Sit/Stand Desk: IKEA SKARSTA Review

on Chris Martin's Blog

For most of my life as a knowledge worker, I've used some sort of sitting/standing desk.

An early standing desk

This started with cardboard boxes on an existing desk ($0). Eventually, I raised the entire desk on 8" bed risers (~$20). These arrangements worked okay for years, but you cannot easily tune the standing height, and if you want to sit at a desk on bed risers, you need either a drafting chair or tall bar stool.

Having just moved across the country, I started from scratch and needed to solve this problem again. (Remote work doesn't come with employer-provided furniture.)

An adjustable sit/stand desk would be the perfect solution, but at $500-3000+, these have long been niche items for companies with an ergonomics budget. The world needs a cheap-but-good-enough sit/stand desk for the masses.

Do What You're Good At

This is oft-repeated advice in the tech and business world. If you're a skilled professional with remunerative work lined up, then don't waste your time with fiddly DIY approaches to known problems with a ready-made solution. Consume that solution, then move on and do more of what you're good at.

I was about to cob something together with 2x4s and maybe kee klamps. Then, I found this discussion:

  • "I just noticed that IKEA has a new product called SKARSTA, which is a hand-crank standing desk."
  • "Buy & get an extended warranty. Then get back to working on whatever it is that you do, that you're good at."

There it is: do what you're good at! I'm good at listening to podcasts in the car, so I drove 3 hours to IKEA and picked up a SKARSTA.

SKARSTA

SKARSTA Stock Photo

The Swedish maker of cheap-but-maybe-good-enough furniture now makes a cheap-but-maybe-good-enough sit/stand desk. At $230 USD for the smaller size (47"x27" surface), SKARSTA is less than half the starting price of other adjustable desks with a hand crank or motor. It's probably the cheapest such desk available anywhere. The larger SKARSTA costs $40 more and uses the same exact frame, but comes with a 63"x31.5" surface.

(Ikea also sells a motorized BEKANT, which costs twice as much and has bad reviews due to problems with the motors and controller. This is why I chose the SKARSTA, and incidentally a car without any power features - a simpler system with fewer failure modes.)

The desk itself is very simple with no bells or whistles aside from the sit/stand mechanism. In the store, the base and top are sold separately. IKEA doesn't endorse this, but if you don't like the plain white top, you can buy a SKARSTA frame for $199 and mount any surface that measures at least 48"x28" or so.

Short-term Review

Assembly was easy and I was pleased with the sturdiness of the steel frame members. The desk also took a monitor mount clamp and a SIGNUM cable management tray.

SKARSTA desktop

SKARSTA in standing and sitting configurations

Stability

When you assemble, make sure all of the frame bolts are nice and tight.

At my typical standing height of 41 inches, the desk is stable enough for computer/office use, though it is not rock solid. The desk sways forward and back a bit if you push on it. My monitor wiggles a bit if I type vigorously, although that's not annoying unless I try to notice. It doesn't sway at all at sitting height.

The swaying gets more severe the taller you go. It's pretty bad at the maximum height of 47 inches, so if that's the height you want, you should probably look elsewhere. The swaying is probably also worse with the larger surface (63"x31.5") SKARSTA which I have not seen or used.

This is all a limitation of the 2-leg design, which IKEA could address either by increasing the front-to-back width of the existing legs, or by using 4 legs (which is unlikely to happen).

There is also a claimed 50 kg weight limit, which isn't an issue for me but may be for others.

Crank Mechanism

I count 71 revolutions from sitting to standing height, so you get a minute of arm exercise in addition to the benefits of standing. If you swing the crank like you're starting an airplane and push down on the surface, the desk will self-lower.

The crank arm slides out for cranking, and otherwise stores itself up against the underside of the desk. The arm feels good enough but not super beefy. The display model in the IKEA store had a bent crank and was probably forced in unintended directions.

Gears

Who knows what these look like, they are hidden inside the legs. Hopefully they'll last a while.

Warranty?

It's doubtful whether IKEA provides any warranty. It's not listed on IKEA's warranty page. When I called IKEA, I was told that there was a 90-day return policy with receipt.

Conclusion

Overall, the SKARSTA meets expectations. I would recommend it if you want an adjustable-height desk and only want to spend $230. I would not recommend it if you're very tall and want to use this desk near its maximum 47-inch height, or if you need an absolutely rock-solid desk that doesn't sway at all. If your desired surface height is around 41 inches (or lower), you'll probably be happy.

Eventually I'll post a long-term review, but if you are reading this, I've had no issues using this desk daily since January 2016.


Comments

Update: the desk is still doing fine, but a critical defect has occurred with the Monoprice monitor mount bracket. Basically, the shiny metal pole is attached to the black metal desk clamp with four very small countersunk screws. These screws loosened up over time, causing the whole monitor/mount assembly to wobble. When I tried to tighten the screws with a phillips screwdriver, two of them sheared in half. Now the mount is useless. So, I recommend that you avoid Monoprice part 6420 and any other Monoprice bracket that uses a similar design.

I saw someone post a link to this on twitter and it got me thinking that I never use my office desk because it's old, faux-wood laminate, multilayered and crappy...so it might be time for me to update it and this could be a really good solution! Thanks for the review.

Howdy Chris, thanks for a timely review -- as I'm thinking about downgrading my current Ikea desk (that's about 8 years old and can't find on their site anymore -- it's 55" wide x 29" deep x 30" high) into either a smaller dimension and/or a something like the Skarsta.

Question: Would it work with the iMac given that big screen? I dunno if a standing desk would work with that. Maybe I just need a smaller surface than today?

Addi: no, I would get same size top again. Thanks to the offset monitor stand, I can push the laptop all the way back underneath the monitor when I want to spread out some books/papers or eat food. Plenty of space.

ric: the monitor stand is Monoprice product ID 6420.

