The 7 best desk lamps we tested in 2021

What to look for in a desk lamp

Camryn Rabideau/Insider

Buying a desk lamp might not seem like a complicated task, but there are a number of features you’ll want to look for when selecting the best ones for your needs. Here are the most important factors to consider, as recommended by our experts as well as my own research and experience with the topic. 

Range of motion: All of the experts consulted for this guide agreed that it’s important for lamps to be adjustable, and the larger the range of movement, the better. McGowan explains lamps should have “the ability to be positioned to exclude glare on the work surface, keyboard, input display, computer display, or other equipment.” A wide range of motion also allows you to move a lamp’s light source closer to paper or other objects when needed.  

Brightness and color temperature: Extended computer use can cause eye strain, but proper lighting can help to minimize the effects. “A lot of eyestrain is created by our habits,” said Bert. “When we work or read on a computer, we blink less. As the day progresses, our eyes get drier and drier, it’s as if we have been having multiple small staring contests with our computer screen throughout the day. Having the appropriate color spectrum has been shown to benefit our sleep/wake cycle, which can contribute to fatigue and thus, eye strain.  

To this end, it’s beneficial to look for a light that has adjustable brightness and also offers different light temperatures, allowing you to adjust the color spectrum throughout the day: “In the middle of the day you may want to use a full spectrum LED light that would simulate the color spectrum of the sun,” said Dr. Bert. “However, in the evening you would want to use a warmer spectrum light that has less of the high energy blue wavelengths.”

Energy efficiency: If you’re going to be using a lamp all day, an energy-efficient model can help save you money. Luckily, most of today’s desk lamps use LED bulbs, which consume less energy and last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs. You may also want to look for a light that is Energy Star-certified, which must use 90% less energy than traditional models using incandescent light bulbs. 

However, LEDs can be harsh on your eyes when not diffused: “Good quality LEDs are great for energy efficiency and longevity compared to traditional bulbs or fluorescents, but do consider visual comfort,” said Thorpe. “Bare LEDs are an extremely bright point source — lots of light from a very small space — so look for a well-made fitting that will control the light with a diffuser.”

Additional features: Many desk lamps offer additional features, including phone charging capabilities. If you’re looking for a model that can charge your phone, be sure it’s compatible with your particular phone model, as some only work with the latest iPhones and Androids. 

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