Desk Buying Guide

Desk Buying Guide

Buying a desk? Hopefully some help hints and tips on getting it right!

There are an awful lot of desks out there so we are going to try and explain what you should look out for and how to be sure you are getting value for money. First of all we should cover off some basics on why you should buy one and how to think about your purchase

Why buy a standing desk

OK so you are going to buy a standing desk. Question is why. What will it bring me? Well there are a lot of health benefits you might not be aware off and some of what is on the web is not quite true. Let's jump in.


  • More energy. Most of our users report higher energy levels and for longer
  • Much much better posture. You will be using your musculoskeletal system more meaning a stronger posterior chain (back and leg muscles) and a more toned lower half
  • Better sugar regulation in the body. A complex one however active muscles will help regulate blood sugar levels much better than inactive ones
  • Improved digestion. Many desk workers suffer from indigestion. Stand up and it will go.
  • Sedentary lifestyles are highly linked to increased mortality rates.

Unproven Claims

  • Weight loss. We have studied this and could not replicate any long term weight loss mostly because it is incredibly difficult to monitor calorie intake from food labelling.
  • More engaged and attentive. Not entirely true and it would be hard to prove over long periods however improved stamina and better blood sugar regulation mean workers often feel more focused.


  • Over 40's and the over-weight should be cautious about venous pressure which can lead to varicose veins and also pressure on the joints. Standing is not an all day activity and you should listen to your body and campaign your standing.

Cost and finances

Maybe now you have decided to have a more active working environment so now you need to look at the financial logic behind buying your desk


  • Firstly your standing desk, depending on use, should last 8-15 years so consider it an investment and not a pure cost.
  • Divide your desk price by the number of days you use it annually and try to relate it to something that you buy regularly. So, for example, if you have your desk for 5 years it will roughly cost £100 per year or £0.50 per day. You will struggle to purchase a coffee for that price.  
  • The quality will still be remembered when the price is long forgotten. Don't necessarily believe that the headline price is everything.
  • Buy from a company that will be around and contactable if you do need a warranty repair. It might not be for free but it beats scraping your desk.
  • Check and check again the specifications. The range of options and features mean you can overpay for what may look like a cheap desk.

Main specification differences between desks

  • Single motor vs dual motor
  • Position memory or simple up and down
  • Anti-collision and no anti-collision and also the type
  • Motor thermal protection or none
  • Two section vs three section legs
  • Leg cross section (bigger is better)

Stability - The most commonly asked question

If you look at the internet you will see an enormous amount of information about desk stability and a lot of it is wrong.
So we would advise to largely ignore it. Standing at the end of a desk and pushing it is not a good representation of how you will use the desk nor its stability. This tests the response of the desk to forced oscillation setting up essentially simple harmonic motion.
Low amplitude non-forced oscillation is the main concern for standing desks as you either type on them or write on them. Let's face it keyboard typing is the most prevalent use case and how well this is handled by the desk is what is most important to users, We design our desks using computer aided design, analysis and manufacturing to ensure the desk is stable and is well damped. We try to balance the desk weight against it's rigidity and we use finite element analysis to focus on each aspect of the design.
In the end the desk does have to move and the leg sections have to slide one inside the other. Basic geometry means even a small movement at floor level equates to a larger movement at desk working height. So at top height (1.3m) the desk will not be quite as stable as it is at say 0.7m. Could we make them more stable - yes - but not for the same price, with the same aesthetic design and at roughly the same weight and definitely not the same cost. Desk design is a compromise between many factors.
Is there any rule of thumb I can use to judge desk stabilty before buying? Yes - Check the frame weight. By and large this will be a good indicator of the rigidity of the desk. The frame weights below indicate what we would aim for in designing our desks to be stable.

  • Manual Desk - 26-27Kg
  • Two section single motor 28-29Kg
  • Two section leg dual motor 30-31Kg
  • Three section dual motor 33-36Kg

Looking at the historical data, having sold thousands of desks (and some to customers with a real concern on stability) we have never had one returned. As long as the desks are built correctly and loaded to a reasonable weight we can say that in almost all cases clients are very satisfied with the stability. Note a stable, solid, level floor will greatly help stability. Any desk foot movement is undesirable.


Manual, Single motor, Dual motor - What does it all mean!

