Standing desk converters sit on top of your desk and raise your workstation up and down, so you can sit and stand at work.
The very best standing desk converters provide an ideal blend of ergonomics, flexibility and usability. So it’s worth spending time to find one that best suits your needs.
In this guide, we share practical advice on choosing standing desk converters.
There are many ways you can convert your desk into a standing desk. From placing your laptop on top of cardboard boxes (bad for your back) to quality electric standing converter like the Altizen.
To decide which standing desk converter is for you, it helps to be clear why you are looking for one:
- Is it to trial a sit-stand lifestyle before committing further?
- Was it a recommendation from your physiotherapist / doctor due to a health condition?
- And are you in it for the long haul to improve your health and posture?
With that in mind, let’s start!
The 3 Categories of Standing Desk Converters
To help make sense of the dizzying array, we’ve classified standing desk converters into 3 broad categories.
X-Lift Standing Desk Converters
The most common and budget-friendly converter. The X-lift’s cheap price is due to its basic single gas spring lifting mechanism and small (usually) single-level worksurface.
- Fits extremely tight spaces (most are only 40cm deep)
- Pinch points and finger risk due to the “X”-shaped hinges
- Tiny workspace area
- Screens can be too close for comfort due to narrow depth
- Not ergonomic for heavy-duty typing or writing due to elevated workspace
- No built in screen height adjustability and cannot accommodate monitor arms
Best suited if: You are looking to trial a sit-stand lifestyle or if you are at your desk for only 1 to 2 hours a day. For those looking for a longer term solution, it’s best to look elsewhere.
Z-Lift Standing Desk Converters
The Z-lift design has been around the longest. They tend to be larger and more stable than the X-lifts and mid-range in price. The downside is their bulkiness, inherent pinch points and difficulty to lift. Some brands are also known to extend forward when moved into a standing position, creating a toppling risk.
- Large upper tier workspace accommodates multiple screens
- Deeper workspace for proper eye-screen distance
- Bulky, takes up most of the space on an average desk (most measure at least 76cm deep and 120cm wide)
- Will not fit shallower desks below 75cm in depth
- Not ergonomic for heavy-duty typing or writing due to elevated workspace (the keyboard tray is the only area flushed with the tabletop).
- No built in screen height adjustability. Requires an additional monitor arm to make it ergonomic (additional cost of at least $150)
- Difficult for petite users to lift due to its width
- Some brands extend forward when lifted, creating a risk of toppling
Best suited if: You have decided on manual converters, and value stability and size. However, if you were recommended a converter by a healthcare provider due to back or neck issues, or you do heavy duty typing into your laptop or writing, or you are petite, it’s best to look for alternatives.
L-Lift Standing Desk Converters
For simplicity, we’ll speak about Altizen here, a motorised L-lift converter. L-lift converters are also known as post and base converters.
L-lifts have a sturdy pillar that holds a workspace and screen separately. They take up less space on your desk compared to the other 2 options and offer built in screen adjustability for positioning your monitor at ideal heights and angles.
Motorised ones like the Altizen take this a step further by allowing you to choose your programmable height and automatically move to it each time you stand.
- The largest single flat work surface area among all converters, ideal for people who write or type into their laptops.
- Built in screen adjustability, means there’s no need to buy an additional monitor arm.
- The sleek design takes up less room on your desk. The workspace lies flushed with your tabletop in the sitting position, effectively becoming part of your tabletop.
- Elegant, making it a favourite with office designers.
- Certain brands of manual L-lifts are known to wobble under use, due to a lack of locking mechanism for the workspace. This does not apply to the Altizen which has a built in locking mechanism.
- Tends to be more expensive than the other 2 models due to their built in screen adjustability and sophisticated ergonomic features.
Best suited if: You are keen on using a standing desk converter for the longer haul (eg. a year and above), or if you were recommended to use one by your healthcare provider due to medical reasons.
In-depth Considerations When Choosing Standing Desk Converters
For readers who will like to go into more depth on the important of each of the factors, here we go!
1. Your available desk space
The depth of your desk is one critical factor to measure before deciding on your converter. This is necessary for fit and to position your screen at a comfortable distance.
As a rule of thumb, the ergonomic position for your screen is approximately an arm’s length away.
If your desk is less than 50cm deep, you are restricted to X-lift converters. They are about 40cm deep. However, you’ll sacrifice on correct screen-eye distance due to the closeness of the screen. This is not ideal if you use your screen more than a couple of hours. You’ll want to consider whether to replace your entire table instead of compromising on this.
