Top 5 Most Unstable Sit Stand Desks We’ve Tested
Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to bring in 14 of the most popular electric sit stand desks for review. During that time, I have assembled, tested, unassembled and torn apart each of the desks. Looking at components such as glides, gears, control box electronics, etc. Through the process I have learned a lot about the industry and what truly makes a good product. I feel confident saying there isn’t another website you can visit to learn as much about electric sit stand desks as BTOD.com.
One of the most important aspects of a sit to stand desk is the ability for it to remain stable at standing height. Unfortunately, there is a big misconception out there as to what desks are stable. It’s important to note there are a lot of aspects of a sit stand desk that can make it unstable. Through testing I have rated all 14 desks on a scale of 1 to 100; with 1 being the least stable and 100 the most stable. To create my least stable list, I picked the number 50 for the cut off.
Note: Because the Jarvis Desk and ModDesk Pro are rated right at 50 they weren’t included in this list. There is a strong argument that could be made to include them, but I had to end the list somewhere. To learn more about the stability issues with each of these desks I recommend reading their in-depth reviews.
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Top 5 Most Unstable Sit Stand Desks IKEA Bekant StandDesk Simple VIVO 103E Autonomous SmartDesk 2 ApexDesk Elite 8 Reasons for Standing Desk Instability 1. IKEA Bekant – 20/100 Stability Rating
Stability Test Results
Left to Right: The IKEA Bekant was the first desk that I have tested that you could feel wobble at the lowest height. The Autonomous AI SmartDesk 2 and the Jarvis Desk had issues as early as 36”, which I thought was bad. Once the Bekant rose beyond 33” to 34”, the wobble became annoying and beyond 39” it was bad.
Front to Back: Because of the rounded columns, there wasn’t really a direction that the Bekant excelled in. I found the front to back stability issues to mirror the IKEA Bekant wobble issues. Even at the bottom you could feel the front to back motion with the desk. The cheap fasteners used were only making the situation worse.
Why the IKEA Bekant is Unstable
Rated at 20 out of 100, the IKEA Bekant is our most unstable desk in the list. This is a category that all companies want to come in last. Unfortunately, the IKEA Bekant has a long list of issues that have created stability problems.
Starting with the column, the OEM manufacturer has designed a glide system that is only on one end of the column. This creates a gap on the end opposite of the glide which creates stability issues for almost all heights.
Bekant glide system diagram
The second issue with the IKEA Bekant is the use of cheap plastic fasteners used to attached the desk surface. While they make installation quick and easy, they do not provide tight fit between the frame and surface. Because of this you can actually move the top around on the base.
Cheap plastic IKEA fasteners
The last major reason for the IKEA Bekant’s stability issues is the most obvious, it lacks a traditional cross support. Because of this, the round column design has stability issues in all directions.
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2. StandDesk Simple – 30/100 Stability Rating
StandDesk Stability Test Results
The StandDesk Simple is unique, with the option to use a cross support or the ability to go without. Because of this I have broken down the stability test into two parts; without a cross support and with the cross support.
Without Cross Support
Front to Back: The StandDesk Simple started to experience a rocking motion at 36”. By 41” the rocking motion was bad.
Left to Right: The wobble test was a different situation. StandDesk Simple was the second desk that I tested that wobbled at the bottom with weight on the desktop. The first was the IKEA Bekant. By the time it reached 36” the rocking motion was bad. Beyond this point, it would impact your work.
With Cross Support
Front to Back: Adding the cross support did not impact the rocking motion. The StandDesk Simple started to experience a rocking motion at 36”. By 41” the rocking motion was bad.
Left to Right: Adding the cross support to the StandDesk improved the wobble motion for lower heights. With the cross support, the wobble motion didn’t start until you reached 35”. By 39” the wobble motion became bad.
