Today we are going to take a closer look at the popular brand VariDesk and their first full electric standing desk. With an overall rating of 7.7 out of 10, the VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric was the seventh highest rated desk we have tested to date. Made in China, this was the best desk we have seen coming from that area. Like all desks we’ve tested, the ProDesk 60 Electric wasn’t perfect.
This post was designed to bring the top five problems to light. We will provide solutions for the problems. Many of the problems found with electric standing desks cannot be fixed unless a major change is made by the factory. For that reason, our solutions will include alternative products. These products will generally be a better solution for the specific problem, but not always the product as a whole. We hope that once you’re armed with this knowledge, you will be able to decide if the VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric is a good fit for your needs.
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Exposed Worm Drive on Motor
The first problem to discuss is linked to the motors used on the VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric. After opening the columns, we found that they had decided to use motors that are similar to Linak motors found on the DL4 column. This design has an exposed worm drive on the drive of the motor.
While Linak is known for producing high-end components for standing desks, this is one of their few misses with their design. Kaidi, the OEM for VariDesk, likely fell victim to the copycat mentality we have seen from many of the Chinese manufacturers of electric standing desks. With Linak being a global leader, it is no surprise their design (good or bad) has been mimicked by many of the current manufacturers in China.
Unlike the Linak DL4 columns that we tested on the UpDesk Elements, the VariDesk ProDesk 60 weren’t clean inside the motor box. One of the major concerns for me with this exposed worm drive is the ability to pull contaminants into the worm drive and gear wheel. This can cause components in the motor’s gear system to start to deteriorate faster than a better sealed motor system. As the motor’s gears start to deteriorate, the motor itself will become less efficient which can lead to a higher failure rate. With a dirty motor box, there are plenty of contaminants already working into the worm drive and gear.
Until Kaidi decides to move to a new motor system, the only solution for this problem is an alternative product. The Jarvis Desk by Fully has recently made a change to a fully enclosed motor system. This was a major improvement over their old design which was like the VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric. By doing this they were able to maintain a much cleaner motor system. We also found the new version of the Jarvis by Fully to be quieter than its predecessor.
Connection of Cross Support and Upper Frame to Columns
If you’ve had a chance to read my post Top 6 Reasons Why Adjustable Standing Desks Wobble, you’re familiar with me saying a desk is only as stable as its weakest point. While the VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric is the third most stable desk I’ve tested to date, there is room for improvement.
I commend VariDesk for their continued focus on creating products that either ship fully assembled or in the ProDesk 60 Electric’s case, easy to assemble. This is something that a lot of standing desk users dread. Having to deal with heavy furniture and use power tools is not a good fit for everyone.
The problem I found with their design was linked to two areas within the frame. The first was the cross support and how it connected to the columns. To create a consistently easy fit of two metal parts, they decided to use a plastic part in between the steel interlocking wedge system. This plastic created a weak point in what would otherwise have been a solid connection. As the desk raises beyond 43” to 44”, the leverage on the cross support creates a wiggle that can be seen in this specific area.
The second issue I found with the frame was the upper frame’s connection to the columns. This again was linked to a focus on speed of assembly. On the side of each motor box are four posts with small bearing that rotate around the post. The posts easily slide/roll into place in the upper frame support. Each column is mounted with two bolts, located on the end of the upper frame support. Once these bolts are screwed tight, there is still plenty of play with the posts.
After 12 months of testing 20+ electric standing desks the results are in!
The easiest solution would be to add four additional bolts to each side of the motor box connecting to the upper frame support. This would provide a better connection and they would help offset the play that is created with only the post system in place. This would likely go against what appears to be VariDesk’s focus of quick assembly. Eight additional bolts might not seem like a lot, but for a user that wants quick assembly, it will slow the process down. It also introduces the opportunity for misaligned bolts which can create a headache for the user.
Even when additional bolts are used, there is still the opportunity for movement. As I mentioned in the StandDesk Simple review, each bolt added creates a point for weakness. Over time these bolts could also loosen and will require the user to monitor each to maintain the best overall stability. I prefer to see these upper supports mounted with more permanent solutions like welds. If you look at our own VertDesk v3, you’ll notice we decided to use welds for the upper support connection. We did the same for the feet, which creates a more consistent stability solution. Because VariDesk shipped their legs pre-assembled, this is an option for them if they decide to make the change. After seeing the size of the boxes they used, they are not concerned with shipping costs associated with this type of leg.
