Laptop ergonomics for one bag travel: Roost Stand and ThinkPad Bluetooth Keyboard
Tue Oct 23, 2018 · 5 min read
Tue Oct 23, 2018 · 5 min read
Nearly two years ago, I invested in a couple items meant to help me work with better ergonomics. Two years, hundreds of coffee-shop tables and coworking desks later, I’m reviewing them. Here’s the most portable laptop stand and the best Bluetooth keyboard I’ve owned: the Roost Stand, and the ThinkPad Compact Bluetooth Keyboard with TrackPoint.
I originally thought I’d review the Roost Stand and Thinkpad Keyboard separately, but these items are as inseparable in my mind as they are in my work-anywhere set up. Just look at everything we’ve been through in the last couple years!
Let’s talk ergonomics.
I’m constantly working on my posture, because I want to carry myself in a manner that demonstrates confidence and capability. The telltale shoulders-forward hunch of a computer programmer is not the look I’m after - unfortunately, it’s an epidemic for those who share my profession. Laptops were made for portability, not spinal health, and their extended use for years on end trains your body to conform itself to some unappealing and painful configurations.
I knew when I started travelling that if my only option was to lug around a bulky, heavy laptop stand, or to stack up whatever books/tissue boxes/towels my rented residence had available, I would never make my ergonomics a priority. I was really happy to find the Roost Stand primarily because it addressed the first hurdle of maintaining proper working ergonomics - my willingness to do so in the first place!
Since it folds up and weighs only 170g, it’s practically painless to carry around with me all day, ready to deploy no matter where I plan to work. It’s height adjustable, so no matter the height of the desk I’m using, I can make sure my laptop screen is correctly positioned and I’m sitting up comfortably straight.
Some competing products exist, including the less-expensive, but bulkier, height adjustable Nexstand, and other foldable but not height adjustable angle stands that only slightly raise your screen. I wouldn’t switch. I’ve been carrying the Roost Stand now for almost two years - squished inside my backpack, banged around in my day bag, opened and closed over and over - and it still
looks and (I found some dirt.) functions as it did the first day I got it.
The Roost Stand is stupidly over-engineered, which appeals to my preference for durable items that last. It has rubber grips in all the right places, including its non-slip feet, which have saved my laptop more than once from a bump in a crowded cafe when someone’s handbag is trying to squeeze past my table. Unlike its PVC competitors, the Roost Stand is “constructed from glass-fiber reinforced Nylon, a structural metal-replacement polymer, and Delrin high performance resin for a lifetime of heavy usage.” OoooOooo.
Of course, the laptop stand is only half the battle against the “programmer slouch.”
The necessary other half of an ergonomic and portable work set up is the external peripherals: keyboard and mouse. While I know, intellectually, the benefits of using the Roost Stand, I honestly wasn’t looking forward to having to lug around an additional keyboard as well as a mouse or trackpad - it goes against my double duty philosophy.
So you can imagine my excitement over discovering that such a thing as the ThinkPad Compact Bluetooth Keyboard with TrackPoint existed. ThinkPads have long been appreciated for their durability and the ergonomic TrackPoint (that some affectionately call the “nipple”), which is part of why I chose a ThinkPad for my laptop. I was pretty happy to find that I could have the same integrated functionality of a keyboard and mouse while using my Roost Stand - and with the convenience of Bluetooth, no less!
The key travel is the best I’ve experienced in a keyboard of this size, and surprisingly satisfying given the board’s thin profile. The feeling is consistent with the best of ThinkPad’s built-in laptop keyboards. This is the closest thing I’ve found to having the experience of a Bluetooth mechanical keyboard, while still being portable, and additionally far more durable. This keyboard is tough - really tough! I’ve carried it around squished in a compressed duffel, bonked around in a day pack without padding, and I’m pretty sure I sat down on it one time. It’s never been in a dedicated sleeve and it’s still going strong!
The best part is that I don’t need a mouse or trackpad in addition. Being able to use the TrackPoint without moving my hands from the home-row position is far better for my wrists than using an external mouse. The ThinkPad Keyboard also has the cutest feet that flip out on the bottom, optionally providing a more comfortable and ergonomic typing angle.
Initially I worried that I’d forget to charge it all the time, so I just set myself a reminder to plug it in… every two months. I’m not kidding. Even with daily use averaging six-to-eight hours, I didn’t need to charge up more often than six times a year. With less frequent use, I’m pretty sure a charge would last longer, but Lenovo is modest in its estimation, saying only that it has “over one month” of battery life. Even that’s pretty acceptable to me.
It’s no secret that I’ll happily invest in quality items made to last - I wrote about it as part of my money philosophy. The Roost Stand and the ThinkPad Compact Bluetooth Keyboard with TrackPoint have stood up impeccably to the test of time, travel, and constant use.
If there’s a more compact, lightweight, and convenient set up available out there, I haven’t found it. I expect this combo to be a part of my pack for many more years to come!