Why the StandDesk Simple is Unstable
A major concern for me with stability is too many moving parts. When I opened the box for the StandDesk Simple I couldn’t believe the number of parts required for assembly. It is still to this day the most complicated standing desk I have put together.
StandDesk Simple Hardware
One of the most confusing things about the StandDesk Simple is that it includes a cross support, yet when installed its unstable. There are two reasons for this, both are linked to the design of the cross support. Because of the height of the cross support, the two bolts on each side connecting it to the frame are set right next to each other. To provide proper support, they should be stacked on top of each other. This would allow for all four bolts to create an X pattern. It would be in the manufacturer’s best interest to have these bolts about 4-5” apart. By doing this, you can create a design the counteracts one another, similar to the design for a suspension bridge system. The second reason for a lack of support with the StandDesk’s cross support is that it is expandable. There are too many points of movement with this design and because of this, it doesn’t provide adequate lateral support.
StandDesk Simple With Cross Support
The StandDesk Simple has additional stability issues that reside within the frame design. Where the column meets the foot is a plastic washer. The reason you would add something like this, between two metal parts, is to reduce sounds from vibrations. Unfortunately, this creates a new weak point with a soft material used between two metal components.
Plastic Part Between Column and FootShowing This Plastic Part In Place 3. VIVO 103E – 33/100 Stability Rating 103E Stability Test Results
Left to Right: The first test I performed on the VIVO 103E was the wobble test. While the Vivo standing desk came with wedges in the upper frame, it’s flaw in the glide/column was hard to overcome. The 103E started to show signs of wobble as early as 36”. By 40” the wobble was bad and would impact your ability to work efficiently.
Front to Back: The rocking motion test on the VIVO standing desk was like the wobble. There were multiple issues at play, but the VIVO had issues starting around 34”. By 40” the desk had significant rocking issues.
Why the VIVO 103 is Unstable
The VIVO 103E is the least expensive standing desks that I have tested. It is a product that I would consider to be on the low end of the standing desk spectrum. Because of the price I wasn’t overly surprised with the quality when I received it. The VIVO had a chance to be stable, with the use of a wedge system. Unfortunately, there were other glaring issues that the wedges couldn’t overcome.
One of the biggest issues with stability for the VIVO Desk was the poor fit with the glide system used. Of the 14 desks tested, this product had the worst fitting glides I have seen yet. There was so much play within the columns that you could hear the clanking of metal. This was likely due to the one size fits all glide system approach. The OEM Lumi Source, that manufactures this frame, has been producing columns for less than a year and is likely a big reason for the poor quality.
The lack of a traditional cross support for the VIVO 103E didn’t help matters. Honestly, I’m not sure a cross support could have saved this product from its stability woes that stemmed from their poor glides.
4. Autonomous SmartDesk 2 – 35/100 Stability Rating
Autonomous Stability Test Results
Front to Back: The front to back motion was the worst of the two stability tests I performed. I noticed it fairly quickly at a height of 32”. By 37” the motion was bad; based on our standing desk height calculator this rocking motion would impact users 5’1” and above. At 46” the rocking motion was significant and likely exaggerated because of a lack of overlap in the columns. This is common for standing desks, but the point of impact can vary greatly.
Left to Right: While the left to right wobble motion wasn’t an issue as early as the front to back, it still became a problem. The desk didn’t experience the wobble until about 40”, but it quickly became bad at 42”. Once 45” was reached, the wobble was significant.
Why the Autonomous is Unstable
The Autonomous Desk is one of the most popular desks currently on the market. A lot of this is driven by the price, with a price tag that is common in the mid-$400 range. Unfortunately, like most things in life, you really do get what you pay for. That is the case with the Autonomous Desk. There are definitely corners cut with the Autonomous Desk and stability is one of the areas that are sacrificed to achieve a low price.
