Which Type Of Standing Desk Is The Best?

If you’re in the market for a standing desk, make sure you know which type of desk you want to get. Not all standing desks raise and lower using the same mechanism. The most common adjustable standing desks are manual crank, electric and pneumatic.

The lifting mechanism can influence other details about the standing desk. In this article, I’ll explain the different types of standing desk and help you choose which one is best for you.

If you are here for the quick answer, check out this table that summarizes my analysis. In the table, the attributes of the manual crank desk are considered as the baseline. The other two types are compared with the manual for each category. A + symbol indicates it is better than baseline and – indicates it is worst.

So which type of standing desk is the best? The electric standing desk is the best for the average consumer. Compared to manual crank and pneumatic desks, electric standing desks generally have larger lifting capacities, desk sizes and more purchase options. They are on par in terms of price, travel height, warranty period and lifespan.

CategoryManual DeskElectric DeskPneumatic Desk
Price RangeBaselineSameSame
Travel HeightBaselineSameSame
Travel SpeedBaseline+++
Noise LevelBaselineSame
Lifting CapacityBaseline++
Desk SizeBaseline+Same
Ease Of UseBaseline++
Warranty PeriodBaselineSameSame
Purchase OptionsBaseline++
Placement LocationsBaselineSame

The mechanism by which the standing desk is able to move up and down defines the type of the standing desk. Nowadays, electric standing desks are the most popular, however manual and pneumatic standing desks also exist and can have their perks.

In this article, I’ll compare three of most popular desks of each type. I’ll be coming to generalized conclusions from this analysis so it’s possible that you could find a desk that falls slightly outside the given characteristics.

What Is A Manual Crank Standing Desk?

A manual standing desk, as the name implies, is a height adjustable standing desk where the mechanism to raise or lower the desk is manual. Manual standing desks have a cranking mechanism that you must turn by hand in order to raise and lower the frame.

The use of gears allows manufacturers to step down the force required to turn the crank and lift the desk up even when there is some weight on top.

Here’s The 3 Manual Standing Desks I’ll Compare

  1. Modtable Hand Crank Standing Desk
  2. Jarvis Crank-Powered Standing Desk
  3. Vivo Manual Stand Up Desk

What Is An Electric Standing Desk?

Electric standing desks utilize electric motors as the raising and lowering mechanism and are the most popular these days.

Similar to a manual standing desk, a gearbox is used to increase the torque output of the electric motor at the cost of speed. This is why, the electric standing desk operation will typically be slower than a pneumatic desk.

Here’s The 3 Electric Standing Desks I’ll Compare

  1. UPLIFT V2
  2. ApexDesk Elite
  3. Fully Jarvis Bamboo

What Is A Pneumatic Standing Desk?

Pneumatic powered devices utilize the power of compressed gases such as air to provide the mechanical advantage needed. You may also be familiar with hydraulic cylinders which utilize liquids to provide mechanical force in one direction.

Similar to hydraulics, pneumatic cylinders can be used to lift and lower objects in one direction. A very common example is the standard office chair.

In most office chairs, a pneumatic cylinder drives the ability to raise and lower the chair. Similar technology is applied to each of the legs of a pneumatic standing desk.

Here’s The 3 Pneumatic Standing Desks I’ll Compare

  1. Ergotron Workfit D
  2. ULINE H-7704GR
  3. SUDS Pneumatic Standing Desk

Travel Height Comparison

One of the biggest considerations when purchasing a standing desk is the travel height. You want to ensure that the desk will fit your height both while sitting and standing.

Let’s take a look at the travel heights of the desks used in the study. Typically, the height provided by the manufacturer is the height adjustment of the frame, not including the desktop. However, some companies include the desktop in their specification. I’ve done my best to label the difference.

