Varidesk ProDesk 48 and ProDesk 60 Standing Desk Review
- First Look
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Vari is one of the original standing desk converter industry giants, and this is their first foray into the electric standing desk market. They’ve always been known for their massive branding budget, as well as their high prices. The difference with this product is that it’s not an industry leader – it’s late to the party with outdated features and a very high price point.
|MSRP / List Price||$699|
|Street Price||Scan for available discount deals|
Free shipping with FedEx. Premium upgrades available.
5 year warranty
Programmable controller with three height presets
48″ W x 30″ D or 60″ W x 30″ D
Black, White, Butcher Block, Darkwood, Reclaimed Wood
Height range: 25.5″-50.5″
48″ desk: 200 lbs
48″ W x 30″ D or 60″ W x 30″ D
|Typical Assembly Time||
Despite claims of 5-minute assembly, count on at least 20 minutes, if you have the right tools
Though Varidesk claims “UL Certified to BIFMA” (see review) there is no ANSI/BIFMA X5.5-2014 certificate, and the height range is not compliant with ANSI/BIFMA G1-2013 Ergonomic Guidelines
|NEAT™ Certified by Mayo Clinic||
|User Reviews||See on Amazon|
|Where to buy||
Buy on Amazon
|Quality and Aesthetics|
|Positives||Assembly is easier and quicker than most standing desks. Stability and lift capacity are good, and the tabletop laminate finishes are thermoformed around contoured edges (though only five "colors" are available.)|
|Negatives||While it may have the recognizable Vari brand name behind it, the ProDesk Electric's outrageous price tag makes this desk hard to recommend. An outdated "kneecrusher" crossbar between the legs of the desk is a bizarre design choice for a product at this price. The lack of available customization options is a big minus compared to competitors. Features you'd expect at this price point like Bluetooth, anti-collision detection, premium desktop surfaces and longer warranty are conspicuously missing.|
[Editors’ Note – This product seems to be no longer available from the manufacturer. But the do still have similar options. We will keep this review up for future reference and comparison.]
Our Long History with Vari
We’ve been reviewing Varidesk products since the company was first spun out of costume and decorations-manufacturer Gemmy Industries in 2013. That’s when they first introduced what was at the time a highly innovative new product, the Varidesk Pro standing desk converter. The Varidesk (originally called the Versadesk but that was stopped by a lawsuit from Versatable) started out as a CEO’s pet project inside of Gemmy, and has exploded to become one of the largest brands in the office fitness sector today, and still the sales leader in the desktop converter segment.
Since then the company has rolled out a long list of variants all using the same patented, albeit now-antiquated spring counterbalance mechanism, including the Vari Laptop 30 Sit Stand Workstation, Vari Cube Corner Corner Standing Desk Converter, Vari Pro Plus Standing Desk Converter, Vari Exec Series, and a whole bunch of accessories including the Vari ActiveMat. Over the past five years their success has attracted dozens of competitors who have been out-innovating the innovator (the phrase “pioneers get the arrows in their back” leaps to mind), and plenty of copycats just knocking off their overpriced products and selling them for less. (See our Vari Alternatives primer for a taste of what’s going on in that category).
With the ProDesk 60 Electric, in 2018 Vari decided to throw their hat in the ring and slug it out with a few hundred incumbent electric standing desk manufacturers, albeit with a rather unremarkable design. We’re highly disappointed that this was the best they could muster up after a truly unworthy first attempt at making a desk product, the ProDesk 54 Adjustable-Height Desk— or as we affectionately refer to it around here, the Vari Platypus.
The ProDesk 60 Standing Desk – A Dubious Debut
We’ve reviewed so many standing desks that it’s often hard to rank one copycat design relative to its nearest peers. In this case we were not so challenged. There’s no way to say this other than to be quite blunt. At $999 the ProDesk60 Electric was priced more than 2x what you’d expect to pay for a desk of the same quality. For a thousand dollars you’d expect an American-made, high-tech desk with a solid warranty, not an outdated design with low-cost Chinese parts. After a lot of negative feedback from the market in late 2019 Vari dropped the price of the ProDesk 60 to $799, and introduced a smaller, 48″ version, the ProDesk 48, at $699.
Don’t be fooled by the marketing glitz and outlandish claims on the Vari website, or the surprisingly well-written and typo-free user reviews quite transparently written by their own marketing department. This is another instance of brand name power masking an underlying lack of quality.
