The Adjustable Standing Desk I Chose

I’ve wanted a height adjustable, sit / stand desk forever. Yes, literally, forever.

In 2012 I wrote an extensive survey of the sit/stand desk field of products and two years later when I still didn’t have a sit/stand desk I updated and expanded my already extensive survey.

Then I never told you about the desk I actually ended up with (thanks to my wonderful wife, Sheila). Well, I’m about to right that wrong.

I ended up purchasing a MultiTable ModTable. Yeah, that is a mouthful…and unfortunately, they don’t own the modtable domain, so go to multitable.com.

I chose to go with ModTable because

  1. Their prices are about as low as you can go for a real, true height adjustable desk.
  2. The reviews I found about the company’s desks were favorable.
  3. They offered a hand crank model.

Wait, I went with a hand crank model? Yup. I thought about going electric and while it was tempting I decided that a hand crank would probably last me many times longer.

This is my ModTable in sitting position.
This is my ModTable in sitting position. Click on the image to see a much larger image of the same.

The hand crank is a simple mechanical mechanism, unlikely to break – whereas electronic components almost always break down eventually. I have hopes that I’ll still be using this desk ten, even twenty years from now.

Because I want to be a hobo (of sorts) someday I went with a Medium top (24″ x 48″) so that it could fit into a travel trailer, etc. without too much trouble.

I splurged and bought a CPU holder ($100). I initially bought a Belkin keyboard and mouse tray through Amazon, but ran into some trouble getting it to adjust correctly (may have been a broken model or may have been my lack of mechanical skill) and returned it. I’ve planned on getting the keyboard/mouse tray from ModTable but just never got around to it.

Even if the Belkin had worked, it would have been a hack job. The metal crossbeam runs under the middle of the desk and most mouse/keyboard trays are made to have their track run vertically and the crossbeam sits firmly astride its desired path.

This is my ModTable in standing position. Note that it is still significantly lower than its maximum height [insert short joke here].
This is my ModTable in standing position. Note that it is still significantly lower than its maximum height [insert short joke here].

I did not buy the monitor arms. They were attractive but I opted instead for monitors that were height adjustable in and of themselves – which have worked out quite nicely.

I’m supremely happy with the table. The components all seem to be high quality. My only thoughts for improvement are as follows:

  1. Is the central crossbeam necessary? Could there be a model without it?
  2. The manual crank sticks out a bit and is easy to walk into. You can pull it out so that it isn’t in the way, but then you have to put it back in…which is a very minor annoyance, but if there was a way for the handle to fold under the unit, out of the way, that would be amazing.
  3. Could it go a little lower? I’m on the vertically challenged end of the spectrum and technically the height of the table top is still a little too high for me ergonomically….if I ever get around to getting the keyboard/mouse tray that will drop it to the correct height, but, still, it’d be nice to go down to say 25 in?

As far as any suggestions to those who may be considering buying a ModTable themselves, here are my thoughts:

  1. If you aren’t planning on living/working in tightly constrained quarters, splurge for the larger top size.
  2. Make sure to install the CPU holder far off to the side, otherwise you’ll be kicking it when you are sitting down.
  3. Splurge for the CPU holder and the keyboard/mouse tray off the bat.

Let me conclude by talking about expense. I’m used to owning used desks or pressed board desks – the kind you can pick up fairly inexpensively from Walmart, Target, or Ikea. ModTable is inexpensive compared to other height adjustable desks, but it is still expensive for those of us who frequent thrift stores for our furniture needs.

I heard (I think it was over at Lifehacker) that one should invest one’s money where one spends one time – which makes a lot of sense. Spend money on what you use most in life – a bed, a desk, a car, etc. For me and many like me, a desk is one of those things and the extra expense is worthwhile for our comfort as well as for our health.

Height-Adjustable (Sit/Stand) Desks.

Side of adjustable desk
Side of adjustable desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m very interested in acquiring a height-adjustable desk which allows one to go from sitting to standing and vice versa. There has been quite the buzz of late about the health benefits of standing while working as opposed to sitting…and I already find myself regularly shifting from location to location when I am able – from standing to sitting to lying and so on. In this article I’m going to provide an overview of the options available for height adjustable desks. Please let me know if you are aware of additional options I should include in this article and I’d also love to hear any feedback folks have on the desks they are using.

