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Car Laptop Mount - Choices for a mobile laptop setup

More and more people are mounting a laptop computer on a car steering wheel or dashboard. Laptop Car Mount, Notebook Mount and more recently Netbook Mount solutions are proliferating in the market. Of course, this immediately creates scary visions of distracted drivers. Needless to say these laptops mounted in the front of the car are supposed to be used only when the car is safely parked. The need for mounting laptops in a car is also increasing with many folks using their laptops or netbooks as the GPS device. Keeping the laptop on the passenger seat is not safe, and sometimes not possible.

Mounting a laptop in a vehicle is also very different from mounting a PDA or GPS style device in several ways. A laptop cannot be mounted on the dash or windshield because it blocks significant view. So, how to best mount a laptop in a car or a truck? There are several options while choosing laptop vehicle mounts:

Steering Wheel Mounts: A steering wheel mount usually snaps on the steering wheel of a car without too much assembly. A good feature is to be able to easily remove the mount and tuck it under the car seat while the laptop mount is not being used. A steering wheel mount will require that you don't have the laptop mounted while driving the car.

"No Drill" Laptop Mounts: These kinds of laptop mounts use the existing infrastructure of the car to get mounted. E.g. they use the existing seat bolts. May of these will allow the laptop to stay mounted while the car is being driven. Ability to mount a laptop in a car without drilling is key if you have multiple cars, or if you drive rentals etc. Good quality auto laptop mounts will come with ability to absorb damaging shock and vibrations. While choosing a suitable laptop mount for your car, make sure that the mounting mechanism is provided for exact model of your vehicle.

Mobile "Car Desks": These provide work surfaces to put laptop and accessories. Some of them have efficient slide-out design to save space and yet be useful when you need to spread out the work. Some even come with a built-in inverter to convert your car battery into a 110v source!

Using a laptop on a rear seat laptop tray is relatively straightforward. A back-seat based desk simply attaches to the back of the front seat. Be careful before using a general purpose back-seat tray - it may not be strong enough to hold the weight of your laptop.

Portable Mounts or Holders: If your objective is to use the laptop on a location (e.g. survey etc.), then consider getting a "tripod mount", this will enable you to setup shop anywhere you want. You can comfortably stand and work on your laptop, and get some fresh air as well. The key features to consider are weight of the laptop stand and its height adjustability. The stand should be rugged, and yet not very heavy. A heavy stand will of course be difficult to manage but also use extra gas from your car. The notebook stand should allow working on the notebook in both sitting and standing positions. Finally it should fold up well so as not to take significant space in your trunk.

If you would like to mount a desktop computer in your car, then consider getting a configuration that is optimized for a car setup. These usually have small, rugged PC enclosures designed to work in harsh environments. Many work with fan-less motherboards. Car mounting a Tablet PC can also be a good choice since they can be used without a keyboard and a mouse.

The other considerations to keep in mind while selecting a auto laptop mount: Does it come with some sort of a shield (perhaps a black cloth), which enables you to read the screen in bright daylight? Does it provide added support for the LCD screen, e.g. if you use the laptop as a GPS device? Does the mount cover any of the needed ports while the laptop is mounted in the car, e.g. serial ports or USB ports? A well designed laptop holder mount should leave gaps for any drives or ports that need access along the edge of the laptop. Sometimes size of a battery is a consideration as well - e.g. some netbook/mount combinations will work if a smaller 3-cell battery is being used, but won't work if a bigger 6-cell battery is being used. If you have a stick-shift car, you may want to make sure that the mount does not come in the way of the stick. Also, check how is the mount in relation to your beverage cup holder. Spilled soda does not jive well with laptops at all, unless you have a ruggedized laptop which is spill proof.

Theft prevention is another issue to consider. If you are going to leave the laptop in the vehicle while it is parked, consider getting a mount which allows for some sort of locking. You may also want to consider using the Kensington locking mechanism in place in most laptops.

If you want to car mount several devices at different times, e.g. a laptop and a PDA or a GPS device, you may want to consider a mounting solution, which accommodates all these devices. Some of the vendors/brands who offer solutions for mounting laptops in the cars include RAM Mounts (stands for "Round-A-Mount" - because of a design revolving around a rubber ball and socket design.) and Jotto Desk Car Mounts. Another factor to consider is aesthetics of the mount. Depending on whether you are mounting the laptop in a Hummer or a BMW M5 your choice for the mount may depend on its look and size.

The most important consideration while installing any type of apparatus, including laptop mounts, into a vehicle is Safety. Although many hardware manufacturers promote their products as being "airbag friendly" or "airbag compatible" the ultimate responsibility lies with the installer and/or end-user. To determine airbag deployment zones and the area recommended for equipment installation, refer to vehicle manufacturer's manual. Pay special attention to any security related information provided by the vendor of the laptop mount. Monitor the impact of vibrations of the moving car on the assembly of your laptop mount. Screws or assembly should not get loose from these vibrations. You do not want a falling or swinging mount in your car.

Since a laptop mounted in car will generally be subjected to more than normal physical stress, consider using a rugged computer.

With a well mounted laptop, you can convert your BMW or Toyota into a true mobile office. But do not drive your auto while looking at your laptop, as this will be a fast-lane to a hospital...

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