VariDesk Pro Desk 54 Adjustable-Height Desk Review
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Vari has called their standing desk converters “standing desks” for years, so when their new Pro Desk hit the scene, we did not expect it to be a desk. The Pro Desk features Vari’s signature height adjustment mechanism, but stands on its own four legs. Although the Pro Desk can be considered the big fish in Vari’s little pond, against the rest of the height-adjustable desk market it’s a fish out of water. In addition to its deficiencies as an adjustable-height desk—its weak lift capacity and small height adjustment range – the Pro Desk still flounders from some Vari-specific shortcomings that continue to detract from the brand’s performance.
|MSRP / List Price
Spring-loaded lever-locking system
32″ x 54″
Pro Desk 54: Black
|Monitor Arm Mounting Options
Single-monitor arm: $125
Pro Desk 54 height range: 28.75″-42.5″
|Where to buy
Buy on Amazon
|Quality and Aesthetics
|Suitability for Treadmill Desking
|Vari's first standalone adjustable-height desk has an expansive desk top, a lightning-fast adjustment speed, and a lower cost than other desks.
|The Pro Desk has the lowest height range and weight capacity of any adjustable-height desk we've reviewed. Its 43.5" max height makes it unusable for tall workers or those with office treadmills. And its 50-pound weight capacity may be suitable for standing desk converters, but not for standalone desks.
Varidesk first entered the world of sit stand workstations in 2013 with the debut of their Varidesk sit-stand workstation. Also called a standing desk converter, devices like the Varidesk are designed to “convert” your fixed-height sitting desk to a full standing desk workstation. At the time, Varidesk was a smash hit thanks to its ease of assembly and a relatively undeveloped marketplace with very little competition. But since those early days the competition has only gotten tougher. To remain competitive, Varidesk has made new, updated models that improve upon the original Varidesk.
One of these new products is the Pro Desk. This model is nearly identical to the original Varidesk, but instead of sitting atop an existing fixed-height desk the Pro Desk is equipped with its own legs, designed essentially as a standalone (no pun intended) adjustable-height desk. Compared to the multitude of standing desk converters in Varidesk’s catalog, the Pro Desk is in an entirely new category. But this new category has some heavy competition, and the Pro Desk doesn’t make the cut.
Some Assembly Required
Ease of installation is a Varidesk hallmark— with every other model, you just take it out of the box, put it onto your desk and you’re ready to go. The Pro Desk on the other hand, like most height adjustable desks, requires some user assembly. To put it together, you and a friend have to set the table top face down on the floor and attach the legs and crossbar before turning it right-side up again. Unfortunately, this assembly process is unavoidable, as Varidesk does not offer any type of factory pre-assembly with their desk.
Pre-assembly saves time and labor so you can start standing at work almost immediately, and it’s especially valuable for large offices who don’t want to put a dozen desks together. Many stand up desks, including most iMovR models and the UpLift 900, offer some sort of pre-assembly upgrade. And with pre-assembly being a hallmark of Varidesk’s other products, we expected the Pro Desk to follow suit. Varidesk’s installation video makes the process look easy, but we’ve tested other products whose assembly process was more complicated than they initially let on. In any case, we’d need an evaluation unit in our lab to find out.
A Very Varidesk Stand Up Desk
Despite the addition of new legs, the Pro Desk is still unmistakably a Varidesk through and through. Aesthetically, it’s almost a carbon copy. Just like on the 48″-wide Varidesks, the Pro Desk top has two built-in hand holes allowing users to reach the two hand levers that control the desk height. Having holes on your desk top is a bit of a nuisance, but it’s the only way for Varidesk users to access those hand levers on larger desk top sizes like the Pro Desk’s 54″ or 60″ width. Furthermore, the desk top is wrapped in the same stippled thermofoil laminate used in other models. Textured work surfaces like these make your handwriting scratchy, so we much prefer smoother finishes, which also look more elegant and office-worthy.
