High quality materials
Not tall enough for some users
If you’re reading this review, you probably don’t need an explanation on why standing desks are good for you. Unfortunately, not everyone can accommodate a standing desk in their home or office due to space limitations. This is where standing desk converters (also known as risers) come in. Simply place a converter on top of your regular desk, dining table, or just about any other flat surface, and you’re good to go.
One of the best-known brands in the standing desk space is Vari. The Texas-based company’s VariDesk converters have been very popular since they first launched in 2013. We took for a spin their best-selling model, the VariDesk Pro Plus 36, to tell you if it’s worth the price tag.
Read more in our VariDesk Pro Plus 36 review.
VariDesk Pro Plus 36 at a glance
The VariDesk Pro Plus 36 costs $395 in the US or €425 in Europe. It’s not the most expensive standing desk converter around, but it’s definitely on the higher end. For the most part, you get what you pay for; the VariDesk Pro Plus is well built, well designed, and well thought out.
The VariDesk Pro Plus is available in black and white. The VariDesk Pro Plus 36 is 36 inches (91.4cm) wide (duh!). There are other configurations available: a 30-inch model ($295), a 48-inch model ($495), as well as a 32-inch electric model ($395) that incorporates a motor to adjust automatically.
How do you install the VariDesk Pro Plus?
After you tear open the packaging, which is reassuringly sturdy, you just need to take out your VariDesk Pro Plus, and that’s pretty much it. Unlike other standing desk converters that require some level of assembly work, the VariDesk Pro Plus comes fully assembled, and the only thing you need to do is to remove the protective padding that’s stuck on the product.
There’s a downside to this all-in-one convenience. The VariDesk Pro Plus is heavy and lugging it around is a two-person job. The 36-inch model I reviewed weighs 52.15lb (23.6kg), and while I was able to heft it around on my own, I definitely recommend getting someone to help if possible.
What is the VariDesk Pro Plus like?
I reviewed the white variant of the VariDesk Pro Plus 36. The structure is made of painted steel. The desktop and the keyboard tray are made of particle board covered in a laminate plastic material. The plastic has a subtle stippled texture to it, which I quite liked.
The whole thing feels sturdy and hefty, in the best way possible. Owing to its weight, the VariDesk Pro Plus doesn’t wobble much or stoop, even when it’s fully extended. I was even able to gently lean on the tray when my back got tired of all the standing; emphasis on “gently.” Don’t expect rock-solid stability though – my flimsy monitor on top of the desk still wobbled slightly while I was typing.
The VariDesk Pro Plus takes quite a lot of space. This isn’t the standing desk converter you’ll want if you’re workspace is already cramped or if you prefer a minimalist look. Make sure you measure the space where you want to place it and take note of the converter’s dimensions before you purchase.
The whole thing feels sturdy and hefty, in the best way possible.
Also keep in mind that, owing to its Z-shaped construction, the desk extends horizontally, not just vertically. That means you need to account for another ~2ft (60cm) of space in front of your desk.
How do you adjust the VariDesk Pro Plus?
It’s super easy. To raise the desk, reach out and press the two levers found on the sides of the desktop. Then gently pull up and the desk will rise, aided by its spring-loaded mechanism.
There are 11 height positions you can adjust the desk to. The (non-obvious) thing to know is you need to lock the desk into place when you find your preferred position, by releasing the clamps and gently pressing downwards on the desk.
To fold the VariDesk Pro Plus back down, you press the two levers and push slightly downward and forward, so the legs swivel down.
I wouldn’t say operating the VariDesk Pro Plus is totally effortless, especially if you’re impaired. But most people should have no issues raising and lowering the desk multiple times a day.
The adjusting mechanism is smooth and silent (for the most part).
Changing the height of the VariDesk Pro Plus is almost completely silent, but locking the desk into position does make a loud-ish clacking noise. I didn’t find it a nuisance, but if you work in an office, your colleagues might disagree.
What about the ergonomics?
The whole point of a standing desk is to improve your posture and the ergonomics of your work. The VariDesk Pro Plus is generally good in this regard, though your mileage may vary.