The first stability issue with the Autonomous Desk is with the design of the foot. In order to provide threading for the adjustable foot glides, they have decided to tap the bottom of the steel in the foot. This is a less expensive option compared to welding a nut or adding a threaded rivnut. The issue is that the steel plate in the foot isn’t very thick and it doesn’t allow for the proper amount of threading. Because of this, when the foot glide is extended out to adjust for uneven floors, it wiggles in the threaded hole. Without the proper threading, there isn’t a secure enough connection to hold the glide steady. This means the only way the glide will be solid is when you fully tighten them into the bottom of the foot. By doing this you defeat the purpose of having adjustable foot glides.
Threading in Foot on Autonomous vs, VertDesk v3
The second stability issue with the Autonomous Desk is the use of poor fitting glides. Because there is a gap here, the play between the columns creates stability at height as low as 39”. The motion that is most noticeable is a front to back rocking motion. This is something that most will notice when typing and is one of the biggest complaints we hear from Autonomous customers.
Glides on Autonomous SmartDesk 2
Lastly, the Autonomous Desk doesn’t include a traditional cross support system. Like the VIVO 103E, I am not sure how much this would help the Autonomous Desk. Because the biggest stability issue is a front to back rocking motion, a cross support wouldn’t fix this issue.
5. ApexDesk Elite – 45/100 Stability Rating
ApexDesk Stability Test Results
Left to Right: The left to right motion or wobble on the ApexDesk was nonexistent below 36”. Once the desk rose beyond 39” up to 42”, the wobble became an annoyance. Beyond 42” the desk had a significant wobble. This wasn’t a surprise based on what I learned during assembly.
Front to Back: The front to back rocking motion didn’t begin until after 41”. It skipped from noticeable to significant around 44”. This was likely due to the lack of overlap within the columns at this point.
Why the ApexDesk Elite is Unstable
The ApexDesk Elite is the best of the worst in our top 6 least stable standing desks. Rated at 45 out of 100 for stability, it wasn’t quite as bad as some of the earlier products in the list. I remember pulling the parts out of the box thinking the desk had a chance to be really good. Having just reviewed the Autonomous Desk, one of the things that stood out was how solid the feet were. Unfortunately, that feeling ended quickly as I began to assemble the upper portion of the desk.
The ApexDesk used one of the most interesting assembly processes to hold their frame to the desktop. While it made for the quickest assembly I have completed, it created an unstable desk in the process. While most products have the upper desk supports welded or bolted together; ApexDesk decided to use the leverage from L shaped bars to hold the motor box into the upper frame support. There is a fair amount of leverage holding the bottom half of the frame in place, but it isn’t enough when the desk is raised to tall heights. Starting as early as 39”, the ApexDesk had wobble issues. Without a traditional cross support, they were only exaggerated the taller the desk went.
Using L Bar For Connection on ApexDeskLocked in Place
The second issue with the ApexDesk was the glide system. There was a clear gap between the plastic glides and the inner column. Because of this, there was too much play between the columns. As we’ve seen from other products with poor glide fitting, stability issues only get worse the higher the desk raises.
ApexDesk Glide System 8 Reasons for Standing Desk Instability
There are a lot of reasons why a sit and stand desk will have stability issues. The problem goes beyond the traditional cross support. It’s important that we address these issues so that when you’re shopping you know what to look for. While some of these will require testing the desk, others can be spotted through pictures. Knowing what to look for and the questions to ask will ensure you don’t end up with an unstable desk.
1. Poor Threading for Foot Glides
Starting at the absolute bottom of the desk is the adjustable foot glide. The foot glide is designed to adjust and accommodate uneven floors. These glides play a big part in how stable your desk is, but can cause issues if the way they insert into the foot is done incorrectly. Think of this as the foundation of your desk, if there are any issues here it will greatly impact the rest of the desk. Through testing, I have found many of the less expensive products tap the steel in the bottom of the foot to create threading to attach the glides. While this would be a good option if the steel was thick enough, most of the desk’s plated steel foot bottom is only thick enough to provide a couple of lines of threading. Because of the lack of threading, the glide will not be able to create a secure fit. This leaves you with a glide that has play; this small amount of movement is only exaggerated the taller the desk raises.
