Ergonomists Rate The Best Keyboard Trays

September 1, 2022
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keyboard tray

What is an ergonomic keyboard tray?

An ergonomic keyboard tray (a.k.a. articulating keyboard tray, or “AKT”) is any keyboard tray that corrects two problems caused by placing your keyboard directly on your desk.

The first problem it solves is height—without a keyboard tray, most desktops are too high for strain-free typing, causing you to engage muscles that should be more relaxed. Just about any under-desk keyboard tray will alleviate this issue.

The second problem an ergonomic keyboard tray addresses is tilt. For your wrists to be properly aligned, your keyboard should be able to achieve a negative tilt of around 15° when seated, up to 30° when standing, and potentially more if working at a treadmill desk.

Ergonomic keyboard trays overcome the innate inadequacy of desks, allowing you to type in a way that’s more neutral for your upper body. This results in decreased likelihood of developing RSIs (repetitive strain injuries) such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive round-up of keyboard tray review abstracts with links to our detailed lab-test reviews, to help you choose the right addition to your adjustable-height workstation.

The reason we review keyboard trays in such depth is that like the ergonomic monitor arms that are often paired with an articulating keyboard tray, most AKTs were designed forty years ago for use with a fixed-height desk. When switching to a height-adjustable desk new challenges and opportunities arise. The challenges are mostly related to installation difficulty (due to the crossbar that 99% of standing desks have underneath the desktop interfering with the installation of the glide rail) and the lack of sufficient negative tilt adjustment (since you won’t have armrests to support your forearms when standing, having greater negative tilt adjustment range is absolutely essential for good ergonomics while standing).

Nearly a million keyboard trays are installed in the US every year, yet 95% of standing desks are devoid of them. And the only reason for this is that users, facilities managers, and even many certified ergonomists (who got their training before the boom in popularity of sit-stand desks) never learned that there are options in the market for installing an ergonomic keyboard tray on a standing desk or treadmill desk. If you know of one of these folks please forward this article to them, they will thank you!

“Negative Tilt” Explained

Comparison between keyboard tray setup with no negative tilt on the left and correct negative tilt on the right.

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 and correct ergodynamic positions can be reached. 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.

Height adjustability goes hand-in-hand with negative tilt. There is no way to achieve a negative tilt in the tray without being able to lower it below the desktop, at least on a fixed-height desk. Adjustable-height desks offer more options in this regard but keep in mind that if you use a keyboard tray that doesn’t descend below the desktop on a sit-stand desk you will need to be able to raise your monitors higher than your monitor arm may be able to reach, and you’ll only have a good ergonomic setup when standing, not while sitting.

Key Considerations for Standing Desk Users

Here are the specs you want to keep your eye on when reading keyboard tray reviews:

    • Compatibility – If you have a standing desk, check underneath the desktop and make sure there is enough room to install the keyboard tray. Most keyboard trays install in a long track that can run into the crossbars beneath most standing desks, rendering them uninstallable. There are workarounds, however. In this round-up you’ll find keyboard trays like the iMovR standing desk keyboard tray models (SteadyType Exo, Trackless and Stowaway), Humanscale Float and others design specifically for use with height-adjustable workstations. There is even the alternative of having the keyboard tray built right into the desktop, as in the iMovR SteadyType standing desk models.
    • Tilt – The standard for ergonomic keyboard trays is up to 15° of negative tilt and 10° of positive tilt, because this was all that was usable on old-school fixed-height desks. There are a few models (which we rate the highest) that can achieve -20°. And then there are SteadyType-based trays that have infinite negative and positive tilt range (e.g. SteadyType Exo, iMovR’s SteadyType desks and the Elevon). As a rule of thumb the steeper you can go, the more neutral your forearm and wrist positioning will be, and the less muscle strain you will need to endure. This ultimately translates into higher typing proficiency and comfortable work endurance.
    • Size – Make sure your keyboard fits the dimensions of the tray. Some split keyboards such as the Matias Ergo Pro, GoldTouch or Kinesis Freestyle, or even the uber popular Microsoft Natural and Microsoft Sculpt, don’t play well with some keyboard trays.
    • Mouse platform – An independently adjustable swiveling mouse platform, or “lilly pad” is one way to go, as you can position it closer to your body, reducing the need to move your upper arm outwards. One of the golden rules of ergonomics is to keep your upper arm straight up-and-down; reaching out to use a mouse can give you shoulder problems. Lilly pads, however, are also notoriously “floppy,” so many users prefer to keep their mouse close to their keyboard on the same, single platform.
    • Sturdiness – Key to a comfortable typing experience is sturdiness. With the minuscule keycap travel distance on modern day keyboards even a small amount of shaking can result in typing errors, reduced typing speed, and excess strain on the hands, wrists and up the arms. (This is ten times more important when treadmill desking. In fact, many keyboard trays are simply not suitable for treadmill desking due to the extra stresses of movement, so stability is king for them.)
    • The ability to retract – Unless you work with a lot of paper flow you’ll probably rarely even need to tuck your keyboard tray away underneath the desktop. But if you do need to retract you’ll definitely be losing out on some great options that are designed specifically for standing desks.

