NOTICE: This product has been Discontinued by Autonomous
When I heard Autonomous was coming out with their standing desk converter, the SmartDesk Mini, I hopped on the waiting list and eagerly waited for it to arrive. The SmartDesk 2 by Autonomous is currently one of the least expensive and most popular standing desks in the world. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that their desktop converter would also be a friendly product to your wallet. From testing their full standing desk, I knew there would be value in their converter. I was just curious what the trade-offs would be and whether they would be worth it to have an electric converter for under $300. Here is what I found through my testing.
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SmartDesk Mini Manufacturer
The SmartDesk Mini is a product by Autonomous. Autonomous is a company that started on Kickstarter is May 2015. Their crowd funding campaign was very successful and Autonomous has been growing ever since. They are now one of the most popular standing desk brands in the world. The SmartDesk Mini is a product that Autonomous sources from OEM Aoke Furniture. Aoke has been involved in the standing desk market since 2012. The electronics are made by TiMotion technologies.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
– Country of Origin
– Specs / Features / Pricing
– Return Policy and Warranty
– Build Quality
– Making Adjustments
– Task and Keyboard Space
– Wire Management
– What I Like
– What I Don’t Like
– Bottom Line
Country of Origin
Made in China
VESA monitor mount
Single Monitor Only
Overall Weight Capacity: 33 lbs.
Unit Weight: 52 lbs.
Overall Dimensions at Lowest Height: 31.5”W x 22.5”D x 26”H
Overall Dimensions at Highest Height: 31.5”W x 22.5”D x 43.5”H
Base Dimensions: 31.5”W x 22.5”D
Upper Platform Dimensions: 29.5”W x 12.5”D
Upper Platform at Lowest Height: 5.75”
Upper Platform at Highest Height: 22.5”
Keyboard Tray Dimensions: 16.5”D x 28.5”W
Keyboard Tray Lowest Height: 1”
Keyboard Tray Highest Height: 18”
Distance from Upper Platform to Keyboard Tray: 4.75”
Center of Monitor Mount at Lowest Height: 10.5”
Center of Monitor Mount at Highest Height: 42”
Monitor adjustment range: 14.5”
Distance from Monitor to Front of Keyboard Tray: 14.5”
Push Button Height Adjustment
Infinite Height Adjustment
Infinite Monitor Height Adjustment
4 Programmable Presets
Dual Platform Design
Soft Start and Stop Technology
Front to Back Monitor Tilt
Side to Side Monitor Pan
Monitor can Rotate 180°
Height Adjustable Foot Glides
$269.00 with Free Shipping
Black or White
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Customers in the Continental United States can try the SmartDesk Mini for 30 days. If you do not like it you can contact Autonomous for an RMA. Autonomous will have the item picked up and you will be refunded in full. The SmartDesk Mini must be returned in the original packaging and arrive in like new condition.
International customers can return the SmartDesk Mini within the first 30 days. The item must be returned in the original packaging. You will be responsible for the original outbound shipping costs, return shipping costs and a 30% restocking fee.
The SmartDesk Mini comes with a three year warranty. There are no exclusions.
The SmartDesk Mini ships within 1 business day and arrives a few days later via FedEx Ground. The item arrives in two separate boxes. The first box contains the base. The first box weighs 47 pounds and is rectangle in shape. The second box contains the two platforms. The second box is about 25 pounds and also rectangle in shape. Both boxes are small enough for one person to carry but some may want help carrying the box with the base in it since it is pretty heavy.
The packaging is very well done on the entire unit. The box with the base has separate slots in the Styrofoam for all the different parts. They are secured tightly and well protected. The box with the platforms has a strong outer shell to protect the inner box. The platforms are each surrounded by foam. There is very little chance for damage to the SmartDesk Mini with the way Autonomous packages the unit.
