The Best Standing Desk
Standing desks either work or they don't. After meeting a baseline of quality construction and functionality (stability, smooth transitions, etc.), it's all about taste. We started by testing nine of the most popular standing desk models for function, and then focused on form. Our top picks nailed the basics, but our winner was by far the prettiest of the bunch.
A striking bamboo-topped desk with a solid frame; it's easy to put together, with models ranging from $435 to over $1,000 depending on size and custom features.
Up Lift Desk Height Adjustable Stand Desk
Wobblier than the Jarvis, but more customizable and slightly quieter. Like the Jarvis, the Uplift starts at $495 and runs north of $1000 depending on features.
The Apex offers a roomy, executive-sized desk for $600, versus similar models from Fully Jarvis and Uplift at $700. Not as finely crafted, but good if you just want space.
The Stand Up Desk
This narrow desk uses a hand-crank rather than a motor, but has a split-level design to encourage good keyboard posture. Retails for $330.
- Sept. 26, 2017: We’ve updated our review to look at four additional desks that are popular on Amazon: the ApexDesk, the Stand Up Desk, the Bush Adjustable Height Desk, and the RiseUp Desk. Our methodology and top picks have been updated to reflect these additions, and we removed one former pick, the Ikea Bekant, that didn’t hold up to the competition.
We also took a look at the latest model of the Uplift, our original runner-up. We’ve incorporated these new testing details into the review, but our verdict remains the same: It’s very similar to the Jarvis but couldn’t steal the throne.
The Best Standing Desk
Other than in bed, the place people spend most of their time is at their desks. It's worth it to find one you love.
Our top pick is Fully's Jarvis, an incredibly sturdy and surprisingly elegant adjustable desk that looks more like furniture than an office fixture. It has great range — suitable for people up to 6 feet 7 inches — and you can customize it to your exact specifications. We’re partial to the bamboo top, but there are more than 12 other styles to choose from, along with add-on accessories like wheels, grommets, cable management, and more. Our only warning: Those add-ons can add up quick, suddenly taking a $435 desk past the $1,000 mark.
The Uplift Desk Height Adjustable Stand Desk was a close second (it’s just so similar to the Jarvis, how could it not?). It’s not quite as rock-solid as the Jarvis at its max height, so if you’re taller than average, we don’t recommend it. That said, its motor is quieter, and it comes with a slightly more expansive range of desktop options, customizations, and add-ons. At the end you’ll have a similar price tag to the Jarvis — plus, the company includes a free gel-foam standing mat with your order.
For a roomy workspace that skips the extras, we liked the ApexDesk. This executive-sized 71-inch by 33-inch desk is $600 — that’s $100 cheaper than similar models from Fully Jarvis and Uplift. It’s made of fiberboard rather than bamboo, so it looks more utilitarian, and it doesn’t offer customization beyond a handful of desktop colors. But it’s quiet, steady, and easy to adjust.
The Stand Up Desk is our only pick to rely on a hand crank rather than a motor, which makes raising and lowering it more effortful. The two-tier design allows you to set keyboard and monitor on separate levels as a way to encourage good posture, but the resulting narrow workspace isn’t good for people who like to spread out. It’s also wobblier than our other picks thanks to its casters. Still, for $330, we were impressed.
How We Found the Best Standing Desk
We started by looking at 71 adjustable-height desks — ones that we could adapt from sitting to standing and back again with either an electric motor, hydraulic lever, or manual crank. We didn’t look at fixed-height desks, which are designed to set and forget in one standing position, or conversion desks, which you place on top of your existing workspace and raise to accommodate standing (a simple, economical solution, but not really a desk desk).
To start narrowing the pool, we checked out max height.
Our Tester Our tester is 5 feet 10 inches tall (close to 6 feet 3 inches in her highest pair of heels) and was able to work comfortably at all the desks we tested without reaching their highest standing settings.
We wanted desks that could accommodate a wide variety of body types, so we looked for models that could reach at least 48 inches, with a 20-inch sit-to-stand range, which is ergonomically okay for folks up to about 6 feet 7 inches.
And looked for great warranties.
