File Cabinets for Standing Desks Reviews
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In Search of Standing Desk Storage
When transitioning from a fixed-height desk to an adjustable-height sit-stand desk, most new users come face to face with a challenge they may not have considered before buying: the sudden lack of drawers. This lack, however, is par for the course with almost all adjustable height desks.
The vast majority of manufacturers do not offer drawers on their standing desks for a number of reasons, including:
- Their highly-cantilevered weight would induce a lot of “side-loading stress” on the linear actuators, potentially leading to squeaking, straining or premature failure of expensive componentry.
- A lot of “interference” issues with other components typically found on the underside of the desktop, such as crossbars, top support arms, cables and handsets.
- Assembling drawers can be a total pain for the user, and can easily add an hour or more to the assembly of a standing desk.
That said, there are some new desks about to enter the market with built-in drawers that are creatively slung underneath the desktop. These are going to be optional on some higher-performance desk models with sufficient excess lift capacity for the task. We’re currently reviewing pre-release samples and expect to see them in-market by early 2021. Subscribe to our free monthly newsletter to learn about them as soon as they are available for sale.
But for today, the popular solution for most users is one of the mobile file pedestals we’ve reviewed here. Specifically short ones—generally under 22″—that won’t interfere with the free movement of the desk when it is lowered to sitting height. Being a standalone piece of furniture separate from the desk, these pedestals do not subtract from the weight lifting capacity of the desk itself. More importantly, they won’t induce life-shortening “side loading” on the lifting legs either.
Evaluation Criteria for Standing Desk File Cabinets
When we first started reviewing adjustable-height desks in 2013, there was no such thing as a matching file pedestal. Back then you basically had to trot down to Office Depot and pick out some generic file cabinet that didn’t match your desk style, much less frame color or desktop finish.
Things have changed, and we now see pretty much all of the major online sellers of standing desks (iMovR, Fully, UpLift, StandDesk, Vari and Autonomous, to name a few) offering matching file cabinets to go with their desks. The degree to which they match varies widely, however. Autonomous, for example, only offers cabinets in white. Vari, similarly, only offers most of their cabinets in slate gray. Fully offers four colors to “match” the legs of their standing desks but there are significant variations in the non-black colors between the cabinets and the desk frames. iMovR takes a different approach, manufacturing all their file cabinets on-demand—in all 58+ desktop finishes that they offer on their desks—for the only true match.
The next thing we look at is quality of construction. Here’s where the field splits into two very clear groups. In one tier you have Chinese-manufactured cabinets made of light steel or aluminum, in most case with sloppy tolerances, welds, and paint quality, but priced in the $169 to $279 range. There isn’t a lot of distinction between them, and they mostly weigh 36–50 lbs. These risk tipping over if a heavily laden upper drawer is opened too far, because they just don’t have a lot of heft to them. As a workaround to avoid tip overs, some manufacturers distribute the payload by adding a fifth caster wheel that protrudes from the front edge of the bottom drawer. This works well for the bottom drawer only, but the extra wheel looks like a prosthetic aid for the cabinet, which we find decidedly inelegant.
In contrast, iMovR’s cabinets are more like fine office furniture, made of solid wood materials and with ballasts built into the rear of the cabinet to counteract any tipping force. At 75 lbs these are the heaviest storage cabinets you’ll find for standing desks. iMovR’s 3D-laminated finishes—in a whopping 22 colors—are manufactured to a tolerance of 1/5000ths of an inch. Surfaces are ergo-contoured to match their desktops, with hermetically-sealed, healthcare-grade laminate that’s as durable as it is gorgeous. A bonus in the age of COVID is that you can use hospital-grade disinfectants on these cabinets and never compromise the integrity of the seams or fade the color.
The 36 stain+species combinations in natural hardwood offer a degree of elegance you simply can’t match with sheet steel. But of course, they cost more, ranging in price from $399 to $999. iMovR is the only manufacturer at the moment in this second tier, and the only one offering cabinets that match the desktop as opposed to the desk legs.
So with that, let’s dive in and see how these mobile pedestals compare . . .
In a class of its own, the iMovR file cabinets are the only ones made-in-the-USA, made-to-order in any of 58 finishes to match the desktop (as opposed to just a few colors to match the lifting columns), and to have the precision manufacturing quality and quality components to be legitimate fine office furniture. At 75 lbs these have the heft to never tilt over due to a heavily-laden drawer being pulled out too far. Available in healthcare-grade 3D laminate as well as rich, handcrafted solid wood, these cabinets stand out from all the rest that are made in China from thin steel or aluminum.
Like their competitor Vari (fka “Varidesk”) UpLift is offering a 2-drawer cabinet with seat cushion, in both a wide and narrow width, as well as a 3-drawer cabinet with no seat cushion. These are roughly the same price and quality as the Vari units—which is still, let’s be clear, thin-steel components and manufactured in China—but at least UpLift offers all three models in all four colors that they offer on their standing desk bases. One difference is that assembling the UpLift involves installing all five casters with 16 screws, as opposed to arriving completely pre-assembled. As with the Vari, Fully, Autonomous, StandDesk and other file cabinets we’ve reviewed, they’re intended for sale together with the respective manufacturers’ own desks.
Vari (f.k.a. Varidesk) now offers more file cabinet models than any other seller of standing desks, though only in black for the most part (others offer as many as 58 different finishes). So like the Ford Model-T, you can match any of the Vari standing desks, so long as it’s “slate” black. As for the general quality of the cabinet, which like other Vari products is mass-produced with low-quality materials and components, it is relatively high-priced for what you get, to cover all the television advertising cost and high rate of product returns. We like the many variations on the theme of a basic file cabinet, but the low-quality drawer slides are aggravatingly “sticky” so that cabinet moves whenever you open or close a drawer. This is despite being advertised as “soft close.” While advertised as a matte paint finish, the rough surfaces of the cabinet smudge easily and do not clean up very easily. We can’t recommend these over other cabinets in a similar price range unless you’re really just trying to match the slate decor of your other Vari furniture.
A handsome standing desk outfit should have a matching file cabinet to go with it; otherwise what’s the point of selecting nice desktop finishes and other accessories to match? In all but black, the Sidekick doesn’t actually match paint colors very well with their Jarvis standing desks, so we’re left unimpressed by that. Despite a 10 year warranty we were surprised by the lack of quality in the construction and components of this $249 file cab. The seat cushion is a real nice feature, though, that gives it a second purpose as a desk-side seat for office visitors.
If all you really care about is cost and you already own an Autonomous SmartDesk standing desk, this is probably the way to go. But if you’re trying to find a handsome, reliable file cabinet to create needed storage space for your standing desk workstation, spend $100 more and get something that’ll last longer than is implied in this product’s one year warranty.
“Whatever Autonomous has, StandDesk has to sell for $12 less,” is what appears to be the case here. Equally cheap in quality and limited in color choices. This is the “bottom drawer” in rolling file cabinets of all the units we reviewed.