The similarities continue below the desk top as well. The Pro Desk uses the same metal mechanical base frame as the Varidesks of old, complete with a nigh identical, spring-loaded, lever-locking height adjustment mechanism. Squeezing the two hand levers underneath the desk top releases the locks and lets you adjust the desk height to one of nine pre-determined height settings. Attached to this base frame is a leg assembly consisting of four spindly legs and a couple of crossbars arranged in a sawhorse-type of platform. But aside from that, the Pro Desk looks almost exactly like other Varidesk models.
Varidesk elements like the base frame and the bumpy work surface are more aesthetically tolerable for sit-stand workstations—these devices are meant to augment your desk, so they play a smaller role in your office decor. But these traits look cheap and flimsy on a complete standing desk. Desk tops come in all sorts of smooth, attractive finishes, including woodgrain patterns. The ThermoDesk Ellure, which is similar to the Pro Desk in price, features eleven different 3D-laminated desk top designs to complement your office environment better than the Pro Desk’s Fisher-Price aesthetic.
A Standing Desk Converter in Standing Desk Clothing
Varidesk’s signature height adjustment mechanism sets it apart from other standing desks on the market. Most adjustable-height desks are electrically-powered, moving up or down with the touch of a button. A few are manually adjusted, usually by turning a hand crank. But the Pro Desk’s spring-loaded height adjustment mechanism puts it in an entirely different category of desk.
The main advantage of the Pro Desk’s mechanism is that height adjustments are incredibly quick. Manual and electric desks can take 10-20 seconds to adjust from sitting to standing or vice versa. The Pro Desk, on the other hand, is nigh-instantaneous. Squeeze the two hand levers, lift the desk to the right height and let go. The desk top will lock in place to one of nine height settings, and then you’re ready to work. Not since the Humanscale Float have we seen a desk that can adjust that quickly.
However, that speedy adjustment is the only thing the Pro Desk has going for it. We were aghast to learn that its maximum height is a mere 42.5 inches (43.5″ for the 60″ model). This is far beneath the standard for adjustable-height desks, which requires them to reach a minimum of 46.5″ above the ground. The ANSI/BIFMA standard is designed to accommodate the needs of 90% of office workers, and any desk worth its salt will at least meet this height requirement. In fact, many exceed it. The Pro Desk’s insufficient height range makes it incompatible for even moderately tall users (5’ 9” or more), forcing them to work at drastically low heights that can lead to wrist pain and other repetitive strain injuries over time. And if you’re looking to use the Pro Desk with an office treadmill, you can forget about it. The extra 5 – 6 inches of height from a treadmill deck render the Pro Desk practically useless for office workers of nearly any height.
Just as disappointing is the Pro Desk’s measly 50-lb lifting capacity—the lowest of any adjustable-height desk. To Varidesk’s credit, the Pro Desk actually surpasses the other Varidesk models, most of which can only lift around 35 lbs. But while standing desk converters can get away with lighter weight capacities, the Pro Desk is a standalone adjustable-height desk, and so requires a stronger lift mechanism than the other Varidesk models. Fifty pounds might seem like a lot, but you’d be surprised how much your equipment weighs. A 27″ Apple Thunderbolt display, for example, weighs in at about 24 lbs. One of those plus a Mac Pro and you’re already half way to the Pro Desk’s weight limit, to say nothing about any binders, books, peripherals, lamp, and whatever else you’d want at your desk. Even if you manage to stay within that 50lb weight limit, you might still have a difficult time adjusting the work surface. On the Varidesk Pro, we noticed that it became more arduous to lift the work surface the more equipment we loaded onto it. Because the Pro Desk uses basically the same kind of lift mechanism, we expect the same here. This low weight rating means users will have to choose what they take with them to their new desk.
Despite being quick at the draw, lever-locking lift mechanisms like the Varidesk’s are easily surpassed by even the most basic electric or crank-operated desks. For one, lever-lock systems don’t provide the level of precision that an electric or crank-adjustable desk does during height adjustment. The Pro Desk, for instance, has just nine available height settings that you can lock the desk top to. That means that even with the Pro Desk’s tiny 14″ height range, you’re adjusting the desk top height in large increments greater than an inch. This makes finding the proper working height for yourself a bit sketchy.