A standing desk can be a major expense, especially for companies looking to furnish their offices — one desk is typically between $500 and $1,500, but a one-of-a-kind desk from Uplift’s Artisan series is nearly $4,000. So we avoided any companies that didn’t offer a warranty on frame and electronics.
Most of the brands we evaluated were quite generous, offering warranties of at least five years, with many extending up to 10. The Mayline VariTask, for instance, offers a lifetime warranty on the frame, and 10 years on its electronics. The Ikea Bekant warranty covers 10 years, for both the frame and electronics. Uplift and Jarvis offer the next best warranties, covering seven years for frame and electronics on a wide range of models. But as price comes down, expect warranty coverage to decrease, with the RiseUp covering just two years, and the budget Stand Up Desk offering free replacement parts “as long as the desk is still being supplied to us and we can find your original order in our system.”
Then we put them to the test.
The 13 models that we selected were:
- Fully Jarvis Adjustable Height Desk
- Ikea Bekant
- Mayline VariTask
- NewHeights Elegante
- NextDesk Encore
- Rebel Desk Rebel Up 2000 Standing Desk
- UpDesk Ultra UpWrite
- Uplift Height Adjustable Desk
- The Stand Up Desk
- Apex Desk
- Bush Height Adjustable Standing Desk
- RiseUp Desk
With our list set, we had them shipped to our office to try out. Picking the best was, surprisingly, pretty easy.
We made sure the desks weren't too difficult to assemble.
We’re gonna be honest: Most of them posed challenges. Three of the 13 were missing nuts, bolts, or assembly tools. Six had missing or misaligned pilot holes. Power tools solved the second problem, and all the companies we spoke with were apologetic and quick to send replacement parts. But we’d suggest assembling your desk when you’re not crunched for time.
The NewHeights Elegante was the most painful. One power drill and nearly two hours later, its end result was underwhelming: some of the screws’ grooves were filled with a mysterious glue, making them impossible to use, and we ended up with a wobbly $1,400 desk. The UpDesk Ultra UpWrite, by comparison, took just 40 minutes for an inexperienced desk assembler to put together.
Assembling the motorized standing desks, including the NewHeights Elegante model shown above, involved a lot of wire management and control module installation.
And we took each desk for a test drive.
Once the desks were assembled, we filled cups of coffee and water to brimming, and set about testing wobble factor, along with mode and convenience of conversion — speed, noise, and smoothness.
At this stage, we immediately crossed off the NextDesk: Its motor was by far the noisiest, and the desk wobbled during conversion. Adjusting this one from sitting to standing several times per hour — as experts recommend — is definitely annoying. Colleagues in our office looked up from their work, distracted by the noise, even over the office’s fan and background music.
The NextDesk’s motor was the loudest among our contenders, out-whining our top pick by nearly 10 decibels.
The rising actions of the Rebel Desk and the Stand Up Desk were the jerkiest. Their hand cranks made our testers’ monitor and coffee shake as if it were in a 3.5 earthquake, a disincentive against converting your desk often — and a major drawback when that’s the whole point. But the Stand Up Desk, at least, atoned by offering a lower price than we could find anywhere else ($330), while the Rebel Desk started in the same $500 range as the fully automated Jarvis.
The Rebel’s conversion speed depends on how fast you can operate the hand crank, a fact that (naturally) lends itself to some in-office racing.
We should say now: aesthetics were hard to ignore (the Jarvis was just so beautiful), but the majority of the desks we tested come with seemingly limitless options in style, size, shape, and accessories that you build into your dream desk. For many brands, you can even buy the frame and mechanical components alone, and pop on your own desktop. (Going this DIY route can save you anywhere from 50 to a couple hundred bucks, which is a great option if you have a desktop you love already.)
Finding the best standing desk is about stability and ease of use first, and we prioritized that. But looks are important — you want to love it! — so we definitely took them into account.
Our Picks for Best Standing Desk
The Fully Jarvis Bamboo Adjustable Height Desk was a standout from the moment it arrived. Its contour shape and bamboo top immediately inspired sighs of, “Ooh, that one.” And that was even before setting up the workstation to begin testing. We were happy to discover the Jarvis desk met our requirements for a great workspace: a desktop practical in shape and size, as well as solid, sturdy construction. Cruising at 1.5 inches per second, it also features one of the smoothest, quietest, and fastest conversions — although on the way down there is a quiet mechanical “thudding” sound that isn’t there on the way up.
