FlexiSpot Esben Standing Desk Review
- Lab tested
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Another entrant in the category of standing desks with drawers, the FlexiSpot Esben distinguishes itself from the similarly priced and similarly featured FlexiSpot Theodore with an extra drawer and more utilitarian looks.
|MSRP / List Price||$499|
Free shipping in the lower 48 states
Frame: 5 years
Single electric motor
1 inch per second
UD4EW: Simple up and down buttons. No digital height readout. No height memory presets.
Only available in the one color scheme shown
|Monitor Arm Mounting Options||
Height range: 29.125″-48.625″
Desktop: 48″ x 24″
|Typical Assembly Time||
Once components are removed from the packaging, assembly time should be about 10 minutes. One tool (an Allen key) is included for attaching the lifting columns to the desktop and the feet to the lifting columns. No other tools are required. See assembly video
|NEAT™ Certified by Mayo Clinic||
|Where to buy||
Buy on FlexiSpot
|Ease of Assembly|
|Quality and Aesthetics|
|Positives||It has two built-in drawers with generous proportions. The appearance of a very thick desktop and drawers is unique. It's cheap. Assembly is quick and easy. The hand controller upgrade is cheap ($30) and adds several important features to the desk.|
|Negatives||Because of the thick desktop, it won't work with a keyboard tray or ergonomic monitor arm, so it's more ideal for a laptop user who's not concerned with fine-tuning ergonomics. There's only one size and color available. The 99-lb weight capacity is on the lower end, but since it's intended for laptop users it's not a huge concern. The desk's minimum height will be too tall for short users. The warranty is short. If you don't upgrade the hand controller, it doesn't have a height readout, memory presets or anti-collision. It's not very stable at maximum height.|
We’ve gone on and on about the cool design in our reviews of other standing desks with drawers, but the FlexiSpot Esben is the first desk we’ve reviewed in the category that keeps a simpler, more utilitarian feel. It definitely still looks different than the usual standing desk with the thicker desktop with built-in drawers, but it lacks the flair of the FlexiSpot Theodore or iMovR Captain’s Desk.
So far, these desks are on opposite ends of the spectrum, either being true designer desks (with the accompanying price) like the Captain’s Desk and Fully Jarvis Albright, or more budget-friendly options from (so far) just FlexiSpot.
These desks tend to have the same general strengths and weaknesses. They are excellent for storage, which is an increasingly less difficult issue to solve with standing desks, but usually struggle with fine-tuning ergonomics because the thicker desktop makes it hard to install ergonomic monitor arms and keyboard trays. We’ll see where the Esben fits in.
How About Those Drawers?
The most immediately noticeable difference between this new unit and most other contenders in the standing-desk-with-drawer category is that the FlexiSpot Esben has two drawers instead of one. The Esben’s drawers are 20.5” x 11.8” x 3.5” (FlexiSpot lists the drawer height as 1.6″, but it was 3.5″ on our sample desk, quite the jump in space). This is slightly smaller than the Theodore’s drawer, but the Esben has two of them. By cubic inches, this is one of the most capacious built-in standing desk storage solutions we’ve seen so far, at least in the commodity price range. (There are some high end standing desks coming out soon with a full complement of deep drawers big enough for hanging folders and such.)
The drawers themselves feel decent. The drawer slides are “soft closing” so you don’t have to push them in all the way for the drawer face to become flush with the front of the desk. But the left drawer on our sample desk didn’t quite close right so it required a little extra push at the end to get it into place.
As we said above, the price of admission for a desk with built-in drawers is the inability to fine-tune ergonomics. You can’t install an ergonomic keyboard tray because the drawer is in the way. You can’t attach a monitor arm because of the desktop’s edge shape and thickness (5.75”). The desk is designed for laptop users who have no intention of adding further ergonomic accessories.
We also found that because the desktop is so thick, it cuts into your leg room when you’re seated. If you’ve got the thighs of an NFL linebacker this might not be ideal for you.
The Esben does have a decided advantage over the Theodore when it comes to the hand controller. While the Theodore clearly prioritized looks over functionality with no digital height readout or height memory presets, the Esben adds the option for those features.
It comes with two options for hand controllers. The first is a simple, two-button controller with no height readout (FlexiSpot calls this the UD4EW). The second is a more standard six-button controller that has a height readout and four height memory presets (UD4W). The UD4W also adds three USB ports and, crucially, anti-collision technology. Considering the UD4W only costs $30 more, it’s an absolute no-brainer of an upgrade.
With the UD4EW, you’ll have a very tough time replicating your ideal sitting and standing heights. Each time you change positions you’ll have to find the correct spot again. Plus, not having anti-collision technology can be a safety hazard since children can easily play with the up and down buttons, potentially causing injuries or damaging equipment.
You’ll want to turn your anti-collision sensitivity on the Esben up since it was very hard to impossible to trigger the system at lower sensitivity settings. Even at the highest setting, this is one of the least sensitive anti-collision systems we’ve tested.