The assembly process on the SmartDesk Mini is going to be a large time investment. From the time I started unpackaging the unit, it took me 1.5 hours to have everything completed. There were several different parts and lots of different screws. The only tool I needed that was not included was a Philips head screwdriver. One thing that made me very happy to see was that Autonomous had all of the different screws separated into their own plastic bags and they were each labeled. This made it so much easier than having to guess which screws go where.
The assembly process is pretty straight forward and the instructions are pretty simple to follow. I did have a couple pain points during my installation that I will go over now to save you time if you decide to go with the SmartDesk Mini. I would highly recommend having a second person on hand to help you move the unit when it is completed.
1. My first mistake came in the very first step. Step 1 requires you to attach the post to the base with four screws. The instructions do not tell you that you need to tighten the screws a bit at a time. If you tighten one screw too tight, then another screw will not be able to tighten. You need to just hand tighten each screw and then start turning each screw by the same amount until they are all tightened.
2. The second thing that I struggled with was Step 7. It required me to attach the upper platform to the post with four screws by laying the post on its back. The problem I had was that the screw holes didn’t line up with the holes on the support column. I had to lift up on the base to allow the holes to be high enough. I was not able to hold the base up, hold the platform in position and attach the screws all at the same time. I tried for several minutes to do this by myself before finally asking for help. Once I had a second person, we were able to get the step done in a couple minutes.
3. The final thing that I was to address is not so much a pain point but more a lack of information. The bottom of the base has five adjustable height glides. These are meant to be adjusted so that all the edges of the base are well supported. This is not part of the instructions but it is a crucial step to ensure maximum stability. I would recommend doing this at the end of your installation.
The SmartDesk Mini is an electric powered desk that uses a linear actuator system with one motor. It features a large metal base with a vertical column. The majority of the metal used on the unit is powder coated steel. A VESA compliant monitor mount is attached to the column. The unit also features two platforms made out of particle board. The unit comes standard with a programmable button that has four memory settings. The quality of components used on the SmartDesk Mini are going to be on the lower-end of electric height adjustable desk spectrum. The Chinese made motor, column and electronics are all low quality. One thing I noticed after about five full cycles of the unit was a noticeable vertical grease line. Over greasing is typically a sign of poor quality control. This is something we saw when we tested the SmartDesk 2. Another sign that there is little quality control is the weld and pain imperfections on the unit.
The electronics are going to be a low-end product from TiMotion. We have had a quite a bit of experience with TiMotion electronics since we used to have them in our VertDesk v1. But, due to numerous issues, we moved away from TiMotion. The control box on the SmartDesk Mini is the TiMotion TC11, which is one of their basic models. It has a maximum output of 32V DC, 2.5A with a standby power consumption of 0.1W. This unit does not have overload protection or collision avoidance. These are features typically seen on better quality electric desks.
I tested the noise on the SmartDesk Mini while making adjustments. When raising the height, it averaged 65 decibels and 60 decibels when lowering the height. 60 decibels would be comparable to someone laughing, or the hum of an air conditioner. 70 decibels would be comparable to a shower or dishwasher. This is one of the louder electric standing desks we have tested and it is actually louder than the full SmartDesk 2. This is a sign that the motor is working really hard.
You will need a minimum space of 32”W x 21”D to fit the base of the SmartDesk Mini. The keyboard is about 1.5” deeper than the base so you may have a tiny bit of your tray hanging over your desk if it is only 21”D. The movement pattern is straight up and down so the footprint remains the same at all heights.
The SmartDesk Mini does not have any desktop mobility. The unit is really heavy and the base has rubber stoppers that are meant to keep it from moving on your desk. You cannot slide the unit on your desk like you can with the Ergo Desktop Kangaroo or the Duke VESA.
The SmartDesk Mini is also not a good product to move from location to location. The unit weighs 60 pounds with my monitor attached and 52 pounds without it. It is also fairly large and has an awkward shape to carry. Moving the unit will most likely require two people. If you’d like to take it apart to help lessen the load, then you will be left with lots of small pieces that will be an annoyance to keep track of.
