As the standing desk converter market continues to rapidly expand, we are seeing more and more electric options. Electric desk manufacturers are coming out with their own smaller versions to go on desktops. Successful manual converter brands are also coming out with electric versions of their own products. It would seem logical that adding electronics to a product would make it better but that is not necessarily the case with standing desk converters. While there can be some benefits to going electric, there are also a number of new problems that are introduced. I will go over some of the most common problems with electric standing desk converters so that you can decide whether an electric converter is the right choice for you.
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1. Electronic Failures
One of the biggest problems an electric converter can have is when the electronics fail. When the electronics fail, the unit becomes unusable and may even be stuck in an upward position. A big reason why you might choose a desktop converter is for its simplicity. Adding electronics introduces something that is complex. Instead of having to worry about just mechanical failures, you now have to worry about the electronics going bad.
If the electronics do fail, it may be a tough task to have them replaced. If they are covered under warranty, then new parts will be sent out but you will need to replace them yourself. Some converters make this process easier than others. If the warranty has expired, then you will need to decide if it is worth buying new electronics or a new standing desk converter. It is also important to note that some brands do not sell parts. They would prefer that you buy a new unit after the warranty term has expired.
Your best option to avoid electronic failures is to buy a product with high quality electronics. Higher end electronics will be made of better components, with better craftsmanship. They will also have additional features like overload protection. Overload protect will stop the motor from running if the weight limit is exceeded. Features like this help to prolong the life of the product.
I recommend avoiding products that are being sourced from China since they tend to be low quality. Unfortunately, most electric converters have Chinese made electronics. The only product I have tested so far that doesn’t is the Ascend by SimplyFast. It features top of the line electronics from LogicData.
If you can’t find a product you like with high quality electronics, try to find one that has a good warranty on the electronics specifically. Most products will have separate warranty lengths for the electronics. Try to find a warranty that is a minimum of three years if they are lower quality electronics. You may end up having to replace the parts but at least the costs will be covered for you.
2. Limited Lifting Capacities
When looking at full standing desks, a big upside with going electric is the higher lifting capacity. Electric desks will typically have higher lifting capacities than crank or pneumatic models due to the increased power from the motor. That is not the case with electric standing desk converters. There are a few products that offer limits of around 75-100 lbs. but the majority have lifting capacities in the 30 pound neighborhood. If an electric converter can’t lift more than a manual converter, then it becomes more difficult to justify going with an electric product.
As I mentioned above, there are a few electric converters with higher lifting capacities. The TaskMate Executive by HealthPostures has a 75 lbs. lifting capacity which can be an option for some people who need a higher weight limit. If you need to lift anything higher than 75 lbs., then I would recommend going with a full electric standing desk.
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3. Slow Compared to Manual
One of the biggest advantages of going with a full electric standing desk is that you are able to adjust a large desk that is fully loaded in around 10 seconds. An electric desk is much quicker than a crank desk and is able to lift more weight than a pneumatic desk. There isn’t a more efficient way to lift 150+ lbs. than an electric standing desk. Being able to lift that amount of weight to a standing position within 10 seconds is considered very fast.
The standing desk converter market is much different than the full standing desk market. Having to wait 10 seconds to adjust your converter from sitting to standing is quite slow. Most manual converters can be adjusted within a couple seconds. If electric converters gave you the ability to lift more weight than manual ones, then the trade-off would be worthwhile. As discussed above, that is not going to be the case with most electric standing desk converters, you just end up with a slower converter.
There are now many different styles of manual standing desk converters that are incredibly fast and easy to adjust. I would suggest taking a look at our best standing desk converters list for 2021 and look at our scoring table for products that did well in the “ease of use” category.
4. Loud Motor
Adding a motor to a standing desk converter makes it much louder than a manual product. Some electric converters are louder than others but they will all be louder than most manual converters. This type of noise can be distracting in quiet work environments, classrooms or libraries. The increased sound is also exaggerated when compared to manual converters because of the slower speed on electric products. Since the electric converter is slower to adjust, it will not only be louder but it will be making noise for much longer than a manual converter. This is another one of those trade-offs that is worthwhile on a full standing desk that ends up just being a downside on a standing desk converter.
If you would prefer an electric unit but want something quiet, then I would recommend the Ascend, as suggested earlier. It is the quietest electric standing desk product we have tested to date. It was already highlighted because of its premium electronics from LogicData. It should be no surprise that the high-quality electronics are also quiet compared to cheaper made products. If you want something that is nearly silent, then you will need to look at manual converters. I have found counter-balance products like the Humanscale QuickStand and Ergotron WorkFit-S to be extremely quiet through all types of adjustment.
5. Safety Concerns
The motors used on electric standing desk converters are usually quite powerful. Having a desk moving with the power of a motor can add some additional safety concerns as compared to manually adjusted converters. The main concern is that the desk hurts someone or crushes something while it is moving. Higher-end electric standing desks will have a collision avoidance system. Collision avoidance will stop the desk from moving and slightly reverse its course when it makes contact with something. Most electric standing desk converters do not have collision avoidance.
It is also possible for an electric standing desk to have a collision avoidance program that does not function properly. This could be due to a number of different reasons. Bad electronics, poor glides or bad structural design are a few. The Ascend is a good example of this. It is the only electric converter I have tested that does have collision avoidance. Unfortunately, it does not function properly with the current design of the keyboard tray. The tray is not rigid enough to trigger the collision avoidance when it makes contact with something.
Something that I have seen on a few recently released electric converters is the ability to use a programmable button that lets you choose a few pre-set height options. There is a safety risk because most models will allow the desk to move after pushing and releasing the button. This means that the desk will be moving and it is not being controlled by you. Combine this option with the lack of a proper collision avoidance program and you have an accident waiting to happen.
Unfortunately, I do not have an electric product recommendation. I have not tested and am not aware of an electric standing desk converter that has a functioning collision avoidance system at all times. If one of your main concerns is safety, then I would recommend going with a manual converter from one of the most well-known brands like Ergotron, Humanscale or RightAngle. The products offered by these companies have very limited safety concerns.
6. Requires Power Source
The final problem with electric converters is that they require a power source. This is a limiting factor when it comes to choosing the placement of the converter. You need to make sure that there is a power outlet near the converter. If not, you will need to run extension cords or surge protectors to the product. This can create wire management issues.
Another problem that is very common with electric converters is when the power source loses power for a short duration. If your home or office loses power due to a storm or any other reason, you will need to reset your electric standing desk. This can often lead to people think their converter is no longer working and can cause unnecessary headaches.
When setting up your electric sit stand converter, you will want to run all of your power cords and extension cords when the unit is at your tallest standing height. This will ensure that you have enough slack in your cords to make the full adjustment with no problems. Try to make sure your table is plugged into a surge protector and the outlet is not connected to a light switch. This will protect your unit from a power surge and limit the chances of someone shutting off power to your unit on accident. My final piece of advice is to be aware of what the reset process is for your table so that you are ready when your table loses power.
Electric standing desk converters have their place in niche situations. People that are recovering from an injury or people with low strength would benefit from an electric product. But, the vast majority of standing desk converter customers would be better off going with a manual product. The benefits we typically see from going with a full electric standing desk are not present on electric converters but you still take on all of the downsides. You end up getting a product that is louder, slower and more susceptible to breaking down. At this point in the standing desk converter market, I think the best products that are providing the most value are manual converters. I hope that this article has helped to highlight the problems with electric standing desk converters so that you have the most information possible when shopping for your new standing desk converter.