Today we are going to be taking a closer look at the Realspace Magellan standing desk. The Realspace Magellan has quickly risen the ranks for standing desk popularity with its showroom exposure at Office Depot and OfficeMax stores. With an attractive price point of $399 to $499, the Realspace Magellan will likely find itself in a lot of offices. The Realspace Magellan is one of the cleanest desks we’ve reviewed that has been manufactured in China. Like all the desks we’ve tested, it isn’t perfect and has a list of problems. This post will bring those problems to light, provide solutions if they exist and alternatives if they don’t. Hopefully after reading this post you will know if the Realspace Magellan is a good fit for your standing desk needs.
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Realspace Magellan Top Problems Overview Video
1. Slow Adjustment Speeds
It’s never a good thing when a brand fails to mention specs that are important to the functionality of the product. Adjustment speed for an electric adjustable desk is high on the list of importance. With an average speed clocked at .42” per second, the Realspace Magellan was hands down the worst performing desk to hit the lab. The worst part, this was only with the weight of the surface. As you add more weight to the desk, the speed continued to drop. When the desk was fully loaded to max capacity, the speed dropped to .33” per second.
Solution / Alternatives
Without knowing the exact reason for the slow speeds with the Realspace Magellan, it is hard to provide a solution. The amount of power going to a control box, quality of the motor and gear system are all major components that impact speed. Of the three, the most obvious was the gear system. With a spindle gear that was lower quality and had issues moving smoothly, this is the biggest red flag to me. Speeding up the gear could cause a host of issues. These are linked to increased sound, rough movement and ultimately breaking down.
Since the Realspace Magellan was the slowest desk we’ve tested, it only gets better from here. Even our lowest overall ranked desk, the Autonomous Home Edition, clocked in at .78” per second. With a low-quality motor and gear system, it’s hard to believe this product was almost twice as fast as the Realspace Magellan. This should give pause to customers considering the Magellan desk if they plan to make frequent height adjustments.
After 12 months of testing 20+ electric standing desks the results are in!
2. Stability at all Heights
One of the most important aspects of a standing desk is its stability at tall heights. Unfortunately, this is something that is oftentimes missed by manufacturers and brands of standing desks. The Realspace Magellan fell victim to this problem and it was a major issue.
One of the first things I test, when bringing in an adjustable desk, is the column fit. When a desk is at its lowest point there shouldn’t be too much movement in the columns. When I tested the Realspace Magellan, there was a lot of movement with the columns were fully retracted. I knew this would be an issue but didn’t know how bad it would be. The front to back stability test for the Realspace was one of the worst to date. With motion at the lowest position, the Realspace product would not be a good product for those who want a stable desk.
While the column fit was the biggest issue linked to stability, there were also others that impacted the desks’ stability. The lack of a traditional cross support was obvious and the Realspace Magellan had wobble issues as early as 36” tall. The upper frame design also played a part in the lack of lateral stability. With an upper frame that only ran the length of the desk, there wasn’t frame components in place to counteract the wobble motions.
Solution / Alternatives
The solution for the stability issues involves some updates to the glides being used by Realspace’s OEM manufacturer. The one size fits all glide system they are currently using doesn’t work with steel tubes that have natural variances. While this is the most cost-effective solution, introducing more custom sized glides and proper training at the factory would fix their inconsistent fit issues.
There are quite a few desks that offered better stability than the Realspace product. A quick look at our top four most stable standing desk post will provide some good alternatives. That post is also a good resource for learning about what makes a standing desk stable.
3. No Collision Avoidance and Overload Protection
As the electric standing desk category has matured, so have the safety features that come standard with the products. Collision avoidance systems were originally designed to protect a user’s furniture and other hard objects around the desk. As time has moved on, we’ve even seen manufacturers introduce better systems to detect soft collisions. The Realspace Magellan is one of the few electric standing desks that doesn’t include a collision avoidance function. When testing this function, we found the desk is strong enough to break some solid objects. This is a major concern, especially with the one-touch functionality that is included on the desk.
Secondly, there wasn’t any overload protection included with the desk. When operating standing desks, there are specific loads that gears, motors and frames can handle. Exceeding these weight capacities can break internal gears and motors, or worse yet, break the actual frames themselves. As desks are raised to tall positions, the leverage on the frame can be a problem for an unstable standing desk. Overload protection systems prevent users from unknowingly adding too much weight to the desk.
