11.6" MBA Ergonomics

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Mr. Glass, Jan 1, 2011.

  1. Mr. Glass macrumors member

    Jan 3, 2007
    Hello Everyone,

    After lots of saving, I just purchased an 11.6" MBA earlier this week and have been really loving it.

    The only trouble is, compared to my previous 12.1" netbook (Lenovo S12 ion) and even the netbook that I had prior to that (10" Lenovo S10), I feel that the 11.6" MBA is so slim that it may be putting strain on my neck and back.

    I like to use it in different areas of the house, so I would rather not be "tethered" to an external monitor, but was wondering if anyone else is experiencing this issue and has come up with a workaround.

    I have thought about some kind of lap desk or ergonomic stand. Any recommendations in this area?


  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    I do not understand your problem; why would the MBA being "slim" strain your neck and back? If the screen size is the problem, you need a bigger screen.

    Not trolling here, just genuinely confused.
  3. reddirt14 macrumors newbie

    Dec 21, 2007
    I think a lot of us went through the same debate and it depends on how you are going to use it. There are a lot of different scenarios, but the one that applies to me is that this my first Mac, so I have no other home base station (Apple) to use. The 11.6" is a focussed tool (for me). It is the ultimate device for an airplane and pretty good for travel in general. The 13" certainly is not as good on a plane, however the 13" offers a noticeably bigger screen. I read a lot of vertical type documents (Word) and web pages tend to be oriented from top to bottom. So the long but short screen is a difficult for me. The 13" proved to offer a very light package that slips easily into my bag, albeit bigger (noticeably) than the 11.6". For my first and only Mac, this was the right choice for me. If I had another Mac at home (either a MBP or a full size machine) I could have easily gone with the 11.6" machine and been quite happy using it on the road, while having a bigger screen and more power for home use. As it is, the 13" model does a decent job at a lot of things I like it. As a point of reference, I'm on a plane about 100 times a year. Now a days I don't do as much with my laptop while at an office or in the hotel (mainly 1-2 night stays at most). So the 11.6" machine is a logical option, but I find the 13" size to not be much of a detriment for travel and an obvious advantage for work efficiency.

    Overall the experience with Apple has been amazing. I saw the difference quickly and I expect I will add to my Apple collection in the coming years. The MBA is what finally brought me in the door.
  4. Mr. Glass thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 3, 2007
    Thank you for your replies!

    I think that the section of screen I most commonly look at when typing and browsing is lower than I am used to, so I have to tilt my head down further (neck pain) and sometimes find myself slouching significantly (back pain) to get more eye level with the screen.

    I can understand this when compared to my 12.1" netbook as it's alot chunkier than my MBA and sits higher, however what trips me up is that I don't remember having this problem with my puny 10" netbook.

    (Note: For perspective, I am in my mid-20's and have no chronic back or neck issues.)
  5. hfg macrumors 68040


    Dec 1, 2006
    Cedar Rapids, IA. USA
    All small notebook computers are notorious for causing bad posture positions when using them. Either you can have the display positioned properly, or you can have the keyboard positioned properly ... but not both at the same time! Using the computer when on a couch or recliner just makes it worse.

    At home you can improve the situation by having an external display at eye level, or raise the notebook computer for optimum viewing and use an external keyboard and mouse at table level. For couch surfing, I find a laptop support or handy pillow/cushion a good compromise, and often use a small bluetooth mouse on my leg or couch arm (the Apple Magic Mouse is great for this) since in this situation I usually don't do a lot of typing, but mostly use the mouse. Having page-navigation buttons, or gesture capability on the mouse is a real advantage. For most web browsing I can use the mouse for just about everything.

    With my tired old eyes, I find the 11.6" display difficult to read if it is actually placed on my lap, it is simply too far away from my eyes! So I always use a inexpensive foam lightweight "lap desk" (Belkin I think, from Staples) to raise the MB Air up closer to eye level. Works great, and I can simply look over the top to see the TV.

