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Updated November 2022
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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 all opinions about the products are our own. 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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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best LED Desk Lamps

A LED desk lamp is a task lighting fixture that uses LED elements to produce light. Like more traditional desk lamps, LED desk lamps illuminate the surface of your desk for reading, writing, and other work activities where a bright, adjustable, directional light is required.

LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are tiny semiconductors that emit light when fed an electric current. They use 75% to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs of comparable brightness and last much longer before needing replacement. LED elements often boast a lifespan of 50,000 hours, which means 10 or even 20 years of use. (For the sake of comparison: A traditional incandescent bulb usually lasts from 2,000 to 5,000 hours.)

Unlike most fluorescent bulbs, LEDs can be dimmed, and unlike halogen bulbs, they don’t get very hot at all. While early LEDs used for lighting got a reputation for giving off cold, impersonal light, LEDs today can produce light in almost every possible color and white light at an array of temperatures, from warm yellowish to cool blueish. Compared to other lighting technologies, LEDs are versatile, eco-friendly, and more economical over time.

If you’re in need of a desk lamp, an LED desk lamp should be high on your list.

testing a LED desk lamp
The wattage of an incandescent bulb used to be the primary way to distinguish how bright a light was, but fluorescents and LEDs use less electricity for the same amount of illumination. Still, LED, fluorescent, and halogen bulbs often show their equivalent incandescent bulb wattage.

What to think about when choosing an LED desk lamp

Drawbacks to LEDs

LEDs have some drawbacks. Many LED desk lamps have built-in elements that are a lot harder to replace than simply screwing in a new bulb. Some aren’t designed to be user-replaceable at all. And LED desk lamps tend to have higher upfront costs than other lamps.

Brightness

Task lighting needs to be brighter than ambient or accent lighting. The brightness of any lamp or light bulb is measured in units called lumens. A brightness of 450 lumens is adequate for most desk lamps, but for some detailed tasks, like drafting documents, crafting, or aesthetician services, 800 or even 1000 lumens may be necessary.

CRI rating

A number you may notice when shopping for LED lamps is a CRI rating. “CRI” stands for color rendering index. It’s a number from 0 to 100 that measures how accurately a light source reveals the true colors of objects compared to natural light, with 100 being the most accurate. LEDs have CRI ratings that range from 80 for standard LEDs to over 90 for high-CRI LEDs.

Color temperature

Color temperature reflects the warmth or coolness of a light source. In practical terms, it tells you how yellow (warm) or blue (cold) a “white” light may be.

You’re probably familiar with color temperature terms like warm white, cool white, or daylight. Warm color temperatures are more soothing, especially at night, while cooler temperatures can be more accurate and task-oriented.

The color temperature of some LED desk lamps can be adjusted according to user preference. Color temperature is measured in kelvins, or K.

Desk size vs. lamp size

A good thing to know when buying any desk lamp is your desk size, or how big an area you need to illuminate. A desk lamp should be big and bright enough to illuminate this area appropriately without being too bright, too narrow, or too harsh.

Desk lamps typically have arms that allow them to overhang work areas and shift the light source as needed. Your new lamp shouldn’t be so big that it overwhelms your work area and gets in the way.

Base

The base of a desk lamp is important because it’s what gives a desk lamp stability as it’s moved or adjusted. LED desk lamps with light, narrow bases may have a tendency to tip over when adjusted.

For best results, we recommend picking a lamp with a heavy, sturdy base, or one with a clamp that attaches to the edge of your desk. Large, heavy desk lamps, such as those for architects or artists, can also feature bolt mounts that pass through a desk and attach with screws or grommets.

Styles

LED desk lamps are available in a number of styles. It may seem most LED desk lamps look like utilitarian task lamps, but many other models are available: banker’s lamps, pharmacy lamps, piano lamps, to name a few. The materials vary, too, from metal to wood to glass.

Choose a desk lamp style that complements or accentuates your space.

testing a LED desk lamp
DID YOU KNOW?
LEDs can have a flickering or stroboscopic effect, like fluorescent lamps. This flickering is usually too fast to be noticeable, but it can cause headaches or eye strain in sensitive individuals.
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Features of LED desk lamps

Arm

The arm of a desk lamp helps differentiate it from other kinds of lamps. It also allows you to direct light where you need it to shine on your desk.

  • Articulated or swing arm lamps have one or more joints, or hinges, that allow for a wide range of adjustments.
  • Gooseneck lamps have sinuous arms made of springs that can bend or contort in many directions.
  • Boom arm lamps have long, stiff arms that extend a significant distance from a pole attached to the base.

Shade or diffuser

A lampshade reduces the glare from the lighting element and directs the light where it needs to go. Notably, many LED desk lamps with built-in lighting elements do away with a traditional shade altogether, with the LEDs being mounted on a lamp head. Some of these have diffuser lenses instead of shades to soften the light coming from the LEDs.

A traditional lamp shade can make an LED desk lamp more appealing as a decorative object.

