Manual Standing Desk vs. Desk Converter: Which Is Better?
Proper standing posture at the desk is supported by both manual standing desks and standing desk converters. Both are similar but still different in terms of practicality, ergonomics, and even pricing. The way the standing desks look and their stability levels further set them apart. The following guide details the full differences between these types of desks used for standing while working.
- Manual standing desks have a larger desktop to fit multiple monitors and other items that you may need.
- Converter standing desks are generally more affordable than manual standing desks.
- Manual standing desks are sturdier while converter desks are portable.
The Differences between Manual Standing Desks and Desk Convertors
A direct comparison between these types of desks shows what to expect in terms of practical differences.
|Manual Standing Desk
|A manual standing desk lacks electronics but it still costs more than a converter.
|Good standing desk converters in Australia such as the Movi Pro cost at least $600 and can be considerably more affordable than a manual sit-stand desk.
|You need to attach the desktop to the adjustable frame and the hand crank to install this desk.
|Converter desks come pre-assembled
|Up to 3 times heavier than a converter (for example, UpDown Desk Pro Series weighs around 21kg).
|Anywhere between 10 and 15kg (for example, Vivo’s standing desk converter weighs 12kg).
|Assembly is required as you need to attach the desktop to the metal frame.
|These desks come preassembled.
|High load capacity, typically between 80 and 150kg.
|Small load capacity, typically between 20 and 50kg.
|Manual sit-up desks come with plenty of accessories such as a keyboard tray, headphone accessories, and cable management trays
|Stable but not made with electronic collision detection.
|A desk converter may come with electronic collision detection.
|No power is needed.
|Standing desk converters may or may not need electricity to operate (UpDown Converter requires power while Vivo’s Converter doesn’t require power).
|Ease of use
|It only supports lifting and lowering movements by crank.
|Electronic converter desks adjust by pressing up or down buttons while manual converters are adjusted manually.
|High durability without any electronics.
|Typically backed by a 3-5 years warranty.
What Is A Manual Standing Desk?
A manual standing desk uses manual height adjustments where a crank is used to lower or elevate the desktop.
Manual Standing Desks: Pros & Cons
Despite their advantages, manual-wind standing desks do come with their drawbacks and limitations.
Manual Standing Desk Pros
- A large desktop that accommodates multiple computer displays and plenty of accessories.
- High levels of customization through a wide range of desktop materials.
- A durable setup with no electronics to fail.
- Still usable in case of power outages (as opposed to electronic converter standing desks).
- Stable work area even under a heavy load.
- Not limited by your current desk in max height.
Manual Standing Desk Cons
- It takes some muscle power to adjust.
- Manual standing desks can sometimes cost twice as much.
- You aren’t able to carry this desk or use it to work while traveling.
- It requires assembly.
What is a desk converter?
A desk converter is a type of small elevating desk that goes on top of your current desk or a table. It converts a non-adjustable desk or a table into a standing desk. For those on a small budget or a small room size, a desk converter can be an excellent standing desk alternative with similar benefits.
Desk Convertors: Pros & Cons
Here are the strengths and limitations of standing desk converters.
Desk converter Pros
- It turns an old desk into a standing desk.
- Easy to adjust to your preferred height.
- Its reduced dimensions are ideal in limited spaces such as cubicles.
- You can travel with your standing desk to stand and work almost anywhere.
- There’s an included keyboard tray that comes with these desks.
- They might last just as long as other standing desks.
- The cheapest way to get into standing desks.
Desk converter Cons
- Small work surface limits the setup you can have.
- Not an ideal solution for long periods of standing.
- Sitting height adjustments aren’t ideal for typing ergonomics and wrist pain.
- A digital system of height adjustments is still not offered by most standing desk converters.
- Not as many desktop materials to choose from, especially heavier but premium hardwood alternatives.
- Uneven weight distribution can sometimes lead to wobbliness issues.
- Loose and untidy cables (read our tips for best standing desk cable management)
The Practical Differences between Manual Standing Desks and Desk Convertors
While both manual standing desks and desk converters allow you to work while standing, they do this in different ways. Size and adjustability are just some of the most important differences between these types of sit-stand desks. The following list of practical differences can help you choose the best desks adjusted manually or the best standing desk converters for you.
