Northread Electric Standing Desk Review

November 1, 2022
  • Lab tested
  • First Look

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Overview

Review Summary

This Northread adjustable-height desk is a low-cost addition to the available compact standing desk and those with quick installations (relative to other commodity-grade standing desks in this price range). It does have some nice features, like the extra power ports built into the controller and pencil drawer. On the other hand, the manufacturing quality is quite low, resulting in short warranties, open gaps to the inner mechanics, misaligned parts, and shaky stability. However, that is basically what you will get when paying that little for a product you are going to use almost every day.

MSRP / List Price $349
Warranty

Frame: 5 years
Desktop: 2 years
Electronics: 2 years

Lift Type

Single-motor
Single stage

Transit Speed

1.3 inches per second

Controller

4-height preset memory

Colors Available

Black with black frame
White with white frame
Maple laminate with black or white frame

Construction

Plywood top

Monitor Arm Mounting Options

Frame limits edge clamp mounts

Adjustment Range

Height adjusts from 27.2” to 44.9”

Weight Capacity

110 lbs

Dimensions

Top: 45.3” x 23.6″
Pull-out drawer: 18.3” x 10.8″ x 1.4”

Connectivity Features

Included power strip
2 USB ports & 1 USB-C port
No Bluetooth

Product Weight

84 lbs

Typical Assembly Time

Under 15 minutes with proper tools

ANSI/BIFMA Certified

No

NEAT™ Certified by Mayo Clinic

No

Competition

Compare to All Top-Rated Standing Desks
Compare to Other Compact Standing Desks
Compare Only to Other Standing Desks Under $400
Compare to other Quick-Install Standing Desks

Where to buy Buy on Amazon

Rating

Ease of Assembly
3.5
Stability
1.0
Safety
2.0
Reliability
2.0
Customer Experience
2.0
Quality and Aesthetics
1.5
Ergonomics
1.5
Innovation
1.0
Value
2.0
Positives The low cost makes this Northread electric standing desk an easier entry into the standing desk arena. The different built-in USB ports allow you to use the desk power to charge your phone or other devices. The software in the controller allows for four saved heights and has collision detection for safety, which isn't something you always see on desks in this price range. Assembly is relatively quick and easy compared to the vast majority of desks in this price range, while the compact size helps the desk fit into smaller workspaces. The shallow pencil drawer helps keep the desktop clear of papers, pens and small items.
Negatives The desk's single stage design doesn't reach high enough for the standing height of tall users or short enough for short users, though it will be fine for average height users. The single motor design offers a low power and slow transit speed in comparison to dual-motor counterparts. Overall quality of the desktop and the lifting columns is pretty poor, which is also evident in the short warranty, so don't expect the desk to last much longer than two years. Along with the quality and durability is the sturdiness, which is quite lacking, with lots of shaking at standing height both left-to-right and front-to-back, despite the extra "shin crusher" bar connecting the two legs. The metal-skirt frame design also excludes clamping accessories like monitor arms to the desktop.

Bottom Line

2.0
In the end, the Northread single-motor electric standing desk is a "get what you pay for" kind of product. You aren't paying much, so you aren't going to get much, whether that is in height range, durability, reliability, speed, lifting power, or overall quality. It does have a few neat features, like the built-in USB power ports and pencil drawer, but you have to weigh that against the faults and how long it will likely last, not to mention the limited selection in size and color.

New Entry into the Compact and Quick Assembly Categories

The online marketplace for standing desks is filled with products of all sorts. On the mass-produced end of the spectrum, Northread is a relatively new entry into the categories of compact standing desks and quick-install standing desks.

Because they are a compact size, they easily fit in with the standing desks that you find on Amazon, which is their primary selling platform in the US. Smaller desks are easier to ship in a single box (a requirement for Amazon warehouse fulfillment) and it is easier to meet the low, low pricing that Amazon shoppers are used to seeing. 

Many desks are complicated and a pain to put together, but since the frame is already attached to the bottom of the desktop on this Northread standing desk, it takes less than 15 minutes to assemble. Having the legs already attached together helps in this regard as well.

Northread Standing Desk Features

northread electric standing desk control panel
⁣Low-profile control panel features two USB-A and one USB-C power ports for your devices. Four saved heights can make sitting and standing adjustment easier.

There are a few interesting features that come with the Northread electric standing desk. Most notably are the dual USB ports and single USB-C port, which are incorporated into the height control panel. Whereas the height control panel on most standing desks is screwed into the bottom of the desktop and may protrude a bit in the direction of the user, the control panel on the Northread desk is embedded into a steel “skirt” that runs underneath the perimeter of the entire desktop. It’s a clean look and perhaps less likely to be accidentally bumped into and broken off the desk.

northread electric standing desk drawer
⁣The included pencil drawer helps keep your desktop clear of small items.

The skirt frame also holds a convenient drawer in the front of the desk. It isn’t super deep, but it can hold a few papers and pens that you need close at hand. The problem that comes with a drawer like this, not to mention the controller’s sleek profile placement, is that it requires that the frame goes all the way around the desk. Such frames severely limit compatibility with certain ergonomic accessories, and almost everything that clamps to the edge of the desk is gonna be ruled out.

On the safety side, it is nice that the lifting columns have collision sensing, which is a feature we don’t always see on desks in this price range.

New Adjustable-Height Desk Quality

On the performance side of it all, this desk from Northread desk is pretty much a match for its low price point, which is quite low.