What Vari calls a “stability bar” is a band aid for a wobbly set of legs, and only partially effective at that. Standing desks that you could buy ten years ago usually had one, but they were hated by customers because you’d bang your shins against this bar every time you scooted forward in your seat. The term “knee crusher” came to be bandied about so pejoratively that most manufacturers removed them from their desk products years ago.
Almost all modern-day desk designs worth their salt in stability have relocated this stabilization bar to just under the desktop, usually screwed to the wood as a “crossbar,” borrowing stiffness from the desktop itself to add to the lateral stability of the desk.
In fact, the Vari standing desk also has crossbars attached to the desktop, and since it’s only 48″ or 60” wide that should provide plenty of stability. The fact that an additional stability bar is required to span the lowest of the telescoping linear actuator tubes is bewildering beyond our imagination. All this points to the “glides” between the telescoping tubes—the single most important component of any lifting column — being of such poor quality as to need “belt and suspenders” to maintain stability.
You can learn more about the technology differences that affect standing desk stability in our primer on Why Some Standing Desks Shake More Than Others.
One Size Two Sizes Fits All
In this day and age, any good standing desk will come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. However, Vari has limited their offering to only two sizes: the newly added 30″ x 48″ and the original 30” x 60”. If this feels familiar it’s because they’ve taken a note out of Autonomous’ commodity Chinese-made SmartDesk 2 standing desk offering only a single size (30″ x 53″ in their case) in order to minimize inventory investment. About half of all standing desks sold are between 48″ and 60″ in width, so if you could offer two, these are the widths you’re going to want to produce. That said, it’s unfortunate that they don’t offer a more balanced 24″ depth on the 48″-wide top, as that is a very popular configuration.
As colors go Vari gives you the choice of Black, White, Butcher Block, “Darkwood,” and “Reclaimed Wood”, which sounds like a nice palette until you realize that these are all just different images printed on the same thermofoil laminate. Don’t expect real “reclaimed wood” or “butcher block,” though there’s no disclaimer on the website to tell you so. “Darkwood” is a new one on us, as we’re used to seeing manufacturers tout an actual common species in their wood grain laminates, like Oak or Cherry.
The only specific information Vari gives on their laminate technology is that it’s “hardened,” whatever that is supposed to mean. To learn all about all the different desktop technologies offered in the market today be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Desktops for Standing Desks. If reclaimed wood is the look you’re interested in learn the differences between authentic and faux (like this) reclaimed wood, with our comprehensive round-up of Reclaimed Wood Standing Desks.
The base color is tied to the tabletop color: silver bases are paired with white tops, and slate gray bases are paired with everything else. So, all in all you’re looking at five options — just the desktop color — as compared to the thousands of size/shape/color combination options you’ll find on something like the American-made iMovR Energize. If you’re looking for something in this price range that is more truly factory pre-assembled and tested, and can be installed in minutes with no tools whatsoever, check out the iMovR Lander with it’s over 1,500 color/size combinations.
The desktop features a 26.75″ W 0.75″ D indentation in the back, allowing you to cleanly run your cables down the back of your desk while your desk is positioned flush against the wall. This comes in lieu of grommet holes which accomplish the same purpose, and at this price point would certainly be expected. Aesthetically, the Varidesk’s indentation is a simpler solution — the trade-off is that you lose the ability to outfit your desk with grommet-mounted accessories, such as desktop power nodes, wireless phone chargers or certain monitor arms.
Many standing desks come with grommets for some added convenience. Check out our article on grommet holes, with everything you need to know about the different ways to use them to enhance your workstation, what to look for in your grommet holes, and where to find the desks with the best ones.
Vari’s claim that the desk “Assembles easily in 5 minutes or less without special or complicated tools” is flatly unrealistic – it’s really more like 20 minutes minimum – but it is easier than many other standing desks. While the crossbars come pre-mounted to the desktop (a definite plus), you still have to position the legs in the receiving sockets and secure them in place with Allen bolts using the provided Allen key, as pictured here. It takes a lot of cranks on the key to get all eight bolts in.
The remaining steps are to attach the pigtail cables to the power supply, attach the stability bar between the two legs, and then finally install the cable tray before flipping the desk over. At least the stability bar doesn’t use more Allen-head bolts to attach. Instead, Vari includes a small, branded rubber mallet for you to bang it in with.
It’s still better than the assembly process on many desks, for sure, but “five minutes” is a laughable claim. While it’s not as bad as the 48-bolt affair you’d be in for with an Autonomous SmartDesk it’s also nothing like any of the true “quick install” desks that are now starting to appear on the market.
