The Varidesk Pro Plus and the Big Black Billy Bass

The Varidesk Pro Plus in the up position

The Varidesk Pro Plus in the up position

I am an antsy dude, generally, and with catastrophic posture while seated at work here in the converted dining room. Plus the alarming, if not entirely concrete, in my estimation, health effects of long-term duff-parking. I had been casually looking into stand-up desks but had been scared off by a) the pricing, b) that I would be 100% committed, even in my laziest moments, to standing and c) the dining room table having nowhere to go.

I then casually looked into sit-stand desks, until, on a particularly antsy day, I found myself pulling the trigger on the Varidesk Pro Plus.

These cost $350, with another $50ish for shipping. They are not sold in stores. In fact, they are sold by Gemmy Industries.

These two facts were, for a period of a couple of weeks of progressively more serious investigation, not positives. This is a big mechanical thing (three feet wide, 29 inches deep), the sort of thing one generally prefers to test before leaping into for the tune of $400. The fact that Gemmy Industries was the ultimate seller (they take pains to make Varidesk seem an entirely different entity) was somewhat more disturbing. Among their other products include inflatable Hello Kitties, Mrs. Potato Head Pumpkin Push-In Kits, and the Gangnam Style Easter Bunny. To make matters worse, I learned that these are the same people who brought us the Big Mouth Billy Bass.

But this hardware looked legit, had strong reviews and had won awards. Plus these people obviously have very good relationships with Chinese manufacturers. So I dropped the four hundy.

Varidesk Pro Plus in down position

The Varidesk Pro Plus in the down position (puggle not included)

The FedEx guy, ignoring the two-person lift instructions clearly printed on the box, shouldered it to the front porch and I wrestled it in. It was packed in the highest-grade cardboard I have ever dealt with, which my eight-year-old promptly recognized and claimed for godknowswhat.

I cleared the dining room table/desk and lifted the beast up there. I didn’t weigh it post-shipping, but the shipping weight is something like 56 pounds; the cardboard, which I hefted to the basement for my daughter, was at most 10.

And so, with that 333-word lead-in, the gist: Thing is great. I mean, rock solid. The negative reviews on Varidesk tend to refer to the mere “pro” (not “plus”) models. Regardless of whether you go pro or standard, you need “plus” because “plus” means there’s a keyboard tray that is permanently affixed 3.5 inches below the keyboard/laptop stand. This raises your effective monitor height/lowers the keyboard height. Plus the whole thing feels more like a sort of semi-enclosed workstation pod/cockpit. Though this may not apply to those who haven’t worked on a cherry dining room table for seven years.

While not vivid in the marketing materials, the Varidesk adjusts to several heights on the way up. I’m 5’10″ish and have it pretty much maxxed out. Raising and lowering is simple. I have a wireline printer connected via USB and other cables and they’re not obtrusive. The free software you can take or leave. You can set it to tell you when to sit or stand (I alternate), but the calorie counter is silly (counts gross calories, i.e. not the delta between what you’d burn standing vs. sitting, which is the operative value — though there’s a calculator a bunch of websites are using and I come in at about 40 more calories an hour burned standing).

So I turned the software off. But otherwise, I’m most pleased and do recommend it. It’s a good work space when in the down position and enables solid, comfortable, de-antsifying standing-and-working when raised. Perhaps most importantly, the Varidesk is proof that the Big Mouth Billy Bass and the Gangnam Style Easter Bunny are valuable products, if only because the same engineering team that worked those mechanical designs have now applied their skills — and maybe the underlying mechanics (is Varidesk just a big, black Billy Bass in disguise?) — to a product of serious functional value.

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