Manual standing desks have a large work surface
A large desktop is among the first practical differences between manual desks and converter standing desks. A manual desk comes with a full-size desktop. Most types of Australian-made manual desks have a desk length between 120 and 180cm and a width of around 75cm. UpDown’s manual desks come in a range of full desktop sizes so choosing the right size desk is important.
These types of sit-stand manual crank desks are also the same size as electronic sit-stand desks. For example, Zen Space Desks also offers a desktop that can be as long as 180cm. By contrast, the workspace of a standing desk converter is considerably smaller. It can be a few times smaller than a regular-size manual crank desk.
UpDowns converter comes with 90 x 52cm work surface dimensions. This limits your work surface and it limits the practicality of the converter. While it still holds 1-2 computer displays and a keyboard, a similar converter is not an ideal space for all of your desktop accessories which may need to be stored elsewhere.
A wider range of height adjustments is specific to manual desks
Height is measured from the floor for both manually adjusted desks. Height adjustments of converters are limited by the surface you place them on. A fixed-height desk limits the ideal height of your converter desk, but only in some cases.
UpDowns Pro Memory Sit Stand Workstations only feature 6 height settings. While they cover the needs of most users, they aren’t as adjustable as regular manual adjustable height desks.
A more flexible solution without height adjustment increments comes with VIVO’s Desk Converter which goes up from 25cm to 50cm. Still, these heights are measured from a tabletop, which also needs to be at the right height for each user.
Anti-collision functions are offered by a standing desk converter
Many types of functions or extras have been adopted by manual standing desks and standing desk converters. They include one-button height adjustments or safety features such as anti-collision sensors that stop desk elevation lowering processes when they detect an object.
A manual desk solely relies on user input and there are no sensors to avoid collision (with a chair or a small under-desk filing cabinet).
A converter desk that adjusts with electronic motors may detect objects such as phones, books, or mugs and stop a possible accident that puts further pressure on the motors.
Converters are easy to transport
One of the main benefits of standing desk converters comes with their reduced size and weight which makes them easy to transport. You might even use the same converter at home, on a table, and bring it to the office where you may want to see the standing posture benefits.
A manual ergonomic standing desk is not made for easy transport. Its large size makes it a desk that stays at the office or at home. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t always work at the office or a person who maybe works and travels, a standing desk converter might be a practical option to consider when it comes to taking care of your spine and of your work posture.
You can use a sit-stand desk converter on a table or any desk
Apart from its transportation benefits, a desk converter is also easy to move within an open office where you can place it on any desk or table. Many modern offices don’t assign a given workstation to a person. This is the type of office policy freedom that allows you to use a converter on any desk or on any table.
You might be working close to the window one day to move away for more privacy on another day still relying on a standing desk converter.
The benefits of this freedom of movement are also limited by your computer setup. It’s only a moving or transportation benefit if you work on a laptop and not using large monitors mounted on the converter’s VESA mount.
Height adjustments are easier on a manual crank standing desk
Hand crank standing desks are easier to adjust given it feels stable or extra solid. Converters are often wobbly or they come in precise height increments which aren’t seen on manual sit and stand desks.
You can find an almost infinite range of heights to choose from on a hand-crank standing desk. This type of desk proves the superior choice when you want multiple height adjustments throughout the day.
A new desk that isn’t easy to use is not going to be adjusted frequently. Converter desks might come with extras such as a keyboard platform, but this doesn’t mean they’re practical if they aren’t easy to adjust.
A wider range of desktops is specific to manual standing desks
There are more desktops and even more space for customization with manual crank desks. These types of desks often offer a range of desktop materials and colours that can be matched to the office setup you plan for. Converter desks come in fewer colours and often only one choice of materials. They are pre-assembled and this means there’s almost no room for customization with converter desks.
You may need to choose a manual sit and stand desk if you plan to match your desktop to the colour of the furniture in your office or if you want a natural wood desktop. There are no natural wood converter desks as they’re made from engineered wood or even plastic.
