NOTICE: This product has been discontinued by Autonomous.
I recently had the chance to test the newly released SmartDesk Mini by Autonomous. If you’ve done any research on standing desks then there is a good chance you’ve come across Autonomous. They are the makers of the SmartDesk 2 and are currently one of the most popular brands in the world. After being very successful with their full standing desks, they’ve decided to enter the standing desk converter market with their SmartDesk Mini. After using the SmartDesk Mini and writing extensively about it, I walked away feeling like it is a pretty good product. From the low price point to the dual ergonomics, it has a lot to offer. With that being said, it is far from perfect. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized how many potential downsides the SmartDesk Mini has. This article will highlight these potential downsides and offer some solutions to help combat them.
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See The Best Standing Desk Converters For 2020
After months of testing 40+ sit to stand desk converters, the results are in!
It is Electric
One of the biggest problems with the SmartDesk Mini is that it is electric. I say this because you do not gain the benefits you’d typically expect out of an electric standing desk but you do have the drawbacks. Most electric standing desks are capable of lifting a substantial amount of weight. They have an electric motor, so this makes sense. But, that is not the case with the SmartDesk Mini. The SmartDesk Mini is only capable of lifting 33 lbs, which is less than most manually adjusted z and x shaped bases.
Full electric standing desks typically move at around 1.5” per second. This is not lighting speed but it is faster than most crank height tables. Electric tables are among the fastest adjusting tables when it comes to full desks. But, that can’t really be said for the SmartDesk Mini. The SmartDesk Mini moves at 2” per second, which is really fast for an electric standing desk, but it is slow compared to manually adjusted desktop converters. Most of the standing desk converters I have tested can be manually adjusted from sitting to standing within a couple seconds, with little physical effort.
Something you’ll have to deal with on the SmartDesk Mini, that you won’t have to worry about on a manual converter, is finding a power source and managing a power cord. You will need to be near an outlet or use an extension cord for areas that are not by an outlet. This can be a nuisance compared to manual converters that don’t need a power source to operate.
The final downside with the SmartDesk Mini being electric instead of manual is that there is a lot more that can go wrong with the unit to make it unusable. Any of the electric components, including the motor and switch, can go out making the product useless until it is repaired. There are also outside factors that can ruin an electric product, like power surges and spills, which are not risks to manual products.
If you would like to go with a product that has similar functionality, but is not electric, then I would take a look at the Kangaroo Pro. It is more expensive than the SmartDesk Mini but it is made in the USA and will be more reliable. Another product you may want to consider is the Victor DC300. I was not a fan of the product when I tested it but it has a low price point and offers dual ergonomics, like the SmartDesk Mini.
Low Quality Motor and Electronics
The motor and electronics used on the SmartDesk Mini are low quality from China which compounds the problems discussed in the previous section. Not only do you have the risks that come with an electric product but you are getting low quality electronics and components that have a much higher potential to fail than better quality products. I noticed a few signs of poor quality while testing the product. The columns had a noticeable grease line after a handful of cycles and there were a few areas with poor welds and paint imperfections.
The electronics used on the SmartDesk Mini are made by a company called TiMotion. We have a lot of experience working with TiMotion products on our VertDesk v1 and v2. TiMotion provides inexpensive electronics that offer a wide range of technology options. This makes them an attractive choice because you can get technology typically seen on higher quality products, for cheap. But, we found that the tradeoff was not worth it in the long run because of numerous failures in the field. The SmartDesk Mini uses one of the most basic control boxes from TiMotion, the TC11. If my experience tells me anything, there is a strong likelihood that a lot of these desks will need repairs and replacements in the field.
Unfortunately, I do not have a good solution for this situation. I have not tested an electric standing desk converter yet that didn’t have a Chinese motor and cheap electronics so I do not have an electric alternative to recommend. The SmartDesk Mini does come with a three year warranty which means that you will be able to get replacement parts for up to three years. As long as you are handy enough to make some replacements, then you are guaranteed to have it working for three years.
Because the SmartDesk Mini uses a basic control box from TiMotion, it does not have things like collision avoidance protection. Collision avoidance causes the desk to stop moving when it hits something. This is a standard safety feature on most mid to high end desks. This feature helps to protect objects underneath your desk or people around your desk. The programmable button exacerbates the problems with the lack of collision avoidance because the memory presets allow the desk to move on its own after they are pressed. This means that you have a powerful motor moving a desk that will only stop when it gets to its designated preset height.
All of the electric converters I have tested use low quality electronics, so I have not tested one that has collision avoidance. I think the best solution for dealing with the safety concerns on the SmartDesk Mini is to do your best to eliminate as many risks as possible. Do not allow kids access to the room with the SmartDesk Mini or disconnect power with a surge protector when you are done using it. Get in the habit of never placing objects on the desk surface immediately around the SmartDesk Mini to limit the chances of hitting something. If you want to be really safe, just don’t adjust it with anyone around your desk. This will eliminate the chances of hurting someone while you are adjusting it.
The SmartDesk Mini arrives with almost twenty individually packed parts along with dozens of screws. Simply un-packaging all of the parts was a considerable time investment. Overall, it took me about an hour and a half to un-package the SmartDesk Mini and assemble it. I could not complete the assembly without help from a second person for one of the steps. The SmartDesk Mini has one of the longest assembly processes I have experienced on a standing desk converter. This is also one of the only standing desk converters I have tested that required me to get help from another person to complete the installation.
