to $15 are simple in design and may be designed for garages or workshops. Some small desk lamps fall into this range, though their necks are usually fairly short. These lamps are made primarily of plastic with some metal parts.

Mid-range: The majority of clip-on lamps fall into the $15 to $30 range. These lamps may be made of plastic or metal and may have features like additional heads or alternative power sources.

Expensive: Clip-on lamps for $30 to $75 are often described as “architect style,” with mostly metal parts and easy-to-adjust swing arms. These lamps are very sturdy and are likely to last for decades.

Tips

  • When looking for bulbs for your lamp, you should consider not only bulb size but also the wattage of the bulb, as many lamps have a wattage limit.
  • A desk lamp can help you reduce eye strain, particularly when working on a tablet, desktop computer, or laptop. By keeping your screen around the same brightness as your environment, you can make working much easier on your eyes.
  • Remember that a clip-on lamp isn’t limited to attaching to horizontal surfaces. Clamping it to a vertical surface can help you achieve different angles and heights.

There’s a reason many architects swear by clip-on lamps. Having a movable light source makes it easy to illuminate a large area or focus on a smaller area.

Other products we considered

If you are looking for an architect lamp, one that stands out is the ToJane Swing Arm Desk Lamp. We love this lamp for its impressive range of motion and sturdy design. The 2.5-inch wide clip allows this lamp to grab onto just about any desk. A similar option is the LEPOWER Metal Desk Lamp, which includes both a base and a clamp so you can choose how and where to support your lamp. While the clamp is limited to one inch, customers love the look and functionality of this lamp. For an affordable lamp with multiple brightness settings, we recommend the VagaryLight V Smart Life LED Desk Lamp. Customers find the controls easy to use and love that the lamp is USB powered. 

Just like a regular lamp, clip-on lamps use a variety of bulbs with different energy consumption levels, heat production, and light colors.

FAQ

Q. What is the difference between an architect’s lamp and a desk lamp?
A.
While there’s no specific definition, an architect’s lamp is easy to adjust to a range of heights and angles to illuminate a large working space. These are usually swing-arm lamps with sturdy clips.

Q. What happens if I put the wrong bulb in my lamp?
A.
Assuming the bulb fits in the socket, using a bulb with a higher wattage than the recommended maximum can melt parts of the lamp and the lamp can become dangerously hot.

Q. Where can I safely recycle or dispose of old lightbulbs?
A.
While halogen and incandescent bulbs can be put in the garbage, other bulbs can be safely recycled at some retailers or at your local waste company.

The team that worked on this review
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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