DeskTypeTravel Height
Modtable Hand Crank Standing DeskManual27.5” to 47”
Jarvis Crank-Powered Standing DeskManual27.5″ to 46″
Vivo Manual Stand Up DeskManual30.2″ to 50″ (with desk top)
UPLIFT V2Electric24.3″ – 49.9″
ApexDesk EliteElectric29” to 48” (with desk top)
Fully Jarvis BambooElectric29″ – 48.3″ (2-stage frame)
Ergotron Workfit DPneumatic30.6″ to 50.6″ (with desk top)
ULINE H-7704GRPneumatic30″ to 43″ (with desk top)
SUDS Pneumatic Standing DeskPneumatic27.5” to 44.5”

There is no significant difference in the travel height of a standing desk based on the type of the desk. Manual crank, electric and pneumatic all cover a decent and similar height range.

How Does The Type Of Standing Desk Effect The Travel Speed?

Travel speed can vary significantly depending on the type of standing desk. Manual crank desks tend to be slow, often taking 10 to 15 seconds to raise from sitting position to standing position. This is due to the gearing mechanism used to make it easier to turn the crank.

The next fastest type of desk is the electric desk. Electric desks are generally faster and can take 3 to 10 seconds to go from the sitting to standing position.

The overall fastest type of standing desk is the pneumatic desk. Pneumatic desks use a counter weight mechanism that allows you to easily adjust the position and it is as simple as holding the lever and lifting up. The operation is very fast and can take between 1 to 5 seconds.

Overall the time take to raise a standing desk will depend on the load placed on it and the number mentioned here may not be applicable to all desks.

Does The Noise Level Change Based On The Desk Type?

Personally, I don’t care too much if raising and lowering the desk is a bit noisy since I’m only adjusting the position a couple of times a day. However, if you do change from sitting to standing more frequently, or need it to be quiet while doing so, then this can be an important consideration for you.

Manual crank desks are very quiet in operation. The operating noise on the Jarvis manual crank desk is less than 20 dB. Generally, if you rotate the crank slowly, the desk noise will be quieter when raising and lowering.

One of the benefits of a pneumatic desk is that they are super quiet in operation. If you have a typical office chair, you know how quiet they are to raise and lower. A pneumatic desk is similar in operation.

By far the loudest type of desk is the electric desk. In comparison to the manual crank, the Jarvis electric desk operating noise is lower than 50 dB. The dB scale is a logarithmic scale which means that 50dB is quite a bit louder than 20dB, not just 2.5 times.

This is due to the fact that the powerful electric motor and gearbox in the desk generate a lot of noise in operation.

That being said, I have the Ikea Bekant electric desk, and to be honest, it’s just not that loud.

Is Lifting Capacity Effected By The Type Of Standing Desk?

Lifting capacity is an important specification since it dictates the amount of items we can place on the desk and ultimately, whether we can use the desk for our individual use case.

DeskTypeLifting Capacity
Modtable Hand Crank Standing DeskManual59 kg (130 lbs)
Jarvis Crank-Powered Standing DeskManual68 kg (150 lbs)
Vivo Manual Stand Up DeskManual70 kg (154 lbs)
UPLIFT V2Electric161 kg (355 lbs)
ApexDesk EliteElectric102 kg (225 lbs)
Fully Jarvis BambooElectric159 kg (350 lbs)
Ergotron Workfit DPneumatic29 kg (65 lbs)
ULINE H-7704GRPneumatic68 kg (150 lbs)
SUDS Pneumatic Standing DeskPneumatic16 kg (35 lbs)

From the data analysis, we have some definite answers on how the type of the desk affects the lifting capacity.

Pneumatic desks have the lowest specified lifting capacity on average. This is understandable since the lifting mechanism is based on gas powered cylinders and these don’t scale as much as electric motors with gearboxes.

Next, we have the manual crank desks and they have a pretty decent lifting capacity. It’s safe to say that these desks will support you computers, monitors, peripherals, etc.

With how the mechanics of the hand crank mechanism work, I suspect it’s not possible to go too far higher in lift capacity. Even if the components can withstand the added weight, it will require much more force from the user to turn the crank.