A converter may come with an exact display of height
Unlike a manual crank-based desk, an electronic controller with a digital display is seen on some converter desks. A system such as the one offered by EverDesk Max with an included timer display is also seen on electronic versions of convertible standing desks. Manual desks have no real practical option of tracking either precise elevation or elements such as the time you spend standing or sitting. For some, this can be a decisive characteristic on its own. Having a clear reading on the exact elevation of the desktop lets you remember your ideal height which then saves time every time you need to re-adjust the desk.
Memorable presets are specific to electric converters
Electronic controllers on some converter desks may come with elevation presets you save on one of the multiple built-in memory presets.
This being said, most converter standing desks don’t offer a built-in digital controller. They are also manually adjusted, just like crank-based manual stand-up desks.
You don’t need too much muscle power to adjust a converter desk
A comfortable user experience is one of the main reasons to get into the manual vs converter desk debate. You may find a larger crank-based sit-stand desk needs a bit more effort to adjust. This is due to its heavier load. A larger desktop that needs to be lower and elevated is heavier than a small desktop of a converter.
Physics comes into place when it comes to avoiding hand fatigue from multiple daily adjustments, especially with long hours at the desk.
One of the reasons just a few crank-based standing desks are offered in hardwood desktops is the extra weight it would require users to live. Engineered and even bamboo desktops are considerably lighter than other types of desktops such as those made from oak or maple.
A high weight capacity is specific to manual desks
While heavier, manual sit-stand desks are considerably better suited for heavy loads. Multiple monitors, heavy manual keyboards, laptops, and even small printers are all part of a setup a typical manual sit-stand desk can lift.
Converter desks can only hold up to a couple of monitors, a keyboard, and a mouse and generally have a lower weight capacity. Connected laptops or computers are often on the table or desk the converter sits on. On its own, the converter stand desk isn’t sufficient to hold all of your computer’s accessories.
You’ll pay less for a desk converter
Standing desk converters are considerably cheaper. You can expect to pay anywhere between $200 and $500 less for a standard converter as opposed to a simple crank-based sit-stand desk. By price alone, you may prioritize a converter solution if shopping on a budget. At the same time, you still get a good warranty for a converter desk that’s often similar to the warranty offered on other types of sit-stand desks. For example, Ergotron Standing Desk Converters are covered by a 5-year warranty.
You may also save further on converter desks with installation as they come pre-assembled. Manual adjustment desks need to be put together. You need a drill and minimum skills to put them together or have a professional install them for you.
Converters are great for cubicles
Crowded office spaces are often one of the main reasons people even consider a converter as a standing solution at their desks. Cubicles are among the most limited work spaces when it comes to desks. Those working in cubicles might have no other choice but to use a converter on their existing desk for standing and sitting.
While some converters can be abnormally large (Stand Steady X-Elite Pro has a 100cm desktop) most are considerably smaller and more compact. It’s their reduced size that first recommends them for cubicles and other offices with limited space which can’t fit a full-size standing desk.
A manual height adjustable desk supports multi-monitor setups
The size of the desk also impacts the number of displays you can use. In an office culture where many workers are used multiple monitors for work, this is a characteristic that’s getting more important today. A manual stand desk easily fits and holds 2-3 monitors while a converter is mainly designed for 1 computer display with some of the largest options holding up to 2 computer displays.
Creative work such as photo or video editing requires multiple displays. You may need to look at manual stand-up desks if your creative job requires you to spread your work on multiple displays. On the other hand, you may also consider a larger computer display to fit on either of these desks as they can also be used in a split-screen mode, similar to the used 2 smaller computer displays.
A converter might not be comfortable to use while sitting
Sitting and working on a converter desk that goes up and down is not comfortable. There’s a small standing height difference between the existing desk and the surface of the converter which means your hands don’t sit in a comfortable standing position that can be sustained for a long time.
Extra pressure is put on your wrists when you need to elevate them to reach the keyboard on the converter. The solution to this problem is either to push the converter back so that your keyboard and your mouse sit on your existing desk or to only use the converter desk when standing.
A healthy alternation between sitting and standing is recommended for the best posture benefits of standing while working. These alternations require a few more steps on a converter desk as opposed to a manual sit-stand desk.
Uneven weight distribution on converters
The last practical difference between these desks is seen in weight distribution. Most converters are made with a stable work surface that can take the load where needed.
