(Scroll to bottom of post for long-term update)
For most of my life as a knowledge worker, I've used some sort of sitting/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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Who knows what these look like, they are hidden inside the legs. Hopefully they'll last a while.
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.
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.
Long-term Update (July 2017)
In the past year and a half I've moved with the SKARSTA twice, most recently across the country. The SKARSTA disassembled and fit in my car along with everything else. Currently using it to work remotely full-time. Desk still goes up and down a couple times a day, and the mechanism hasn't shown any signs of wear. It doesn't feel looser or less sturdy than it did when new. Everything is still good!