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Standing Desk Comparison: Electric Desk vs. Crank Desk vs. Converter Desk

30 April 2021

Research has shown that between 50-70% of the world population is sitting for more than six hours a day. This sedentary habit has increased the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and even cancer. Awareness for sitting malady is being felt around the globe with products designed to create a healthier lifestyle. Reducing the risk for this unhealthy lifestyle can be simple as getting up and standing more often throughout the day. One way to break up the cycle is to use an adjustable standing desk. We’ll look at three of the most popular versions, bringing out the pros and cons of each.

Electric Standing Desks

The Pros:

● Easy to operate: pushing the button up or down is easy, the desk will begin to move. Whether the user is taking a phone call or has their hands full, the push-button operation takes the least effort to use.

● Increased weight capacity: The electric standing desk has a higher weight capacity than a crank or converter. This is good news for users who prefer to keep a lot of items on their desktops.

● Quick adjustments up/down: less time transiting from sitting or standing. Most electric standing desks operate at more than 1” per second, moving from sitting to standing will take about 10-15 seconds.

● Larger desk sizes: Because the desk is moving via electric motors, the size of the desks available has no limit. Larger L and U-shaped standing desks usually have three motors against two on rectangle shapes. All the user’s items at standing height make for a much more efficient workstation.

The Cons:

● The most expensive: The science required to make the desks move costs more than most crank and converters. High-end models retail for over $2000, while dependable entry-level products can start closer to $500.

● Needs power: The power cord requires the desk to be plug into an outlet and limits mobility. If there is a power failure the desk will be in a stuck position until power is restored. Most brands require a reset after a power outage, which means lowering the desk in safe mode to its lowest point. In places where there is regular power intermittent, this can be more frequent.

● Electronics breakdown: Many of the electric models being sold have been quality tested for a minimum of 5000-10000 rotations up/down without failure. This is equivalent to about 5 to 10 years of usage before a breakdown arises. While reputable brands hold up well over time, shutdowns can still fail for many reasons. This can leave a desk at a stuck height until it is fixed.

● Can be noisy: The noise coming from the motors when operating can be a disturbance and can disrupt the working environment. Most of the electric models have a decibel level between 45-60 DB. If the workplace is very quiet, the noise from the motors when it is on will be noticeable. A typical office will be around 45-50 DB and the average conversation is had around 60 DB.

Crank Standing Desks

The Pros:

● A little less expensive: The crank version is a little cheaper compared to that of the electric standing desk. Comparing an entry-level electric model to a mid or high-end crank model will result in a more expensive crank desk.

● No need for power: Since it is a hand crank, the standing desk can be moved. This the perfect choice for regions with unreliable power infrastructure.

● More reliability: since no power is required, it can be used in the field.

● Larger desk sizes: like the electric models, they come in all sizes.

The Cons:

● Slow adjustment: It requires muscle power to make them move from sitting to standing. It will need 10”-15” of adjustment to switch from the sitting to a standing position. Most of the crank desks on the market require 3-5 cranks per inch of travel, resulting in about 30-75 rotations of the handle each time the user moves from sitting to standing.

● Lower weight capacity: Crank desks have 20-30% less lifting capacity compared to electric. Desks with higher weight capacity have the most cranks per inch of travel.

● Uneven loading: balance influences how efficient crank desks move up and down. Too much weight on one side of the desk makes it more difficult to adjust. If the user has too many items on or attached to the desk, it may cause them to fall over.

Standing Desk Converters

The Pros:

● The cheapest of all: desk converters are the least expensive compared to other standing desks. The new powered models are a little pricey, the fixed height models start at $100. The stable models that can adjust up and down will start closer to $300.

● No new desk required: does not need any other accessories. Just use the existing desk to work. Some companies do not have the budget to replace an entire desk and these desk converters are the perfect fit.

● Minimum assembly needed: Most converters are either shipped fully assembled or can be assembled easily. This saves a lot of time and can start standing sooner depending on the skill of the user

The Cons:

● Limited working space: the diminutive size of the desks cannot accommodate all items on top of it. Not being able to bring items like a phone to standing height makes a less efficient workspace.

● Has a heavy base: just because it is small doesn’t mean that it is very light. Since the desk converter extends to 14” to 18” above the desk surface, it can unstable without a heavy base to steady it. Depending on the type of converter it’s very difficult to move on your desk once it’s in place.

● Doesn’t go low enough: Most models don’t go low enough for short people. Due to the fact they rest on top of an existing desk, the thickness of the converter’s worksurface and base raises the keyboard/mouse to another 1-2”. Resulting in discomfort and an array of ergonomic issues.

● Small yet bulky: Depending on the location or the job of the user, standing desk converters tend to be a little bulky. This can be a problem for receptionists, people working in corners or cubicles. It’s essential to double-check the footprint and overall height of the desk converters to avoid sizing problems.


Now you’ve seen the advantages and disadvantages of the different standing desks. The aim here is to see which standing desk is a perfect fit for your office. In the end, it is the user who will work with the standing desk and what ergonomic health benefits he can get the most from them.