For example… for not a whole lot more money you could get yourself a Lander Desk, which actually is factory pre-assembled (and factory pre-tested), with the final pieces coming together in just 3 minutes, no tools required. Or the new Lander Lite desk—even closer in price to the ProDesk—which we recently reviewed and took us under 8 minutes to assemble. In fact, you could assemble an entire Lander L-Desk in eight minutes (normally 90 minutes for two people on conventional L-desks).
One thing that bears mentioning is that most standing desk manufacturers know to pinch trim their desktops, so a 60″ top is actually only 59″ wide. The reason for this is if you are planning to use the desk in a 60″-wide cubicle it’ll scrape up and down the partitions if it fits at all. Given Vari’s DNA, which is not originally of the office furniture industry, they missed this nuance. Their tops are exactly 48″ and 60″ wide, and therefore unlikely to be usable in cubicles of the same dimension.
The lift rating (200 pounds on the 48″ desk and 250 pounds on the 60″), hand controller with three programmable height presets, height adjustment range and other specifications that Vari discloses are all respectable for an entry-level standing desk. However, at $699 and $799 respectively, these are adequate but unexciting specs. The five-year warranty is similarly unimpressive. While American-made standup desks typically carry ten-year warranties, so does the StandDesk Pro, also made in China, at half the price of the Prodesk 60. For more information on warranties, be sure to read our primer on How to Compare Warranties on Standing Desks.
Features that are missing from the Vari standing desk that you’d expect to find in this price range include anti-collision detection, Bluetooth and smartphone-app control, a little more lift capacity and faster transit speed, less noisy motors and a longer warranty. The composite wood desktop with thermofoil lamination is on the cheap side in terms of durability, and falls far short of nicer 3D laminated tops you can find on desks in this price range. The ProDesk also does not accept caster wheels, a popular add-on these days.
Speaking of quality desktops, a lot of Chinese desk producers haven’t caught onto California Prop 65 chemical restrictions yet, and that a lot of organizations won’t even buy a desk that isn’t Prop 65 compliant, nationally. The warnings on this product include the use of formaldehyde in the desks and lead in the bases(!!!). This is going to disqualify the product for many corporate, educational and government buyers. This Prop 65 disclosure was well hidden on Vari’s site and not disclosed on Amazon at all.
What the People of Amazon Think
Even though we always caveat that Amazon user reviews are extremely unreliable in the office fitness category, in a case like this where there are already several hundred reviews to plow through we do read all the verified buyer reviews to get a general sense of what users have liked or not liked about their purchases. And in the case of the Vari standing desk there are very consistent reports, both pro and con that we’ll summarize here.
- Extremely sturdy and stable. Rave reviews were posted by some unfortunate souls who bought and built some really cheap and flimsy desk in the past so their expectations were exceeded.
- Easy to assemble, though most people noted it took two people and 15-20 minutes, largely due to the weight of the legs and the tops (the 60″ top weighs 108 pounds). For customers who bought more than one they had the drill down and were able to assemble a ProDesk in 10 minutes.
- Many users who took the time to compare the ProDesk to other makers’ models after the fact, complained that they probably could have had a desk of equal quality “at half the price.” (Maybe not “half” but certainly for less, we would concur.)
- Many reported damage in shipping, especially to the desktops, but most said customer service was great about sending out a new part. Some had excessive challenges.
- While many users reported they thought the quality of materials was great, many (who have probably seen some quality brands of standing desks before) said the exact opposite.
- Many were disappointed that the “reclaimed wood” and “darkwood” looked good at a distance but up close we’re obviously faux. They somehow expected real wood at these prices, or for the wood to look as good as it does in the enhanced photos on Vari’s website. This is where we feel Vari’s marketing really crosses the line into false advertising – many consumers seemed confused, and frankly upset, to learn the wood grain tops were just faux.
- Some customers reported holes not aligning, bad welding joints, and other quality issues not uncommon with Chinese-built desks (in our considerable experience). We’re used to seeing issues like these early in a product’s life cycle but what’s concerning is that QA and packaging deficiency reports continue through the past year, as well.
- Several users complained that the plastic cable tray interferes with the monitor arms that Vari offers. And this is indeed a design oversight, though one that can be worked around.