Dimmer

LEDs, like incandescents and halogens, can be dimmed or brightened to suit the situation or your personal preferences. Some smart LED lamps can automatically adjust their brightness by sensing their environment. However, not all LED lamps have dimmer controls.

If you want the ability to dim or brighten your LED lamp, look for a lamp with either dimness presets or an adjustable dimmer.

Temperature adjustment

Like dimmability, many LED lamps offer the ability to change the color temperature of their light. Some even offer circadian or biorhythm lighting, changing brightness and temperature through the day to suit the human body clock: warmer in the evening, cooler or brighter during the day. Having one lamp that offers bright white light for work and soft warm light for relaxation is a major advantage of some LED lamps.

Power source

LEDs themselves require direct current or DC power, but most LED desk lamps have the circuitry to use AC power and transform it to DC. They can also run on power supplied by a USB adapter or even a rechargeable battery.

Battery power makes LED lamps useful in power outages and when you’re working where a power cord can’t reach.

USB ports and desk organization

Some LED desk lamps include USB ports for charging other devices, wireless charging pads, or even full-fledged AC outlets. LED desk lamps can also have desk organization features, like pen cups or paper clip dishes, built into their bases. Some may integrate clocks and other information displays.

Controls

The simplest LED desk lamps still offer basic on-off switches, which may be conveniently located on the base, arm, or head, or more inconveniently on the cord.

Smart LED desk lamps connect to smartphone apps or smart home networks, giving you the ability to control them via voice commands. Thus, you can automate things like turning the light on and off at specific times or changing the color temperature of the light to suit your activities.

LED desk lamps may also feature touch controls rather than switches for dimming and color temperature.

LED bulbs can turn any lamp with standard Edison sockets into an LED lamp, albeit without some of the features of true LED desk lamps. Some LED bulbs offer smart controls for dimmers, color changers, and automation.

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Accessories

Desk fan

If your office or desk area is too hot, or you just appreciate white noise and moving air, a desk fan can make your work area a lot more comfortable.

Desk heater

On the other hand, you may find yourself sitting down at your desk and feeling way too cold. A desk-sized space heater can help keep you warm as you work.

Desk calendar

Now that you've found the right desk lamp to illuminate your workspace, you need a desk calendar to help you keep track of your schedule.

How much do LED desk lamps cost?

Inexpensive

Inexpensive LED desk lamps cost between $10 and $30. At this price, you’ll find task-oriented lamps that can be surprisingly full-featured, although they may have poorer brand recognition, build quality, or longevity—and many in this price range tend to look utilitarian rather than attractive.

Mid-range

Mid-range LED desk lamps cost between $30 to $150. These lamps tend to offer more dependability and quality than inexpensive lamps, and you are more likely to find decorative and attractive styles in this price range.

Expensive

Expensive LED desk lamps can cost upwards of $150. In fact, some may cost over $1,000 – but the average buyer won’t need to look here.

When you look at LED lamps in the “Expensive” price range, you’ll find items with high CRI scores, smart controls, and circadian lighting.

testing a LED desk lamp
DID YOU KNOW?
The banker's lamp is a classic lamp style with a wide shade of frosted glass, usually green, that directs light downward over a desk. Piano lamps are similar to banker's lamps but without the frosted glass shade.
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Tips for LED desk lamps

  • Position your desk lamp so the light source isn’t in your direct line of sight. A good location is slightly higher than and behind the monitor to minimize glare. Tilt the head or shade so the light shines on the desk without the bulb or LED element visible.
  • Minimize shadows falling across your work by placing a desk lamp on the side of your workstation opposite your dominant hand.
  • A desk lamp should have a 3:1 ratio of brightness to a computer display to reduce eye fatigue and strain.
  • LEDs are dimmable, but they won’t work with dimmers designed for incandescent bulbs.
testing a LED desk lamp
Many LED lamps can change their light color. Some offer a spectrum of different colors, especially if they’re controlled by a smartphone app. Color changing is more common in accent or ambient lighting.

FAQ

Q. What is the difference between a desk lamp and a table lamp?

A. Some people use table lamps and desk lamps interchangeably, but they differ in the way they emit light. Desk lamps are meant to shine directed light onto a surface, while table lamps provide ambient or accent lighting for a room.

Q. What happens if you put too much power into an LED?

A. Too much power will kill an LED. If you introduce more voltage into an LED lamp than it’s designed for, you could cause it to fuse off or even damage the LEDs permanently. Always use a power source meant for that particular LED lamp, and mind the voltage to be sure it’s suitable for your outlet.

Q. Are LED lights replaceable?

A. It depends on whether your lamp uses LED bulbs or integrated LEDs. LED bulbs with Edison screw bases or bi-pin bases are easy to replace. Integrated LEDs, however, typically can’t be replaced without replacing the entire fixture. The longevity of LEDs allows you to use an LED lamp for years without needing to replace it, but if integrated LEDs are damaged, you may need to get a new lamp.

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