Manual vs Electric is pretty easy to spot however there are also some technicalities you might want to look into such as the motor number. Read on.

Manual Desk

These you can tell by the wind up handle. To make the desk go up it winds clockwise and winding anti-clockwise brings it down. Clearly with no motor in them they are the cheapest option if you want a full desk. We really like these products. No electrics mean a more reliable product and even if not used as a standing desk they allow sitting at the correct height. Main things to check are has it been tested to BIFMA standards and also is the handle fold away. Also double check how long it will take for the desk to go from bottom to top height. You do not want to be winding all day.

Single Motor Desks

On a single motor desk there is only one motor driving both legs. The two legs are mechanically coupled to the single motor via a drive rod as they would be on a manual desk, The downside of this is that you get more noise and vibration than in a dual motor desk. Single motor desks are cheaper than dual motor desks so you need to look closely at the number of motors you are getting for your spend. In our opinion these are desks which are manufactured to achieve a certain price point and under heavy use the satisfaction with the desk may be lower than a dual motor desk. We would advise any purchaser to ask themselves the question if it is better buying a single motor desk for economic reasons or upgrading to a dual motor desk given the incremental cost of moving to a dual motor desk is not hugely significant.

Dual Motor Desks

With dual motor desks there is a motor which is built into each leg. The legs are coupled by means of an electronic control box which regulates and maintains the same identical leg height. These desks are more expensive than single motor but are also considered to be more robust. Most commercial companies buy these as their desks are used 40 hours per week. They are the most refined in terms of noise and vibration of the three options available. We would recommend that if you can afford the extra cost they are well worth the extra spend.

On top of the refinement and quiet function these desks also have improved diagnostics built into them and they can be interrogated remotely if something does go wrong to check if a repair is needed.

How many segments are in the legs and does it matter?

This is not easy to spot and it has an effect on how your desk will perform.Basically there are either two or three segments and the differences are explained below.

Two section legs

On this type of desk design there are only two sections making up the leg actuator. This means the desk is cheaper to manufacture than a three section leg desk and should cost less. Fewer components. It also means that the desk will rise and fall marginally more slowly than a three section leg desk, so 32mm/s instead of 38mm/s. Unless you are going from sitting to standing or vice-versa multiple times a day the compromise of speed vs price might well work for you.

Generally two section desks do not go up as high as three section desks either. It would be typical to see a top height on a two section desk at 1180mm and on a three section desk 1280mm. If you are a corporate buyer you should consider that two section desks will only meet the needs of staff between 5'3" and 6'2" approximately. So if you have a greater range of staff heights it would be safer to use three section leg desks.

On the plus side two section leg desks are every bit as stable as three section leg desks




Three section legs

On this type of desk design there is an extra segment in the leg which extends the height range and increases the moving speed of the desk when .ompared to a two section leg desk. The result is that the desk rises and falls at 38mm/s vs 32mm/s for a two section leg desk and the range of the desk is much increased to 680mm to 1280mm approx. This means the desk will service pretty much anyone except perhaps those whose height is above 6'10".

We would noramlly recommend three section legs over two section legs as they give much more flexibilty for users and as they are heavier and have thicker legs give a more sturdy aesthetic.

Simple or Complex controller?

This is rarely totally clear however it is worth being sure which your desk will have. There is a big difference in the cost and again you want to make sure your spend is going to you as much technology as possible.

Simple Contoller

This type of controller just has a simple up and down button. They work well however you will not be able to return to the optimal seated or standing height each time without some adjustment. This is very much a cost reduction item on a desk. A four position memory controller is more expensive to put on a desk.

Complex Controller

These have a lot more technology built in. There is a digital display to tell you what height your desk is set at. Four memory locations so you can return to the same seated or standing height every time. There is also access to diagnostic functionality in the control box and if there is an error on the desk or it needs reset the controller will let you know. We believe these are well worth having however some companies sell them as an add on and not with the desk. They can cost as much as £50 to add on. All our desks have them as standard with either 3 or 4 memory positions.

Other considerations?

There are a few other things you should consider. Has it got collision detection. This is in the control module and means if the desk is being driven onto an object it will stop automatically. Useful if there are kids at home. Another option to look out for is thermal cut-out. If the desk is overused or misused will it shut itself down and stop the motors from overheating. Our electric desks come with thermal cutout and anti-collision as standard.