3M AKT60LE Adjustable Keyboard Tray Review
As of now, we cannot recommend the 3M family of keyboard trays for people using a standard adjustable-height desk, with rare exception. None of the models offered by the company come with a rail shorter than 17″, far too long for almost all adjustable-height desktops. Those with unusual adjustable desks, or standard sitting desks might consider it though. The AKT60LE isn’t perfect, but it’s a dependable choice for a thrifty desker. The payoff for relatively cheap quality is convenience; if you’re after a tray for a shared workstation, or just like to change hand position frequently, you may want to give this one a pass. If that’s not an issue, then this might be the tray for you – the AKT60LE is ergonomically adequate and surprisingly stable.
|MSRP / List Price||$89|
Lifetime on arm, 5 years on platform, 1 year on gel wrist rest
Keyboard tray: 25.5″ x 12″
|Competition||Top-Rated Ergonomic Keyboard Tray Reviews|
|Where to buy||
Buy on Amazon
|Ease of Assembly|
|Positives||A sturdy, adequately ergonomic keyboard tray, the AKT60LE would be a decent choice for any solo desker on a budget. The 17" sliding track works well, and is deceptively easy to mount. Heavily discounted, can be found for under $100 retail.|
|Negatives||Hard to adjust, some users had difficulty installing it. 3M has notoriously bad instruction manuals and a sketchy environmental track record. Lacks the features of a higher-end tray.|
Off the Rails
Anyone using an adjustable-height desk with a centered crossbar under the table top (e.g. MultiTable ModTable or Mod-E, Humanscale Float Table, etc.) should look elsewhere – no two ways around it. 3M’s keyboard trays range from adequate to excellent, but they simply won’t work on most adjustable-height desk models because of insufficient freeboard between the crossbar and the front of the table top. Even their more compact variants come with 17″ minimum rails, and will dangle right off the ends of almost all adjustable desks. If you need to outfit a standard height desk, or if you’ve managed to find yourself one of the rare adjustables without a centered crossbar (or a truly enormous desktop), this may work, but most standing and walking deskers should search for alternatives.
To Tilt or Not to Tilt
A properly adjustable keyboard tray should help fix two common ergonomic woes: elbow flexion (the degree to which you bend your elbows), and wrist flexion (ditto at the wrists). To picture unhealthy flexion, just imagine the classic “computer hunch”; arms folded up, and wrists angled sharply downward to reach a flat keyboard. We see this posture all the time with DIY treadmill deskers, and it’s truly cringe-inducing – not to mention repetitive stress injury-inducing. Your best posture is your natural one, with elbows hanging lower than ninety degrees and hands nearly in line with the forearms (a very slight upward tilt is best). But, of course, this isn’t really possible on a regular flat keyboard placed at chest level.
Enter the AKT60LE and its fellow trays (we also reviewed the AKT150LE).These products mount under a desk, giving you room to hang your arms comfortably, and they tilt backward as well, fixing the problem of proper wrist angle. Details matter when dealing in ergonomics; an adjustable keyboard tray may sound like a frivolous addition, but they’re often the only thing standing between you and a visit to a physical therapist. Bottom line – anyone considering walking or standing at work should think about buying one.
The 60LE is about as basic as functional adjustable keyboard trays get. It is capable of limited height-adjustment, +/- 15º of tilt, which is adequate (we prefer trays with -20º maximum tilt for treadmill desking, but they’re uncommon), and horizontal swiveling. All in all, sufficient. There are certainly nicer products on the market, but the 60LE does an admirable job of covering the basics.
“Negative Tilt” Explained
This is perhaps the single most important concept that users, and even salespeople and websites that sell keyboard trays, get reversed in their minds, and it’s easy to understand why this happens. The very word “negative” sounds counter-intuitive. But, in fact, it’s a negative tilt, as shown in the photo on the right, above, that you want to achieve with an ergonomic keyboard tray. The only application for positive tilt is typically for gamers who want to lean way back in their chairs and still be able to see and reach their keyboards.