  6. peapody macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2007
    San Francisco, CA
    Sitting on the couch right now - straining my neck to look down at the screen =/
  7. jace88 macrumors regular


    Jan 3, 2011
    Sydney, Australia
    I was going to say try putting a telephone directory or thick book to increase the height, or better yet, use an external monitor if possible. That being said I do agree that the smaller size/screen does cause bad posture so I try to make sure I don't sit in the same position too long and that I go for walks regularly.
  8. Rooskibar03 macrumors 65816


    Feb 5, 2007
    State of Denial
    Why not get a small adjustable laptop desk stand to use when you're sitting at a desk?

    If I was at home I'd take a picture of mine, perhaps tonight. I use it with a BT keyboard and it makes working on the computer much easier.
  9. MXSkier62 macrumors regular

    Dec 4, 2006
    Is this conversation really happening?

    Strained neck/back from a laptop? I can understand an iPad (I guess...) because you have to hold it and be looking generally "down at the floor" to easily use it. But a laptop is a laptop.

    Please don't take this as an insult, but if you're neck/back is strained from using a laptop, then there is something else wrong - it's not the laptops fault. Just saying...
  10. Allan in T.Dot macrumors member

    Jul 14, 2010
    Hi all,

    I AM an Ergonomist so I'll answer this question properly.

    MXSkier62 is right, it's not the laptop's fault. It's not DESIGNED for sustained periods of computing - that's why it comes with various ports for hooking up monitors and peripherals. There is NO such thing as a proper ergonomic setup with a laptop without the use of peripheries. If for some reason you thought the use of a stand will help, it will very likely lead to a strain somewhere else in your posture, either at the wrists, elbows, and/or shoulders.

    That being said Mr. Glass, if you're spending a lot of computing time, do so at a desk with the laptop tethered to a monitor and with a wired/wireless keyboard and mouse - too bad. However, if you have pain in the neck from short periods (<30 minutes) of computing on your lap, you likely have underlying issues at work that need to be addressed by a family physician and/or physiotherapist. Let's not even go any further beyond this medically.

    Hope that helps.
  11. peapody macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2007
    San Francisco, CA

    I will have to disagree with this.

    I have no underlying medical conditions that include strained back or neck, and yet when I use my 11" for extended periods of time on the couch, I get pain. The screen is simply so small that you have to bend over to get a better look at it. I also use my 15" mbp on the couch a lot because it is my primary machine with all my files...and that machine causes no strain whatsoever. The screen fills my vision.

    I also own an iPad. With an iPad I can change positions frequently to find a comfortable one, I can lean the iPad up on the arm rest, I can do certain things to change the angle of the screen to relieve back and neck strain from looking own. With a mba I cannot because it just sits on the lap. While true it may not be the laptops fault, nevertheless, it is a cause of strain.

    I can only report what I experience, and I have extensive experience with an 11" mba, 15" mbp, and an iPad - all on the couch especially since I have been under the weather this week.

    ps...what is an ergonomist? Do you have a degree? or qualifications? Just wondering.
  12. silverblack, Jan 7, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2011

    silverblack macrumors 68030


    Nov 27, 2007

    You guys made it sounds like Apple is trying to scam you by giving you a small screen on the MBA. Guess what, they are called the "11-inch MacBook Air" and "13-inch MacBook Air". If you don't like the small screens - DON'T buy them.

    I am not an Apple fanboy. I just can't stand it when people complain about a product's obvious characteristics. If you buy a small car, don't expect it to hold a sofa. Don't go complain how it doesn't do something this it is NOT supposed to do.

    MBA is all about portability. Guess what... it has a SMALL SCREEN. All ultraportables do, not just Apple's. If you can't live with that, go buy something else.

    For those that are have neck strain, and browsing the web alot, try increase the font size (command +). The native font size is small, and you might have unintentionally extend/draw your neck toward the screen. This often causes the neck strain.
  13. gglockner macrumors 6502


    Nov 25, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    Actually, I just traded my mid-2009 MBA for the 11-inch late-2010 MBA. Of course I know the screen is smaller. But somehow the keyboard feels more cramped. I'm a very fast typist, and it seems that the natural position for touch typing on the 11" MBA puts my wrists at more of an angle than the 13" model. Perhaps I'm imagining it. It's only an issue when I'm away from my desk, where I have a full mouse, keyboard and monitor.
  14. peapody macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2007
    San Francisco, CA
    Wow...take it easy buddy. I think you are really getting yourself worked up over conversation.