The contoured front edge features a bevel, which besides being attractive, makes working more comfortable. That contour follows the curve of your body and allows you to comfortably reach more of your desktop — it practically tucks you into your work space — and the bevel is an appealing resting spot for your forearms. Both of these are design nuances that makes the $20 increase from a plain rectangle version absolutely worth it. (It’s worth noting that runner-up Uplift offers a contour option as well, and it’s a standard feature on two of our other picks, the UpDesk Ultra UpWrite and the Apex Desk.)
Starting at $515, the bamboo contoured top is tied with the powdercoated finish for the most economical Jarvis option, and is available in three sizes, starting at four feet wide and leveling up to almost six feet. We tested the mid-size version, a five footer, that we thought was perfect: big enough for two widescreen monitors with room to spare. By contrast, its four-foot laminate top starts at $460 and its hardwood at $1,050. (Why anyone would want to pay more for laminate than bamboo bewildered us, too.) That price feels right. Its most comparable competitor, UpLift, prices its contoured bamboo top to match Jarvis dollar-for-dollar, but another contender, Evodesk, comes in at a walloping $250 more — and it doesn’t even offer a contour!
We were instant fans of the Jarvis’ contour shape and beveled edge.
This bamboo is gorgeous: rich and lustrous, and glossier to the touch compared to some of the grainier bamboo options we tested from Uplift and Nextdesk. Its frame is solid steel, with three options (black, silver, and white), and it can support upwards of 350 pounds — go ahead and pile on some books! They aren’t going anywhere.
Like we mentioned, standing desk companies offer a huge range of customizations — you essentially build your desk to your specifications online, and then it arrives on your doorstep, ready to be assembled. Jarvis is no different: it walks you through desk shape, frame color, and size, tallying up your price as you go. A power grommet that you can plug a computer into will add $70 to your total. The “programmable memory” handset that shows you a digital readout of your desk height and allows you to lock in four preferred height settings (sitting, standing in flats, standing in kitten heels, standing in stilettos, for example) will add another $35.
Other add-ons include locking casters, a pencil tray, monitor arm, wire management, and CPU holder. You can pick-and-choose what you like. Our Jarvis dream desk — a five-foot, contoured top with two cable pass-throughs and a programmable handset — would be about $725. It’s certainly not cheap, but when you factor in the seven-year warranty and gracious customer service (we had a shipping issue with our order, which was handled immediately by Jarvis’ Hayley and Jen), it feels like you’re getting your money’s worth. We also love that the environmentally conscious company, based out of Portland, Oregon, seems like they know how to have some fun.
A Close Runner-Up
Testing the Uplift’s Sit Stand Desk after the Jarvis felt a little like deja vu. Bamboo top: check. Programmable handset with four presets: check. Pretty much the exact same add-ons, price, and variety of desk options: check, check, check.
We tested the Uplift’s rectangular bamboo desk, as opposed to its contoured version, but at a glance, you would have thought it was the same desk.
Using it was where some of the differences came in. It was one of the sturdiest desks we tested in the sitting position, but at max height (50.5 inches), you’ll feel some wobble, especially compared to the Jarvis, which is rock solid. This was especially disappointing for the Uplift considering it’s a C-frame (as opposed to a T-frame), a design that is supposed to offer more stability. Its bamboo was also a little rougher to the touch. That said, the motor is a bit quieter than the Jarvis, and the desk does adjust smoothly.
Left: the Rebel hand-crank desk. Right: the much-smoother Uplift.
Another perk: Your desk comes with an 18-by-30-inch gel-foam mat to stand on, which we loved — almost as much as the coozie it also included. The mat made working while standing significantly more comfortable. We’re certain most people who stand at their desks will eventually want one of these, and they can cost over $100. Getting it for free is not nothing, but if you already have one, you can select a free pair of under-desk hooks, or a four-port USB hub instead. We applaud your great gifts, Uplift, but ultimately our hearts are with Fully.
