Top Made-in-America Standing Desk Reviews
[Editor’s Note October, 2018: New tariffs on Chinese imports are starting to have a real impact on the office fitness industry as inventories of imported standing desks, converters, ergonomic accessories, etc., that were stockpiled prior to the 10% hike deplete. We’ve received notification from many manufacturers that plan to raise their retail prices to compensate for the tariffs in the coming months. The next set of tariffs going into effect January 1st, 2019 will bump up costs by 25%, at which point we expect the prices on many China-sourced products to equal or exceed their American-made competitors’.]
When it comes to standing desks and standing desk converters, nothing beats made-in-America for component quality, precise machining tolerances, technology features, customer support and overall value over the lifetime of the product. In our comparison reviews in various office fitness categories—be they of standing desks, under-desk cycles or anti-fatigue mats—we always look for a way to stratify the many available options so that readers can quickly zero in on a short list of candidates for consideration. Sometimes we stratify simply on price (e.g. Premium vs. Value vs. Budget models in our main Electric Standing Desks Comparison Review) and sometimes we stratify on architecture (e.g. post-and-base, z-lift, x-lift, hover and fixed-height models in our Sit-Stand Converters Comparison Review). But increasingly over the past few years we’ve had readers ask us to break out products that are specifically made in America, and this is our round-up of just those products.
Not that we’re addicted to stratification but we did break this round-up review into two main sections—Full Standing Desks and Standing Desk Converters—because online searchers often use the same term “standing desk” interchangeably between the two. So if you got to this page through a Google search, we’ve got you covered. But first, let’s talk about some generalizations when it comes to Made-in-America versus Made-in-China.
The case for buying American-made
The obvious needn’t be belabored, buying American is good for our economy and it’s a patriotic thing to do. And we also recognize for some customers in government, aerospace, etc., it’s a requirement to buy American whenever possible. But, generally speaking, there are many other benefits to buying American, such as:
- It’s better for the environment. Many components used in office fitness products involve toxic chemicals somewhere along the supply chain. While American companies must spend more money to produce products within EPA guidelines, Chinese companies have much more lax requirements and have historically put economic growth ahead of clean air and water. Even if you don’t live there it affects our global atmosphere. A great example of this is the highly popular “bamboo desktop.” They are touted by online marketers as being better for the environment because bamboo stocks replace themselves very quickly, but the reality is there’s a huge amount of chemicals (namely formaldehyde), water and energy required to reform essentially grass into a laminated wood product, not to mention the energy expended to ship it here from Asia. Don’t be fooled by the slick “greenwash” marketing, a bamboo desktop is an extraordinarily non-environmental choice, at least with today’s technology (bamboo farms have been planted in the southeast US that should start producing more responsible wood products here in the next few years) and the lack of FSC and Fair Trade Certifications. You’ll also notice very short warranties, if any, on Asian-sourced tabletops, because their cheaper lamination technologies can start degrading the moment the desk is exposed to air and humidity. Definitely pay attention to the tabletop warranty, not just the electric base, if you don’t want to be replacing it after a year or two because it delaminated, got easily scratched, or the “powder coat” (spray paint) dissolved when you spilled your cola on it. Part of being environmentally sensitive is buying products that last longer and don’t head to the landfill as quickly.
- The product is likely to last you much longer. As evidenced by their warranties, American-made products are going to serve you longer as a rule. What does that mean in terms of a standing desk? The delicate, precision manufactured components that allow the telescoping leg segments to glide up and down continue to work in good order much longer. Cheaply-made plastic “glides” will wear down faster, one molecule at a time, every time you cycle your desk up and down, compared to the more advanced, albeit costlier alloys (e.g. Teflon plastic) that American manufacturers will use in their leg systems. Like any high-wear part on an automobile, this is where your focus should be as a consumer. More precisely laser-machined, American-made legs will also give you a more stable desk. And not just out-of-the-box, but over time. Going cheap on this componentry will lead to your desk becoming shakier, if not squeaky, much sooner.
- Every customer matters more. We’ll be blunt. Anything coming out of China is by definition a commodity product, and Chinese factories have a much higher acceptable rate of defect than American factories do. It’s not uncommon for Chinese plants to run as high as 8% defect rate. That’s one thing if you’re talking about a cheap throwaway cat toy, but when the product is a heavy hard-to-remove actuator leg, you’re going to be facing a huge hassle factor and shipping expense getting replacement parts, while your desk will be out of commission. American companies count on their reputation and word-of-mouth advertising from one customer to another, and they tend to do 100% quality checks on their product lines instead of a 10% sampling.
