The Autonomous SmartDesk 2 Home Edition is their low-end option from their selection of standing desks. At $298 for the frame only option, it is one of the least expensive electric standing desk options available. While Autonomous entry-level product pricing is very enticing, the product comes with a host of problems. It also rated as our worst standing desk to date, with a score of 42 out of 100. Unlike many of the other problems posts I have done, this Home Edition post is made of mostly alternative products. Let’s take a closer look at the top 5 problems with the home edition and find out if it is a good fit for your standing desk needs.
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Top 5 Problems With SmartDesk 2 Home Edition
- Stability Issues Above 37″
- TiMotion Electronics
- Low-Quality Gear Components
- Slow Adjustment Speed
- One Year Warranty
- Bottom Line
1. Stability Issues Above 37”
With stability being the main concern for standing desk users, the fact that the Autonomous Desk was one of the worst is a major problem. With wobble motions starting as early as 34” and becoming bad by 37”, users as short as 5’2” will be impacted by the Autonomous Home Edition’s stability problem. Front to back testing wasn’t much better, with rocking motions being noticeable as early as 35”. By the time the desk reached 39” the motion became bad and would impact your work efficiency.
For a lot of the desks we have tested, there is one motion that is more noticeable than another. If you are a user that feels the front to back stability is more important than left to right, you might say the wobble isn’t a problem. When desks like the Autonomous Home Edition have problems around the same heights, in both directions, it’s a major design flaw. All users would be impacted by this desks stability problem.
Depending on your specific requirements, there are plenty of alternatives that are more stable than the Autonomous Home Edition. The Home Edition will only be stable for users under 5’2” and since it only goes down to 29.125” it will likely be too tall for shorter users while seated. If you want to stay with the Autonomous brands, their Business Edition is available for slightly more money, but will offer better left to right stability. Unfortunately, the Autonomous Business Edition still had bad front to back rocking, becoming bad as early as 37”.
We haven’t been overly impressed with any products tested in the same price range as the Home Edition. The standing desk category is a pay for what you get the type of category; the less expensive the product, the lower quality it will be overall. If you’re willing to spend more money, the Uplift 900 Desk is one of the more stable desks to come without a traditional cross support. The next step up in price and quality from the Uplift would be our own VertDesk v3, which includes a traditional cross support and is the most stable desk we’ve tested.
2. TiMotion Electronics
Similar to the Business Edition from Autonomous, the Home Edition uses electronics from the Taiwanese provider TiMotion. We have had extensive experience with TiMotion, using them on our original VertDesk v1. I didn’t realize how close the electronics packs were on the VertDesk v1 and Home Edition until I started the review. Each used the same TC11 control box with very similar motors. The Autonomous Home Edition currently uses the slower version, the 5540M-10000-010, a 26V 2600RPM motor. The VertDesk v1 had used the 5540M-1000-004-1, a 24V 3800 RPM motor.
This is a big red flag, considering the number of issues we had with the same components in 2014 and 2015. The control box was notorious for arriving dead and when it worked it had an annoying buzzing sound that came from it. While the buzzing sound wouldn’t impact you if the room was loud from a conversation, when used in quiet environments, we had plenty of complaints. The motor created even more headaches, with customers having to deal with desks that would only move up and not go back down. The encoders inside the motors would fault and the desk would then get stuck at the top position. This requires customers to flip their desks upside down and remove the hex rod to manually lower the desk. We eventually switched away from TiMotion, moving to premium provider LogicData.
I know that this is an ongoing issue, as contacts I have in Taiwan, who have been testing TiMotion, complained of the desk getting stuck at the top position. This was with the same control box and the motor that we have previously used. It’s hard to believe these still have the same problems considering it has been years since we used them as an electronics provider. While TiMotion products look pretty from the outside, the guts of their system hide all of the low-quality secrets. A closer inspection of their control box will show excessive use of caulk to hold large components in place. Two board systems use cheap cable connectors to jump from one board to the other. There are plenty of problems when you dig a little deeper into the TiMotion product.
My suggestion would be to look for an alternative. Unfortunately, I cannot spin a positive here for the Autonomous Home Edition. At least with their Business Edition, they offer a five-year warranty on electronics. From my own experience, you will need to use the warranty at some point. It is likely to be sooner than later. The Home Edition only offers a one year warranty, which we will talk about later in the post.
While you won’t find another product at the $300 price point to offer better electronics, increasing your budget will definitely improve the product. The UpDesk brand offers its entry-level standing desk, the Elements series, which features Linak electronics. With a five year warranty, you will pay more, but get top of the line electronics. Another alternative from the mid-range to feature better electronics would be the ModDesk Pro from Multitable. They have partnered with LogicData to provide their control box and switch. Their LogicData electronics include a five-year warranty. Both Linak and LogicData are considered global leaders in the standing desk electronics industry.