The height of the desk (the top, not the keyboard tray) can go from 4.5 inches (11.5cm) when fully folded down, to 17.5 inches (44.5cm) when fully extended. I am about 6ft 2in (1.88m) tall and the top-most setting of the desk felt good-enough for comfortable, extended work. That said, I would’ve preferred an even higher setting, so I could hold my elbows even closer to that ideal 90-degree angle. I’d say one or two extra inches of height would’ve made it perfect for my stature.
Obviously, the height of the desk or table you place the VariDesk Pro Plus on matters. My desk is 30 inches high (around 76cm). That means the keyboard tray – where my hands rested – sat at 43.7 inches (111cm) above the floor.
For the best posture, your monitor(s) should be at eye-level, so you don’t have to look down when you work. The VariDesk Pro Plus 36 doesn’t give you any clever solution to achieve this, so you’ll need to find a way to raise your monitor. Vari sells a VESA-compatible monitor arm you can clamp on to the desk. If you buy a third-party arm, make sure to check whether the clamping mechanism fits the space between the top of the desk and the supporting bar just below it.
The main ergonomic problem I had with the VariDesk Pro Plus 36 occurred when I folded the desk completely. In this position, the keyboard tray rests on the desk or table that supports the converter. The thickness of the tray adds about 0.8 inches (~2cm) to the height of your workspace, which was a problem for me, as it was too high to comfortably work on. This may not be a problem for you if your desk or table is shorter or if it’s adjustable.
Does the VariDesk Pro Plus 36 offer enough space?
The 36-inch VariDesk Pro Plus review unit that I tried comfortably accommodated my 21.5-inch monitor and my chunky 15-inch gaming laptop. You could technically fit two 21.5-inch monitors, but part of them would stick out over the desk. If that’s your use case, you might want to check out the larger 48-inch model. Besides the screens, the top level of the desk has enough space for a coffee mug, a phone, and other trinkets.
The keyboard tray had enough room for my full-size keyboard and mouse, but that’s just about it. When I wanted to use the space to jot down notes, I had to put my notepad over the keyboard to make it work. Using a laptop on it is definitely possible, but it might feel cramped.
What I like about the VariDesk Pro Plus
- It’s sturdy and well made: The VariDesk Pro Plus looks and feels high quality.
- No assembly required: Take that, Ikea.
- Easy to adjust: I loved that the adjusting mechanism is smooth and silent (for the most part) and requires almost no effort.
- Enough space for my use: The desk and the keyboard tray gave me enough room for my essentials — keyboard, mouse, laptop, and monitor — plus a little extra space for other items.
What I don’t like about the VariDesk Pro Plus
- No extra features: This desktop converter only does the basics. There are no niceties like an adjustable keyboard tray or any kind of cable management system.
- Limited adjustability: Other desktop converters have infinitely adjustable mechanisms, whereas the VariDesk is limited to 11 specific positions. Furthermore, I would’ve loved an adjustable tray.
- Height: The tallest position was slightly too short for me.
VariDesk Pro Plus review: Should you buy it?
If you want a standing desk, but can’t — or won’t — find room for one in your home or office, then the VariDesk Pro Plus is a strong option we’re happy to recommend. It’s sturdy and well made, it’s generously sized, and it gets the job done.
That said, you should definitely bust out the measuring tape before you make the purchase and try to see if the dimensions actually fit your stature and work style.
We would’ve liked to see a bit more adjustability at this price level. On the flip side, Vari’s products are popular for a reason, so the price might be worth it.
If you like the VariDesk Pro Plus 36, but the $395 price not so much, there are well-reviewed options out there that are much cheaper. These include the Eureka Ergonomic V2 ($225 at Amazon) and the iMovR ZipLift+ ($319 at Amazon), to name just a couple.
If you want to go the whole hog and replace your dumb old desk with a smarter, height-adjustable one, check out our recommendations for the best standing desks.
That wraps up our VariDesk Pro Plus 36 review. What are your thoughts on this standing desk converter?