- Customer support is better. If a part in your standing desk breaks and the factory that made the failed component is in China, you’re just a lot less likely to get your desk back in action quickly. And if the shorter warranties associated with imported standing desks runs out on you, once you find out what it costs to service, you’re going to be buying a new desk and junking the broken one. Speaking of warranties, some online sellers offer their own insurance product in the form of an “Extended Warranty” package. These are highly-profitable add-ons for these sellers, who are basically betting on “breakage model economics,” i.e. that most customers will forget where they even bought the product by the time it fails, much less remember they had purchased an extended warranty. Better to take the money you would have spent on an extended warranty and just upgrade to an American-made desk that was designed to last longer, as reflected in its longer (typically ten year) warranty.
- Rewarding innovation. This has real value to society. Chinese companies are very good at copying existing products and finding ways to make them cheaper. They’re not generally known for their innovation. American companies innovate with better technology as their primary defense against cheap imitation products from overseas. Granted, there are many products that are made in China or Taiwan but designed by American, Canadian or European engineers, and built in Asian factories that have to meet their higher quality standards.
The legal standard for claiming a product is made-in-America
Because it is virtually impossible to find any product more sophisticated than a toothpick to be made 100.00% entirely in the USA the Federal Trade Commission does establish some guidelines for when manufacturers can assert the claim that their product is made in America. It comes down to the percentage of the processing and components that are made overseas, and how far downstream those processes and components are. For example, a Danish-owned company can make the actuator legs of a standing desk in Kentucky, incorporating some electronics components from China, motors from Germany, and some bracket parts from Denmark, but if the metal-forming, assembly, painting, testing and packaging of the product all take place in Kentucky, that would be considered a made-in-USA final product. If sold as a desk system together with a tabletop that was fabricated from American lumber, and then laminated and packaged in the USA then the entire desk clearly meets the requirement for being American-made.
By the same token, there are numerous online sellers of standing desks who make only their tabletops in America, building desk systems using entirely Chinese-made bases. They will claim that they do their final assembly in the US by virtue of shipping both the tops and bases out of the same US warehouse, but this doesn’t reach the threshold for advertising the product as being Made in America. Just inserting an American-printed instruction manual in the box and resealing it does not meet the threshold for definition of “final assembly in the USA.” Yes, these sellers get away with the claim because they will be careful to mention it only in copy describing their tabletops, and not expressly claim that the entire product is made in America (they won’t go so far as to disclose their Chinese-made bases). This is, quite candidly, a consumer dupe. Small online sellers get away with this, though, because they are not large enough to attract the attention of the resource-constrained FTC. And this has been going on for years.
In our product reviews we try to get to the truth for our readers, often interviewing company executives and asking for documentation to substantiate their claims. Because we see so many of these products come through our test labs, and having personally toured factories both here and overseas that make components for standing desks, we know what to look for. For example, we’ve yet to see a height controller or power supply that doesn’t say Made in China or Made in Austria, but these components are relatively trivial to the overall cost of producing a standing desk, and reasonably-priced equivalent components aren’t going to be found in the US.
If you’re searching the internet for American-made standing desks you’re going to find very few makes and models—namely the ones listed below—but there are hundreds of thousands of American-made desks sold every year by “contract furniture dealers, ” entirely to large enterprise customers. You just won’t find those models with a Google search because they are typically made-to-order in large quantities, such as when a new building is ready for employees to move in, or a campus undergoes a massive remodel. These sales often involve interior designers, architects, year-long bidding processes, a month or two for production, and professional installation crews. Not the standard fare. And because there are all those extra mouths to feed prices can be double to triple what you can buy directly from a company that sells primarily through their own website or through Amazon.
Our focus here is on American-made standing desks that the consumer can purchase through e-commerce and receive in three weeks or less. It’s a pretty short roster dominated by iMovR, which currently manufactures three different lines of electric standing desks in the USA. In fact they’ve discontinued several older desk lines that employed high-quality Chinese or Taiwanese bases paired with American-made tops, as Fully (Jarvis), Uplift and other competitors still produce. Employing robotic automation to make their bases more competitive with Asian sourced base components, iMovR decided to make the switch to 100% American-made in 2017. The good news is that because iMovR uniquely manufactures all their desks on-demand they’re able to offer thousands of size, shape and color combinations, from compact to super-wide, rectangular to corner, and in eleven standard colors. If you can’t find an iMovR desk to fit your space and decor it probably doesn’t exist.