If your desk at least 60cm deep, your choices expand. You can either choose a L-lift converter like the Altizen or a X-lift converter.
A L-lift converter has a built in monitor stand which you can use to adjust your screen height independent of the workspace height. We’ll explain later why this is important. Crucially, it is also deeper (60-65cm deep) which brings your screen further away from your eyes.
If your desk at least 75cm deep, you can also consider the Z-frame standing desk converter.
2. The work surface size you require
On your converter’s workspace, you will want to make sure you have space for your keyboard and mouse to fit, with some room to spare.
At the same time, consider your personal work habits. Do you write at your desk occasionally? Do you prefer typing into your laptop? Do you have reference notes?
These are all important factors, especially if you only have space at your table for the converter. There’ll be no additional space on the side to sit down and write.
Finding a converter with sufficient room is challenging. Both the X-lift and Z-lift standing desk converters often provide insufficient space for the above tasks.
Many X-lift converters come with a single tier that is elevated about 10cm above your tabletop. As most people rest their wrists on the workspace to write or type, an elevated surface could overextend your wrists, creating problems like carpal tunnel syndrome down the road.
Z-lift converters have a small keyboard tray that is flushed with your tabletop. The larger elevated tier rises about 12cm above your tabletop, making it difficult to write or type on. Like the X-lift, this creates a risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you require a large workspace area or prefer your converter’s workspace to be flushed seamlessly with your tabletop, your best bet is the L-lift system.
They can provide up to 0.4m2 of usable flat surface area that is flushed with your tabletop. You will have more than sufficient space for your keyboard and mouse, and if needed, you can type, write and use your laptop with ease.
3. Height range
Are you a tall user? If so, this is one important factor.
Many converters, especially the smaller X-lifts, max out at about the range for a 1.75m tall user. Some, the Altizen included, are designed to accommodate taller users. The Altizen can fit users up to 1.95m in height.
4. Monitor adjustability
Do you want to be able to adjust the height of your screen independent of the workspace? Would you love to have your monitor tilt, pan, and rotate?
This is not just an exercise in personal preference, though that is important. As a rule of thumb, the ergonomic position for your screen is approximately an arm’s length away, tilted back about 0° to 10°.
The best standing desk converters enable you to adjust the height of your screen independent from the height of the worksurface. So whether you are sitting or standing, you can always keep your screen at the correct height for yourself.
And while it may not seem important, many users especially heavy screen users, find the flexibility to tilt their screen is important to lessen the strain on their eyes.
Most X-lift converters do not allow for monitor arms to be added. And Z-lift standing desk converters have to be equipped with additional monitor arms to provide independent screen adjustability. This is an additional $150+ of cost along with the converter’s purchase price.
In contrast, most L-lift systems, the Altizen included, have built in monitor arms that provide correct ergonomic adjustability.
5. Quality and safety
This is one of the most important factors to consider, but often one of the most over-looked.
Cheap plastic converters, particularly knock-off versions, are cheap for a reason. They won’t last as long as their higher quality competitors. And in the US, lawsuits have been filed against companies selling desk converters with poor quality gas springs that exploded under use.
That’s why you should either buy from a reputable local company or visit the showroom to view the unit before committing.
Whether you are using the standing desk converter at the office or at home, safety should be your first consideration. Due to their design, many X-lift and Z-lift converters have inherent pinch points and finger risks in their moving parts. You will need to keep cables (and your fingers) out of the way of the hinges and take extra care when using it around children.
Here at Altizen, safety and quality are our top priorities. That’s why all our standing desks have passed safety certifications by international safety agencies SGS and Intertek. Each has also reliability tests of 20,000 transitions each (equivalent to 7 years of intense usage every single day).
You will want to make sure that the manufacturer of the converter you choose has a similar regard for safety.
6. Our thoughts…
It is easier said than done to find a standing desk converter with good ergonomics.
The reason for this is simple: many manufacturers are only interested in cutting costs to drive sales, and don’t incorporate features which could make their products ergonomic to users.
Unfortunately, such converters often end up causing even more ergonomic problems than they purport to solve.
Here at Altizen, we don’t cut corners. Our patented design is based on a 2-year collaboration with top-tier physiotherapists in Singapore. We are also the only standing desk converter endorsed by the Singapore Physiotherapy Association for ergonomics.
If you are only intending to trial sit-stand lifestyle for a short while, before making a permanent commitment, this may not matter.
But if you are looking for a standing desk converter as a long-term solution for your health, a properly designed ergonomic standing desk converter is something you cannot afford to miss out on.