One site you’ll definitely want to visit during your purchasing process is Comfortable Computing. Be sure to check out their interactive tool “Workspace Planner” – it will help you decide what height you need your adjustable desk to be able to rise to. You might also want to visit JustStand which has a nifty calculator for determining how many calories per day you would burn from standing rather than sitting.

Multi Table

  • Features: 30 day return guarantee, 1 year warranty against defects, 5 years on steel.
  • ModTable – 27.5″ – 47″ height – $599 –  Available in various sizes, uses crank.
  • Mini Mod – 27.5″ – 47″ height – $599 – A smaller version of the ModTable, but since pricing is the same, not sure why you would ever buy one…unless you had a very small workspace.

UpDesk

  • Features: electric lift mechanism, 26.5″ to 42.5″, 1.25″ high pressure laminate desktop, 300 lb. weight capacity, each leg has own motor, 20 min. setup, 5 yr. warranty.
    • PowerUp Small – 48″ x 30″ – $899
    • PowerUp Medium – 60″ x 30″ – $949
    • PowerUp Large – 72″ x 30″ – $999
  • Features: manual lift mechanism, 26.5″ to 42.5″, 1.25″ high pressure laminate desktop, 225 lb. weight capacity, 5 turns per inch (precision), 20 min. setup, 5 yr. warranty.
    • CrankUp Small – 48″ x 30″ – $649
    • CrankUp Medium – 60″ x 30″ – $699
  • Offers a number of nice accessories as well.

GeekDesk

  • Features: 335 lb. weight capacity, 4 programmable presets, each leg has own motor, 1.1″/sec. lift speed, 23″ to 48.75″, 2 yr (motor) / 5 yr (frame) warranty.
    • Max Large – 78.75″ x 31.5″ or 63″ x 31.5″ – $985
    • Max Small – 47.25″ x 31.5″ – $949
  • Features: 28-35mm/sec. lift speed, 275 lb. weight capacity, 23″ to 48.75″, 2 yr (motor) / 5 yr (frame) warranty, each leg has own motor.
    • GeekDesk v3 Large – 78.75″ x 31.5″ or 63″ x 31.5″ – $799
    • GeekDesk v3 Small – 47.25″ x 31.5″ – $749

NextDesk

  • Notes: These guys are expensive. I think they are going for the “Apple” of height adjustable tables.
  • Terra – 63″ x 31.5″ – $1497
  • Air – 63″ x 31.5″ – $2178
  • Solo – 30″ x 24″ – $897

LifeDesk

  •  Features: 22″-48″,  275 lb. weight capacity, 1.1″/sec. lift speed.
  • 24″x48″ – $875.
  • 24″x60″ – $925.
  • 24″x72″ – $975.

VersaTables

  • Features: Lifetime warranty (on material defects), 30 day full refund return period, free shipping.
  • Height Adjustable Crank Table – $600 – 27″ – 40.5″
  • Deluxe Height Adjustable Computer Table – $310 – Height begins at 24″, a number of variations available. Appears to be a little difficult to adjust – not crank or electronic.
  • Edison Electric Table – $830 – Electric height adjustment, up to 50″ tall, available in 36″, 48″, 60″, and 72″ widths.
  • Split Level Adjustable Computer Table – $400 – Available in various sizes, uses grommets for adjusting height.
  • Versa Center – $300 – Available in various sizes, doesn’t appear to use crank or electronic adjustment for height.
  • Adjustable Wall Mount Computer Station – $280 – This looks very interesting, but it concerns me that it appears to support only one monitor.
  • Deluxe Electric Life Wall Mount Computer – $700 – The name is a bit of a misnomer – it is a station, not the computer itself. Again, appears to only support one monitor.

Safco

  • Offers a number of models, many are standing desks of fixed height. I like lots of leg room and these don’t have it, but some might like them – they have extra shelving.
  • Muv 28″ Adjustable Height Workstation – $448 – 29″ – 34″ height.
  • Muv 35″ Adjustable Height Workstation – $479 – 29″ – 34″ height.
  • Muv Stand-up Adjustable Height Workstation – $505 – 35″ – 49″ height.

ConSet

  • Starts around $1400 for a complete table, though you can also purchase just the bases for around $700. Has a decent variety of options including some wall-mount options.

Idea at Work

  • Creates the Proliftix line, the electric version starts at $924 and the crank version at $760. They can be purchased from The Human Solution.

