Today we are going to be taking a closer look at one of the Autonomous’s standing desks, the SmartDesk 2 Business Edition. This brand initially launched on the Kickstarter crowd funding site in May 2015. They were the second company to start an electric standing desk company through crowdfunding. StandDesk.co was the first in April 2014. They currently offer one of the least expensive electric standing desks in the mid-range category. Advertised as #1 rated, I was excited to see what it had to offer. Let’s take a closer look at what I found.
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SmartDesk 2 Review Snapshot
- 26 Inch Adjustment Range
- 2.09 Inches Per Second Adjustment Speed
- 5 Year Warranty On Electronics
- Wide Variety Of Top Options
- Packaging Was Very Good
- Stability Issues Above 37 Inches
- Grease Build-up On Legs
- Inconsistent Lifting Speed When Fully Loaded
- Low Quality Electronics From TiMotion (China)
SmartDesk 2 OEM Manufacturer
The original OEM manufacturer for the Autonomous SmartDesk 1 was the leading standing desk frame company in China, JieCang Linear Technology. They are the OEM for the brands Uplift Desk and Jarvis Standing Desk, which we have recently reviewed. The current OEM manufacturer for the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 is Aoke Furniture. Aoke has been in business since 2012 and is based in the harbor town of Ningbo. Aoke currently manufacturers all of their frame components and uses TiMotion for all of their electronic components.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
History of Autonomous AI Brand
Founded by Duy Huynh in 2015, the Autonomous AI SmartDesk is fairly new within the standing desk category. Their first Kickstarter campaign launched in May 2015, and the Indiegogo campaign in June 2015. Both crowdfunding campaigns were successful; Kickstarter reaching 570% of their goal and Indiegogo 1257%. They originally marketed their product as the “World’s First Smart, Connected Office Desk” and offered the AI as an add-on. The AI system would learn about the user and automatically adapt to the way they liked to use the desk. It was also advertised to offer hands free voice operated commands. The first basic SmartDesk 1’s started to ship out August 2015. Due to bugs in the system, the AI modules didn’t ship until March 2016 and shortly thereafter were recalled. Currently, it appears Autonomous has shifted gears to work towards becoming the low price leader within the standing desk category.
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SmartDesk 2 Business Edition Specs (per Autonomous.ai)
Height Adjustable Range: 24” – 51”
Travel Speed: 2.3” / second
Noise Level: 39 db
Weight Capacity: 300 lbs.
Adjustable Width Base: 42” – 72”
Adjustable Foot Glides: .5” adjustment
2020 SmartDesk 2 Pricing
|53” x 30” Standard Top + Frame||$409 + $49 Shipping|
|70” x 30” XL Standard Top + Frame||4519 + $49 Shipping|
|53” x 30” Bamboo Top + Frame||$489 + $49 Shipping|
SmartDesk 2 Features:
- Two stage leg (3 piece) 26” travel
- Telescoping base to adjust to multiple tops
- Programmable switch comes standard with 4 presets
- Industrial grade steel
We purchased a base and a desktop for this review. The base was packed very well, using a similar system to the bases we received from JieCang. Autonomous uses cut foam to protect each piece of the base. Because the upper support, column and feet are shipped unassembled, the box isn’t massive. I was very impressed with the packaging for the top. It had reinforced cardboard around all of the outer edges of the box. Inside the box, the desk had additional foam around the edges of the top and the top itself was shrink wrapped. The packaging definitely worked because it shipped from California to Wisconsin in perfect condition.
SmartDesk 2 Assembly (60-90 Minutes with Top)
The assembly process for the SmartDesk 2 base was fairly straight forward. I liked how they separated all of the hardware and labeled each bag. This made it a lot quicker to decipher what hardware was needed during assembly. The upper supports, adjustable frame and feet all need to be assembled to the upright columns (legs). Because of this, there are quite a few screws to attach. The frame section that runs between the legs was the only real pain point because of the awkward access to the holes. All of the screws went into the base without an issue.