In general, keyboard trays allow you to tilt the edge of your keyboard that’s closest to the user up, bringing it into a negatively-inclined position from the perspective of where your wrists are resting on the user edge of the keyboard. While this may depart from old-school, pre-ergonomic keyboard design (pop-up tabs on many keyboards used to let you elevate the back—a humongous ergonomic no-no) it’s actually ergonomically proper to tilt the keyboard the other way.
It’s only by placing the keyboard at a negative tilt that wrist flexion—and consequent squeezing of the carpal bones that surround the nerves and blood vessels that pass through them—can be neutralized. We’ve never been able to figure out how the computer industry started down this path of tilting keyboards in exactly the opposite direction as is ergonomically correct; the myth has persisted for decades and millions of computer users are still unaware.
Those accustomed to plastic trays might be in for a shock when this 3M product lands on their porch. The 60LE ships at 15 pounds and seems downright industrial in comparison to the flimsy, sliding under-desk trays of yesteryear’s office. However, you’ll probably come to appreciate the heft once you get typing. Yes, the 60LE might feel more like medieval weaponry than office equipment, but it’s largely free of the shakiness that troubles some of its competitors. Some components, such as the star knob used for adjustment, are plastic, but don’t let that deter you – they’re built to last, and the tray comes with a 5-year warranty from 3M.
Of course, as we often say, stability and adjustability are in equilibrium, and the 60LE is no exception. While more expensive products from 3M feature easy-adjust levers and similar mechanisms, the 60LE relies on a single knob that must be untightened and retightened for every change. While this isn’t a difficult process, it is time consuming and irritating; if you’re trying to set up a multi-user workstation, you may want to check out some higher-end options.
Affixing the 60LE to the bottom of an existing desk can be a pain, there’s no denying it. This tray relies on a 17” track screwed into the underside of a desk. On one hand, this is a beautifully stable mount, and allows the tray to be slid under the desk when not in use. On the other hand, those of us with an instinctive dislike of power tools might not enjoy the setup process. Quick tip: if at all possible, install the track before placing the desktop on its frame, it should make things much, much easier.
Buyers will be happy to know that a template for screw location is included. Simply place this piece of paper where you’re planning to put the mount and drill away. Take time before you buy the desk to take some measurements. The 60LE needs seventeen unobstructed inches of desk to work with (plywood blocks can be used to span a metal ridge, if you have one), and be aware that a minimum desk thickness of ¾ of an inch is required.
Folks tempted by various adhesive attachment options out there should be wary. Many customers report crashes – the loud kind, not the electronic. Screws may take some extra time, but they’re a good guarantee of stability.
3M keyboard trays have outrageously high MSRPs and very reasonable street prices. We will never understand the merits of this marketing tactic but here’s the downside to the low prices: there are an incredible number of variants of the 3M keyboard tray so it’s extremely hard to compare apples to apples when no two retailers seem to carry the same exact models, and the model numbers are highly cryptic. The AKT60LE is one that is available on Amazon for under $100 and we have specifically tested; there are too many models out there we can’t possibly review.
Buying from 3M means buying from a truly enormous manufacturer, with everything that decision entails. Expect shipping to be prompt, and for owner’s manuals to feature around forty languages. Check the company website for some useful tools, including a video on ergonomics and a comparative chart of their products.
3M claims that the 60LE is made from 70% recycled materials, but don’t fool yourself into thinking this makes them green – the company behind the keyboard has consistently ranked amongst the 100 worst American air polluters. Responsible furniture and furniture accessories manufacturers (e.g. Humanscale) have been gravitating more and more towards environmental sensitivity in recent years; 3M has not been following the trend, sadly.
The AKT60LE comes with a lifetime warranty on the keyboard arm, 5-year warranty on the keyboard tray, and 1-year warranty on the wrist rests.