Otherwise, the manufacturer could increase the gears in the system to make it easier on the user, but then the lifting would be too slow and would take forever.

Finally, we see that electric desks have some of the largest weight capacities on the market. It’s safe to say that if you want a heavy duty standing desk that can operate under a lot of weight, you should probably be looking at an electric desk.

Furthermore, I did a full analysis of the weight capacities of different desks on the market here.

Desk Size Options Based On Type?

In this section, let’s take a look at the different sizing options available for the desks and whether the type of the desk has anything to do with the size.

Modtable Hand Crank Standing DeskManual24″ x 40″, 24″ x 48″
Jarvis Crank-Powered Standing DeskManual30″ x 48″, 30″ x 60″
Vivo Manual Stand Up DeskManual23.6″ x 43″
UPLIFT V2Electric30″ x 42″, 30″ x 48″, 30″ x 60″, 30″ x 72″, 30″ x 80″
ApexDesk EliteElectric28″ x 60″, 28″ x 71″
Fully Jarvis BambooElectric24″ x 30″, 24″ x 42″, 30″ x 48″, 30″ x 60″, 30″ x 72″, 30″ x 78″
Ergotron Workfit DPneumatic23.5″ x 47.6″
ULINE H-7704GRPneumatic24″ x 60″
SUDS Pneumatic Standing DeskPneumatic27.5″ x 48″, 27.5″ x 55.6″

From this small sample of data, it appears that electric desks seem to have the most size options available. I suspect this is because a robust electric frame is capable of supporting a lot more weight and that’s why we see a lot of the larger desk top sizes available on the electric type of desks.

I found that pneumatic desks typically only have one size to choose from, but its a decent sized desk. Manual crank desks also have less size options and tend to be on the smaller size although you can still find a decent sized 30″ x 60″ desk.

If you don’t know what size of desk you should be getting in your home office, check out my helpful article here.

Are Some Types Of Standing Desks Easier To Use?

All three types of standing desks are fairly easy to use. The electric desk operates with the push of a button.

The pneumatic desk typically requires a lever to be actuated and you also have to guide the desk up and down. However, this usually does not take any effort as pneumatic desks have a counter weight system that does the heavy lifting.

Manual crank standing desks require the most effort as you have to actuate the crank for some time to change the height to the desired location.

In summary, electric and pneumatic desks with counter balance systems are easy to use with manual crank desk being slightly more difficult.

Do Some Types Of Standing Desks Have Longer Lifespans?

In this section, I want to take a look at which mechanism of operating an adjustable standing desk has the longest lifespan.

In all of the desk types, there can be a failure of the frame structure or the desk top and this is based on the quality and robustness of the parts used. This will vary based on manufacturer and model and does not have anything to do with the type of the desk.

Pneumatic desks have the potential to leak gas over time, resulting in a loss of pressure and failure to lift as high and eventually not lifting at all.

That being said some pneumatic cylinders can operate to a crazy large number of cycles (1 Million!). Therefore, it depends on the quality of the parts used.

With manual crank desks, you have mechanical parts that can fail and wear down over time. Again, this depends on the quality of the parts.

Electric desks have both mechanical parts and electrical parts including the electric motor. Similar to pneumatic cylinders, some electric motors can operate for a long time and so again the lifespan of an electric standing desk will also depend on the quality of the parts.

In conclusion, all three desk types can have a long lifespan and the best way to judge the lifespan would be based on the quality of the parts. Of course as a typical consumer, you and I are not going to be doing this.

Instead, we can make an educated guess on the lifespan of a desk based on the warranty that the manufacturer offers. If one manufacturer is offering a warranty for twice as long as another, its a pretty safe bet that they’ve used higher quality and longer lasting parts.

How Does The Type Of Standing Desk Effect Warranty Period?

When it comes to warranty, the type of standing desk does not matter. It’s more up to the manufacturer.