Special Considerations for Treadmill Desk Users

Treadmill deskers have the same issues as standing deskers, and then some. With the treadmill’s belt continuously pulling the user backward, and their bodies gently swaying side-to-side, their natural response is to press down harder on their palms in order to anchor their hand position over the keyboard. The faster the belt, the harder they press down, and the worse their typing speed and accuracy degrades. That palm pressure can lead to all sorts of painful maladies over time, and nobody wants to see their productivity gains smashed by typing difficulties.

Fortunately, there is a solution for these issues, and it is the iMovR SteadyType built-in keyboard tray (we’ve reviewed the iMovR Lander, iMovR Cascade and iMovR Lander L-Desk). Its clever, patented design eliminates that palm pressure by allowing the user to dial-in steeper typing angles; -20° to -30°, or even -40° is achievable, comfortable and ideally ergonomic for most users. At these angles, the palms can stay relaxed and good hand position is easy to maintain, eliminating the potentially dangerous ergonomic issues. Both typing speed and typing accuracy are significantly improved, even at higher belt speeds. We can’t recommend SteadyType desks enough for treadmill station workers.

But what if you already own a standing desk and don’t want to buy another one just to add an under-desk office treadmill? iMovR has developed two products for adding SteadyType capability to an existing desk, the SteadyType Exo and the Elevon. Both install in just 30 seconds on literally any brand of standing desk.

Top Ergonomic Keyboard Trays

Now that you’ve seen the most important factors to consider with keyboard trays, it’s time to narrow down to the models themselves. Take a look at our review summaries below for more details on each product.

1. iMovR SteadyType Exo Ergonomic Keyboard Tray

Experts’ Rating: 5-Stars

Tilt Range: Essentially infinite, but can hold keyboard up at up to a -85°
Tray Dimensions: 28″ x 10.5″
Compatibility: Installs on all standing desks
Warranty: Lifetime on frame, 5 years everything else

Summary: Ergonomic keyboard trays, which haven’t changed much from their original designs of the 1980’s, haven’t adapted in any meaningful way to the new ergonomic requirements of the standing desk or treadmill desk user. Besides the ergonomic differences, there’s a crossbar running under the desktop of most standing desks that interferes with the installation of any conventional keyboard tray’s slide rail. For those reasons the vast majority of active workstations currently lack a keyboard tray altogether. From our first look at the SteadyType Exo, it clearly stuck out from the crowd because it’s not inherently wobbly, and it’s not an hour-long chore to install. Its primary ergonomic benefit of being able to achieve much steeper (i.e. more “neutral”) tilt angles than the conventionally-limited -15° is one of several patented features that no other tray offers. In the glacially slow-changing field of ergonomic keyboard trays the SteadyType Exo is the new “killer app.”

Price: $330

Read our full review Buy on iMovR

2. iMovR Elevon

Experts’ Rating: 5-Stars

Tilt Range: Essentially infinite, but can hold keyboard up at up to a -85°
Tray Dimensions: Main tray: 19.75” x 10.25”, Side trays: 12” x 12”
Compatibility: Installs on all standing desks
Warranty: Lifetime on frame, 5 years everything else

Summary: The original add-on SteadyType keyboard tray from iMovR, the Elevon remains “the most adjustable keyboard tray in the world,” and one of only a handful that were designed for the ergodynamics of standing desks and treadmill desks. While iMovR’s new SteadyType Exo, the second generation of the Elevon design, is targeted at more mainstream users (cheaper, lighter, less expensive) the Elevon remains the only option for users who’ve already suffered ergonomic repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) and need the maximum adaptation to their own anthropometry and range-of-motion limitations.

Price: $399

Read our full review Buy on iMovR

3. iMovR Trackless Keyboard Tray

Experts’ Rating: 4.5-Stars

Tilt Range: -15° to +10°
Tray Dimensions: Main tray: 19.4” x 9.4”, Mouse platform: 9.04” diameter
Compatibility: Installs on all desks
Warranty: 15 year warranty

Summary: Sometimes less is more. The iMovR Trackless Keyboard Tray attaches directly to the bottom of your desk, resulting in a more stable product than any tray that uses a sliding track (99% of them). Made in the USA from high-quality components, it’s backed up by a strong 15 year warranty. The Trackless Keyboard Tray is surprisingly easy to adjust, and a joy to type on—we recommend it for all popular standing desk models.

