There are many factors that come into play when taking the plunge to upgrade your workspace. You may be the type of person who values form over function with a desk compatible with your decor. Maybe you need a versatile surface that can adapt to your needs. For many of us, style and functionality come secondary to one very important aspect. Price.
The market is currently saturated with options for standing desks and other wellness products in a wide range of prices. I took a look at the two cheapest electronic standing desk options on the market to see if the old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true.
Option 1: Autonomous Smart Desk
Price: $299 + (not including upgrades or shipping)
Pros: Inexpensive, 30-day trial, compatible accessories.
Cons: Costly add-ons, 1-year warranty.
Coming in at number one is the Autonomous Smart Desk. It is the cheapest electric, sit-to-stand desk on the market. Autonomous also offers Smart Desk compatible accessories to personalize your desk like a USB charger, speakers and a cable organizer.
Weight capacity: 220 lbs.
This is important. If you plan on adding monitor arms and any other heavy accessories on top of your desk, you need to keep this number in mind. Going beyond the maximum load can hurt the motor or cause dangerous instability. Also, remember that this doesn’t include the weight of the desktop, so the larger/heavier your desktop is, the lower the weight capacity becomes for items on top of the desk.
Height range: 29” - 47”
The height range of most standing desks tend to fall somewhere in this general neighborhood. Be sure to measure your optimal standing and sitting height before purchasing any desk to make sure the desk will not be too short or too tall for you. The autonomous desk isn’t specifically catered for extremes on either end, so if you’re on the taller or shorter end of the spectrum, you may want to look into something more customized.
Desktop size: 53” x 30” (larger sizes available for additional charge)
This size is pretty average as far as desktops go. It should allow the average desk user enough room for a laptop and a few other desk accessories, but likely wouldn’t accommodate someone with big multiple monitors without feeling cramped.
I found the website to be overflowing with information and buying options but the overall purchase experience was straight forward. They promise to ship within 1-2 business days with a transit time of of 5-7 business days. I also found that they tack on an additional $49 for shipping regardless of your location - which might be in your favor if you live far from their warehouses, which look to be in California - but possibly a little steep if you’re nearby. Their customer service is available 7 days a week via email, live chat or phone and were relatively responsive in my experience. I chatted with one of their customer service agents about shipping times and received an immediate response.
Autonomous offers lots of positive reviews and customer photos on their site which is awesome. However, a simple google search for reviews outside of their website unfortunately yielded numerous negative results. The positive reviews tended to focus on the low price tag - the obvious draw to this option. Many of the negative reviews however, noted low quality and delayed shipping. Reviews like this one and the comments below it illustrate how polarized Autonomous customers can be calling into question all of those spotless reviews on their website.
It’s important to note that this desk starts at $299. For the base price, you’ll receive the “Home Edition” desk frame and their smallest desktop in either black or white with only a 1-year warranty. If you want to extend the warranty, get a different color/finish or purchase a larger desktop, it’s going to cost you. Bumping up the warranty to 5 years costs an additional $100. Adding an accessory package or choosing a different desktop finish could bring the price up to over $600. Also, despite the name of this desk, there isn’t anything “smart” about it. A mountable “AI personal assistant” speaker can be added for $150, but for that price, you’re probably better off just using your smartphone.
This desk sounds great at first, but the low price of $299 isn’t totally realistic. While most other standing desks have a slightly higher price tag, they also usually come standard with a longer warranty and more color options. Products with moving parts can regularly need troubleshooting or replacements, so a good warranty on something like this is essential, especially if the quality is questionable. This is a decent, innexpensive option if you’re willing to purchase the additional warranty or only hope to have it last you about a year - but considering the reviews, I would explore other options for a better value.
Option 2: IKEA Bekant Desk
Price: $449 +
Pros: Simple, multiple desk frame and desktop color options.
Cons: Low weight capacity, limited desktop size.
At $449, IKEA’s Bekant desk is our second option for a cheap, complete, adjustable standing desk. It’s available online or in IKEA stores and comes in a variety of preset desktop and desk frame color combinations. The Bekant may start at a higher price but unlike the Smart Desk, choosing a different frame or desktop color will not affect the price. This desk is also backed by a 10-year limited warranty, and they offer different desktops for an additional cost, including an “L-shaped” top and a 5-sided top.
Weight capacity: 154 lbs.
This is quite a bit lower than our first option and that raises some concern with me. According to IKEA, their desktops start at 25 lbs. This means that you’re only left with 129 lbs. for whatever you want to place on your desk, assuming you purchase their lightest top. This could be fine if you keep it simple, but you may be wandering into dangerous territory if you want to add accessories like additional monitors or a keyboard tray.
Height range: 22” - 48”
This is a surprisingly impressive height range. Compared to the Autonomous Smart Desk, you’d be able to go seven inches lower and one inch higher. This could be an important deciding factor for people who fall outside the height range of our first option.
Desktop size: 47 ¼ x 31 ½
Again, a pretty average size here. IKEA does offer two larger desktop sizes for an additional cost. but I would avoid adding any unnecessary weight to this desk frame due to the low weight capacity.
IKEA has an amazing website and their relatively new option to buy online is a great alternative for those who don’t live near a store or hate navigating through IKEA. However, the shipping costs are high. Their site calculated $100 to ship to the LA area and $125 for New York City (gasp). IKEA customer service is available in store during local store hours and online via email. One thing to note is that IKEA doesn’t specialize in electronic height adjustable desks, so their inner knowledge of the product and mechanics is limited.
IKEA does not post reviews for any of their products, and a google search for reviews of this desk yielded either bad or mixed reviews. I found this review on reddit particularly disappointing, not just because the Bekant owner had trouble getting his desk to raise and lower properly, but because there were so many fellow Bekant owners in the comment section complaining about the same issue.
Overall, IKEA’s Bekant Desk has a better warranty, better purchase options and better reviews than the Smart Desk, though the final cost will be at least $230 more. But considering the color options and the warranty alone, that is worth it. Then again, if you’re going to be spending around $600 for a desk, you may as well explore higher end brands with a record of quality. I want to like this desk, but the real dealbreaker for me is the weight capacity. 154 pounds may sound like enough but once you start adding books, computer gear or a monitor arm to your setup, you risk breaking your desk. Plus, it’s natural to lean on your desk from time to time, without even realizing it. You don’t want a tiny bit of added body weight to bring the whole thing down.
So what have I learned? In the case of the two cheapest standing desks, I think you really do “get what you pay for.” When it comes to buying a product meant to improve your health, you’ll need something that’s going to last and something that is tailored to your body. The Bekant and the Smart Desk work, but don’t quite measure up to the competition. Luckily, I found that the competition can be pretty competitive price wise, especially if you keep an eye out for deals, like StandDesk’s current $349 Simple Frame and free shipping promotion.
When you’re ready to purchase your first standing desk, make sure to check the warranty information, desk specifications, purchase options and buying experiences of multiple brands. Taking a stand for better health will be worth it.