Varidesk Pro Plus 36 Electric Standing Desk Converter Review
- Lab tested
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The Pro Plus 36 Electric is an exceptionally well-made electric standing desk converter. It excels at stability, ease of use and overall design, despite some small issues with the keyboard tray. Electric converters may not be at the stage where they can overtake manual models in terms of popularity just yet, but the electric Varidesk pushes up one big step closer toward that future.
|MSRP / List Price||$395|
Free shipping in lower 48 states
5 year warranty
|Monitor Arm Mounting Options||
Compatible only with Varidesk-brand monitor arms
Height range: 4.75″-18.75″
|Number of Monitors Supported||
Main Work Surface: 36″(W) x 17″(D)
|NEAT™ Certified by Mayo Clinic||
|Competition||All Standing Desk Converters|
|Where to buy||
Buy on Amazon
|Positives||Quiet electric lift mechanism works smoothly, quietly, and without complication. Much more stable than similarly-designed competitors. Includes free PowerHub, which allows you to cut down on mess and power your devices more conveniently.|
|Negatives||Keyboard tray is shakier than it should be, and not entirely level. Not a terribly high weight rating (for an electric); transit speed is an unimpressive 1”/second.|
The Future is Electric
In the same way that roll-up car windows have fallen by the wayside, we might someday live in a world where manual standing desk converters are a thing of the past. As manufacturers become more efficient and electric designs improve, prices can start to go down, and popularity will go up. It’s simply easier to push a button than it is to physically lift your monitor, laptop, keyboard, and whatever else goes on your tabletop—the heavier your work station becomes, the more an electric converter makes sense.
Of course, the big way in which manual converters are still superior is speed—it takes no time at all to lift up your spring or gas-assisted converter, but it can take up to 20 seconds to go from sitting to standing with an electric model. We’re not at the point where electric converters are better in every way just yet, but with each new release, we’re approaching that world.
The Pro Plus 36 Electric is a big step forward toward that future. A lot of our common complaints regarding electric standing desk converters come down to them not getting the basics right. They’re either not stable, too noisy, or have design flaws that shorten their lifetime or make them ergonomically atrocious. And even when these flaws aren’t present, the prices on these products tend to be prohibitively high for all but high-ranking executives.
The Pro Plus 36 Electric is the first product that we’ve tested in this category that does not disappoint in some unexpected and dealbreaking way. While the $495 price tag may still deter some, the quality of this Varidesk model should make it worthwhile for people who want a high-quality electric standing desk converter.
The Electric Varidesk: Strong on Fundamentals
The Pro Plus 36 Electric is surprisingly stable, even at its maximum height of 18.75”. This is a rarity among converters of all types, despite being a crucial component of the product’s overall usability. The main work surface has almost no wobble to it at all. However, the keyboard tray showed more wobble than we would like (more on that later).
Practically every aspect of the electric Varidesk is on point. The motor is refreshingly quiet, a quality you and your coworkers will surely appreciate as you go from sitting to standing and back again each day. Its lift speed is nothing to write home about, but not sub-par among electric converters. It moves at roughly 1” per second, depending on how close you are to the 40 lb weight limit (we tested it at 80 lbs and it wouldn’t budge, but it would still lift under 50 lbs.) If you’ve got a heavy iMac (or two), you might run into problems, but for most users, 40 lbs with a little bit of extra capacity should be sufficient.
A nice touch we noticed was that the Pro Plus 36 Electric does not “crash” upon reaching its lowest height setting. It smoothly settles with the keyboard tray resting on your tabletop, unlike some other X-Lift electric converters we’ve reviewed. Aside from preventing your over-filled cup of coffee from spilling when you go from standing to sitting, this is a mark of a product that has been tested and refined to get the details right.
The Pro Plus 36 Electric also features what Varidesk calls “accessory trays,” which are small indentations on the panel between the keyboard tray and the main work surface that can house your smartphone, or another small accessory. However, they were clearly not designed to hold a 6” phone in a case. They still can, but it’s not a perfect fit.
The main work surface does not feature any grommet holes. This restricts your options to clamp-mounted monitor arms, and Varidesk only recommends their own brand. Other popular monitor arms, like Ergotron‘s and iMovR’s, will not have enough room to clamp on when the Varidesk is at its lowest height position.