Price: $275

Read our full review Buy on iMovR

4. iMovR Stowaway Keyboard Tray

Experts’ Rating: 4.5-Stars

Tilt Range: -20° to +10°
Tray Dimensions: 21” x 11.1”
Compatibility: Installs on all desks
Warranty: Lifetime

Summary: The iMovR Stowaway adheres to a different philosophy than its brother, the Trackless Keyboard Tray—rather than skipping the track altogether, it mounts to a sideways track. This allows it to fit all standing desks, at a slight expense of stability (inherent with any sliding track). Made in the USA, the Stowaway features a category-leading -20° of keyboard tilt and a lifetime warranty – two things that are very hard to find elsewhere without paying twice as much. As the name implies, rather than sliding the keyboard back under your desk, you can slide it left or right and then rotate the entire tray under your desk when you want to stow it away.

Price: $275

Read our full review Buy on iMovR

5. Humanscale Keyboard Tray System

Experts’ Rating: 4.5-Stars

Tilt Range: Varies
Tray Dimensions: Varies
Compatibility: Installs on most desks (requires minimum of 11” under-desk space)
Warranty: 15 years

Summary: Humanscale allows you to build the perfect keyboard tray for any setup. They offer a dizzying array of options to suit your preferences, allowing standing desk users of all sizes to find what works for them. You’ll pay a pretty penny for this, however, and you’ll have to wait for your product to be built if you don’t choose a “quick buy” option, but you can rest assured that you’ll receive a quality, made-in-USA product.

Price: $329

Read our full review Buy on Amazon

6. Uncaged Ergonomics KT1 Keyboard Tray

Experts’ Rating: 3-Stars

Tilt Range:-15° to + 50°
Tray Dimensions: 18.5” x 8.75”
Compatibility: 16” track not compatible with most standing desks (See “Compatibility” section above)
Warranty: 90 days

Summary: At a competitive price to 3M’s AKT60LE, the KT1 by Uncaged Ergonomics is built to the minimal quality level that its short 90 day warranty implies. (Our rule of thumb? Expect to replace a product as early as at the end of its warranty term.) The KT1 offers the height and tilt adjustment one would expect, and it feels sturdier than average to type on. However, it also has a number of design flaws that we discuss in the full review, including an unfortunately-placed component that’ll bang the heck out of your kneecap. The KT1 falls under the description of “you get what you pay for.”

Price: $ 89.99

Read our full review Buy on Amazon

7. Humanscale Float

Experts’ Rating: 3-Stars

Tilt Range: up to -15°
Tray Dimensions: 25″ x 8.4″
Compatibility: 11″ track installs on most standing desks
Warranty: 15 years

Summary: The Humanscale Float is one of the best looking under-desk keyboard trays we’ve seen. A shorter 11″ track allows it to install on just about every standing desk, however, which is a huge plus. However, it lacks some core functionality (like easy height adjustment) that we would like to see in a product of this price range, and for that reason, it’s not the most versatile solution for a standing desk user compared to others we’ve reviewed.

Price: $199.20

Read our full review Buy on Amazon

8. Fellowes Office Suites Under Desk Keyboard Drawer

Experts’ Rating: 3-Stars

Tilt Range: No tilt
Tray Dimensions: 22” x 11.6”
Compatibility: 16” track cannot install on most standing desks (track does NOT rotate)
Warranty: 3 years

Summary: Super-popular and super-cheap, the Fellowes Under Desk Keyboard Drawer is the lowest price you can pay for a functioning product in this category. As the name implies, it’s a “drawer,” not an ergonomic keyboard “tray.” Lacking tilt adjustment, it does nothing to prevent wrist strain, which can lead to repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) that are much cheaper to avoid than to remedy after the fact. We recommend this product only for those on the tightest budgets, as it provides a decent option for sliding away your keyboard below your desktop. But for folks who spend hours a day in front of their computer we strongly recommend shelling out for an actual ergonomic tray.

Price: $24.48

Read our full review Buy on Amazon

9. Fellowes Professional Series Sit /Stand Keyboard Tray

Experts’ Rating: 3-Stars

Tilt Range: -15° to 0°
Tray Dimensions: 19” x 10.5”; Mouse platform: 10” diameter
Compatibility: For fixed-height desks only
Warranty: Lifetime

Summary: A pricey, niche product without a strong use case. The Sit / Stand Keyboard Tray by Fellowes raises up to 6” above your worksurface, thanks to its Humanscale-built arm. Not only does this present stability issues, but it’s also a flawed concept in general, as you’ll end up looking down at your monitor if you try to use this keyboard tray while standing. We think this product only makes sense as a hack for taller users (think 6’5” and over) whose sit-stand desks can’t reach high enough for their stature. A better way to go would be to switch to a modern standing desk that can reach much higher than the common 47” top height limit of earlier generation standing desks; new models can reach up to 55”.