The primary purpose of a standing desk is to go low enough for comfortable sitting and high enough for comfortable standing. However, this adjustable-height desk features only a single stage design, which means that it goes neither as high or low as those with dual stage bases with three telescoping tubes instead of just two. Because of this, it won’t be the best purchase for very tall users at standing height, or for shorter users at the sitting position. Read our article on ANSI/BIFMA G1 Ergonomic Guidelines to see how standing desks can meet those standards.

northread electric standing desk motor
⁣The single motor below the standing desk powers both legs. The small built-in power strip attached beneath can be a convenient cable management feature so your computer cables don’t have to reach all the way to the wall.

To save costs it is also a single motor standing desk, which means that one small motor has to carry the load of moving both lifting columns through a transmission mechanism with beveled gears that have a tendency to break easily and add overall friction. This low power also translates into a slow transit speed between sitting and standing. On the upside, the slower speed and lack of a second motor means the desk is quieter than you might expect, at least until all the extra mechanical components start to wear down over time.

For the quality of the desktop, the wood grain looks relatively nice. It has rounded corners to help avoid banging your hips or legs painfully, but it still has the standard 90-degree edge around the top, which can be painful on wrists and forearms that rest against it while typing. But the top itself is not even HPL, which is standard for most modern desktops. It is made of particleboard that is totally exposed in the grommet holes. It will be even more vulnerable to the damage of moisture and spilled liquids when the adhesive wears away and the edge banding starts to peel away.

If you opt for the glass top, you will have the same problem with the hard-edged desktop, but it has a whole different aesthetic, and won’t be vulnerable to humidity changes and spilled liquids like the particleboard top. However, glass tops are notorious for getting finger and hand prints all over them, so you would need to either not care about it or wipe it clean constantly.

Northread electric standing desk tabletoptop overlap
⁣⁣The desktop hangs over the frame on this end, creating an awkward  lip that can be irritating because of what yo use on the other side.
Northread electric standing desk tabletoptop overlap
⁣On this end, the tabletop sits nearly flush with the frame, making an imbalance that users that dislike imperfections might find irritation.

A more disturbing issue we found with the particleboard top we got was that the top didn’t align perfectly with the frame, there were corners where the plywood stuck out over the edge about a quarter inch. This gives the impression of a shockingly poor quality assurance process. 

northread electric standing desk stabilizing bar
⁣The “stabilizing” cross bar can be an annoyance for your feet at the very least, and it is actually placed too low to do all that much for stability issues.

One of the biggest things we look at when we review a standing desk is how sturdy it is. The Northread desk is pretty shaky, especially at the standing height. You can tell that the manufacturer knew this was a problem because of the “shin crusher” cross bar between the legs, which is a cheap way to try and stabilize a desk that has these problems when the lifting columns are made in a low-tech factory. 

It all comes down to the lifting columns being made with low tolerance componentry, not built with precision robotics like those you’ll find on higher-quality linear actuators typically manufactured in the US or Europe. Chinese manufacturers produce bottom-dollar standing desks to complete on Amazon by using cheap materials, unsophisticated machining equipment, and low-cost labor, all resulting in more “slop” between the tubes (in engineering terms, “higher deflection”),, which you can actually see as the desk wobbles. See our full primer on why some standing desks shake more than others to learn more about this.

northread electric standing desk open holes
⁣The open hole in the side of the lifting columns exposes the greasy inner workings of the standing desk parts; linear actuators on most desks are sealed to prevent dust from gumming up the works.

Another hallmark of low-quality manufacturing is the visible grease on the lifting columns and lots of metal shavings that were never cleaned off the parts during the manufacturing process. Dust and loose particles are likely to be attracted to this grease over time, gumming up the works inside the lifting columns (and annoyingly getting on your hands and clothes). 

With all of these problems, it isn’t surprising that the warranty on its different parts is much shorter than you’d want the desk to be in use. The frame has 5 years, the top and electronics have 2 years. This is typical of the low quality manufacturing that comes out of Chinese manufacturing. In contrast to higher quality desks with substantial warranties, this one is likely to become a “throwaway” desk after only a couple of years (check out our primer on what to look for in a standing desk warranty).

The best thing we can say about the Northread standing desk’s product quality is that the packaging is well designed; considering that this is one of the most common shortfalls we find with cheap standing desks made in China. They use a decent amount of cardboard and foam spacers inside the compact box, improving the odds of it making a safe trip to the customer’s door. 

Takeaway

On the whole, the Northread single-motor electric standing desk is a “get what you pay for” kind of product, and you aren’t paying all that much so you shouldn’t expect all that much. It is very much on the cheap end of the spectrum for height-adjustable desks, but that is also typical of most of the cheapest standing desks that you will find on Amazon. You’ll be lucky if it makes it through its two-year electromechanical warranty without failing.

However, if you like the convenient power ports and pencil drawer features that much, the low cost might make it worth the risk of the manufacturing flaws for someone on a very constrained budget. Aesthetically it looks decent enough from a passing distance, just don’t look too closely at the fit and finish. 

But if you want something that’ll be more reliable in the long run be sure to check out our reviews round-ups of the best compact standing desks (under 28”-deep), the best quick-install standing desks (under 20 minutes to assemble), and the best standing desks under $400. If the storage possibilities in a desk are what you are looking for, see our other reviews on desks with built-in storage options. If none of these constraints apply to you and you just want to find the very best standing desks out of hundreds in the market today, check out that round-up first. 


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