Adjusting the SmartDesk Mini
The SmartDesk Mini has a few different adjustments. The main adjustment is the overall height adjustment for the unit. This adjustment moves the entire unit up and down with a motor that is controlled with a programmable switch. The switch has a standard up and down button as well as four memory presets. The memory presets are very easy to configure. Once they are set, you just need to press one of the presets and the desk will automatically move to that height. You do not need to hold the button down. Autonomous advertises a lifting speed of 1” per second but I found it to be much faster which was a welcome surprise. Through 10 cycles up and down, the SmartDesk Mini averaged about 2” per second in both directions. This lifting speed was consistent throughout the entire lifting pattern.
The remaining adjustments pertain to the monitor. The monitor can tilt, pan, or rotate. It is also height adjustable. You can adjust the height of the monitor by unscrewing the two hand knobs found on the back of the mounting bracket. This will allow the monitor to slide up and down on the column. Once you find the correct position, re-tighten the knobs to lock the monitor in place. The movement is smooth and easy to perform. Unfortunately, you cannot make this adjustment while being in front of the unit. I had to walk to the back of it each time I wanted to move the monitor. The tilt, pan and rotate functions can be done by simply grabbing the monitor and moving it in whichever direction you’d like.
The SmartDesk Mini has very good stability across the board. In the sitting position, the keyboard tray hovers a fraction of an inch above your desk. This produces a little bit of bounce when seated. This bounce can cause a small amount of monitor movement. There is a tiny amount of side to side tilt on the platforms but otherwise there is no wobble when sitting. When moving to standing, the side to side tilt on the platforms becomes a little bit more pronounced. There is also a bit of front to back rocking that can cause some monitor shake but it is still solid, even at the tallest height. The SmartDesk Mini is one of the most stable standing desk converters I have tested to date.
|Sitting Wobble (10%)||Standing Wobble (15%)||Sitting Bounce (10%)||Standing Bounce (15%)||Sitting Shake (10%)||Standing Shake (15%)||General (25%)||Total Score|
The SmartDesk Mini has some good and some bad when it comes to ergonomics. The good is that it features dual ergonomics with a large adjustment range and infinite position lock. The keyboard tray goes as high as 18” above your desk and the monitor has about 15” of individual adjustment range. This allows people as tall as 6’6” to use the SmartDesk Mini at an ergonomic keyboard and monitor height at the same time. The infinite position lock on all of the adjustments means that you won’t be forced to choose between predetermined positions.
The bad when it comes to ergonomics is sitting height and monitor viewing distance. The SmartDesk Mini sits on top of your desk and has a raised keyboard that sits about 1” higher than your desk. This will change your normal typing position when seated because you will be reaching up to your keyboard. The monitor is also a bit too close for an ergonomic position. The recommended ergonomic monitor viewing distance is 20”-40”. My monitor was 14.5” from the front of the keyboard tray and my eyes were about 18” from the screen. This was a bit close for my liking.
The SmartDesk Mini has an upper platform for tasking. The space is limited but still useful for things like notepads, smartphones or other smaller objects. Shorter people may not be able to use as much of the platform because the monitor may block the upper platform when it is lowered. The platform has a very smooth, black finish with rounded corners. One thing that I noticed right away is that the platform shows fingerprints very easily.
The keyboard tray on the SmartDesk Mini was large enough to fit my oversized ergonomic keyboard. The keyboard tray has the same smooth, black finish that the upper platform has. I am not a fan of keyboard trays with such smooth finishes. I chose to use a mouse pad while testing and it was much more comfortable than using my mouse on the keyboard tray directly.
The SmartDesk Mini has a wire management box that is mounted to the underside of the upper platform. This box is meant to manage the wires from the control box and switch. There are no other tools built into the unit but Autonomous includes some adhesive backed cable management strips that you can attach wherever you see fit.
I have two safety concerns with the SmartDesk Mini. My first concern is that this product does not have collision avoidance. Collision avoidance will stop the desk from moving if it makes contact with something or someone. The SmartDesk Mini has a powerful motor and not having collision avoidance means it is capable breaking items that are left in the way.