Best Large Desk on a Budget
The ApexDesk Elite isn’t anywhere near as luxurious as the Fully Jarvis or the Uplift; it’s a piece of office furniture, not something you’d necessarily want to display in the living room. But we found its 71-inch by 33-inch contoured desktop quite roomy. A monitor and keyboard only take up about a third of the space, giving you plenty of room for an additional monitor, your collection of Far Side calendars, or whatever else you need to get through your workday.
It retails for $600, versus $700 for a slightly smaller desktop from Jarvis. The lower price point means it’s got fewer options: Apart from a handful of finish choices, it’s not customizable. But you also won’t be tempted by the pencil holders, LED lamps, and cable management systems of the Jarvis — which can add up quickly when you go to check out.
The desks themselves function similarly. The Apex matches the Jarvis in its fast, quiet rise, although it’s a few inches shorter. Its manufacturing specs claim a 48-inch max height, but when we measured our model, we found that it capped out at 46 inches, which could be a problem for tall folks. But when we attempted to shake it at this height, we found it more stable than the Uplift, barely budging at all — and, like the Jarvis, it was able to lift a full cup of water with barely a ripple as we adjusted our settings. Our main complaint is its tiny control panel, which requires a little too much pressure to press easily.
Unlike the Jarvis and the Uplift, the Apex is also available through Amazon, which gives you the option of purchasing expert assembly. This service probably isn’t worth the extra $100 if you’re fit and able-bodied, but it did cut down on our assembly time. Our installer was able to put the Apex together in just under 30 minutes (though he did need to use a power drill to add a couple of missing holes).
General construction quality is where the Apex lags. Unlike the gorgeous, sturdy bamboo desktops of the Jarvis and UpLift, the Apex is made of fiberboard, and while it can hold up to 225 pounds, one of our installation techs warned that he’d seen this desk crack when overloaded.
Apex offers a five year warranty on its desktop and frame, and a two year warranty on its motor, with Amazon reviewers frequently noting the prompt customer service they received when requesting replacement parts.
Best Small Desk on a Budget
The Stand Up Desk is the only one of our picks that features a hand crank rather than a motor. We weren’t wild about this feature — we found the cranking process tedious enough that we adjusted this desk less throughout the day than our other picks, and when we did, it wobbled to the point that we almost spilled our water.
But while you might lack the incentive to transition between sitting and standing as frequently as experts recommend, the desk does lay claim to another health benefit: It offers a posture-friendly two-tier design. This split helps maintain an ergonomic position — a computer monitor lifted to eye level on the top tier, and your keyboard at a lower level. The trade-off is that each tier is quite shallow. For minimalists, this shouldn’t be an issue, but if you tend to spread out papers, it will be hard to avoid knocking things off.
Still, for a budget pick, it’s got an impressive track record. The desk has 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with over 300 reviews. Negative comments mostly relate to its complicated assembly, a sentiment we echo: We purchased expert construction through Amazon, but it still took the technician an hour and 46 minutes to put the desk together, thanks to confusing instructions. We’d suggest budgeting the $100 to outsource this process, or at the very least recruiting a friend to help.
Another to Consider
The UpDesk Ultra UpWrite is, according to its site, “the first sit-to-stand desk with a whiteboard top.” We thought it was gimmicky at first, and were surprised that we actually loved it.
Our desk came with a silver frame, although a black frame is available (as well as a Midnight version — a blacktop you can write on with neon pens), and a handful of UpDesk-branded dry erase markers. Those were a nice thought, but nearly impossible to erase without smearing into a black slime. We had more luck with some classic Expos.
The desk, with a 4.5-inch curved indent on the front and rounded edges, has a bright, modern, almost futuristic feel: It seems more Ikea than the Ikea desk we also tested. It comes in three sizes, though the smallest is still a substantial four feet.
While not as striking as the Jarvis, the Ultra UpWrite is inspiring. If you like to doodle, make lists, do math, or design without having to shuffle papers or stare at your screen, being able to make notes literally on your desktop is a great feature. The downsides: a whiteboard desk can get as grimy as a whiteboard hanging in a classroom. This guy will take more regular cleaning than the Jarvis or an Uplift.
