As more and more research is revealed about the health detriments of sitting all day, an increasing number of companies is looking for ways to get us up out of our chairs. One of the more recent entries to this market is the Edge Desk, which attempts to correct desk slump by putting users in a kneeling position. We got our hands – and knees – on one to review.
The Edge Desk, as we first mentioned back in March, is like something of a mix between a massage chair and an art easel. The idea is to have something that's portable yet sturdy, and something that takes the pressure off the lower back by aligning the body in a more upright position than can be achieved by sitting in a normal office chair.
The makers of the chair claim that it can be set up in 10 seconds. My initial setup of the contraption took a bit longer because I had to familiarize myself with the various posts and knobs but after that, I'd have to agree that ease of setup and takedown were very good. Ten seconds might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there's no reason why you couldn't be kneeling at your desk in a minute or two once you know what you're doing. The provided instructions, which were taped to the top of the desk, were quite good.
The chair also truly did provide a comfortable pain free way to work. As someone who's tried a variety of straps, shirts, stools, standing desks and wrist braces to deal with my ever-crumbling "writer's body," I found the Edge Desk an easy and energizing way to get my work done. I wouldn't say my persistent low back pain vanished after a morning at the desk, but it was greatly reduced. Also, because it was easier to get up and down from the desk, I found that I moved around more; there was no "seat inertia" to overcome.
The desk is also very morphable. The post for the work surface rises, lowers and tilts forward and backward. The seat can be moved through four different positions that change its height and tilt, and the desk surface, which measures an ample 20 x 30 in (50.8 x 76.2 cm), swivels easily between portrait and landscape modes with a pull of a lever. The desk surface can also be adjusted through a range of slanting positions.
What didn't work
One of the major claims of the Edge Desk is that it's portable and in a way it is. But it's portable more in the way that a pop-up camper is to a tent than a laptop is to a desktop. It definitely does fold down to a nice compact shape but, while it might only be six inches tall when collapsed, it still measures about 38 x 21 in (97 x 53 cm), so it's not exactly briefcase size. It also doesn't have wheels to slide it easily beneath a bed or out to your car. Add to all of that the fact that it weighs a hefty 25 lb (11.3 kg), and I'm not so sure that you'd be carting this thing to your coworking space or coffee shop for an hour or two of work.
That being said, it does provide a really comfortable desk in a small amount of space. So, I could see this working nicely in a tiny home; storing in a closet at a vacation home you only use occasionally; or as a way to get a work station on another floor of your home, to let you move from sitting to kneeling throughout the day.
That brings me to the ergonomic benefits of the Edge Desk. As mentioned, it truly is comfortable and does indeed take strain off the lower back. An issue I have with it however, is that once you get the desk in the position in which you're comfortable, you are invariably going to be staring down at your computer screen, which will place stress on your neck. To be fair, this isn't only an Edge Desk issue. Ever since we lost those desks with keyboard trays and monitor stands which seem to have inexplicably vanished from the marketplace in the late '90s, the only way to work on a laptop that keeps your hands and arms in a good position is to tilt your head downward to see the screen.
And, as someone with a lack of my own built-in padding, a slightly thicker cushion on the seat would be appreciated, although I did go for a couple of hours before needing to give my butt a break.
Then there are the materials.
A rubber mat comes with the Edge Desk to keep laptops from sliding around – or off – the hard-plastic surface
While the Edge Desk feels well made, I did have issues getting it to lock into a position where it didn't wobble. There are cam locks that are supposed to help with this, but the entire time I was typing, the desk surface shook a bit. Also, the desk surface itself tilted a bit to the left and the cushion seemed a bit tilted as well. A company representative told us that they are aware of these issues and have fixed them in all models going forward. Still, you might want to ask about the return policy in case you come up against the same issue.
Lastly, I was disappointed in the surface material out of which the desktop is made. It's a hard slippery plastic, which means your laptop has a hard time staying put. The company shipped the desk with a rubbery mat that helped tremendously with that, but the fact is, I still couldn't really tilt the top of the desk at all, otherwise the laptop would slide off.
I tried to show one of the possible tilts for the desktop in the image below and was barely able to get the shot off before I had to jump in and save my laptop which was making for the floor. I suppose artists and draftsmen will be able to use the tilting surface, but my sense is that if you want to just work on your laptop, the tilt is a feature you won't make much use of.
Here again, a company spokesperson told us that they are currently testing new desktop surfaces to address this issue. He said that one of the considerations the team is grappling with is that artists want one kind of surface, while computer workers want something different.
If you work a desk job and are looking for a way to get out of the sitting position, or if you are tight on space and want a complete workstation that takes up just a little room, the Edge Desk could be worth your consideration. Just don't think of it as something you'll be throwing in the car every time you feel like working somewhere else, as it is a bit heavy and bulky (but the idea of taking it beneath a shady tree in a park one afternoon does really appeal!). With the company telling us that they've fixed the wobble issue, the Edge Desk seems well constructed and it should last awhile. New accessories are also coming that will let you hang your tablet and a cup of coffee off the side of the desk, which will make it even more useful (although maybe a little less portable.)
Price-wise, the Edge Desk comes in at US$350, which, when you consider the price of some standing desks, is a relative bargain. In all, while I wouldn't necessarily rely on this as my only desk due to the head-position issue, I certainly would consider using it as a way to get a break from sitting in my office a few times a week – and you might want to do the same, especially if you are suffering from back or shoulder pain.
Product page: Edge Desk