One point of concern is the keyboard tray. It’s attached by short brackets that don’t secure it quite well enough, and it showed more wobble than we would like as a result. It’s particularly noticeable when you press down on the tray, and observe the point where it connects to the converter—the tray definitely tilts downward, which we confirmed with a level. As we’ve discussed before, a keyboard tray that tilts at a negative incline is great for typing ergonomics, but the Varidesk’s tray tilts downward in front rather than in back—an undesirable positive tilt. This isn’t to say the tray is unusable, as it’s better than some of the cheaper models we’ve tried, but it isn’t perfect.
One nice surprise we found is that the Pro Plus 36 Electric includes the Varidesk PowerHub. This accessory is like a mini powerstrip, featuring three outlets and two USB ports. It edge-clamps to the side of your work surface, so you can use it to cut down on the cable mess of your various devices (and if you’re still getting tangled up, the Pro Plus 36 Electric includes some built-in cable management features as well—you can run cables through the plate between the keyboard tray and the main work surface). The PowerHub retails for $45 on its own.
If the PowerHub doesn’t fit your needs, 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.
How does it compare to other Electric Standing Desk Converters?
Compared to the Versadesk Power Pro, it’s nearest competitor in the electric X-Lift category so far, the Pro Plus 36 Electric is a clear winner. While it may cost a fair bit more, the electric Varidesk is quieter, more stable, and better designed—the linear actuator that lifts the Versadesk is exposed, and liable to collect dust over time, while the Varidesk’s is covered (not sealed completely, but not fully exposed either.) This gives us more confidence in the electric Varidesk’s resistance to gunking up with dust over time.
The keyboard tray in particular is much more stable to type on (despite the fact that, as we mentioned above, the keyboard tray is the least stable part of the Varidesk). The quieter motor is less likely to cause issues with those around you at work. However, the one point that the Versadesk does have in its favor is its 80lb weight capacity, which is twice what the Varidesk can lift. Overall, the Varidesk Pro Plus 36 Electric just feels like a higher-quality product.
The Smartdesk Mini by Autonomous is a tempting budget option in the world of electric converters, but don’t be fooled—you get what you pay for. Poor ergonomics and baffling design decisions keep this product from being a serious consideration. The Pro Plus 36 Electric beats it in terms of ergonomics and stability. We may see prices this low on quality products in the future, but they’re simply not reasonable for electric converters right now.
On the other end of the price spectrum is the Winston-E. When researching electric standing desk converters, the Winston-E is hard to ignore due to its detailed industrial design, much higher lift capacity and far greater functionality overall as compared to the Varidesk Pro Plus 36 Electric. This perennial favorite is built on a post-and-base design that needs to be assembled and installed on your desk, as opposed to the Varidesk which is ready to use right out of the box.
Unique to the Winston-E is the ability to adjust your monitors independently of your work surface, giving you the functionality of a monitor arm built right in (supporting single, dual or triple LCDs). The big strikes against it are that post-and-base converters just aren’t for everyone, both in terms of their looks and in terms of their slightly different functionality, and its tremendous cost. These are both solid products, and the Winston-E is certainly more at home in an executive environment that must adhere to a high aesthetic standard, but when considering functionality and budget, the electric Varidesk is a strong choice.
The Bottom Line
This Varidesk model is the first one in years that our expert review team actually liked, and they liked it a lot. It’s a departure from the company’s typical approach over the last few years of overpricing a sub-par product made in China with little attention to stability or ergonomics. Has the company turned over a new leaf? We’ll reserve judgement on that until we see some improving in the rest of the Varidesk converters and desks that we’ve reviewed. But at least now, there’s hope.
The Pro Plus 36 Electric is the best electric converter under $500 that we’ve seen so far. While it doesn’t bring any cool new features to the tables, it refines essential aspects like stability, lift mechanism, installation (it’s ready out of the box), and even cable management with the PowerHub. It still lacks the one feature we’ve seen on now electric desktop converter yet but we do see on almost all full sit-to-stand desks, and that’s an anti-collision sensor. From a practical standpoint this is even more important for preventing crushed objects and fingers above the desktop than below it.
The only other thing we really would like to see improved is the somewhat loose keyboard tray; even better would be an ergonomic negative tilt feature like on the ZipLift models. The field of electric standing desk converters is growing rapidly, and we can only expect to see the bar raised with each new entrant, so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and stay abreast of the competition. We have several others low-cost electric standing desk converters being testing in our labs right now that we’ll be publishing reviews of in the coming months.
Interested in learning more about the Varidesk lineup? See our comprehensive slate of Varidesk reviews.