back to article Hey, fatso. If you're standing desk-curious, the VariDesk Pro Plus won't break the bank

Back in my day, a Pro Plus was a tiny sugar-coated pill that dragged me through the ennui of a Computer Science degree. If I took enough of them, I thought, the dancing C++ syntax on my screen would start to make sense and I might – just might – scrape through my dissertation clutching a 2:1. A bit less than a decade later, " …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ikea do a full standing desk...

    for less than £200. Admittedly with manual winding (button and/or app-controlled versions also available. £365 for that seems rather steep.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Ikea do a full standing desk...

      I came here to say the same thing. I bought a long and short standing desk from Ikea in December, when I re-did my office. It is only manual, there was an electric motor available as an option, but I decided I could make do with the manual winder.

      I think I paid under 500€ for both desks together (L-Shaped desk when put together). I'm very happy with them. Very stable (and very heavy!).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ikea do a full standing desk...

      You need an app to stand up or sit down?

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Ikea do a full standing desk...

      If it's about grabbing precious minutes of exercise in an otherwise sedentary day, manual winding has got to be a must, hasn't it?

    4. Shamino

      Re: Ikea do a full standing desk...

      I've used Ikea's powered desks. They're very nice. I don't like to work from a standing position, but they're great when you want to gather several people around your desk for a quick demonstration of what you're working on. Raise it up to everybody's standing height, give your presentation, then lower it back so you can continue work from your chair.

      More expensive than a fixed desk, but still quite affordable.

    5. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Ikea do a full standing desk...

      I made myself a standing desk by moving the top shelf on an old Ikea shelving unit* down a few holes until it was a comfortable height then put a laptop on it with a coaster for mugs.

      *ladder like sides held together initially by an X of metal/wire struts at the back. The shelves locked it together. We have a tall one and a lower one and the lower one is my desk. Cost, absolutely nothing.

      Benefits: much better lower back, better leg muscles feeling (after getting used to standing all day); I get more done as it is easier to walk away and do something than lever yourself out of a chair and put the laptop somewhere; You don't estivate, especially after lunch so concentration is better; it's easier to bop to the music.

    6. RockBurner

      Re: Ikea do a full standing desk...

      Yup - got one (two actually) a couple of years ago.

      Paired with a Henriksdal bar-stool you can leave it 'up' and switch between sitting and standing without having the hassle of winding the mechanism each time.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    That setup doesn't work for me

    Having the screens that high up compared to the keyboard would never work for me. I need reading glasses now, and the part that works best is the lower half. That means that the screens I work on have to be as low as possible on the desk.

    I have the intention of asking that my doctor no longer do progressive on the prescription the next time I have to change, but even so, I can't work tilting my head back. Besides, it's not good for your posture, or your neck.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: That setup doesn't work for me

      Good luck with progressives. I used them for years but it got harder. My current pair (a year old) are useless for desktop work and only just allow me to use my laptop. I've had to buy a cheap pair of 1.5 factor glasses for programming and now have the hassle of two pairs of glasses to juggle at work.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: That setup doesn't work for me

      I had the head-back problem a few years ago, so I asked my optician for a pair of varifocal (I'm guessing that's the same as "progressive") glasses where the lower part is reading-distance, and the upper is correct for screen distance. They solved the neck-ache problem and they've outlasted two pairs of general-use glasses. Highly recommended.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: That setup doesn't work for me

        I know a guy who developed headaches and sense of balance problems, took him month to figure out his "progressive" (or whatever you call them) glasses were the reason. Stopped using them and was fine immediately. Only heard of this problem once, so it may be rare.

        Just the spherical correction, thanks ----------->

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: That setup doesn't work for me

          @GrumpenKraut: Allow me to add a second datapoint to your collection. I suspect that there is some under-reporting of problems with varifocals simply because the solution is so easy.

    3. PerlyKing Silver badge

      Re: Glasses

      I have what my (UK) optician describes as "occupational bifocals" for work: the lower section is my reading prescription which works for the keyboard and the upper section is a mid-range prescription which works for monitors.

      I have to wear different glasses for walking around, driving and so on. Such is life :-/

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Re: Glasses

        That's what I want to avoid. For years now one pair of spectacles did it all. Driving, reading and programming. They even darkened in bright light so I didn't need sunglasses.