We’re including the Humanscale Float Table in this list even though it is a counterbalance desk, not an electric. According to the company, they do offer an electric desk as well, but only to bulk corporate buyers, and they don’t publish any specifications on it and you can’t buy it online.
If you’ve been shopping American-made standing desks you may be surprised that certain popular models such as the Fully Jarvis Standing Desk, Multitable FlexTable and Uplift Standing Desk are not listed here. That’s because their “made-in-America” models consist of American-made desktops bolted to Chinese Jiecang bases, so they don’t fit our criteria for inclusion here, nor do they comply with the FTC’s definition of American-made. Focal Upright is another whose products we’d love to include here because they are top-drawer quality but they obtain their bases from Germany, and they’re really leaning desks, not standing desks. Retail franchise chain Relax The Back offers several standing desk models that they claim on their website to be made-in-America, but we’ve checked them out and every one of them uses a Chinese base. There was a California based manufacturer called HealthyDesk that we encountered at several trade shows as recently as 2016 but their review samples never arrived at our testing lab, and the company appears to now have relocated to Bulgaria and no longer making or selling its products in the US.
So, let’s move on to the bona fide American made options that you can actually buy today…
Experts’ Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Brimming with innovative tech features, there are two notable features that clearly set this desk line apart from any other in the market, as well as from the two more conventional models from iMovR (below). First is the fact that the Lander Desk arrives almost entirely pre-assembled, requiring no tools to put together. No other desk on the market will have you standing within minutes of its arrival. In fact, all the rest are to one degree or another an “IKEA DIY project.” So that’s fairly revolutionary in itself.
The Lander desk’s second most notable feature is its future-proof electronics. In place of the usual hand controller console with numerous buttons and segmented display readouts, the Lander employs a simply intuitive height control paddle. Two taps on the paddle and the desk moves up or down to your next “favorite” height. The paddle has a multi-color hi-res display in it and a Bluetooth sync to your smartphone. There’s a built in health coach and other features you can access equally easily from the paddle or the app, including unobtrusive reminders to help you mix up your sitting and standing time. Even with its brawny 360 lb lift capacity and blazing 1.6 inches-per-second transit speed the Lander is as hushed as any of iMovR’s other desks, known for their ultra-low noise signatures.
The Lander comes in a wide array of sizes from 42″ to 83″ wide, and 16 standard colors of state-of-the-art Surf(x) 3D-laminated tabletops. As with all iMovR desks the built-in SteadyType ergonomic keyboard tray is an option, as are a multitude of other monitor arm and keyboard tray options, matching file cabinets, grommet-mounted power modules and every accessory you could ever desire for your personalized active workstation. Pricing of the Lander line is very similar to the venerable Elite and Everest models, the original iMovR desk models, but frankly the newer Lander is our preferred choice for its ease of assembly and superior performance specs. Like the others, it ships within one week of order. To read the results of our lab test see our iMovR Lander Desk Review. If you’re thinking of a walking desk setup be sure to check out the Lander Treadmill Desk.Where to Buy
Experts’ Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Of iMovR’s three lines of American-made standing desks the Freedom line offers the greatest number of size and shape options. Combined with the 16 standard colors there are literally over three thousand custom-made desktops to choose from. Like all iMovR desks these are made on-demand and ship within one week of order. Within the Freedom line there are compact and full-sized tops, up to 71″ wide and 30″ deep, in two different thicknesses for modern versus traditional look, in rectangles and a plethora of corner shapes, and paired with either two-segment or three-segment bases.
