Home & Office

5 cheap ways to make your desk smarter

Your workspace overhaul starts now. More light, more ports... more better!
Written by Rick Broida, Contributor

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Look at that lame desk of yours, just sitting there holding your stuff. Come on, desk, level up!

Actually, there's not much you can do to the furniture itself, but a few strategically placed extras can make your desk a smarter place to hang out.

Take note that some of these products are time-limited deals, but they're representative of what you can get if you shop around.

Light it up

Every office has different lighting. Yours might be eco-friendly and use few or no overhead fixtures. Or maybe you just like to work evening hours when the overheads are turned off.

Whatever the case, consider adding a lamp -- ideally one that's LED-powered so you're not messing with bulbs (like, ever) and that has different lighting modes to suit different lighting needs.

One nice option: This Aukey 8-watt dimmable desk lamp for $16.22 with promo code KHK3YQ6R. It features touch controls, a pivoting/rotating head and a 24-month warranty.

Add a ton of powered ports: $8

Sure, you could use your laptop to charge your phone, tablet, Bluetooth earbuds and whatnot, but chances are good it has only 1-amp USB ports -- and probably precious few at that.


Six powered ports for eight bucks, and a stand to boot.


What you need is a desktop-friendly powered USB hub, one that supplies more juice for fasting charging. Like this one: For a limited time, snag the Morecoo 6-port USB Desktop Charger for $8.36 when you apply promo code BZBDLR4L at checkout.

Equipped with a desktop stand, this hub serves up half a dozen "smart" ports, meaning they identify what's connected and charge them accordingly. Each port can supply 2.4 amps. Just one limitation: no support for QuickCharge.

Even so, six powered ports for eight bucks? Yes, please.

Elevate your phone: $9


You can get a 4-pack of these for $9.


Look at your phone, just lying there on your desk. If you want to see it, you have to lean over or, worse, pick it up. The horror!

The fix: Put your phone on a stand. Scoff if you want, but this lets you see incoming notifications at a glance. It lets you watch a photo slideshow if you're so inclined. And it lets you face-unlock your phone much more easily.

There are lots of options, here. For example, if you want something that's both angle-adjustable and portable, here's a 4-pack of Fynix portable phone stands for $8.99. One for your desk, one for your carry-on, one to give to your boss (suck-up), one to keep as a spare.

If you want something with a little more height, one that allows for charging cable to snake out from the bottom, check out this fancy number from Lexvss. It's also $9, and also portable and adjustable. (You only get one, though.)

Finally, if your phone supports wireless charging, it's a no-brainer to get a stand that's also a Qi pad. Here's a 2-coil Qi charging stand for $15.95 with promo code U2DTPOJV.

Elevate yourself: $25


Cardboard: Is there anything it can't do?


Sitting on your butt all day: bad for your butt. Standing at your desk all day: too tiring. (Too expensive, too: Most standing-desk solutions cost hundreds of dollars.)

That's why I'm partial to inexpensive standing-desk accessories you can use for a while and then easily set aside when you want to sit for a bit.

The Spark, for example, is a cardboard standing desk priced at just $25. Although it's not height-adjustable, it comes in two sizes (medium and large, depending on your size) and features a two-tier design.

You'll need a separate keyboard and mouse if you want to take advantage of that, but the beauty of it is it keeps the screen up high at a comfortable viewing angle while allowing your hands to stay low.

If you want something a little snazzier, a little less cardboard-y, check out this Avantree portable standing desk. It has folding legs, a height- and angle-adjustable surface, integrated lips for catching your laptop and mouse and a lovely cherry-wood finish. It also has a great rating from users (4.7 stars on average) and an amazingly good price: $36.99.

Print your own labels


Awesome product, terrible name. Seriously: "P-touch"?


Need a label for that file folder? File drawer? Something to do with files? Heck, maybe you need to label your lunchbox so fridge thieves keep their mitts off. Whatever the case, quit running to the office manager's office every time just so you can borrow the label maker.

Instead, tap your phone a few times and print your own, right at your desk: Office Depot has the Brother P-touch Cube label maker for $29.99. Reg. price: $60.

This is so much better than those big, clunky label makers with the awkward keyboards. Because it's app-powered!

But it's definitely a time- and supply-limited deal, so grab it while you can.

Okay, those are some of the items you need to smartify your desk. What others would you add to the list?

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