        Then a couple of years ago (age 50) I started to struggle a bit on some days programming and finally with this pair I just can't do it. I think what I need is a weaker prescription. One that gives me distance and intermediate vision. I don't often need the close prescription so for me it'd make more sense if I just had a pair of glasses just for reading.

        At least that my glasses would still work for 95% of the time and I wouldn't have to put a different pair on when I get up to get a drink or attend a meeting :-/

        1. PerlyKing Silver badge

          Re: One pair of glasses

          I know what you mean, but I'd have to say you've got to roll with it: accept that you need glasses and work around that.

          I didn't wear glasses at all until about ten years ago, when I started getting frequent headaches. Reading glasses cured those immediately, although they were a bit of a pain to carry around, take out of the case and then put away again, especially on my commute. I tried one of those neck chain things but didn't get on with it.

          Then I needed distance glasses as well. I tried varifocals but couldn't get on with the blurry transitional areas, especially in my peripheral vision. So now I have one pair of bifocals for computer work, and another pair for everything else. And I have to change glasses every time I leave my desk. It's not ideal but better than eyestrain. All part of the fun of growing old, and on the whole better than not growing old.

        2. TchmilFan

          Re: Glasses

          I had do-it-all glasses with Transitions lenses, wore them all the time, but now keep them as backups.

          Why? At a wedding reception, they took the photos outside and everything looked fine apart from the "cool dude" with his sunglasses on.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Glasses

        Perly King,

        the lower section is my reading prescription which works for the keyboard and the upper section is a mid-range prescription which works for monitors.

        I don't mean to be glib here, honest. One solution to this is to learn to touch-type. I don't know how good the programs for this are, as I learned the old fashioned way by using repetitive excercises on a typewriter (ask your parents kids...).

        I noticed the other day that my 20 year old Logitech keyboard now only has labels on half the keys. I have it underneath a shelf that holds the monitor - so I can literally only see half of it - unless I move it or push my chair back.

        1. PerlyKing Silver badge

          Re: Learn to touch-type

          I can sort of touch type, but I also occasionally need to read stuff on paper ;-)

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Learn to touch-type

            Can't you have paper at a similar distance to the screen? One thing I had (in fact when I was learning to type), was a sort of desktop music stand type thing. You can get various ones, some being on arms that hang from a monitor - and then your paper is hopefully readable using the same prescription as your screen.

            I have much worse proplems than most people though. My reading glasses are focused at 6" distance - that's not a typo, 6 inches. It's because they're x5 magnification. They're the sort of thing surgeons use for close-up work - here's the natty up-to-date version which doesn't have NHS frames like mine... linky. So getting a desktop organied is a bit of an effort - and therefore something I think about quite a lot.

            1. PerlyKing Silver badge

              Re: Learn to touch-type

              Definitely not Spartacus:

              Can't you have paper at a similar distance to the screen?

              I hadn't thought of that, but it doesn't really suit how I work. If I'm reading from paper it usually means that I'm scribbling making notes on the same piece of paper. Or (more likely) I'm fiddling with my phone.

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
                Happy

                Re: Learn to touch-type

                For the scribbling on paper issue, all you need is a clipboard and very long arms...

                Actually the long arms also solve the phone issue. I suggest some painkillers, an axe, needle and thread and some long springs.

                There's an excellent documentary about this on Youtube, Inspector Gadget

              2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Re: Learn to touch-type

                On a serious note, writing and computer at the same time are a problem for me. Getting the monitor high enough so I don't suffer neck pain (due to stupid glasses) means everything's then at the wrong height for desktop paperwork. Having a keyboard shelf under the desk (as I do at home) then means my hands are a bit too low when trying to write on top of the desk.

                My solution is to try to avoid writing. My preferred option is "scribbling" my notes in a spreadsheet. Also useful because you can easily drag them around and into different orders with no formatting effort. And also, because I do engineering sales, I'm able to do calculations while making my notes. It often impresses people when you can do rough diversity calculations (water-use estimates) on the phone. Then they can either be used and dumped, or prettied up and sent to the client - with all my workings and assumptions shown.

                On t'other hand, that takes some getting used to. I remember doing an exam on computer years ago, the first essay I'd written without first having done paper notes. I utterly fucked it up. Admittedly I was under-prepared, but I completely screwed up the planning and writing process because I'd never done it before. And it's taken me years to be at the point where writing or note-taking on a computer is now much more natural than doing it with pen and paper.