That being said, a common theme I noticed is that desktops tend to have a warranty of 5 years with the more popular companies and the mechanical and electrical components including the motor are covered for 10 years by companies like Jarvis and Uplift.

DeskTypeWarranty Period
Modtable Hand Crank Standing DeskManual5 year limited
Jarvis Crank-Powered Standing DeskManual10 year on frame and components
5 year on desk top
Vivo Manual Stand Up DeskManual3 year manufacturer
UPLIFT V2Electric10 year on frame and components
5 year on desk top
ApexDesk EliteElectric2 year electric parts limited
5 year non-electric parts limited
Fully Jarvis BambooElectric10 year on frame and components
5 year on desk top
Ergotron Workfit DPneumatic5 year
ULINE H-7704GRPneumatic1 year limited
SUDS Pneumatic Standing DeskPneumaticLimited and valid as long as desk is being supplied

When it comes to warranty and if having a desk with a long warranty is your goal, I would recommend buying from Jarvis or Uplift. Jarvis has a manual crank version of their desk available alongside the electric frame.

Are There Enough Purchase Options For Each Type Of Standing Desk?

By far, the electric standing desk has the most purchase options with many different brands and models available.

Manual crank desks are the next easiest to find, although the number of these on the market is significantly lower than that of electric desks.

While I was researching this topic, I found that you can also purchase just the frame for a manual crank desk. You may be able to separately purchase or commission a desk top that is ideal for you that fits the frame and this can expand the number of options available.

That being said, you can also find just the frame for a few different electric standing desks as well.

Finally, pneumatic standing desks are the most difficult to find on the market and to me it looks like they are dying in popularity.

What Is The Cheapest Type Of Standing Desk?

Price is a very important consideration when purchasing a standing desk. It’s important to note that the desks selected for analysis tend to be on more expensive side. You can definitely find more budget friendly options.

Many of the desks can come in different desk top sizes. I’ve tried to keep the sizes close to the 24″ x 48″ size so that we can get a decent price comparison for similarly sized desks.

A lot of other factors can affect the price of a standing desk, not just size. That’s why a larger desk does not mean a more expensive desk.

DeskTypeSizePrice (USD)
Modtable Hand Crank Standing DeskManual24″ x 48″$519
Jarvis Crank-Powered Standing DeskManual30″ x 48″$499
Vivo Manual Stand Up DeskManual24″ x 43″$200
UPLIFT V2Electric30″ x 48″$559
ApexDesk EliteElectric28″ x 60″$600
Fully Jarvis BambooElectric30″ x 48″$599
Ergotron Workfit DPneumatic23.5″ x 47.6″$899
ULINE H-7704GRPneumatic24″ x 60″$497
SUDS Pneumatic Standing DeskPneumatic29.5″ x 48″$469

In general, the desks that I have compared are near the 500 to 600 dollar range with the exceptions of the Vivo manual crank desk which is relatively cheap and the Ergotron Workfit D which is relatively expensive.

Another observation to note is that the electric desks are tending to be about $100 more expensive than similarly sized manual crank and pneumatic desks. This is likely only attributed to the three electric desks being on the upper end of the market.

For example, my IKEA Bekant electric standing desk is 43″ by 63″ L shaped desk that is only $280, about half the price of the electric desks analyzed.

Which Type Of Standing Desk Is The Best Overall?

From the analysis performed in this article, electric standing desks will suit the general consumer the best. The findings are summarized in the table at the beginning of the article.

The main downside of electric standing desks is the fact that you need a power outlet to operate the desk. This limits the number of places in the room you can place the desk and is not ideal if you want to have the desk in the center of the room.

Otherwise, electric standing desks are on par or better than manual crank standing desks and pneumatic standing desks. They have larger lifting capacities, desk sizes and more purchase options. Electric standing desks are also faster in operation than the manual crank desks, although not as fast as the pneumatic desks.