Chris - really like the article. What monitor bracket are you using? I cant seem to find with ikea? many thanks in advance. have shared your post to multiple people

Just curious if you had to purchase it again. Would you go for the 63" table top?

Great post! As someone who works at home, I might give the desk a try (although I might be a little too tall for it). I've also linked to it on my newsletter for independent app developers, a lot of whom work at home and have a tight budget: http://indieweek.ly/issues/4

I have something similar from Ikea. I bought just the Bekant electric table legs for around 250-300 or so. Then I put no a cork table top (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50313353/). The result is a heavier desk that looks and functions awesome. Total cost was under 500 and it holds my MBP, lamp, salt lamp, thunderbolt display, and junk w/o any issues. Since it's heavy and has a heavy base it's stable at max height as well.

For the swaying, you could add a small wall-attached shelf that sits just above the max height you'll raise the table, so that it will counter any force you apply to the front.

I'm 6'10". I bought this desk and I use it at full height for standing as well as at a slightly lower height to accommodate a tall bar stool. I have no problem with the table swaying. This could be something to do with the fact that the table rests on wooden floors, not carpets. There is some give at the full-height but nothing remotely close to instability.

Oh boy, I went through similar evolution of equipments for standing arrangements: first with cardboard box on top of standard desk, I found wine box the perfect size for me. Then I got the SKARSTA as well, 63"x31.5" table top. Bigger surface is definitely worth the investment if you have a dual monitor setup. I don't notice any swaying tho, since I'm not tall at 5'5, one of the few times I call myself lucky in the height department :D It's been 2 months now. I think I raise/lower the desktop couple times a week. So far the desk is not complaining yet and I'm happy with it. Hope it will last a while longer.

having too look up in the mirror for several hours a day is HORRIBLE for the eyes as they tend to stay more open without hydrating. its a no-no

I had built myself a fixed standing desk from Ikea parts before this desk was released. (I used adjustable legs from Ikea that went very high by turning lower legs CCW into upper legs. Over time they weaken and all 4 legs need to be adjusted and tightened.) I ran across the Skarsta in Ikea a few months later and bought only the frame. I have a black/brown top about 5ft wide and maybe 30in in depth. Ikea produces a shelf with matching black/brown 5ft wide and 1ft in depth, and they also make table top bracket mounts (I bought 4, I think they are $4-5 a piece). So the top of the desk lifts two monitors to a tad lower than eye level when the desktop is at parallel forearm level. (Ikea has really nice bamboo desk tops but no matching bamboo shelves.) Its easy to assemble the frame on a different desktop but you have to pay careful attention to where the manual turn arm comes out at. 30" of depth is about the max this frame can take (if you assemble the frame dead center under the table) as the manual arm, when extended, has about 1.25in clearance from the edge of the desktop. (If you assemble with a different desktop, the affordable ones at Ikea are hollow in the center... except the bamboo one, which I don't recall placing in the affordable camp.) Because the desktop is sways slightly, the swaying motion rises through the brackets and onto the upper shelf with the tall monitors making the swaying more noticeable.

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

  • Chris: I have not tried using with bed risers. No need. It would probably work though it might slide around a bit as the feet wouldn't touch the bottom of the 'cups' in the bed riser. Cinder blocks are probably better for this.
  • sc: I'm 5 feet 9 inches, but what matters is your elbow height, not total height.
  • Mario: the monitor mount is Monoprice product ID 6420. It's not the most rigid mount in the world but works for me so far. If you're willing to sacrifice depth adjustment, a mount with no swing arm like Monoprice product ID 5400 would minimize unwanted monitor shaking.
  • Ronja: Debian Jessie on a T450s. I love everything about Debian except the pace of their release cycle, which is understandable given that it's an entirely volunteer effort.
  • Michael: you're a tiny bit taller than me. I've thought about weight balance but there's very little weight on the desk. ~10 pounds monitor, 4 pounds of laptop and cables, and maybe 5 pounds of everything else including the cable management tray screwed to the underside. It's all pretty centrally distributed. Happy to hear that the SKARSTA is more stable than a fancy Ergotron standing adapter.
  • Joe: Do you have one of those overbed tables? How stable is it? If you only use a laptop, you can also just use an ironing board.

Finally, disregard the haters, Chips Ahoy are delicious.

If you just use a laptop, this does the trick as a cheaper and more mobile solution: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002VWJZ8S

I have this desk too - I have two monitors plus my macbook on it and I am seeing very little sway - I am not using a monitor arm though. I have a das keyboard plugged into the mac and when I type vigorously I don't have problem with it moving at all. Note that I am 180cm so I don't have it up that high (not at home to measure exactly). Maybe also how well balanced the weight distribution (where you put your monitors, keyboard etc.) is around the centroid impacts sway / stability? I am at work at the moment and I am using a stand desk clamped ergotron monitor/keyboard tray combo and it moves a hell of a lot more than the ikea desk. For the $, if it works for you in terms of height I also think it is great value.

What Linux distro is that (I can see Gnome 3, so I would guess Ubuntu GNOME or Fedora) and what Thinkpad T4X0 model?

Nice post, thanks. I was looking for something like this for my home office. Any decent/cheap monitor mount clamp you could recommend?

Ew Chips Ahoy, disguisting!

Hello is right, chips ahoy are pretty bad!

Don't eat chips ahoy. Theyre really bad for you...

How tall are you? It would help clarify "I would not recommend it if you're very tall...".

Thanks for the review, I was looking at one of these the other day but IKEA was out of stock. As a tall person, I'm disappointed to hear about the issues at full height. Have you tried using it in conjunction with the bed risers you also linked?