We've been hearing a lot about the detrimental effects of sitting too much, and how standing desks can help minimize the problem. If you've already got a perfectly good regular desk, though, do you really want to replace it? That's why some companies are now offering standing desk "converters," that sit on top of a normal desk – some of the fancier ones even let you switch between sitting and standing modes. We recently tried out just such a beast, in the form of BTOD's grandly-named The Duke.

The version of The Duke that we received is designed for a computer setup with a single VESA-mount monitor – VESA means that the monitor has four screw holes on the back, allowing it to be mounted vertically. A separate BTOD model caters to computers such as iMacs or laptops.

Putting The Duke together was pretty straight-ahead, requiring only a screwdriver and an included Allen key. It took us around 45 minutes, and was no harder than assembling a piece of Ikea furniture. Some of the thick steel components are quite heavy, however, so a slight bit of hefting is required.

Once assembled, the unit holds the keyboard and mouse on a sturdy platform, which can be raised up and down a central helium-filled shaft to suit the user as they transition between sitting and standing. The screen sits at a user-defined distance above the keyboard shelf, rising and falling along the shaft with it. Via a pivoting mount, users can change the viewing angle of the monitor, or even swivel it 90 degrees between landscape and portrait modes.

And yes, The Duke works just as it's claimed to. Moving everything up and down is very easy, and is managed simply by depressing a hand lever on one side – because the shaft is gas-filled, it's not unlike the process of raising or lowering the pedestal of an office chair.

It's also very stable, sits flush to the desktop when in sitting mode, and has some extra space on the platform for things like a phone or pen and paper. The only real gripe we had was that it was somewhat fiddly running the keyboard and mouse cables from the front of the platform out through the guide holes in the back – perhaps if the sides of the unit were open, it would be easier to access those cords.

As far as specs go, The Duke weighs 44 lb (20 kg), requires a desk surface at least 24 inches deep (61 cm), and can raise a maximum payload of 12 lb (5.4 kg) a total distance of 17 inches (43 cm). It's priced at US$499.

Product page: The Duke

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