                Now I'll even do a shopping list in Excel, given half a chance. I sometimes like my lists colour coded - and (saddo alert!) I often re-order my shopping lists to roughly match the lay-out of my usual supermarket. This avoids having to get reading glasses out while shopping, especially if it's in large print on my phone, but also avoids me having to scan through the entries to make sure I've not missed anything.

                It's funny how writing something and publishing it online makes you wonder if maybe you might be a little bit weird...

  3. phy445

    Had one and hated it

    I had one of those for a while – the main issue for me was that even light typing would cause a slight wobble of the monitor and it was just too distracting. I stuck with it for a couple of months but could not get used to it. In the the end I spent about £500 on a standing desk with a motor to do the lifting. This is much better – some colleagues have a manual raise version, but they struggle with the raising unless the weight is evenly distributed on the desk.

    The advice on getting a standing mat is good. Until you are used to it, even standing on a carpeted floor is hard work.

  4. werdsmith Silver badge

    Maybe if humans had "stay apparatus" like a horse.

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      I've tried a horse, but it kept wandering off while I was typing.

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge
      Boffin

      We do, our knees lock. We even have a muscle to unlock them and most people have never heard of it. Meet popliteus. It sits behind your knee and is the only knee joint specific muscle. Apart from helping stabilise the knee it applies torsion to unlock the knee.

      The test to tell if you have pulled your poplieus* is to stand with your knee locked then move the knee forward quickly. If you feel pain behind the knee you have pulled popliteus. Therapy is rest and deep massage (the heads of gastrocnemius (calf muscles) overlay poplieus.

      *I have, I was putting out the recycling bin, swivelled to put it down and BANG something went. I thought it was hamstrings initially, then it resolved to behind the knee. Took 2-3 weeks to come right limiting how far I could walk. Running was right out. Doing squats helps to build it up, amongst other muscles but since I started squats I've had no issues.

      I knew about popliteus before I pulled it mind. Seen it in mice, where it just stabilises the knee.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        We do, our knees lock. We even have a muscle to unlock them and most people have never heard of it. Meet popliteus. It sits behind your knee and is the only knee joint specific muscle. Apart from helping stabilise the knee it applies torsion to unlock the knee.

        Hmm, maybe but I wouldn't trust it whilst I'm taking a nap, like a horse does.

  5. macjules Silver badge

    Unpowered?

    I have a Liberty powered standing desk that only cost me £380 plus delivery. Comes with a choice of colours and is very easy to assemble.

  6. Professor Clifton Shallot
    Pint

    Bitter pill to swallow

    Were Pro Plus really sugar coated?

    My memory of them suggests otherwise.

    Beer because something to take the taste away.

  7. flobadober

    For a lot less...

    If your monitor is already on a height adjustable pole, you can buy a wooden standing desk converter for under £35. (it's a plank of wood on folding, height adjustable legs). Does me fine.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: For a lot less...

      I was going to make something like that before I hit on the shelving unit version.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked at a place where the lead data scientist decided he needed a standing desk

    His number 2 then decided she needed one too.

    The desks arrived Monday. Tuesday was spent re-wiring the floor to get power for them.

    Wednesday morning was the big day, the desks were installed after only a few hours and the users took possession.

    Both went up to standing height and they worked that way for almost an hour before lunch.

    They came back and worked standing for maybe 45 minutes before #2 data scientist lowered hers to sitting height.

    #1 data scientist maintained standing height for an extra 30 minutes to display dominance then lowered his to sitting height.

    Thursday morning, both desks up to standing height again. 1 hour work, 1 hour away at a meeting, #2 lowered hers to work seated, #2 followed after lunch.

    Friday, only #1 data scientist raised his desk and dropped it again after 90 minutes.

    The following week, both were working seated again but at much more expensive desks than previously. I was only there 6 more weeks so I don't know if they ever went beyond half mast after than but I read that the #2 data scientist moved on soon after.

    1. Dapprman

      Re: I worked at a place where the lead data scientist decided he needed a standing desk

      Were they adjustable height or just two position.

      I use one at work, it's great. I can only use it standing for about an hour, but the real advantage is adjusting the height to tailor what I'm doing. Sure much of the time it's in the same position, but that's still slightly higher than the normal desks round here. These are very good for the back.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back pain caused by standing

    Whenever I stand on a hard surface for half an hour or so, I get lower back pain. I *really* don't understand the draw of a standing desk - why do I want to hurt myself? As for minor office "exercise", I tend to cross my legs and wiggle my airborne foot. A lot. I really wonder what the caloric impact is compared to a standing desk.