Attaching the base to the worksurface could have been easier. The top is pre-drilled which is nice and will made it easier to drive the screws in. Unfortunately, the base uses small round rubber bumpers that attach between the frame and top. They are used to reduce the vibrations from the base and top when the desk is in motion. These rubber bumpers go into the holes that are used to mount the top. Once they are in place you can no longer see through the holes to align the pre-drilled holes. This makes attaching the top to the frame a guessing game.
Assembly Tip: It’s very important with adjustable standing desks to fully tighten all hardware. If there is hardware that is not completely tight, the movement experienced when extended to standing height will be exaggerated.
The Autonomous has a very basic look and could easily be confused for one of the other brands using a similar design. I had an issue getting the desk to function initially and had to perform the reset in their assembly guide. After a few tries I realized that the reset required you to hold the up/down button for longer than what I was used to. It requires about 15-20 seconds to get the desk to reset, then it will begin normal operation. Their programmable switch was unique in that it was backlit with LED lights when you pressed a button. I liked how quick the desk moved and it was definitely the fastest I have reviewed to date. Once the desk was raised above 40” I was disappointed how unstable it became. Unfortunately, it was a lack of stability in all directions.
Autonomous AI Stability
In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of a standing desk is the stability. Without a stable desk you will have issues concentrating on your work. Instead, you’ll find yourself concerned with the awkward wobble. The Autonomous SmartDesk 2 had stability issues in both directions; front to back and left to right. We put the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 Business Edition on the WobbleMeter to get a more objective view of the stability. To learn more about WobbleMeter testing, please visit our Using the WobbleMeter for Standardized Stability Testing post.
WobbleMeter Testing Autonomous Business Edition
If you would like to see the pictures and videos of us testing the Autonomous SmartDesk on the WobbleMeter, please visit the WobbleMeter WobbleMeter SmartDesk 2 testing page. Below is the deflection score range guide for the WobbleMeter. How these results impact your experience will depend on your sensitivity to wobble and rocking motions.
WobbleMeter Score Range Guide
0-20 = Excellent Stability
Almost all of the desks tested at sitting height will score between 0-20. This is our baseline for excellent stability since most standing desks provide excellent stability at their lowest heights. Users in this range will not notice motion.
21-30 = Very Good to Good Stability
Between 20-30, most users will not notice the small amount of motion in this range.
31-40 = Good to Fair Stability
Between 31-40, some users may begin to notice the amount of motion in this range. This is especially true the closer the score is to 40.
41-50 = Fair to Bad Stability
Between 41-50, most users will notice the amount of motion in this range. This is especially true the closer the score is to 50.
51-60+ = Very Bad Stability
Between 51-60+ all users will notice the amount of motion in this range. This is especially true for scores that are above 60.
WobbleMeter Results for Autonomous Frame
Overall Wobble (Side to Side) Deflection Scores
Overall Rocking (Front to Back) Deflection Scores
The electronics for the SmartDesk 2 are from a company called TiMotion. The SmartDesk 2 Business Edition comes standard with a programmable switch that includes four presets. The programmable switch has a one touch system, where you push the button and the desk will self-adjust. The switch is unique in that is has a backlit LED design. Once the buttons are pushed the switch lights up. This would be nice in a darker environment. TiMotion has a soft start and stop technology included with this system for smooth transitions. The desk also features a collision feature that will stop and reverse the direction of the movement if something is hit.
TiMotion is an electronics provider that I have extensive history with; we used their products on our VertDesk v1 and v2 products. While they were able to provide electronics with a lot of technology for less cost, the dependability was not very good. I actually talked about some of the problems in our VertDesk v3 review and the VertDesk evolution post. The SmartDesk 2 Business Edition includes a five year warranty on all electronics. Based on my experience with TiMotion, I would hold onto your proof of purchase, as you will likely need it.
The original premise of the SmartDesk 1 when it launched on Kickstarter was the creation of the world’s first intelligent desk. A desk that would learn your behavior, reminding you when it was time to sit or stand. The system was also advertised to allow you to speak to it and perform tasks such as setting appointments within your calendar. Unfortunately, the artificial intelligence system was significantly delayed, shipping seven months after the first SmartDesk basic models. After speaking with a rep at Autonomous, I learned that all of the AI boxes ended up being recalled months after their initial shipment. They have been on backorder ever since. Asked when new ones would be available, I was told months. It appears the bugs in the system are not yet resolved.