Price: $274.34

Read our full review Buy on Amazon

10. 3M AKT150LE Adjustable Keyboard Tray

Experts’ Rating: 2.5-Stars

Tilt Range: -15° to +10°
Tray Dimensions: 19.5″ x 10.625″
Compatibility: 23” track not compatible with most standing desks (See “Compatibility” section above)
Warranty: Lifetime on arm, 5 years on platform, 1 year on gel wrist rest

Summary: This is a solid tray with quite a bit of adjustability, but it won’t work well with most adjustable-height desks because of the 23” track length. You can potentially install it sideways as a workaround (like we did) but that’s not ideal because it limits the tray’s flexibility and adjustment range, as well as the use of its glide track to stow the keyboard under the desk (you can “pivot” it underneath, however, as part of the workaround).

Price: $227.64

Read our full review Buy on Amazon

11. 3M AKT60LE Adjustable Keyboard Tray

Experts’ Rating: 2.5-Stars

Tilt Range: -15° to +15°
Tray Dimensions: 25.5″ x 12″
Compatibility: 17” track not compatible with most standing desks (See “Compatibility” section above)
Warranty: Lifetime on arm, 5 years on platform, 1 year on gel wrist rest

Summary: A popular bargain choice keyboard tray that offers tilt, height adjustment, and a lifetime warranty on the arm, 3M’s AKT60LE Adjustable Keyboard Tray is a great choice… for anyone who can install it. If you have a standing desk, the 17” track will not fit (unless you turn the track sideways, which is not manufacturer recommended and could lead to unforeseen problems.) Also, it won’t accommodate larger keyboards and a mouse at the same time. For fixed-height desk users, this long-time staple of big box office supply stores is remarkably stable and a steal of a deal, though it lacks a separate mouse platform and other ergonomic enhancements you’ll find on pricier models.

Price: $98.55

Read our full review Buy on Amazon

12. Ergotron Neo-Flex Under Desk Keyboard Arm Review

Experts’ Rating: 1.5-Star

Tilt Range: up to -15°
Tray Dimensions: 26.93” x 8.9”
Compatibility: 17” track not compatible with most standing desks (See “Compatibility” section above)
Warranty: 3 years

Summary: The Neo-Flex is distinguished by its easy-attach mount. However, it still requires a track for optimal stability so standing desk installation becomes problematic. We also are not a fan of the “long” style of keyboard tray—we’d prefer a shorter tray with a separate mouse platform. A fatal design flaw is the tray’s inability to lock securely at the tilt angle you want.

Price: $124.99

Read our full review Buy on Ergotron

13. Seville Airlift 360 Keyboard Tray Review

Experts’ Rating: 1.5-Star

Tilt Range: 0° to +22°
Tray Dimensions: 25″ x 9.8″
Compatibility: 15.3″ track not compatible with many standing desks (See “Compatibility” section above)
Warranty: 1 year

Summary: From dimensions to features, Seville has numerous issues of consistency between what is advertised and what is sold. Most critically, it does not offer the claimed -22° of keyboard tilt. In fact it doesn’t offer ANY negative tilt, only a positive tilt (the wrong rotation range, useful only to gamers who lean way back in their chairs) and is therefore merely a sliding keyboard tray, not an “ergonomic” keyboard tray. It needs more space under a desk than it says on the website and in the manual, resulting in the tray poking out proud of the user edge of the desk a couple of inches when fully retracted (requiring re-installation to remedy, if you have the room under your desktop to do it). The sliding mechanism is extremely crude and stiff. The entire mechanism is extremely “floppy” and the tray droops on the left side with even moderate weight of the user’s arms resting on their keyboard.

Price: $54.99

Read our full review Buy on Amazon

Completing Your Ergonomic Workstation

Acquiring the best standing desk for your decor, budget and performance requirements is Step One. But making it a true ergonomic workstation involves adding the appropriate accessories you’ll need to keep your body in a correct posture, and have a neat and tidy setup. Check out our comprehensive guides to monitor arms, keyboard trays, anti-fatigue mats, ergonomic seats, cable management kits, power management modules, foot rests and under-desk treadmills for both expert advice and lab-tested product reviews of options in each of these categories.

Need more help? Read how to find your correct desk height, then check out 10 ways to improve your office ergonomics and answers to the most common standing desk questions.

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