Review: Varidesk is a standing desk you'll actually use

Finally, an adjustable standing desk you’ll actually use [Reviews]

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Work healthier with the Pro Plus 48.
Work healthier with the Pro Plus 48.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Spending countless hours sitting in front of a computer every day is bad for your body. Not only do you have to worry about bad posture when sitting for extended periods, but also the fact that you’re probably going to die faster (according to some studies).

A standing desk is a great way to alleviate some of these problems and keep your body active during a long day in the office. And with the Varidesk Pro Plus 48, you can turn almost any standard desk into a height-adjustable standing desk in a snap.

This particular desk is one of the largest models offered by Varidesk, which makes it ideal for multi-monitor setups and those who need plenty of room. It’s also pretty pricey at $495 — but is it worth that price tag?

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Stand and live longer

There are a long list of reasons why sitting all day isn’t good for you. Sitting slows down your metabolism, which can increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease, and means you burn fewer calories while you’re hard at work. A 2013 report from BBC News found that while the average person burns around 50 calories per hour while sitting, that can be increased to around 70 when standing up.

If you work for eight hours and stand for four of them, then, you’ll burn an additional 80 calories every day. That’s an extra 400 calories burned every week if you work five days a week, or 1,600 calories a month. Over time, this can make a massive difference.

According to the Mayo Clinic, prolonged sitting can also lead to high blood pressure and “abnormal” cholesterol levels. It can also increase the chances of developing varicose veins, back problems and bad posture — and that’s not all.

“A recent review of 43 studies analyzing daily activity and cancer rates found that people who reported sitting for more hours of the day had a 24 percent greater risk of developing colon cancer, a 32 percent higher risk of endometrial cancer and a 21 percent higher risk of lung cancer — regardless of how much they exercised,” reads a 2014 report from TIME.

No matter how you look at it, then, sitting too long is likely going to kill you quicker somehow. But standing for too long isn’t good for you, either. That’s why you should alternate between sitting and standing throughout your day.

Veridesk comes pre-assembled, so you just have to take it out of the box.
Varidesk comes pre-assembled, so you just have to take it out of the box.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Zero to standing desk in three seconds

What’s great about the Varidesk is that it’s incredibly convenient. It comes pre-assembled so you don’t have to worry about building it yourself, and it makes transferring from sitting to standing incredibly easy; simply squeeze the two handles found beneath its top tier and pull.

The whole process takes just three seconds, according to Varidesk, and although I haven’t timed it myself, that sounds about right. But it’s not just fast; it’s also quiet, and its spring-loaded mechanism means moving it takes very little effort — even if you have two monitors.

Because it’s so easy, you’ll be more inclined to actually use the Varidesk. There are no noisy electric motors that will annoy your colleagues, and there’s no need to spend ten minutes cranking levers — so the things that usually dissuade you from using a standing desk are gone.

I know this because I already had a standing desk, which I got from Ikea. It’s called Skarsta, and in an effort to save money, I went with the cranking option — not the electric option. So every time I want to adjust it, I have to pull out a handle and keep turning it until the desk reaches the right height. It doesn’t sound like a lot of work, but it quickly puts you off using it at all.

I didn’t have this issue with the Varidesk. Even when I was easing myself into a routine, standing 20 minutes every hour, I wasn’t at all bothered about raising it up and putting it back down — it’s just so simple. I’ve now had the Varidesk for a month, and I’ve used it every working day.

Veridesk in action!
Varidesk in action!
GIF: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

It makes a difference

I can’t tell you exactly how many calories I’ve burned by using the Varidesk, or how much longer I might live. But I can tell you that it’s had a positive impact on how I feel.

The back pain I sometimes experienced after a long day hunched over a keyboard just isn’t there anymore, and I no longer start to feel lethargic in the afternoons. I have much more energy when I finish work (most days), and I’m more likely to do other things in the evenings, rather than sit back down again in front of the TV because I just want to rest.

It might take a little while before you feel these benefits, and you might find your legs ache for the first week or so (I recommend getting a good anti-fatigue mat to help with that). But stick with it and you’ll be glad you did. I still sit for an hour here and there throughout the day, but I feel uncomfortable sitting for long periods now.

Room for improvement

Although I’m grateful for what the Varidesk has done for me during testing, I couldn’t help but notice there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Pro Plus 48 — and other large Varidesks — is that they’re incredibly heavy. That means pulling them out of the box and getting them set up takes at least two people, and adjusting things later if you decide your setup needs tweaking is a pain.

The weight can cause some stability issues, too. When the Varidesk is raised, typing does cause the unit to shake a bit, which will obviously move your monitor. It’s not too excessive, but it’s noticeable. There are holes in the feet of the unit that allow you to bolt it to your desk — and that’s a good idea if you’re making it a permanent fixture — but unless your desk is super sturdy and solid, it’s going to shake a bit because it’s so top-heavy.

Check out Varidesk’s promotional video:

Cable management is an issue, too. Because the unit needs to move up and down — and the cables for your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and anything else on the Varidesk need to move with it — there’s only so much you can do to keep them tidy. Varidesk ships some handy cable ties in the box, but that’s the best you’re going to get; there’s no way to keep them totally out of sight.

Finally, there are several things I don’t like about the lower tier of the Varidesk, where you place your keyboard and mouse.

There’s a curve in the center of this tier, and it’s designed to hang off your desk a little bit. But the further forward the unit is on your desk, the more space it needs when raised — and that could be a problem in close working environments. I also found that it seemed even less stable, and more likely to topple over, when placed further forward.

So, I pushed the Varidesk back so that lower tier was flush with the edge of my desk, but this created other problems. The curve meant I couldn’t get my wrists close enough to my keyboard to type comfortably, and because the lower tier is raised slightly — and doesn’t sit directly on the desk — it moves up and down when you lean on it.

I also found the lower tier to be a bit too small, particularly where the mouse sits. There’s enough space for working, but I found I regularly move the mouse off the edge of the lower tier while gaming, which was very annoying.

I'd like more space here.
I’d like more space here.
Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Note that other Varidesk models don’t have these issues, because not all have multiple tiers.

The verdict

The Varidesk has done what my Ikea desk couldn’t do — it has made me fall in love with standing desks. I don’t think I could ever go back to sitting all day. The Varidesk Pro Plus 48 is also a great size for large setups with multiple monitors, and it couldn’t be easier to move up and down. It gets a lot of things right.

Sadly, the things it gets wrong can make using it a little frustrating — particularly when sitting. I’d really like the bottom tier to sit directly on the top of the desk so that there’s no movement, and I definitely need more space for my mouse.

These flaws make the $495 price tag for the Pro Plus 48 look even steeper. If you don’t need a standing desk this big, I recommend checking out one of the smaller, more affordable Pro options instead — or spending your money elsewhere.

Buy from: Amazon

Varidesk provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article.