UpDesk offers durable laminate desktops as well as the whiteboard top, but no bamboo — anyone who wants a natural aesthetic is out of luck. There’s also less customization than some of its competitors: three colors of laminate to the Jarvis’ 12, and fewer add-ons, like the option for wire pass-through cutouts on the top of the desk. UpDesk chooses to make many of those add-ons standard features on the Ultra UpWrite — it was one of the few desks we tested that includes a cable channel to keep cords organized. Its programmable handset is also included. In theory, we prefer this (it’s like the way floor mats are sometimes offered as an “extra” for a car — we all know we need them!) but it also makes it tricky to trim down the heftier $950 price tag.
The Ultra UpWrite was the easiest of all nine desks we tested to assemble. Its site quotes a 20-minute out-of-the-box setup time. It took us twice as long, but it still felt like a breeze after other models that required some serious muscle. And, since our review, UpDesk has re-designed the assembly to be even more user-friendly!
It also has an incredibly smooth conversion, and is very sturdy both front to back and side to side, even in the tallest position (50 inches). It beat the Jarvis and the Uplift on this point: A cup of coffee won’t move at all when the desk is going up and down, and the motor makes virtually no noise — we literally had to put our heads on the desk to hear anything. The Ultra UpWrite’s motor control offers three preset heights to Jarvis’ four, and you do have to hold the preset buttons while it converts among height settings — but we’re not sure that’d be an issue for many users.
We had an excellent experience with customer service rep Kamron, who pointed out that there are only “a handful of companies around the world who manufacture height-adjustable lifting columns and we’re working with Linak, the very best supplier. Unlike the majority of our competitors who get their height-adjustable lifting columns from China, ours are manufactured in Denmark/USA.” He went on to say that “our height-adjustable lifting columns require no maintenance,” though a call to Fully confirmed that its Jarvis desks didn’t need maintenance either.
Kamron also said his UpDesk “has been a complete game-changer. Since I’ve used our products (for over four years now), I’m more attentive to my overall health and I’m more productive through the workday.” We can attest to his speed and attentiveness to phone calls and emails, though who knows how much of that is due to the desk itself.
Did You Know?
Standing all day isn't necessarily better than sitting.
Office culture is subject to fads, just like any other culture. Take open-plan offices, the gamification of the workplace, and, of course, standing desks. They’ve taken offices by storm since 2013, likely in response to the influx of fear-mongering infographics, TEDx talks, and articles predicting every office worker’s impending doom: “sitting is the new smoking,” “sitting is the new cancer,” and “sitting will kill you even if you exercise.” Countless sources warned that too much sitting causes increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, premature death, and — according to Dr. Joan Vernikos, an expert in stress and healthy aging, and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals — reduced cognitive function. It’s no wonder people never wanted to sit again. “I’ll invest in a standing desk,” they thought, and figured they were safe — or hoped they’d at least hold on to the years of their lives sitting seemed set on stealing.
Of course the opposition soon kicked in, citing the dangers of standing all day: varicose veins, back and foot problems, and horror of all horrors: cankles. We spoke with Dr. Lucas Carr, an expert in physical activity promotion and sedentary behaviors, who summed it up like this: “The research shows prolonged bouts of sitting and standing can result in negative health consequences. But I don’t think we should demonize [either] based on this research.” All the experts we spoke to recommended movement, a combination of sitting and standing throughout the day. Dr. Carr goes on to say that “a sit-to-stand desk is a solution for those who will use them.”
There’s a right way and a wrong way to use a standing desk.
Ergonomics are key. The top of your monitor should be at or just below eye level (make sure your head isn’t angled down!), and your eyes should be 20 to 28 inches from the screen. Keep your upper arms close to your body, your wrists straight, and your hands at or below wrist level. The table height of a standing desk should be at or slightly below elbow height — basically make a 90-degree angle with your elbow. Your head, neck, and torso should be in line, and your keyboard and mouse should be at the same level. Got that? If not, here’s a graphic that sums it all up, courtesy of CustomMade.