2. Loose Bolts
A desk that requires a lot of bolts for assembly can create issues with stability. Even if your desk only has a handful of bolts, there is always the potential for these to loosen over time. Through vibrations made with a standing desk motor, bolts will naturally loosen over time. One of the best ways to eliminate this issue is with the use of a thread locker such as Loctite. While most manufacturers do not include this, it is readily available at most home improvement stores. Using this will greatly improve the stability issues created from loose bolts. It’s also recommended that you regularly tighten bolts on your desk.
3. Too Many Moving Parts
Having too many moving parts that make up the frame of a standing desk poses a big threat to the overall stability. This includes desks that ship in a lot of pieces, which requires you to use many bolts for assembly. The more bolts required, the more opportunity exists for something to become loose over time. It is incredible to see how only a few loose parts can impact a standing desks stability once raised to a standing height.
4. No Traditional Cross Support
While this one would appear to be obvious, the lack of a traditional cross support almost guarantees a desk will have lateral stability issues. While all cross supports were not created equal, those used on the VertDesk v3 and GeekDesk v3 are good examples of a good cross support. While many brands say their standing desks are just as stable without a cross support, the truth is that’s not physically possible. I imagine most shoppers are savvy enough to see through these claims.
5. Lack of Wedge System
While desks without a traditional cross support suffer lateral stability issues, there are ways to improve these problems. The Uplift Desk is a good example, with the use of a wedge in the upper portion of their column they have improved their lateral stability. While this won’t be equal to a desk with a cross support, it is a big improvement over standing desks that do not feature a traditional cross support.
6. Poor Fitting Glides
The use of cheap plastic glides is a major cause of stability issues with standing desks. Cutting corners here will create fit issues right out of the box. These fit issues will only get worse as the glides start to wear down. The art of fitting glides is not something that can be easily done. Using glides that are too tight will improve stability, but could also create binding issues inside the column. Glides that are too loose will not fill the natural gaps that exist between the columns. Proper training in factories is extremely important in this part of the production. Using the right-sized glides will help brands avoid this problem. Unfortunately, many of the Chinese brands we have tested suffer here the most.
7. Glides Only on One End of Column
While the use of glides on only one end of a column is not a common thing, we have found them on the IKEA Bekant. IKEA uses OEM ROL ERGO. The reason for doing this was to eliminate marks from rubbing over the painted surface as the glides move up and down. While this will certainly make for a better-looking column over the lift of the product, stability is greatly impacted from it. Using a more traditional setup with top and bottom glides will ensure better stability throughout all heights.
8. Not Enough Overlap in Columns
As a standing desk raises to tall heights, the overlap between the columns becomes less. Depending on the amount of overlap within the column, the upper and bottom glide systems begin to move closer to each other. As they get closer, it becomes more difficult for them to counteract each other, which creates instability in the column. Because this typically happens when a desk is near the full extension, the amount of play is much more noticeable.
Having an unstable standing desk can be a huge annoyance and impact your work efficiency. Depending on how bad it is, it can even cause you to discontinue use of your desk at standing heights. It’s important to fully understand why stability issues exist with standing desks. Knowing what to look for will help you during the process of selecting the best standing desk for your needs. Hopefully, my post will help you avoid the costly mistake of purchasing an unstable standing desk.
Additional Standing Desk Resources The 4 Best Electric Standing Desks Under $1000 Top 6 Reasons Why Standing Desks Wobble Autonomous SmartDesk 2 vs. VertDesk v3: Which is the best? Uplift 900 Desk vs. VertDesk v3: Which is better? The Uplift 900 vs. The Jarvis Standing Desk 9 Most Common Problems with Motorized Standing Desks #BuyingTipsAndGuides