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3. Low-Quality Gear Components
The Autonomous Home Edition frame is built by OEM AOKE, a Chinese manufacturer that has been producing standing desk frames since 2012. AOKE is not that well known outside their partnership with Autonomous. Having a chance to review three different products from them, it has become clear their approach is to mimic other leading brands. The gear systems on all three of their products have included replicas of gear systems from Ketterer. Ketterer is a global leader in the manufacturing of high-quality spindle gear systems. Producing gears originally for clocks over a century ago, they have mastered the art of making gears that operate flawlessly. I can’t fault AOKE for wanting to copy the best in the business. The problem is they do not have the experience or the engineering capabilities of a business like Ketterer. This becomes obvious when you take a closer inspection of their gears systems.
The first thing I like to do when inspecting a gear is to test how smoothly they move when manually pulled in and out. This has been one of the easiest ways to tell if something is quality or built for price. When you pull gears made by Ketterer, or even by Linak, the difference is not even close. These cold rolled gears move perfectly, without any odd hiccups in-between. The gear system found on the Autonomous Home Edition was another case of being built to satisfy a price requirement. As you move the gear, you can feel that it changes speeds and requires more effort in certain areas. When the gear is inside the desk and you push the up/down button there are sudden jumps and loud vibrations as the desk moves. While other products are smooth and quiet, the Autonomous Home Edition is loud and anything but smooth.
The movement and sound that came from the Autonomous Home Edition were close to the worst that I have tested. The ViviStand Quattro was louder, but I think it was a smoother system while in motion. Pretty much all of the other desks from the low to mid-range have felt better while moving them up or down. This includes the VIVI 103E which is one of the lowest quality products I have tested prior to the Home Edition. While I wouldn’t recommend the 103E, I would have to say at $299, it is a viable alternative if your budget is fixed around this price.
4. Slow Adjustment Speed
The Autonomous Home Edition was incredibly slow, with an adjustment speed of .78” per second with only the weight of the desktop. When you added weight to it, the speed slowly dropped all the way down to .65” per second. When you consider that most desks average 1.3” per second and above, this was a poor performer. Based on my 20 reviews of electric standing desks, the Autonomous Desk was the worst in another category. The next closest was the ViviStand Quattro desk again, at .84” per second.
The Autonomous Home Edition comes with a one-touch programmable switch. This allows you to press a preselected height and let go of the button. The desk will then move to your preselected height. While we do not recommend the use of one-touch systems because of their safety issues, this is the one product that would likely need it. If you are a power user and like to switch between sitting and standing frequently, having to hold the button for 20+ seconds could be an annoyance.
What I find to be most interesting is that the Home Edition is the slowest desk we’ve tested, but the Business Edition is the fastest. They have covered both ends of the spectrum with their product offering. Maybe this is a good thing; just know that when you select the Home Edition it is one of the slowest products out there. If that will be a problem, this likely isn’t a good solution for your needs.
5. One Year Warranty
Featuring a one year warranty, Autonomous shows how confident they are with their entry-level product by offering one of the worst warranties in the category. The only other product we tested with a similar warranty was the VIVO 103E. It should come as no surprise that both of these desks were the lowest quality products we tested. They also come with the lowest price tags we have found, putting them at the absolute bottom of the standing desk category.
Some would say at $299, this type of warranty should be expected. At this price, users should expect that they will essentially be rolling the dice and hoping their desk lasts longer than the warranty would otherwise suggest. There is a good chance you will end up having to buy another desk within a year. There are just too many reasons this desk could fail and if the desk stops moving, you will be stuck with a sitting desk. You will likely be back out shopping for another desk within the first year or two.
While you can certainly take your chances and hope the Autonomous Home Edition holds up, there is no way to know if it will last one year, or for an additional five years. The problem is the odds are against the longer life cycle. There are too many things that can go wrong on an electric standing desk. At the very minimum, I would suggest looking for a product with a two or three-year warranty. While these aren’t the best warranties in the business, the brands have shown they trust their products more than Autonomous has with its Home Edition series. If your desk breaks after the first year, you will end up spending more than you would have originally to get the better desk.
If you have had a chance to read some of my other problems posts, you know that I am very fair with my assessment of competing products. I have yet to find a product that I would deem perfect, knowing that almost all products have some flaws to them. That is the reason why the highest-scoring desk to date is only an 85 out of 100. The Autonomous Home Edition scored a 42 out of 100. This is the worst score we have had on any desk. There aren’t too many reasons I would suggest that you buy this desk other than price. After reviewing two desks that retail for $299, I have decided that I will not be investing the time or money into more reviews at the price point. You get what you pay for and when a desk is offered under the $300 price point, there is no way for it to be a quality product. My suggestion if you would like to buy from Autonomous is to look at the Business Edition at a minimum. While it might not be the best product in the mid range it is quite a bit better than the Home Edition.