Solution / Alternatives
At this price point, I wouldn’t expect to find a high-end soft collision system in the Realspace product. I would, however, expect to see something that is designed to, at a minimum, protect the furniture and other built in items around the desk. Nothing is worse that unknowingly running into furniture around the desk. If you’re not careful, there is potential to break the desk and other furniture or accessories around the desk. Software driven collision avoidance systems aren’t expensive to implement but can be when they start to create false positives. The cheap glide systems in the Realspace Magellan product are likely the reason there is no collision avoidance standard. Without making an update there first, the collision avoidance is unlikely to be added to the desk.
While finding both features on lower end desks can be difficult, the VIVO 103E does include both functions. With a similar price point, this is a good option if these functions are important to you. Alternatively, the VariDesk ProDesk 60 Electric desk is a better-quality option that will come standard with both collision avoidance and overload capacity.
4. Programmable Switch Function
The last problem I had with the Realspace Magellan standing desk was linked to function of the programmable switch. While it was nice to have this feature standard, the switch operation was a bit clunky. First, to wake the desk up, you need to press and hold the on button for five seconds. While this wouldn’t be an issue if it were once a day, the desk goes back into sleep mode within a short amount of time. This means that you will likely have to do this button operation every time you switch from sitting to standing.
The second problem with the switch was the actual buttons themselves. There were two programmable buttons, a manual up and down button and full stroke from top to bottom buttons. I am not sure why they decided to include the full stroke top and bottom feature. This is a waste in my opinion and I can’t really see the application outside of the reset procedure on an electric standing desk.
Solution / Alternatives
I understand the safety reasoning behind the on/off button on the Realspace desk. Unfortunately, I think the desk goes back into sleep mode too quickly and this creates more of an annoyance for the user. Creating a system where the user can turn the desk on and then back off would be better for those wanting a safer desk. I understand this puts the responsibility solely on the user, but that is okay in my opinion.
I would have preferred to have seen the more commonly used three or four programmable button feature for the switch as well. Considering this is the standard when it comes to programmable switches, I can’t see why Realspace went with the full stroke up and down button on their keypad.
5. Cheap Laminate + Stickers
While I don’t talk much about the quality of surfaces included with the desks we’ve tested, the Realspace Magellan was so bad I felt I had to mention it. With one of the cheapest laminates we’ve seen, it is exactly the fear that most of you have when you think of laminate surfaces. Sharp edges and corners, with poorly fit edge banding that creates opportunity for chipping and peeling over time. This is not really surprising, when you think of furniture that comes from big box stores like Office Depot. This is the laminate you will most commonly find.
Unfortunately, Office Depot and OfficeMax don’t allow you to purchase just a frame. This means that you will be required to get the full package and find a home for the low-quality laminate if you don’t want to use it with your desk. Because the price point is still low, it isn’t’ a huge deal, but it does feel like a waste.
If you decide to use the laminate paired with the desk, you’ll be tasked with removing the warning and operational stickers on the surface. While the placement is nice, users will be sure to notice, it is difficult to remove. This can create an even uglier surface for your office space.
Solution / Alternatives
Recently I wrote a post about pairing DIY surfaces with standing desk frames. While this post was mostly geared towards our VertDesk v3 frame, the suggestions listed would work for almost all brands. The Realspace Magellan frame would work with most alternative surfaces, you just need to make sure to get the correct size surface. Also, it is important to note that the hardware included with the magellan to connect the surface and frame won’t work with most DIY surfaces. The Realspace surface includes threaded metal inserts that allows machine screws to connect the frame and top. You will need to find wood screws to mount your DIY surface.
Should you decide to keep the Magellan surface, which I think most users do, you’ll want to remove the labels’ sticky backing. The best solution we’ve found for this is a product like Goo Gone. This makes the cleanup quick and easy.
6. Cheap Glide Systems
The glide systems inside an electric standing desk are one of the most important components of the desk. They also tend to be one of the most unknown components of a standing desk. These small plastic parts are needed for two reasons: creating a custom fit between metal tubes (columns) and as a natural lubricant between the metal parts.