Anthro Technology Furniture

  • Elevate II – 28″ – 47″, electric, $1300.
  • Elevate Adjusta – 27″ – 53″, electric, $2850.
  • Elevate Corner – 27″ – 53″, electric, $4930.
  • Elevate Wrap – 27″ – 53″, electric, $3100.
  • Elevate Single – 27″ – 53″, electric, $2380.
  • Fit Adjusta – Pricing starts at $829, only goes up to 31.25″.
  • Fit Console – Pricing starts at $1179, only goes up to 31.25″.

Others

  • Humanscale – Starts at around $1800 for their “Float” desk.
  • AFC Industries Inc. – Offers what looks like professional office furniture that is height adjustable.
  • Haworth – Available through Crate and Barrel for $299. Very inexpensive, but see reviews on Crate and Barrel site for downsides. Also sells an electric table for $1390 available from Sit4Less.
  • Steelcase – Sells the Airtouch, which is priced around $1500.
  • Biomorph – Sells several different models beginning at $995.
  • Workrite Ergonomics – Makes the Sierra HX Electric which starts at $1300, also sells the Proliftix Electric and hand crank in both Sierra and Proliftix. You can purchase from The Human Solution.
  • UpLift – Available via The Human Solution. Numerous different models available, the Uplift 445 starting at $749.
  • Right Angle Products – A variety of options, not clear on pricing.
  • Relax the Back – Offers the Sit to Stand Desk starting at $1600+.
  • Soma Ergonomics – Start at $1000+ and go up from there.
  • Gilbraltar – Sells bases for adjustable height desks. Pricing appears reasonable ($400+/-) but only go up to 39.5″. Can be purchased through Kitchensource.
  • SiS – Sells several adjustable height desks, unfortunately they are pretty expensive ($1500+).
  • Cotytech – Sells several adjustable height desks, including a laptop desk that can go up to 41.9″ and costs $264.
  • Alvin Professional Table – Looks to be a drafting table, available via Walmart, it ranges from 29″ – 45″. May be a bit of a pain to adjust, but the price starts at $199.
  • Mayline – Starts at $3000 for most height adjustable desks. The Soho Adjustable Mobile Computer Table is available from Walmart for $350 and goes from 14″ – 48″.
  • Reo-Smart – Makes several height adjustable workstations, unfortunately they only go up to 37.8″ but the prices start aroudn $570.
  • Jesper Office – Their “value” desk starts at $1450.
  • Dania Furniture – Offers a desk for $1100, adjusts up to 52″.
  • KareProducts.
  • ErgoTron.
  • Wood Craft of Michigan.

Modify Existing Desk

  • Desktop Elevator – Fits onto existing desk, starts at $829.
  • AdjustDesk – These fit on an existing desk, starting at $499. Known as the “Kangaroo.”
  • Health Postures – Offers units that are placed on top of existing desk.

Considerations

  • Is electric better than crank? In my opinion, it may be better to get a crank unit (which is cheaper) as mechanical parts tend to last longer than electronic components. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dead electronic table five years down the road, but I’d hope the manufacturing quality would allow a crank table to be usable twenty years later.
  • How high and how low does my desk need to go?Comfortable Computing has a great calculator that uses your height to determine how high your desk should be when sitting and when standing.

My Finalists

  • ModTable – There are cheaper options available, but this appears to be the lowest priced high-end height adjustable desk I could find. I’m interested in their $599 crank unit. Currently they have some tops on clearance (snow white) for which there isn’t an extra charge…I’d go with that if I buy one. The one downside I see to these units is their minimum height of 27.5″. According to Comfortable Computing when sitting I should be using a keyboard at 25.5″ – so in sitting, I won’t be ergonomically correct. I could fix this by affixing a keyboard try underneath the desk which would probably bring the level down 1-2″.
  • UpDesk – Another attractive option which offers a lower minimum height (26.5″, but still too high for me) and on the negative a lower maximum height (42.5″, which is enough for me). The unit is around $100 more expensive than the ModTable.
  • GeekDesk – I must admit a certain attraction to GeekDesk due to their popularity and their cool name…but the product is also solid. The cost is around $800, but the unit is electrically powered and it goes as low as 23 in. and as high as 49 in. – that seems about perfect to me for height minimum and maximum. On the downside, expect to pay $125 for S&H!
  • VersaTables – The VersaTables are attractive b/c of price ($599), but both their minimum height (27″) and maximum height (40.5″) is disappointing.