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Testing The Specs
Listed Height Adjustment Range: 24” – 51”
True. With the use of the leveler glides, I was able to reach the maximum height.
Travel Speed: 2.3” Per Second (Claimed)
False. I was able to average 2.09” per second over 10 cycles with the 35 lbs. desk top attached. The speed slowed as additional weight was added.
Noise Level: 39 Decibels While in Motion
False. During multiple tests with our BAFX 3370 Digital Sound Level Meter the readings averaged 59 decibels.
Weight Capacity: 300 lbs.
True. The SmartDesk 2 Business Edition was able to lift the 300 lb. capacity listed in their specifications. The rate at which it moves slowed significantly and you could hear that it was working very hard. With 185 lbs. (including top), the desk moved at 1.84”/ second. When we loaded the desk to 295 lbs. (including top), the desk slowed to 1.15”/second.
What I Like About the Autonomous SmartDesk 2
The most obvious thing to like with the SmartDesk 2 is the price. To my knowledge, there isn’t another two stage electric standing desk available for such a low price. Currently, the price for the Business Edition is $399 + $49 shipping. Their home edition is even less money. However, I would be a little concerned with quality on the home edition. As with everything, you get what you pay for and that couldn’t be more true with this product.
The SmartDesk 2 is lightning fast, with a speed of a 2.09”/second. To date, that is the fastest table I have tested. While the speed is significantly reduced the closer you get to max capacity, most users won’t need to worry about it. For the average user, the desk will likely maintain a speed close to the 2”/second mark which is nice.
With a five year warranty included on the electrics, the SmartDesk 2 has one of the better warranties available. As mentioned, their electronics provider TiMotion doesn’t have the greatest track record. You will likely need this warranty at some point during ownership.
The packaging for the desk frame and top were excellent. In fact, the packaging for the top was the best I have seen. The frame is packed in cut foam that are perfectly sized for the product. The top is set within multiple layers of protection, starting with a durable edge protecting box. Based on my own experience, the packaging looks like it can handle really good corner impact. This is where most damage from common carries occurs.
What I Don’t Like
In my opinion, stability is one of the most important aspects of any standing desk. Having a desk that moves can be distracting and potentially dangerous with heavy items on the top of your desk. You get what you pay for with the SmartDesk 2. This is the most unstable desk I have tested in the mid-range category. Unfortunately, the stability issue is something that almost all users will experience since the front to back motion begins as early as 37” high.
Based on my own experiences with TiMotion, finding a new provider for electronics should be a serious consideration. With the volume of desks that are being sold by Autonomous, this could be a major issue that would impact a lot of customers. Simple issues, like the buzzing sound our customers complained of, are only an annoyance. More complicated ones, like freezing of the motors while the desk in the up position, will impact your ability to use the desk. TiMotion has negatively impacted our customers to the point we had to switch providers, I would hate to have it happen to others as well.
Inconsistency of motor
The inconsistency of the motor is something I expected with a low cost electric standing desk. Because they have the adjustment speed so high, the amount the desks slows is bound to happen when loaded up to max capacity. Overall, I don’t think this will impact a lot of users. However, I do think that Autonomous should lower the advertised capacity. When the desk is operated near capacity it is working very hard to make adjustments. Over time this will negatively impact the desk and ultimately burn it out.
If you are looking for an electric standing desk with a wide range of motion, at one of the lowest prices, SmartDesk 2 could be it. They currently offer one of the fastest adjustment speeds on the market at 2.09”/second. While their listed weight capacity of 300 lbs is true, when fully loaded the speed is greatly reduced and could cause damage to the system over time. Their five year warranty is solid, but you will likely need it with their sub par TiMotion electronics. Stability is the number one concern for me because it is not something that can be fixed with a warranty. Out of the box this is the least stable desk I have tested within the mid-range category. If stability is not a major concern of yours, the SmartDesk 2 could definitely work. At $399 + $49 shipping, the cost savings are enough to make it a consideration for sure.