I think the best way to do the installation on the SmartDesk Mini is with two people the entire time. Having two people will make most of the process easier and will cut down on the time needed considerably. If you want an electric converter but don’t want to deal with assembly, then you may want to consider the VersaDesk Power Pro. The Versa Power Pro is not dual ergonomic like the SmartDesk Mini but it is electric and ships fully assembled.
Louder than Manual Converters
The SmartDesk Mini’s motor is working really hard to move the desk at 2” per second and you can hear it. The decibel level is around 65 when raising the unit and 60 when lowering it. This is similar to the hum of an air conditioner, someone laughing or normal conversation in a quiet room. Most electric standing desks we’ve tested are at about 59 decibels. The SmartDesk mini is among the louder electric desks we have tested and is the loudest standing desk converter I have tested. It is much louder than manual units. Some of the manual units are silent while others have a bit of noise that can be heard from parts sliding or squeaking. None of them have a constant loud noise for several seconds.
If your main concern is noise, then an electric converter probably isn’t going to be a good option. I would recommend going with a manual converter that also has dual ergonomics and infinite position lock.
Single Monitor Only
The SmartDesk Mini is only capable of holding a single monitor. It is also not very convenient to place a laptop on the task space, so you are limited to a single screen. This is a pretty big drawback since most people will not be willing to switch from dual monitors to a single monitor in order to be able to use the SmartDesk Mini. That limits the potential users to people that prefer a single monitor. Our experience tells us that the majority of people using standing desk converters prefer to be able to use dual monitors or a single monitor with their laptop.
If you want to use multiple monitors on an electric unit then you may want to look at the Versa Power Pro or the Ergotech One Touch. If you’d like similar functionality to the SmartDesk Mini but with multiple monitors on a manual unit, then the Winston might be a good product to consider. It can hold up to four monitors.
Close Viewing Distance
The distance from the front of the keyboard tray to my monitor was about 14” when I tested the SmartDesk Mini. This put me just under the recommended ergonomic viewing distance of 20”-40”. I felt a bit too close to my monitor so I altered my sitting and standing position to compensate. When sitting, I leaned back far in my chair to create more distance. This meant that I was looking up at my monitor instead of slightly downward, which is recommended for good ergonomic posture. When standing, I moved further from my keyboard than normal and reach out for it. This improved the viewing distance but could have a negative impact on my shoulders and arms over a prolonged period of time.
There isn’t a way to improve the viewing distance on the SmartDesk Mini without altering your position. This is not something I would recommend doing. Your standing desk converter should be able to adjust to you. You should not have to adjust to your standing desk converter. Two products that are similarly priced to the SmartDesk Mini, but offer a better monitor viewing distance, are the Fully Cooper and Uplift Adapt. If you want a product with similar functionality to the SmartDesk Mini but with a better ergonomic viewing distance, then I would consider the WorkFit-S. It is a bit more expensive but it has a lot to offer.
Raises Keyboard When Seated
The SmartDesk Mini suffers from the same problem that most standing desk converters suffer from; the keyboard tray is higher than the normal desk height. This will alter most people’s normal typing position. Whether you are used to placing your keyboard right on top of your desk or you use a tray that is below your desk; your normal typing position will be increased by at least 1”. This may seem like an insignificant change but it can actually have a pretty big impact, especially if you are used to typing with your keyboard below your desk. At minimum, it will increase the angle of your forearms and change the positioning of your wrists. But, it can also affect other areas as well. Things like the angle of your thighs may change if you have to alter your chair height or maybe you begin to notice that you are shrugging your shoulder to raise your arms that little bit extra. It is these little things that add up over a prolonged period that you want to avoid.
My first recommendation is to get a decent footrest. I used one from 3M for many years and recently switched to a model by Humanscale. The reason I recommend a footrest is that it gives you a lot more freedom because you do not have to be tied to a single chair height in order to have your legs at 90°. If the converter is not capable of lowering to you and you can move your chair high enough to make up for it, without sacrificing your leg positioning, then it is a win. Some alternative products that I recommend, that go down to the level of the desk or lower, are the FlexiSpot F3M, Uplift Adapt Clamp Mount, and WorkFit-A.
Limited Task Space
The final downside on the SmartDesk Mini is the limited task space. The platform itself is plenty big but unfortunately, the monitor placement cuts off a large portion of the platform. The monitor splits the platform in half leaving less than 6” of platform space in front of the monitor. The lower the monitor is, the more cut-off the space becomes. You can place flat objects on the portion of the platform that is behind the monitor but they will be tough to see and you will need to reach under the monitor to get to them. The space in front of the monitors will leave enough room for a post-it note pad, smart phone, wallet or other small objects.
One group of users that can avoid this problem is tall people. Tall people will be able to avoid this problem because the gap between the work surface and the monitor will be sufficient enough to use the whole work space. Short to average height users will need to look for another option if having a large task space is a priority. For good task space, I would look at the FlexiSpot M2. It is in the same price range as the SmartDesk Mini and offers one of the largest work surfaces I have tested.
Every electric standing desk converter I have tested so far has had stark positives and downsides. The SmartDesk Mini is no different in this respect. It has push button height adjustment, dual ergonomics and good stability for under $300.00. It seems too good to be true until you start looking at the things it doesn’t have or can’t do. Just like every standing desk converter, the SmartDesk Mini has its list of potential downsides. Being aware of the downsides is important so that you know if the SmartDesk Mini is the best standing desk converter for you. I hope this article has provided you with a good list of what to look out for if you are considering the SmartDesk Mini as your standing desk converter.