Neither model comes with Bluetooth connectivity, which is a little disappointing. These days many of the newly-designed standing desks feature Bluetooth connectivity to work with a smartphone app for controlling the desk, keeping track of your standing time goals, etc. There’s no app and because there’s no Bluetooth, app connectivity won’t be a possible feature in the future either. But at this price point, Bluetooth is definitely not a given on all standing desks quite yet.
How’s The Base?
Flexispot is the American retail brand for Chinese OEM manufacturer Loctek, a prominent commodity producer of electric standing desk lifting bases. As you would expect for this price range, the FlexiSpot Esben’s Loctek base does have some issues.
It’s a single motor design and on the louder side. It has a weight capacity of only 99 lbs and moves up and down at a relatively slow 1 inch per second. We loaded it to 115 lbs in our lab testing and it had the same transit speed so that’s good, but weight ratings are an important consideration with any standing desk, and this one comes in at the very bottom end of the range even for a single-motor base.
The Esben’s weight capacity is very low but that makes sense for this specific desk type. As we discussed above, this desktop can’t take a keyboard tray or monitor arm and is designed for the laptop user. Without the capacity for monitor arms and monitors, a 99-lb capacity won’t be such a hindrance bearing the assumption that this is really a desk for laptop users. We would certainly like more weight capacity, but the Esben’s ratings for this don’t suffer as much as other desks since there are fewer ways to stack up the weight on this desk in the first place.
The legs are single-stage (two segments) with the resultant short “stroke” (total height adjustment range) of only 19.7”, and a listed height range of 29.5” to 49.2”. When we measured the desk, we saw a range of 29.125″-48.625″, which is not a huge difference, but it was noticeable when standing next to the Theodore, which has the same listed height range.
That minimum height is an issue and will be set too high for shorter users and even some medium-height users to use ergonomically. On the other end, if you’re a tall user, the 49.2” maximum height gives you an extra inch or two over the ANSI/BIFMA G1-2013 Ergonomic Guidelines recommend.
We found the FlexiSpot Esben to be fairly unstable at height and less stable than the FlexiSpot Theodore. The desktop design should add stability because the four-sided box structure adds much more “parallelogram stability” than a standard inch-thick desktop plank would, but it does add a large amount of mass at the top.
Just like with the low weight capacity, the Esben avoids some stability issues because of its own limitations. It would struggle more with stability if you added a keyboard tray because it would create a longer “moment lever” or a monitor arm because it would lead to a shaky monitor. Alas, you can’t add those accessories so they’re not a problem.
The desk comes in one box and FlexiSpot does a good job of including sufficient packing since this desktop is much more prone to damage than a standard flat desktop plank.
The Esben shines when it comes to assembly. It is partially pre-assembled and has only three steps. First, you attach the legs to the frame. Each of these has four bolts and they all went in smoothly, unlike other Chinese-made desks we’ve built that have paint clogging the receiving threads and manufacturing tolerances not being quite as tight as you’d want when dealing with precision electromechanical actuators. Second, you attach the feet to the legs. Each has four bolts. Finally, you attach the hand controller with three screws and several cables under the desk.
This assembly should take about 15 minutes, including unboxing. As such we’ve added the Esben to our round-up of Quick Install Standing Desks. For tools, you’ll only need the included Allen wrench. In terms of the mechanical design of the quick-install frame it isn’t as robust and foolproof as the fancier ones like on iMovR or ZipDesk bases that are very precisely and securely locked into place. You’re likely to need to flip the Esben over once in a while and tighten down these bolts if your desk starts to get a little shakier than usual. But it is a low cost approach that’s “good enough” for a commodity frame design.
FlexiSpot’s warranty for this desk is 5 years for the frame and two years for the desktop/electronics. This is better than some of the cheap desks you’ll find all over Amazon (and you should always take user reviews on Amazon with a large grain of salt), but underwhelming against the major manufacturers in this space.
We’re a bit surprised FlexiSpot hasn’t jumped on the warranty train with UpLift and Fully who have recently increased their warranty terms on their Chinese-made standing desks to match iMovR’s 15-year made-in-USA warranties, but even these longer warranties aren’t a sure thing as they don’t necessarily relate to the quality and durability of the product in all cases. Some insert carve-outs in the fine print that might leave you out in the cold if ever you run into a problem. (In fact, there’s so much spin going on in warranty terms marketing claims these days that we had to write an article just on How To Compare Warranty Policies Between Standing Desk Manufacturers, which we encourage you to read before making a purchase.)
Comparisons for the Esben to its FlexiSpot sibling, the Theodore, are natural. Both are standing desks with drawers and both are just under $500. Unless you’re smitten with the design flair of the Theodore, we don’t see many reasons to pick it over the Esben. Both have the same limitations in ergonomics and frame, but the Esben has even more storage and the ability to upgrade to the UD4W model with a better hand controller.
Remember that for $30, the UD4W is a much better desk because the upgraded controller adds anti-collision technology, height memory presets, USB ports and a digital height readout. Because it’s so cheap and such a no-brainer, our ratings above will reflect the UD4W desk.
This is a great desk if you’re a medium or tall laptop user who wants to stand isn’t too worried about fine-tuning your ergonomics. Its built-in drawers give it an edge against most standing desks in this price range.