    The thread was written, and replies were given based on experiences. Who is complaining?

    Somehow I don't believe you. Go take a breather.
  15. silverblack macrumors 68030


    Nov 27, 2007
    Alright, probably too much coffee in the morning, ... or not enough...

    But seriously, neck strain because the screen is a couple of inches shorter vertically? :rolleyes:
  16. sunrisemusic macrumors member

    Dec 18, 2010
    I think it also depends on your particular eyesight. I'm longsighted and I'm finding that by keeping my 11" further away from me - around arm's length or a little further, I don't get eyestrain (I had been getting it a little when I first got the air by being too close to it, though for me that was more due to the more intense contrast compared to my white macbook, than the actual font size, (which for web browsing I always increase anyway).
  17. Buck987 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 16, 2010
    agree on the angle of the wrists being somewhat of an issue for long periods...
  18. Bakari45 macrumors regular

    Jun 17, 2010
    Enlarge the size of the text you’re reading. It’s easy to use the pinch gestures to enlarge text while web browsing.
  19. 2IS macrumors 68030

    Jan 9, 2011
    So you think he's lying?
  20. firewood macrumors 604

    Jul 29, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    If the top of the MBA 11 screen is an inch or so too low for you, put your MBA on top of a book or folded sweater or something, and the display will be at the same height as an MBP 13 or 15.

    All notebooks have bad ergonometrics; but the MBA 11's lightness tempts people to use it in even worse physical settings.

    A large flatscreen monitor just over the top of the MBA 11 might be more suitable ergonometrically for a lot of taller people, but wouldn't be anywhere near as portable.
  21. baxingo macrumors member

    Jan 3, 2011
    It really just depends the way you hold the laptop, don't put it on a desk that is to short that you need to bend your neck downwards. I had the same problem with a 17" MSI laptop about a year ago, My neck hurt from looking down at it, so i just moved it up on to something taller so it was more eye level. Its not the MBA's fault, its just where and how you're sitting.
  22. tacstacs macrumors newbie


    Nov 27, 2015
    I'm so glad I saw this post! I'm having a hard time with my neck from my new Ipad. There's no way i can keep it. I'm going to try the MBA 13". My daughter has the MBA 11", I love that, but it may not be a good fit for me. I find my head and eyes shifting downward on the Ipad and it's cumbersome to keep trying to adjust the height. Similar with the MBA 11".

    I do already have neck and back issues and have to find a great fit. I have to sit in a recliner with legs outward. I didn't want to continue with a laptop and thought an Ipad was the answer. It wasn't. can't hold it for too long and have to place on lap but in landscape upright position. Would need a case that was sturdy to hold it upright at a height my neck wouldn't have to bend or eyes drawing downward.

    I'm not complaining and yes, I know 11" models are made to be compact, I'm just stating my facts, what works and do not work for me. I'm happy to see this thread and thank you for starting it.

    For people with medical issues these things are important and you don't realize there may be issues until you've tried them.

    Reading about the MBA 11" wrist position and shortened height has helped me to try the 13".
    Thank you to the posters for their inputs!
  23. Mr. Thompson macrumors member

    Jun 1, 2009
    I have severe upper back and neck issues from years of being the athletic tough guy using what was available at the work place. I retired due to this. My preferred laptop is the current maxed out 11" Air. I also use a maxed out 15" RP and a couple of others. The key is to get the display and key board at a comfortable position. Grab a Gopro and video yourself while using your computer. Any ergonomic issues should be obvious. If you are leaning forward to see the 11" screen, increase the text size and use full screen applications.
  24. jmoore5196, Dec 2, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2015

    jmoore5196 macrumors 6502a


    May 19, 2009
    Midwest US
    I sometimes get a naking aeck ... uh, aching neck ... from trying to do detailed InDesign work on my 11" MBA. I also have scoliosis, so I'm usually in pain somewhere else. I often have to decide whether to take my 11" MBA or my larger and heavier 15" rMBP on trips. Still, I could not imagine doing without the MBA; the portability of that little machine is without parallel.

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