Conclusion

At this juncture I’m divided. I’d really like a hand-crank table (more reliability) but also think the min. and max. heights on the GeekDesk are the best. I’m leaning slightly towards ModTable b/c of the lower price and the hand-crank, but I’m still up in the air. What do you think? Are there other options I should be consulting? Other factors I should be considering?

Appendix A. Sore Feet/Legs

I’ve transitioned into the full-time pastorate and stand at my desk as often as possible (I have a no-name drafting table right now) and sometimes my feet hurt from doing so. Here are a few articles I found that address this issue that others may find helpful as well.

Bibliography

Mobile Computer Laptop Table (and Exercise Desk)

UPDATE: Back to the drawing board. After using it for a few days I placed my laptop on the desk and it promptly flipped! So…I’ll see if anyone wants the desk and start over again. 😛

I recently decided I wanted to ride my stationary recumbent bike to get in shape, but as always hate exercising. Its not the physical activity that bothers me but rather the inability to accomplish other tasks at the same time. So, I built myself a “prototype” desk out of boxes, pillows (yes, pillows), and an old bunk bed ladder. It worked marvelously. I was riding my bike most days for two hours a day and accomplishing a lot to boot.

Now it was time to build something more permanent. I went to Lowes and shopped around but didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so I began surfing Amazon for a pre-built product. Finally I stumbled upon Office Furniture in a Flash’s Angle and Height Adjustable Mobile Laptop Computer, which was being sold through CSN Stores. The price was right ($32 + S&H) for what was originally a “$199” piece of furniture. I bit – $40 and a few days later the desk arrived…

Unfortunately, I’m not as impressed with it after assembly as I was when I saw it on Amazon’s site. Here are the main issues I encountered:

Two of the knobs broke during assembly. These knobs are used to regular the height and width of the table. In attempting to tighten them the heads came off two of them. Underneath was a normal screw, unfortunately the slots for a screw driver had been filled in – so I had to pry them out slowly and painstakingly.

The larger wood panel (for the table) isn’t entirely stable. The knob doesn’t seem to be enough and placing one’s weight on the table causes the table to rotate down – a very bad thing with a laptop sitting on it. I think they probably needed to have two or three holes for knobs on this larger arm…

The soldering job doesn’t look like a $200 dollar job. There are gobs of solder around various joints and gaps where there isn’t any solder at all.

  • The wrist wrests are not large enough…and because you can’t really put weight on the table, fairly useless.

After assembling, I found the two pieces of wood seemed to be crooked. I attempted adjusting the screws to make sure everything was straight, but they still were crooked. Ohh well, I moved them further apart and it isn’t noticeable.

In addition to these design and manufacturing flaws I ran into additional issues due to my unique use case – which I don’t place upon the manufacturer, rather they are inherent to my usage. Particularly, it took me a long way to figure out how to get the table to stand over the recumbent at a reasonable distance without constantly banging my feet into one of the support posts.

Additionally, I find that the unit shakes a lot when I am riding. This is probably because the support posts are close to the recumbent and the floor is bouncing which in turn causes the table to bounce. It isn’t unworkable,  but certainly a tad annoying. This isn’t a problem if the legs (as in my prototype table) are further away from the recumbent – as it seems the bouncing decreases and its impact is reduced over distance.

Overall, I’m unhappy with the quality of manufacturing – but the price was decent. I think I’ll probably end up building or finding something different in the long run. I thought about returning it but it was $9 in shipping and I would have to pay for the returning shipping as well. By the time everything was said and done I’d only be getting $20 back and CSN Stores policies say they don’t accept returns of assembled products.

For those who would like to build a similar desk for themselves, here are a few photos of the end working product and a few tips I found to be useful….

Note that I removed the wheels off the stabilization bar, this lowered the height of the bars – otherwise they kept banging with the pedals.

It took quite a while to figure out how to get the table constructed in such a way as to allow the bar to be far enough from my feet while also ensuring the desk was over the bike rather than to the left/right of it and so that the desk was not too near/far. This is what I ended up going with.

If I was buying a new desk and didn’t already have a recumbent bike, I’d certainly consider FitDesk. The price total is around the same as I paid for my recumbent and desk combined. I haven’t had a chance to use one, so I can’t comment for certainty…