My second concern compounds the collision avoidance problem. The programmable memory presets will allow the desk to move on its own. You do not need to hold the button. This is a safety concern because you have a powerful item moving on its own and it will not stop if it makes contact with something. Unless you have your finger on the button and ready, you cannot quickly stop it if you need to.
What do I like?
The price on the SmartDesk Mini is going to be its main attraction. There are not many converters that provide as much value as the SmartDesk Mini. It is one of the least expensive options available that offers dual ergonomics and one of the least expensive electric converters that I am aware of.
The return policy for US customers is among the best in the industry. Being able to return the product for a full refund without being charged the return shipping fees is great for people that are on the fence and would like to try the product.
Easy to Use
Being able to adjust the unit with the push of a button is a very nice feature. The unit moves quickly and smoothly. Having the memory settings makes it even easier to get to your most used heights. The monitor adjustments don’t move with the push of a button but they are very simple to perform.
Good Option for Tall People
The keyboard tray and monitor are adjustable enough for people up to 6’6”. This is one of the few products that accommodates such high heights for both the keyboard and monitor. Most of the popular standing desk converters will be suitable for people up to about 6’0”. Tall people will be further from their monitor than I was since I am 5’9”. This will reduce the problem with the close monitor viewing distance.
Very Stable at All Heights
I was very pleased to see how stable the SmartDesk Mini was through all stages of adjustment. It showed no weaknesses in the stability department and excelled in a number of categories. This is one of the most stable standing desk converters I have tested.
What don’t I like?
Single Monitor Only
The majority of standing desk converters I have tested have had the ability to hold dual monitors. I was disappointed that the SmartDesk Mini didn’t offer that option. This will be a deal breaker for a lot of customers right out of the gate.
The SmartDesk Mini is up there with the Ergotron WorkFit-A and Humanscale QuickStand with one of the longest assembly times I have experienced. I think it is fair to assume that it will take most people between 1-2 hours. I was also not able to do it on my own. This will be a problem for some people that can’t do assembly, don’t want to do it or don’t have help.
Low Quality Motor & Electronics
The Chinese made motor and electronics are low quality on the SmartDesk Mini. We had a lot of bad experiences with TiMotion products in a version of our own desk. There is a reason that the desk is so cheap and that is because the technology is very basic and the quality control is lacking. The likelihood for the unit to fail is much greater than manually adjusted standing desk converters. There is much more that can go wrong to make the unit unusable.
Close Viewing Distance
The viewing distance on the SmartDesk Mini was much closer than an arm’s length away. I felt really close to my screen. When sitting, I leaned back more than usual to create additional space and when standing I stood further away. This helped with my eyes but I could feel that I was reaching after a while and had to change positions.
Electric standing desks have powerful motors. I am not a fan of products that lack collision avoidance or allow the desk to move on its own. The SmartDesk Mini does both. It is very important to be aware of everything around the desk prior to making adjustments. I would be very hesitant to have this product in a home office where children could be present.
I really liked how stable the SmartDesk Mini was at all heights and that it had dual ergonomic capabilities with a large adjustment range. The motor and button combination made it very easy to use and the speed was much faster than other electric units I have tested. It does have its downsides though. Being limited to a single monitor and a lengthy installation process will be factors that make people look in another direction. The close monitor viewing distance and couple safety concerns are also things to consider.
The biggest downside, to me, is the poor-quality motor and electronics since they are prone to high rates of failure. From our experience with TiMotion, there will be a lot of people that will end up needing to replace parts. This can be a headache, especially for those of us that are not mechanically inclined. Anytime the unit fails, it becomes unusable until the parts are replaced. My concerns are tempered by the three year comprehensive warranty because at least you know that you can get replacement parts for up to three years at no charge.
Even with these downsides, the SmartDesk Mini still impressed me. It provides a lot of value at $269.00 and I can see this being a solid option for a lot of people. As long as you are willing to replace parts if needed, I would have no problem recommending this product.