Like the other two lines iMovR offers leg extensions to take the Freedom desks up to 55″ in height for tall users and treadmill desk users (no other desk maker offers this exceptional height adjustment range). The difference between the iMovR Energize and iMovR Cascade is that the latter has the built-in SteadyType Ergonomic Keyboard tray. Of the three lines of electric desks the Freedom lines is relatively low frills. It’s the budget model intended to compete with Asian import desks, for sure, but its thousands of top options make it the most configurable standing desk in the market, and it’s well worth consideration. While it doesn’t arrive pre-assembled as the new Lander does, its still easier to put together than any Asian desk model we’ve ever tested. Robotic manufacturing advancements are what allowed iMovR to make the Freedom base at a cost that is competitive with Chinese labor. If you’re looking for American-made quality and warranty (ten years on the bases, five years on the tops, like its sister models) at a price in the same range as Asian-made, this is going to be your go-to choice. If you’re thinking of a walking desk setup, be sure to check out our Energize Treadmill Desk and Cascade Treadmill Desk reviews.Where to Buy
Experts’ Rating: 4 stars
Summary: Humanscale is one of the top brands in ergonomics—one of the largest makers of keyboard trays, monitor arms, and standing desk converters (the QuickStand and QuickStand Lite). The Float Table sits on a counterbalance base, rather than on electric legs. To change height you merely squeeze the brake paddle and lift or lower the desk. That advantages are sleek modern design, no power cord, and noise-free movement. As long as you don’t frequently change the weight or distribution of items on your desktop the counterbalance works great. The disadvantage is cost and reduced versatility. Whereas most electric standing desk bases can be adjusted to a wide range of top sizes, the counterbalance bases are specific to each top size, and they’re really heavy. So it’s not going to be as easy to move to a new space or decor as one of the electrics with swappable tops and telescoping frames. Professional installation is recommended. Humanscale prides itself on the modern industrial design of their products, which are most often found in high-end office spaces like law firms and ad agencies, so they cost a lot more for the brand panache.Where to Buy
Experts’ Rating: 3.5 stars
Summary: The UpDesk Pro is positioned as “commercial grade” but really only in comparison to their UpDesk Home edition desk. Commercial buyers look for more stability, more size and color options to match their spaces, longer warranties and easier installation. In this price range we would have expected a little more in these areas.Buy on Amazon
Unlike the full standing desk category there are many more choices in American-made when it comes to standing desk converters (a.k.a. “desktop risers”, “desktop converters” or “desktop workstations”). And once again, we see a dramatic difference in product quality across the spectrum. Converters that are designed and made in Asia tend to be cheap, poor quality, the least ergonomic, least stable, and most likely to pinch your fingers. There are dozens and dozens of copycat products in the category, emanating from the fact that Varidesk advertises so heavily and sells so many (Chinese-made) converters that they’ve hung a huge target on their back. Since Varidesk only sells direct and has created such immense market demand through its massive TV, print and online media promotion, this has generated over 75 competitors riding their coattails at our last count. With an archaic, non-ergonomic design platform that relies on a patent that Varidesk actively defends by suing as many of its competitors as possible, it’s not a hard product to improve upon with even the slightest dose of design innovation. A couple of years ago Asian competitors just went after Varidesk with even more cheaply made copycat designs; today they are more apt to create different mechanisms to avoid getting sued, though these workarounds have had their drawbacks. Most of the units we’ve tested have been unable to earn more than a 2-star or 3-star review at best, due to their design inadequacies.
In sharp contrast, when you look at the American-made, as well as American-designed and Chinese-made products you see innovation, quality machining and componentry, better stability and ergonomics, longer warranties and vastly better customer support, as a general rule.
Experts’ Rating: 4.5 stars
Summary: The ZipLift Patriot is iMovR’s first made-in-America standing desk converter, and it’s our top choice among homegrown options. Featuring all of the features we loved about the original ZipLift+ (which is made in China, but to iMovR’s exacting manufacturing standards), the Patriot takes the formula and improves it with 3D-laminated surfaces. Plus, the fact that it’s made in America allows to to be GSA-compliant.
Key features of all ZipLift models include the tilting keyboard tray, which reduces wrist strain and allows for more ergonomic typing, the gas-strut lift system that facilitates smooth, quiet, and easy height changes, and an extra-sturdy work surface.Where to Buy
Experts’ Rating: 4.5 stars
Summary: The closest thing to a “Varidesk killer” in the market today is the ZipLift line from iMovR, which includes the 35″ ZipLift+, 42″ ZipLift HD, and the soon to be introduced ZipLift Corner and electric models. Pound for pound, it offers better ergonomics, rigidity, stability and height adjustment range than the size-equivalent Varidesk standing desk models. As a Varidesk alternative, it is also significantly less expensive.
The ZipLift models are designed by a team of American and Canadian engineers with deep experience in designing and manufacturing office ergonomics products such as monitor arms and keyboard trays. This shows in the ZipLift’s built-in tilting keyboard tray and ability to accept any monitor arm on the market. Even at their full 20″ height extension (good for users up to 6’7″) they have rock-solid stability both front-to-back and left-to-right, and won’t easily tilt over like Varidesk and other models can with even slight pressure on the keyboard tray.