The glide systems on the Realspace Magellan desk appeared to be a one size fits all approach. The biggest issue was that there are natural variances that will occur in steel tubing used for columns. This means without multiple sized glides, it will be tough to create that custom fit required for any two or three columns paired together. Before even putting the Magellan standing desk together I could feel the play in the columns. While a small amount of movement is okay, there was significantly more than what would normally be okay in this desks frame.
When you raise a desk to standing position, glide fit issues become more glaring and the movement in the frame increases. For the Realspace Magellan, the fit was so bad that we experienced bad rocking motions at the lowest position.
Because a lower quality plastic was used for the glides, the bad fit between columns is bound to get worse over time. Higher quality plastics are typically preferred; as the amount of wearing is minimized over high cycle counts typically found in electric standing desks. As the cheap glides break down, the Realspace Magellan stability issues will get worse.
Solution / Alternatives
The best solution would be for the manufacturer to look at using Delrin Acetal by Dupont. This is the leading homopolymer resin used by leading standing desk manufacturers for their glides. The plastic is known to perform well because of its low friction and high wear resistance qualities. These qualities allow manufacturers to create specific thicknesses for custom glide sizes, while trusting the plastics will hold up well over high cycle counts.
Some of the brands that are known to use this high-quality plastic are Linak and NewHeights. Each a leading manufacturer in the high-end market for electric standing desks. Opening each of these brands columns, you will find custom fit glides that are known to hold up well over the long-life cycles of their respective products.
7. Low Quality Gears
The gear system in an electric standing desk is a key component to providing an adjustable standing desk with a smooth operation. How fast standing desks move and the amount of load they can handle are also linked to the quality of the gear system. The Realspace Magellan’s gear system, at first, appeared to be a clean system. It wasn’t until I started to use the gear that I found how cheaply it was put together.
The first thing I noticed while pulling and pushing the gears was a grinding or scraping sound within the support tube. I will be honest, this was a first for me. The fact that the gear could shift inside the support tube was also a major red flag. The bottom of the spindle gear shouldn’t be able to easily shift around in the support tube. The top collar of the support tube was not well fit either, with a lot of play from the gear originating here. All of these problems created a movement that was rough and inconsistent.
Solution / Alternatives
One of the first solutions for the gear system found in the Realspace was to fit the upper collar on the support tube. This fit was so poor, that everything happening beyond that point was impacted. Allowing the spindle gear to move better through this point would help lower into the support tube. This would also provide a smoother operation when the gear is moved in and out.
Some of the best single stage gear systems we have found on electric standing desks are found in the DL4 column from Linak. The UpDesk Elements features these high-quality gears and their operation is significantly better. When pulling and pushing the gears, they are smooth, and the quality is obvious. The fit and finish of high-end, single stage gears is obvious when placed next to lower quality products like the gears found in the Realspace product. Operationally, moving the UpDesk element desk was smooth. It offered a 1.43” per second adjustment speed and could lift over 300 lbs. with ease.
8. 30” Lowest Height Setting
Based on ergonomic assessments, if you’re under 5’6”, the lowest setting on the Realspace Magellan will be too high at sitting height. While I tend to use my desk at a taller position while seated, the Magellan desks’ lowest height will be too high for shorter users. The standard desk height for most desks in the USA is between 29” and 30”. If your desk is around the same height and already an issue, the Realspace Magellan will create similar problems.
Solution / Alternatives
Fortunately there are products that can resolve this issue pretty quickly. Adding a keyboard drawer or ergonomic keyboard tray is the best solution for most. While most keyboard drawers only provide a fixed height setting, they will typically drop the keyboard/mouse height 2”-3”. If you require more adjustment range, I would highly recommend an ergonomic keyboard tray. These systems can drop the keyboard up to 6” below the bottom of the work surface. For the Realspace Magellan, this has the potential to put your keyboard/mouse as low as 23” above the ground. While this won’t improve the height of the surface for writing, the keyboarding and mousing will be significantly improved.
At the end of the day, the Realspace Magellan standing desk is one of the most affordable electric standing desk options available. Considering you have the ability to try this product before you buy it, you will get a good idea if it is the right fit for your needs. If you want an electric standing desk that offers a quicker adjustment speed and better stability, there are plenty of alternatives on the market.