I’ve been using a standing desk for several years to help with my back pain and generally be healthier. When Vari reached out to me with an offer to review its second-generation electric desk, I wanted to see what advancements had been made in the last few years. It turns out: There have been several!
Compared to the semi-standard design for a standing desk, Vari’s design improves on stability and ease of assembly, thanks to some subtle but very specific design choices. I’ve never assembled something so quickly that turned out so solid.
Aesthetically, the desk kind of falls apart—the faux wood laminate looks pretty bad, at least to my eyes. But if you can bear that (or simply avoid it when choosing one), it’s a quality option at a competitive price.
Goes Up Faster Than an Amish Barn
When I opened the Vari desk and separated all the pieces, I was surprised at how few there were. The desktop, two legs, two elongated feet, the connection box for the motor, and the control panel—that’s it. Notably, and unlike many similar desks, the steel bracer is already bolted down to the wooden top before it’s shipped. That makes it heavier to handle, but chops off a huge amount of time actually assembling the thing.
And as it turns out, that total time isn’t very long at all. Thanks to a series of tough slots and tabs, you can put the entire thing together with two Allen wrenches (included) and eight bolts. From the time I got the two cardboard boxes into my office, to the time I flipped the Vari desk over and plugged it in, it took me about 20 minutes—and that was including the optional step of moving the control panel from the right to the left.
Vari also sent along a cable organizer, which is likewise very fast to install, and much nicer than my basic plastic ones thanks to a pair of rotating hinges. Unfortunately (and through no fault of Vari’s), it won’t work with my monitor mount’s clamp setup, so I had to drill holes for my old ones. I should also point out that the CPU holder (the thing clamped onto my desktop PC) is not from Vari, and I had to install it myself.
The package also includes a pair of stick-on wire guides for more easily wrangling the control panel’s wires, Plus a pair of velcro cable ties and a plastic bag/headphone holder, which clips directly onto the surface of the desk. Some nice extras.
Using the Desk
Actually using the Vari desk was more or less the same as any standing desk, at least of the standard design. Our review unit is 60×30 inches, the same size as my personal desk, though it’s also available in a 48-inch width. So, once I went through the laborious process of setting up my PC, monitors, and all the ridiculous detritus of my self-indulgent work-from-home setup, I adapted to it almost immediately.
Just like my old desk, a Fully model, this one comes with four programmable presets on the lifting controller. The action is smooth, quick but not so quick it’ll knock anything on my desk, and quiet enough that it doesn’t bother my dog when he’s napping under it. The range is actually a little lower and higher than my Fully, not that I need it at either end.
The only real difference is that I had to mount my CPU holder much closer to the center of the desk, because the legs are a few inches farther from the edge. This gives me a little less legroom than I’m used to. But again, that’s not something that Vari is in control of in terms of design.
At this point, I should admit that, after I asked Vari about options for mounting my heavy computer as I did, that it was not recommended and might void the warranty of the desk itself. But with the way the desktop is shaped—a small notch in the back for cables to fit between the desk top and the wall—there was no way for me to move my monitor mount over so that I could fit the computer on top. And my cable routing is tight enough that letting it sit on the floor or a table wasn’t an option either. So, I committed a reviewer sin and mounted my CPU holder beneath the desktop, against instructions. Let me repeat: This is not recommended by Vari.
I ran into a slight problem, entirely of my own making, when I was messing with cable routing and tried to raise the desk with only one leg plugged into the control box. That’s a potential “send it back to the manufacturer” issue. But after walking through the troubleshooting portion of the manual, I got it back to level in just a few minutes. Not bad.
Thicc with Two Cs
One of the reasons that I wanted to check out the Vari desk is those claims of stability. Between my heavy-ass computer, heavy-ass monitors, heavy-ass monitor stand, and all the other slightly less heavy-ass stuff I keep on my desktop, my Fully desk has developed a notable sag in the wood and a slight warping of the frame.
I can verify Vari’s bona fides. While it’s not as rock-solid as a conventional wood or metal desk, the Vari is much more stable than my Fully. The frame and the monitors and computer fastened to it, barely move at all while I’m typing. I have to give it a good solid shove before it wobbles even a bit. And with all my equipment, I’d estimate that I’m using up about 130-150 pounds of the desk’s 200 pound limit.
The improvements here come from two factors. One, the motorized legs are placed in the center of the desktop, instead of the back, adding stability and even weight distribution. And two, well, weight. The MDF desktop of the Vari is 1.5 inches thick, double that of the bamboo top on my Fully (and many similar designs). So, it’s much thicker, much heavier, and the frame is secured to it with heavy preinstalled bolts instead of chunky wood screws.
Between these two improvements, this standing desk is so much sturdier than my old one that I don’t think I can go back to it. When I’m done with this review unit, I’m going to put together a solid wood desk top and a similar T-frame standing desk to replace it.
Why wouldn’t I just buy this model for myself, because at $650, it’s competitive with the other standing desk models out there? Purely for aesthetics. Read on.
Oof, That Faux Wood
When Vari sent me photos of the desk, I was impressed with how it looked in photos, especially the “reclaimed wood” finish. And indeed, it does look nice in photos. But that’s about where the nice part ends.
See, the boards that make up the pattern of the desktop aren’t actual wood, they’re printed on a laminate cover over an engineered core—I’d guess MDF wood. There’s nothing wrong with that: The surface is thick and strong enough on its own, and it’s not as if I don’t have MDF or particleboard furniture elsewhere in my home–hell, the little black table next to my desk is particleboard.
But the laminate printing used here is extremely obvious, as is the faux wood texture of the desktop. I can almost pick out the pixels and artifacts of the print on the desktop surface. It looks fantastic in photos, and undeniably tacky up close. It doesn’t help that either during either shipping or assembly, a noticeable gash in the laminate showed up.
Vari sells this desk with various faux wood laminate finishes, as well as flat black or white. And based on the photos from the website, I’d go with the black or white option—their solid colors shouldn’t have this low-quality printing issue. If this desk wasn’t pretending to be genuine wood, it would get rid of the only real complaint I have about it.
Beauty Is Skin-Deep
I hate to admit that the only problem I have with the Vari standing desk is entirely aesthetic. If you go with a black or white top, or you just don’t care about the look as much as I do, pretty much every aspect of it is a winner.
It’s amazingly easy to assemble. It’s extra-stable and sturdy. It doesn’t need a pricey upgrade for programmable height settings, and it’s offered with some excellent accessories. And, the motors don’t scare my dog. In every technical detail, it’s great. And, for someone perhaps a little less shallow than I when it comes to their home office, it’s just about perfect.
Here’s What We Like
- Super-thick and sturdy
- Fast and easy assembly
- Programmable control panel standard
- Plenty of extras
And What We Don't
- Faux wood finish on the top looks awful