3D Printed Glides
One of the biggest surprises I had with the VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric was the use of 3D printed upper glides. Because 3D printing is generally used for rapid prototyping I didn’t expect to see them being used in such an important place. When looking at the other glides in the desk, they were made from a more commonly used injection molding process. These also used higher quality plastics that would hold up better to high cycle counts associated with electric standing desks.
The lack of precision on the 3D printed glides was the biggest issue I had. Taking a closer look at the glide itself, you could see that they are much rougher than the injection molded glides found lower on the columns. They had a crude look to them and with only the testing done in our lab, they had already started to show signs of wearing. As the glides wear down there is a host of issues that can occur. The first is increased instability as additional play is created in the column. The second is binding that can start to occur as the glides start to wear unevenly.
The thought process behind the addition of glides at the top of the column was spot on. Without these glides, there would be too much play and that would have created additional stability issues. While the 3D glides aren’t perfect, they are better than products like the IKEA Bekant that didn’t use glides on one end of the columns. The solution for the VariDesk ProDesk 60 electric would be to use similar glides at the top, like the ones found at the bottom of the columns, in place of the 3D glides.
Excessive Grease on Gears
The gear system on the ProDesk 60 Electric was made from a cold rolled process. This process is known to create gears that are not only durable, but also efficient. Like anything, just because something is done, doesn’t mean it’s always done to highest level of quality. When looking at other products that use gears made from a cold rolled process, the VariDesk’s gears weren’t quite as smooth. Even the IKEA Bekant uses a gear system that is cold rolled and when manually adjusting them you can feel they are smoother while in motion.
Having high quality gears that are efficient makes it easier for the table to function smoothly. Short cuts like excessive use of lubricants, such as grease, are commonly found on Chinese made electric standing desks we’ve tested in the past. While the VariDesk ProDesk 60 didn’t use as much lubricant as the JieCang or Sinolinear products, they still fell somewhere in the middle of the pack. These are tough problems to diagnose, because you can’t be sure if it is a QC issue or a requirement to create a smooth operating gear system.
Because we see this on almost all the Chinese made gears, it leads me to believe it is a combination of both. At some point, the amount of lubricants used on the gear systems will only really create a messy desk. When compared to the gear systems on Linak columns, Ketterer Gears and even IKEA made products from ROL-Ergo, the VariDesk gears were a few levels below all of these brands in quality.
The OEM for VariDesk is a good size company and has the potential to continue making improvements on their level of quality. While VariDesk is known to offer some of the best service in the industry, they aren’t necessarily known to provide the best of the best products. If this problem isn’t resolved I wouldn’t be that surprised. For the vast majority of standing desk users, this might not even be a big concern. Considering the price point of the VariDesk, I would personally expect a higher level of QC in this area.
While the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 Business Edition isn’t the highest rated desk on my best of list for 2018, the gears on their desk are pretty good. Much like the VariDesk, these gears are cold rolled and appear to be knocked off from the Ketterer gears found in our NewHeights XT. While they aren’t as nice as the Ketterer gears, they are the best we’ve seen on a Chinese made product. They are much cleaner than the gears found on the ProDesk 60 electric. If they could be dropped into the VariDesk, they would provide an instant improvement. This is unlikely, so if gears are important I would look at alternatives like the Autonomous Business Edition.
Price Point at $995
The VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric sit at the high end of the mid-range class for standing desks. With a price point of $995, it has a lot to live up to. The ProDesk 60 Electric has a lot to offer at this price point; with a load capacity that is good for most users, wide adjustment range and above average warranty.
The problem is that it is significantly more expensive than all its Chinese competitors. Only products that include higher quality columns like the UpDesk Elements or the ModDesk Pro are even close to the same price point. While it is better made than all the alternative Chinese products, you wonder if it’s worth 30-70% more?
With the highest price point in the middle range, there are quite a few alternatives to the VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric. If you’re looking for a product with a similar range of motion, the Uplift Desk is a good alternative. You will be giving up the stability advantage, but the range and lifting capacity will be equal to or greater than the ProDesk’s.
Another option is the GeekDesk v3, which like the ProDesk 60, comes with a traditional cross support. The GeekDesk v3 is the fourth most stable standing desk we’ve tested to date. This ranks right behind the VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric. GeekDesk also features a large adjustment range and slightly better lifting capacity at 275 lbs.
Like I mentioned in the opening of the post, this is the best product we’ve seen coming out of China. What does that mean to you though? At $995 you will be getting a good desk, but not a great desk. If you’ve decided that assembly is a major headache or there is a high chance you’ll return the desk, VariDesk is the best option. If you’re looking for the best value in the category, this will not be it. Literally every other product that I have reviewed in the mid-range is less expensive than the ProDesk 60 electric.