Hands-on review: Varidesk ProPlus 30 standing desk
Image credit: Jonathan Wilson
For the good health of the office jack-in-the-box in all of us.
We've looked at office health and productivity tools before. Why stop at ergonomic keyboards and mice? At some point, you should probably look at getting a more ergonomic desk onto which you can plonk all your devices.
Standing desks have become a thing in recent years. The idea of sitting on our soft rumps all the live long day is obviously not sensible or even natural; merely a bad habit into which humankind's office drones have inexorably slid.
Of course, the idea of standing up to work at a desk isn't new; the more pioneering, free-thinking types amongst us have been voluntarily standing at their desks for years without giving the practice a specific name, in much the same way as the 'selfie' phenomenon is really just a new way of holding the camera at arm's length to photograph your own face, just as older people had been doing since cameras were first invented.
However, standing up whilst simultaneously trying to operate a computer is nigh-on impossible if you don't have the right kind of desk. If you're of any height at all, the very act of standing immediately elevates your hands a good foot or two above your desk-bound keyboard. Trying to type effectively at that kind of distance is only going to exacerbate any back-related health issues you might have, not ease them. What you need is a standing desk that travels with you.
The Varidesk ProPlus 30 is a free-standing (boom, boom) device, which can turn any regular desk into a magical standing desk (actual magical effects may vary). Clear some space on your lacklustre static desk and unfold one of these sleek, spring-loaded Varidesk beasts. Rise majestically from your chair. Feel the cool air wafting around your temples, as your head reaches new office altitudes. Learn to get over the initial awkwardness of standing for hours at your keyboard, looking for all the world like either the keyboard player in a prog-rock band or a vicar at the pulpit on dress-down day.
In all seriousness, alternating between sitting and standing throughout the working day is so much better for our health than sustained periods of either. Fortunately, switching heights with the Varidesk is as easy as it could be. There are two handles, one on the underside of each upper tier, that you simply squeeze to 'unlock' the desk. From here, you either push forward to lower the desk, or pull towards you to raise it.
There are apparently 11 different height positions, but in practice an individual is likely to only use the three and four that are somewhere in the ballpark of ideal height most often. The ProPlus mechanism is also spring-assisted, which helps take much of the physical strain in the folding action. It's much like power steering in a car: you'd really notice if it weren't there.
It's worth noting that the higher you raise the ProPlus desk, the more it advances horizontally towards the user (as is the case with most standing desk designs, in fact). Essentially, the desk travels 'upwards' at a 45-degree angle, approximately, not a straight-up, vertical 90-degree angle. It's not a problem: just make sure you have room to step back to accommodate this and also room to kick your office chair back or to the side.
Even fully extended, the ProPlus is stable, having a weighted base. At any height there's a very slight 'bounce' to the keyboard tier when typing at speed and with enthusiasm (this review is being written entirely whilst standing), but it's negligible. In order to actually tip the Varidesk over, you'd have to lean hard and deliberately on the extreme edge of the keyboard tier; e.g. if you folded your arms and leaned heavily with both elbows. It's not going to happen naturally.
Unpacking the desk was straightforward. It actually comes ready-made but folded flat inside the box, so you just have to cut away the cardboard shipping packaging and the restraints inside, then position it on your desk.
The two-tier design accommodates all your desk essentials, as our photos show. The upper surface is typically for the computer's display, with the lower shelf acting as a keyboard and mouse deck. Once you've fed any necessary computer wires through (although now might be a good opportunity/excuse to move to wireless peripherals), you're good to go. It took a little bit of teething faff for us to get all our cables clear of the folding mechanism, but not long at all.
The ProPlus 30 supports a weight of up to 15.8kg. It is 76cm wide and 75.5cm deep when closed flat to desk level; 106cm deep when fully raised.
We've been testing the ProPlus 30 and for the majority of office (or home-office) users, this will be more than enough. If you have one monitor - even if it's a beefy unit - the ProPlus 30 has plenty of space for the standard full-size suite of accompanying office toys: keyboard, mouse and/or trackpad, telephone, USB fan, mug of pens, novelty foam promotional item, that sort of thing. Two larger Varidesk versions are also available: the ProPlus 36 (good for two display monitors) and the ProPlus 48 (good for displaying and monitoring a baby elephant, we imagine).
One nice addition is the free Varidesk app, which PC users can download. This gives you sit and stand alerts throughout the day, so you can be actively encouraged to use the full capability of your standing (and sitting) desk.
As it happens, we were able to compare this ProPlus 30 review standing desk with one from a rival manufacturer, issued to a colleague by the office supplies manager to help with a back issue. While both desks looked virtually identical, one appreciable difference we noted was that the lower (keyboard) deck on the Varidesk was closer to the upper deck. For some reason, this seemed preferable in use - although it's worth noting that the colleague in question hadn't felt that this was an issue on their desk until shown the alternative. The ProPlus desk was deemed the nicer of the two, all the same.
If you have either a hankering or a physical need to mix up the sit/stand ratio in your working day, a standing desk would be advisable (although please note that this should not be considered actual medical advice; please consult a physician).
What we can say for certain - from our extended, full-working week's experience with the Varidesk ProPlus 30 - is that we've been much happier at our workstation with this desk, with more energy and less lethargy, having the option of standing up throughout the day whenever the spirit moved us. We've also come to appreciate the breaks in between, sitting on our soft rumps, that little bit more. It's the best of both worlds.
Varidesk ProPlus 30, £275
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