The standard ZipLift products are made in a top-tier Chinese factory where quality control is ensured by North American engineers, and they come in simple black and white color options. However, iMovR has recently introduced a new Made-in-USA variant known as the ZipLift Patriot to satisfy demand from government and other corporate buyers who love the product but prefer to buy American whenever possible. Made in the same Michigan plant as the iMovR desks, the new ZipLift Patriot models employ the same gorgeous, ultra-durable, ergo-contoured, Surf(x) 3D laminated surfaces as they use on their desks. Color options include the most popular wood grains, but hundreds of custom color options are available for bulk orders. The only component still made in China is the frame itself, which is already the highest-quality made of any of the Z-Lift converter on the market, and certainly the quietest. The American-made units retail for $100 more than the ones made entirely in China, but are frankly beautiful pieces of office furniture compared to the more utilitarian look of conventional standing desk converters. For bulk pricing options contact iMovR directly.Where to Buy
Experts’ Rating: 5 stars
Summary: At one time the leading maker of post-and-base style standing desk converters—because they were the first to market—Ergo Desktop is still a major player although its market share relative to the field has shrunk significantly. While their products are very popular with their existing customer base and continue to be repurchased, their basic design and industrial aesthetics have not changed in many years, and the company seems somewhat staid in their response to increasing competition.
ErgoDesktop, based in Ohio, is in a sense an on-demand manufacturer, happily customizing their products for the user’s monitor(s) weight, for example. The problem with that, of course, is that if you change to lighter or heavier monitors later the counterbalance force settings in the post structure may not be to your liking. While customization is great, one would expect on-demand production to mean fast production, but ErgoDesktop often has significant delays in shipping, so that’s just something to be aware of when you order. See the full lab-test results by reading our Kangaroo Standing Desk Review, Wallaby Standing Desk Review, and the newest Electric Kangaroo Standing Desk Review standing desk converters.Where to Buy
Experts’ Rating: 5 stars
Summary: The Winston by Innovative Products is one of the most expensive post-and-base converters on the market, but the quality and performance are in line with the price and they are top-rated. The classic manual Winston achieves height changes with the squeeze of a brake cable, while the electric Winston-E does it with a push button. There are only two more expensive units on the market. With Innovative’s acquisition of ErgoTech they technically now own their pricier competitor’s OneTouch model, which lacks the smooth aesthetics of the Winstons but is popular on Wall Street trading floors and command center applications. The other higher-priced competitor is Taskmate Executive Electric Standing Desk Converter from HealthPostures, which you can read about below.
The Winston desktop converters are most popular with people who sit at very expensive desks that they don’t want to uglify with something cheap looking. Their large worksurface areas also make them popular with CPAs and other professionals who work with a lot of papers when they’re at their computers. And if you need to attach three or even four monitors to your standing desk converter either the Winston or the OneTouch will be your go-to models. They’re truly designed to take the weight and can be clamped down to the desktop to provide the necessary stability. The downside to these models, as with any post-and-base design, is that changing the height of the monitor(s) requires a lot of maneuvers. The taller you are the more likely you will need to change monitor height when you stand, in order to prevent neck strain. This is where a lot of people opt for a less expensive Z-Lift unit with added monitor arm(s) to make position changes a little faster.Where to Buy
RightAngle Helium and Helium Jr.
Experts’ Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Wisconsin-based RightAngle Products is one of those American makers of standing desks that offers thousands of models for direct sale to the government or through contract furniture dealers. While they’re not big on ecommerce or direct sales of desk products, their Helium post-and-base converter and Helium Jr. hover-style converter are more easily available online. The Helium is a classic post-and-base design that offers more stability than the Kangaroo-style products and is designed to move up and down easily with one-hand control. The Helium Jr. is a classic hover design that is ideal for people who work with a lot of paper flow or need to collaborate with others at their desk quite often. See our full lab test results by reading our Helium Standing Desk Converter Review and Helium Jr. Standing Desk Converter Review.
A footnote on RightAngle: we do intend to review their desk products in the future, and have already reviewed their Elegante XT Sit-Stand Conference Table.Where to Buy
HealthPostures Taskmate Go 6300 and Taskmate Executive Electric
Experts’ Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Minnesota-based HealthPostures has been a long-time maker of ergonomic accessories including seating products. Similar to the story of ErgoDesktop, while its designs haven’t changed in many years their repeat customers keep them going. The Taskmate Go 6300 is a low-end column-style unit, whereas the Taskmate Executive is the costliest electric model on the market. See our full lab test results by reading our HealthPostures Taskmate Go 6300 Desktop Riser Review and our Taskmate Executive Electric Standing Desk Converter Review.Where to Buy