- A lot of users actually believe their desktops are made of real wood, mostly because they are so heavy (and they’re heavy because steel frame parts are pre-attached to them), but really because they don’t have any understanding of what solid wood is versus MDF or other composite wood products. Some thought the tops were veneered, probably just misunderstanding what veneer means. (See our wood tops guide if you’re curious)
- MANY users complain that the programmable height buttons are not “fire and forget,” that you need to keep your finger on the button the entire time the desk is in motion. In point of fact, this is way it’s supposed to be with a UL-certified desk in the United States. Many Chinese-made desks sold online have UL-certified power supplies but the desk systems are not tested or certified, and thus they sell something that’s technically not supposed to be sold to American buyers, albeit there’s no enforcement agency involved; it would only hurt them in a civil litigation. So it’s a bit unfair to slam Vari for having this safety measure built-in. And it’s important because as we stated above, the ProDesk has no collision-detection circuitry. We always learn the most from 4-star reviews because the customers generally like their desk but for one thing, and we were surprised at the frequency that this issue was cited as that one thing.
- Some buyers complained the top arrived without the base or the base arrived without the top. This is not Vari’s fault, sometimes the UPS or FedEx delivery truck is full and the second parcels ends up on the next truck. In most cases it’ll arrive the next day, but these users don’t come back to update their reviews. While some standing desks deliver by freight, altogether on one pallet, and others ship in a single box (like the i1 Standing Desk), most desks sold online ship in two or more separate parcels, so this is going to happen and it’s not something in Vari’s or even Amazon’s control.
Bottom Line? Save Your Dough
On the plus side, this is a very stable desk design, given the inclusion of the crossbar along the bottom as we discussed above and the inch-thick composite wood tops. Vari employs a lot of very heavy steel in their design, which lowers the center of gravity of the desk and improves stability. That said, Vari’s Prodesk is just another Chinese-made, me-too desk, but sold at an American-made Cadillac price. Its specs are indeed adequate, but the cheaply-made lifting columns and the outdated knee-crusher crossbar below the desk, combined with the lack of customization options make it tough to recommend this product at this price point (even after they cut $200 from its introductory price).
As we take issue with on most Vari products, their marketing claims frequently go beyond just the hyperbolic and into the realm of false advertising. In the case of the ProDesk, which is marketed prominently as a “5-minute assembly,” they’re being true to form. As one can quickly discern from reviews and questions posted to Amazon MANY people are duped into thinking that “reclaimed wood” is actual natural wood recovered from some old barn, when in fact it’s just a thermofoiled image wrapped around MDF. Vari really needs to disclose these things to the consumer.
One thing that is particularly puzzling to us is Vari’s claims that their desks are “UL Certified to BIFMA.” This is a bizarre notion. UL is one testing standard, and ANSI/BIFMA X5.5-2014 is another. The former is something you’ll find on just about any product that plugs into the wall for electrical power. Top-quality standing desk manufacturers will have a UL 962 certification as a minimum requirement for sending the desk to an independent laboratory for ANSI/BIFMA testing. BIFMA is very specific to commercial standing desk furniture. See our primer on What is ANSI/BIFMA and How Does it Relate to Standing Desks? to learn more, but this feels to us like another marketing sneak. No ANSI/BIFMA Laboratory Testing Report is posted on the Vari website as you’d expect if it really had an X5.5-2014 certification. So like the formaldehyde issue, this is likely going to be a show stopper for a lot of institutional buyers. Our clarification query to the company has so far gone unanswered.
If you’re going to go with an imported desk, there are much cheaper options that offer comparable specs. And if you’re going to pay $800 for a desk, you might as well go with something with a better warranty, better componentry, and far more available options for customizing it to your space and decor. See our round-up of the best sit-stand desks under $800 to compare apples-to-apples.
You can see all of our expert reviews of height adjustable desks in our round-up of the Best Standing Desks Reviews.
And to make sure you’re getting the most out of your converter, check out the iMovR Tucker Pro Cable Management Kit for standing desk converters. It’s the first kit on the market designed specifically for standing desk converters.
Want to Sell A Used Vari Standing Desk?
There are a lot of people in the same boat as you. Check out our brief article for tips.
- Dimensions: 60″ W x 30″ D
- Height range: 25.5″ – 50.5″
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs
- 3 programmable height presets
- Colors available (laminate): Black, White, Butcher Block, Darkwood, Reclaimed Wood
(Image courtesy of Varidesk)
5 year limited warranty.
Free shipping by FedEx. Delivery upgrade options available.
Many standing desks and converters come with grommets for some added convenience. Check out our article on grommet holes for everything you need to know about the different ways to use them to enhance your workstation, what to look for in your grommet holes, and where to find the desks with the best ones.