SmartDesk 2 lets you sit or stand at a stellar price [Review]

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SmartDesk 2 full setup with monitor and light
The SmartDesk 2 can turn your boring desk into a versatile workspace.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

Until very recently, I never spent a lot of mental energy thinking about the desk I worked at. As long as there was enough space for whatever I was doing, and it wasn’t getting in the way, I was pretty flexible.

As I’ve started spending more time working and taking meetings from home, I have started to notice when certain “desks” don’t work as well. Sitting on the couch, standing at the bar in our kitchen, or working from the dining table are all OK from time to time, but none are particularly comfortable long-term. Some of this comes down to having a desk at the proper height, and some of it is the lack of flexibility I get in those situations.

That why, when the folks at Autonomous asked if I wanted to check out their SmartDesk 2 adjustable standing desk, I saw it as an opportunity to see if the hype about standing desks is all it’s cracked up to be.

Say goodbye to feeling stuck

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[ Sit or stand for a stellar price | Autonomous SmartDesk 2 review ] video

There are many theoretical benefits to standing desks. For me, more than anything, I wanted flexibility. Being stuck standing at a desk is only slightly better than being stuck sitting. That’s where an adjustable height desk like the SmartDesk 2 from Autonomous comes in.

With an adjustable desk, you can change the height of your desk as needed throughout the day, instead of moving around shared spaces to find different working positions. Best of all, with the SmartDesk 2, you get the flexibility and comfort of an adjustable desk, at an excellent price.

The best affordable standing desk

Starting at $379, the SmartDesk 2 offers a motorized adjustable frame and a 53-inch by 29-inch top. You can upgrade it with enhanced desktop materials, a bigger top for additional working space, or bump up to the “Premium” frame for an even greater range of height adjustments.

Autonomous offers some of the most affordable adjustable standing desks on the market. And with the SmartDesk 2, you don’t need to sacrifice quality or features to get a great price.

Hands on with the SmartDesk 2

Setting up the SmartDesk 2 is pretty straightforward. The included instructions walk you through each step of the process, and Autonomous also offers a setup video if the printed instructions aren’t clear enough. All told, assembly for me took about 25 minutes.

From an aesthetic perspective, I love the look of the desk. I went with the standard-size white oak top, because it’s a nice simple look, with just enough visual texture to make it interesting. The included cable drops and cable ties are also an excellent touch. They make it easy to keep your power and video cables together, and tuck them under the desktop to keep your workspace looking clean.

As far as the adjustability, the SmartDesk 2 is fully motorized, and can be manually positioned or set to any of four programmable presets. Each preset can be customized by moving the desk to a desired height, holding the memory button, and choosing the preset. The controller for adjusting the desk height is simple and compact, meaning you’re not likely to bump it while working. The control also offers LED lights between each button, which makes it look nice visually, but leaves it a little challenging to see the button labels in the dark. It’s not a huge deal, but something worth noting.

Autonomous SmartDesk 2 review: Setting the standing desk height is as easy as driving the desk up or down
Setting the standing desk height is as easy as driving the desk up or down.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

My only real complaint with the control is that there isn’t a lockout switch or button combo to prevent accidental adjustments. As the parent of a toddler, I’m worried that my daughter may find herself around the desk, press the button, and either pinch a finger in the legs or take a bonk on the head as it moves.

Motorized movement for maximum flexibility

Another thing that people often look for in an adjustable standing desk is how it moves, and how much noise it makes. I don’t have a lot of experience with motorized standing desks, but according to the specs, this one can adjust 2.3 inches per second. In my testing, adjusting the desk either up or down proved a little slower than that, but even the 10 seconds or so it took to raise from sitting to standing was more than quick enough.

The raising and lowering action is also very smooth. To me, that’s important, because it means that my monitor and desk decorations aren’t going to move or fall over as the desk goes up and down. Having a quick, smooth adjustment means I’m more likely to move the desk throughout the day.

Move the SmartDesk 2 to the right spot with simple controls
Move the SmartDesk 2 to the right spot with simple controls.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

From a sound perspective, adjusting the desk isn’t completely silent, but it is by no means loud. I did notice that as I was testing the desk’s weight capacity, it seemed louder with more weight on top. Even at its loudest, though, it was still not much more than a dull hum.

The desk’s weight capacity surprised me. According to Autonomous, the frame can lift up to 300 pounds. The desktop itself weighs around 40 pounds, so that leaves, conservatively, about 250 pounds of lifting capacity for whatever you throw on top. As a test, it was able to lift me while sitting on top without a problem. So your dual-screen VESA arm setup should be fine — no sweat.

Final thoughts on the Autonomous SmartDesk 2

While everyone has different wants and needs for their desk, the SmartDesk 2 is an excellent all-around home office (or work) desk. The options for different finishes and colors, as well as different sizes, make it something that can fit almost any room style.

Outside of the design, the motorized frame offers plenty of flexibility, more than enough power for anything you might want on your desk, and presets that make it a breeze to switch up your position.

The SmartDesk 2 starts at just $379. If you’re looking to upgrade your work space, the SmartDesk 2 is definitely an affordable, adjustable standing desk worth checking out.

Buy from: Autonomous (Use code: CULTOFMAC for 10% off all Autonomous products)

Autonomous provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.