This includes the load of your hands and keyboards. However, having a VESA mount and a monitor puts a heavy load on the back side of the converter or on one side which may lead to uneven loading. This is important as the work surface might not be as stable as anticipated. Having a wobbly desk is one of the main reasons many workers choose a standard non-height adjustable desk.
Standing desk weight considerations: How much can a standing desk hold?
The ergonomic differences between manual standing desks and converters
Posture and ergonomics are highly impacted by these choices of desks. Ergonomic benefits often mentioned with these desks are health benefits you can see when the desk supports the correct sitting-to-standing elevation for you. Unlike practicality reasons which may sometimes be overlooked or simply adapted to, ergonomics tends to be not that easy to adjust when having a bad desk.
A manual sit-stand desk may feel sturdier
The size and the weight of the manually-adjustable desk make it considerably sturdier. A larger and heavier frame and a larger and heavier desktop make manual desks sturdier. While converter desks are still sturdy, they cannot hold as much weight. For example, you may even lean against the manual desk and it would still remain sturdy.
Typing and working, in general, are easier on a sturdy desk. However, both the manual and the converter desks start to lose sturdiness when almost fully elevated. The higher the work surface needs to be elevated, the higher the risks of wobbliness get. You may not find the perfect elevation with a standing desk converter (depending on the desk you place it on)
Most converter desks only elevate up to 40cm. This means you still need to take the height of your existing desk or table it’s sitting on to find the right elevation. In most cases, this should not be a problem. Most manual desks measure elevation from the floor. They typically go up from 65-67cm to 110cm. Extended range sit-stand desks go down to 60cm and up to 120cm. This means an extended-range standing desk with manual adjustment is a superior choice for very short or very tall users. Most users can still find a good height for an ergonomic working position even with a converter desk.
A monitor stand may be difficult to install on a converter desk
Adding a monitor is possible on most converter height adjustable desks. The way you do this is different from one desk to another, still. Make sure you check the maximum load capacity of the converter when using a large monitor with a monitor arm as the extra weight might not be supported by the desk.
Some standing desktop converters come with built-in keyboard trays
A major plus of converter height adjustable desks is that they come with a 2-level design. The top work surface is used to place the computer display while the lower level work surface serves as a keyboard tray. This allows for proper ergonomic hand positioning when standing.
Manual Standing Desk vs Desk Convertor: Which Do You Choose?
To comfortably stand while at the desk means you need to find the right sit-stand desk for you. Both these desks have their ideal use. Here’s which one is right for you.
- Go with a manually adjustable desk when you need the space. A hand crank standing desk has enough space to fit all of your desk setup tools and accessories, from computers to multiple displays. It has the lifting power for all of these accessories and the stability needed at your required height. The considerable extra space it comes with is ideal for almost any requirement.
- Go with a converter desk if you don’t have the space for another desk. While more affordable, a converter desk has less space but easily turns an old desk into a standing desk. Some models even come with memory presets for your desired height. Digital desk converters require less muscle power than a crank-based manual desk. A converter desk comes with all of the benefits of an electric standing desk plus the extra freedom of movement.
Frequently asked questions
A manual standing desk is worth it when you need a large work surface. It comes with extra space compared to a converter desk and it also offers a stable work surface for long hours of sitting. While it costs more, it also tends to last long as there are no electronics such as motors to fail under heavy load. Most manual standing desks have a warranty of at least 5 years. Electronic standing desks may have shorter warranties for electronic components such as motors.
Both doctors and chiropractors recommend standing desks for reduced shoulder and back pain. Long hours of sitting put extra pressure on your back, which may lead to back pain. Improvements in high blood pressure have also been proven when standing compared to sitting, especially after having a meal.
You can ergonomically use both a manual standing desk and a desktop converter. You need to sit up straight with your bent elbows at a 90-degree angle on the desktop. Your eyes should be level to the top third of the computer screen or of the main computer screen when using multiple monitors.
While you pay less and get a bit less storage, a converter standing desk comes with more freedom of movement and a similar warranty to a manual standing desk. In turn, manual standing desks have a larger workspace, better stability, higher load capacity, and a wider choice of materials.