There is no universal definition of a “beginner” harp. Such labels can be very misleading. Some may assign the definition of a “beginner” instrument to mean small, toy, cheap or inferior, but if you are a beginner on harp, is this really the sort of product you want to learn to play on?
After all, most students who are “beginning” to play the piano do not usually seek out an inferior piano to play on, as such choice can easily discourage or prevent achievement.
A harp of any size needs to have proper string spacing and string tension, and a good sound for its size. It also needs levers that actually work. If you have researched harps online and found a “beginner harp,” chances are that this “beginner harp” may have none of the above requirements. Lots of research, coupled with questions about the product, is always advisable.
A lap harp is not a beginner harp, or a good child’s harp just because it is small. If possible, children should learn on a floor harp, so they can sit at the harp using correct posture, and learn to play without the issues of “holding the harp.” Adults can learn on a floor harp or a lap harp, but a floor harp will always be easier in the beginning. A lap or small harp may be great for travel and portability, but lap harps are seldom user-friendly compared to a larger floor harp. Small harps must be kept in place while also learning to play. For a beginner, this is just one more issue thrown into the mix, and something to be avoided if at all possible.