    1. ArrZarr

      Re: Back pain caused by standing

      Gee, it's almost like different people are different people.

    2. Alistair
      Windows

      Re: Back pain caused by standing

      Standing in one place causing lower back pain can be indicative of plantar issues, and trust me, foot problems now mean wheelchair in the future. I strongly suggest a consult with a podiatrist.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Back pain caused by standing

        I can walk all day long while wearing a 40 lb pack with no issues. It's only standing still, especially on concrete, that does it. Not likely to be "plantar issues", and certainly not something leading to disablement.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Back pain caused by standing

          Stretch your hamstrings sir. All that walking has likely tightened them.

          Hamstrings pull on the pelvis which causes lower back problems. Touch those toes, or keep trying regularly until you can. Make sure your stomach muscles are tense before you try though or you will strain your back. Flaccid stomach muscles are another cause of back trouble.

  10. gypsythief
    Coffee/keyboard

    Who cares about the desk?...

    ...what about the keyboard? That thing looks as solid as one of the old IBM monsters*, which I'm sure could survive such treatment ----->

    (*I had one of those once, with a DIN5 plug; I ended up with a computer with no DIN5 socket, so I used a DIN5 to PS2 adapter quite happily. I then ended up with a computer with no PS2 socket, so with eternal optimism I tried a DIN5 to PS2 adapter connected to a PS2 to USB adapter. Alas, it was not to be...)

    1. ArrZarr
      Boffin

      Re: Who cares about the desk?...

      I think it's a Unicomp Model M - https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/UB40P46

      The modifier keys are different, but essentially these guys bought the tooling and rights to make Model Ms when Lexmark stopped making them.

      Have no experience on an original Model M, but an happy with my newish one.

      1. gypsythief
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Who cares about the desk?...

        Wow, thanks for that, I had no idea they were still available. Now I just need to find a way for my current keyboard to have a small accident.

        Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea ------>

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: Who cares about the desk?...

          If it involves a tank running it over, be sure to get video. :)

          Or maybe ship it to the folks who run the Hydraulic Press Channel- I don't think they've done a keyboard yet...

      2. ds6 Bronze badge

        Re: Who cares about the desk?...

        I have a 1982 M with the removable PS2 cable, and it is the most comfortable keyboard I have ever used, even more comfortable than newer M's. After a bit of oiling the keys have the perfect weight and travel for my hard-hitting fingers. I mash my keyboards like a gimp by his domme.

        Unfortunately is is pretty clear with Unicomp that the original moulds are wearing out, as it's easy to see in the resulting plastic where they have patched up and repaired them. They also seem to use the newer variant moulds that aren't as thick and deadly like the older one I have. Keys don't fit as well as original M's either. Unicomp definitely put in a lot of effort and care into theirs, however; and if you want a "new" Model M with USB and mostly original tooling, it's your best if not only bet.

        Also, their new compact versions are their own designs and feature new moulds, so the production value on them is much better.

        What I really want now is eithet an original Model F or one of those reproductions that fellow made from that one website—you know, that guy.

  11. Palpy

    Varidesk, yes, had that.

    I had one at work, and my wife had one too. They are sturdy, easy to use, and the design is pretty good. But standing for long periods is not that great; many people find it uncomfortable after awhile, and standing still doesn't burn calories much faster than sitting. That said, sitting for long periods isn't all that great either.

    Wife now has a treadmill desk, which she loves, and I cope by spending less time in front of a screen -- since I am retired and all. Though I do spend quite a bit of time standing in front of an easel now. Go figure.

    And now, speaking of less screen time... // logs off //

    1. ds6 Bronze badge
      Boffin

      Re: Varidesk, yes, had that.

      Would have been funnier if you said Ctrl+D.

  12. Mandoscottie
    Thumb Up

    we have a few of these in work.

    for that they do they are pretty good tbh, if you need that kinda thing, still a pain to cable manage nicely, if only they added side trunking.....we only do them in black though via amazon, Keeps H&S dept happy.

  13. J. Cook Silver badge

    I've been using one at work for nearly a year now. while there are periods where I go a week or three with it in the lowered position, it is quite handy to have it elevated if I'm doing something that requires me to run around a bit.

  14. ds6 Bronze badge
    Childcatcher

    Calibrate your monitors, vulture! Those colors are about as accurate as a blind child reproducing the Mona Lisa.

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