The Pro Desk also suffers from one particular flaw fundamental to Varidesk’s height adjustment mechanism: Rather than adjusting up and down in a straight line, the desk surface swings forward in an arc when you raise the height. This arching motion forces you backwards, reducing the available floor space around you. Users in compact office spaces will feel especially cramped.
Ergonomic? Not So Much
The Pro Desk’s numerous deficiencies result in a poor ergonomic rating overall. Its absurdly low height range, for example, subjects users to unhealthy wrist angles—typing at too low a height causes excessive dorsiflexion, where users’ hands are bent back at the wrist, causing wrist and forearm pain throughout the day. This is exacerbated by the Pro Desk’s imprecise adjustment mechanism, which makes finding an ergonomically suitable height for your wrists nearly impossible.
Of course, a complete ergonomic workstation requires ergonomic accessories like monitor arms and keyboard trays. A monitor arm is crucial for bringing your screens to an ergonomically correct height, allowing you to look straight at your monitors without craning your neck. This prevents neck and shoulder strain so you can work in greater comfort throughout the day. Varidesk offers an adjustable monitor arm designed to work with all of their workstations, which we still need to evaluate. Many monitor arms, particularly cheaply-built ones, exhibit an irritating amount of monitor shake.
Ergonomic keyboard trays allow you to type at a negative angle. We always recommend typing at -15 degrees minimum, though -30 to -40 degrees is ideal. Doing so protects against excess wrist flexion, and reduces the risk of repetitive strain injuries in the wrists and forearms. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t recommend installing a keyboard tray underneath the Pro Desk. For one thing, its 50-lb lift capacity means users have to be extra judicious about what equipment they place on or underneath the desk, in order to stay under that weight limit.
More importantly though, keyboard trays protrude out about 10 – 14″ towards the user. On a normal desk, a keyboard tray can be annoying, as they often make the desk more liable to shaking—it’s for this reason that we prefer desks with built-in keyboard trays, like the iMovR Omega desks or the Anthro Elevate II Adjusta. On the Varidesk Pro Desk however, we’re wary of how safe a keyboard tray would be. This is because the desk top already extends forward when you raise its height. Throwing a keyboard tray into that mix might drastically increase the Pro Desk’s risk of tipping over. This is something we intend to test when we evaluate the Pro Desk. If the Pro Desk cannot safely accommodate a keyboard tray, users will have to contend with unhealthy wrist ergonomics on their desk.
Varidesk’s first attempt at an adjustable-height desk looks to be a bit of a platypus, reflecting just how far outside of Varidesk’s core competency they’ve gone in trying to capture a share of the highly competitive standalone height-adjustable desk market. Though the Pro Desk’s capabilities would be impressive against other standing desk converters, height-adjustable desks are a new ball game entirely. And against more impressive electric and crank-adjustable desks, the Pro Desk just doesn’t cut it. Its 43.5″ height maximum—the lowest among any adjustable-height desk—makes it incompatible with even slightly tall users. Its 50-lb lift capacity is barely stronger than other standing desk converters, and doesn’t hold a candle to other stand up desks. And despite touting itself as a “new” device, the Pro Desk still comes with Varidesk’s clunky, obsolete lift mechanism which, while fast-adjusting, fails to provide the stability and the ergonomic precision of more advanced desks. We suggest that customers pass on the Pro Desk, and spend up for a reliable desk with better adjustability and a more reliable warranty. See our Adjustable Height Desk Comparison Guide for more, and better, options.
Thinking of a standing desk workstation for the top of your existing desk instead? See our comprehensive round-up of Standing Desk Converter Reviews to learn about all the competing products in the market, and our Varidesk Reviews to compare this model to the others from the same manufacturer.
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.
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Varidesk Pro Desk Options
|Pro Desk 54
|Pro Desk 60