Best Cable Management Kits for Standing Desks
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Hiding Cords on a Desk is About More Than Appearance
Standing desks have always been notoriously hard to keep looking kempt when all your power cables need to have enough slack in them to work seated as well as standing.
Beyond cosmetic tidiness, cable management is key for a safe and sane workstation as well. As we discuss more thoroughly in our primer on ergodynamics, there are two main hazards that cable management can help with: tripping and bending.
Tripping is pretty clear. Having cords sloppily strewn about is a great way to trip or damage a device when your foot catches a cord and yanks on it.
Bending over too much is a recipe for back injuries, so the more time you spend bent over, trying to figure out what’s what among your messy cables, the more risk you’re introducing.
While safety is certainly more important, cosmetic reasons are the primary driver for most users searching for a cable management kit. A natural consequence of working at a standing desk is less space to hide your cables and many standing desks, unfortunately, end up looking like they’re standing on a jumble of wires. But don’t be content with this. We can tame the snarl.
So Where Do You Start with Desk Cable Management?
Cable management systems are designed to tame this unseemly spaghetti of cords, and provide a better-looking and better-protected workstation. Many height-adjustable desk manufacturers have come up with their own cable organizer kits, which range from a handful of adhesive clips and zip ties to more robust systems with a wide assortment of tools, including surge protectors, cable sleeves and cable troughs that attach to the underside of the desk.
Commonly offered cable management kits differ in componentry and complexity, but most of them run into some of the same pitfalls. The first has to do with the kit’s capabilities. Many basic kits have too few components and with too little variety. These kits don’t have the diverse arsenal necessary to handle the wide array of workstation configurations out there.
Another common drawback is that they are largely comprised of single-use components. Once installed, the majority of the cable guiding components can’t be undone or repositioned: zip ties are tightly secured and adhesive clips are stuck in place. This results in a good deal of frustration when it comes time to add or remove cables. And once you’re out of ties or clips, you’ll have to buy new ones.
Another very common user complaint we see on cable management kits is that the adhesive on the cable clamps, which might have been fine on a fixed-height desk that never moved, have a tendency to fail after many cycles of raising and lowering the desk. Or the plastic degrades over time and pieces snap off when you try to add or remove cables. Even a hefty-sounding 20 lbs-rated cable clamp may be subjected to far greater pulling forces when the desk is in motion, especially if any of the cables passing through it get snagged on the way up.
Lastly, cable sleeves aren’t as clean-looking as cable spines. These vertebrae chains come in two price tiers. The kind you’re likely to find on Amazon are cheaply made with flimsy plastic parts, often hard to use, too short, have too many openings in the chain making them add to visual clutter rather than reduce it, and are generally disrecommended by our expert ergonomic accessories review staff.
Then there’s the better, and of course, the much pricier variety used by professional commercial office furniture dealers and installers. These are commonly used on large corporate installations where sockets have been placed in very specific locations when the entire office was originally built out. But most people do not have such a convenience; they need a way to get the power cables down from the desktop, routed discretely to the floor, and from there to reach the nearest wall socket. Since our readers are less likely to spend $1,500 per workstation on custom electrical installation we focus our reviews in this category on those items you can purchase via e-commerce and install on your own.
Go with a Full Kit or Take it À La Carte?
Depending on how much of a DIYer you are, you can certainly hack your own cable management system by piecemealing components from here and there, and you might even save a few bucks. The thing to know is that the bundled kits we reviewed in this round-up are often a better bargain than buying a cable organizing tray here, a shrink wrap cable sleeve there, and zip ties and power strips at Home Depot. The kits also save time by having all the components you might find you need once you get started already in the box, rather than making multiple trips to the store.
When you search Amazon for cable management or walk into a big box electronics store you’re going to see a lot of products that aren’t really designed for standing desks. A lot of cable tracks are used to hide AV cords and all sorts of other applications. We did it ourselves years ago before these kits were available, and spent a lot of time just finding the parts we were looking for. So there’s definitely something to be said for well-considered selections of all the pieces you’re likely to need for your standup desk outfit. And with kits ranging in price from $30 to $140 you’re bound to find something pretty close to perfect.
Common Cable Management Bits & Pieces
Cable ties: We find these small items (cable ties and cable mounts) to be the best gauge of a kit’s overall quality because it shows how much the manufacturer cares about the details. The cable tie range starts with standard plastic zip ties that are not reusable, a pain to remove and can even damage cables if installed too tightly. Next up the ladder is reusable plastic zip ties. It’s good that these are reusable, but they’re not necessarily easily reusable and can also damage cables if installed too tightly. The best option is felt cable wrap ties. These are very easily reusable and adjustable, plus they won’t damage cables.
Cable mounts: The common solution for cable mounts is a plastic mount installed with adhesive. There are generally two problems with this type of mount. First, they can’t be adjusted. One cable and ten cables take up a much different amount of space in a mount. Second, they aren’t designed for a desk that goes up and down multiple times a day and the adhesive will wear out. The premium solution for cable mounts is one that has velcro so you can control how loose or tight your cables are held. A premium option will also have both adhesive and a screw hole so you can install it both ways.
Cable trays: Cable trays can be difficult to pick from because some are very flimsy without looking that way on a product page, so when it comes to cable trays, it’s best to read an in-depth review that will flesh out this issue. Length is also important. Remember you’re probably placing a power strip and a lot of cables in the tray so you’ll want one that’s around 24″ or longer.
Cable sleeves: Some cable sleeves require a special tool to get cables in or out, and we’re not big fans. This is just one more thing you’ll have to keep around when space is already at a premium with standing desks. There are several different ways that sleeves close, from velcro to zipper to self-closing. Self-closing is our favorite because it wraps around however many cables you put inside. Zipper is also interesting because you can buy multiple sleeves and zip them together for an extra-large option.
Magnet mounts: Magnet mounts are used for routing cables up and down the legs and frame of an adjustable height desk. Ideal options will have loops that rotate because that makes them much less likely to break as a desk moves up and down. Also, pay attention to the strength of the magnets. Ideally, they will be able to hold around 15 lbs of load.
Power strips: We prefer outlets oriented perpendicular to the strip because bulky adapters won’t cover two outlets when you use them. Other factors to consider: Length of cord (you want at least 12′), surge protection (you want at least 1,000 joules) and the gauge of wire (you want 14 gauge). All of these will affect price, safety and how effectively the strip will protect your electronics.
Cable chains: Like the cable sleeve, it’s preferable to have a cable chain that doesn’t require a special tool and instead opens with a simple flathead screwdriver. Cable chains vary widely in quality so you’ll again want to read reviews to see how easy it is to change the chain length, add cables and take cables out. Quality chains will stay vertical as the desk goes up and down while cheaper ones will pop out to the side when the desk comes down. Cheaper chains will also often be either too flexible or not flexible enough.
Top-Rated Cable Organizer Kits for Standing Desks
These cable management kits incorporate several items, like cable trays, cable sleeves and cable chains, along with smaller components, to help provide the best cable management for your desk.
Cable management on a standing desk workstation is key for both sanity and safety. And it can be challenging to hide the “cord spaghetti” due to the amount of slack required in cables as the desk moves up and down. The three iMovR Tucker Cable Management kits we review here (Basic, Advanced and Pro) have progressively more advanced components. They get it right by providing high-quality, well-thought-out components that are not only much stronger than the weakly adhering components of most cable management kits, most of them are also reusable—so you can easily add or change out equipment without starting over. The innovative, patented cable management spine in the Pro Kit is easier to use and leaves a tidier desk appearance than any other vertebrae chain we’ve tested.
[Note: While iMovR still sells this original cable management kit while inventory remains, it has launched the new Tucker Cable Management Kit, which we have reviewed separately.]
iMovR’s “original” cable management kit is designed not just to organize your wires and keep your desk tidy, but to change and adapt to your evolving workstation. Versatile, reusable components make it easy to reconfigure your cables again and again, all while being robust enough to take on the multitude of cables that plague your workspace. Employing high-tack, adhesive-backed mounting “brackets” in lieu of the low-tack, adhesive-backed mounting “clips” found in less expensive cable management kits also sets this one apart from lower-cost competitors. The Advanced Kit’s seven-outlet power strip with built-in surge protector – and especially its twelve-foot-long cord – frees your desk as well, to better customize your whole office.
This is a solid mid-pack option among cable management kits. The power strip is nice, both in surge protection and cord length, and there is at least some warranty. But the issue is that there isn’t much price separation among cable management kits so being mid-pack doesn’t do you any good. Since the prices are so close to category leaders that have much more well-designed and robust features, we can’t recommend the UpLift kits.
The Fully Cable Management Kit doesn’t have tiers targeted at users with different needs. It doesn’t have a cable sleeve, cable chain, accessory hooks, etc. It uses one-use zip ties instead of reusable ones. The power strip doesn’t have enough surge protection. The cable tray is the shortest we’ve seen. You’d expect it to be cheaper than the competitors, but it isn’t. We don’t see any reason to pick this kit over ones from UpLift and iMovR.
Top-Rated Cable Organizing Kits for Standing Desk Converters
This kit features a patented cable chain and addresses the need for cable management for standing desk converters, which is the first attempt we’ve seen and a great idea. Cable management on a standing desk converter is key for both sanity and safety. And it can be challenging to hide the “cord spaghetti” due to the amount of slack required in cables as the work surface moves up and down. iMovR gets it right by providing high-quality, well-thought-out components that are not only much stronger than the weakly adhering components of most cable management kits, most of them are also reusable—so you can easily add or change out equipment without starting over.