Standing desk gaming with the Varidesk Pro Plus
The standing desk trend burst onto the web in a big way a few years back, and while experts have thrown some cold water on the initial optimistic projections of standing desk benefits, the fact remains that standing can be good for you in ways sitting can't match, and an ideal work environment (from a health perspective) would involve different positioning throughout the day.
If flexibility is what you're looking for, you'll want to explore the world of adjustable sit/stand options. I've been using standing desks for about five years now, and have come to value the way these customizable offerings free you from the need to commit to always standing or always sitting.
In this article we'll be taking a look at the Varidesk Pro Plus 36 adjustable standing desk, which sits on top of your existing desk and allows you to quickly swap between sitting and standing modes. I'll be examining the product specifically from a gaming perspective, since standing desk gaming brings its own specific needs and challenges that typical office work doesn't.
The Varidesk Pro Plus 36 is currently available on Newegg for $395.
Construction and features
The Varidesk Pro Plus comes in a single piece, with no assembly needed. Though it is adjustable, that adjustment is done via built-in springs, rather than an electric motor as in other sit/stand desk options. Holding down a lever allows you to adjust the desk to your preferred height, and while this isn't as cool of a feeling as the one-touch programmable buttons some motorized models offer, it also eliminates the need to use up a valuable outlet to power your desk.
This desk is designed to go on top of your existing desk or table, which can be either a plus or a minus depending on the setup you already have. It's nice that you don't need a whole new piece of furniture just to get a taste of the standing desk life, but if your desk isn't big enough to hold the sizable footprint of the Varidesk Pro Plus then you're not going to be able to use this model. It also generally adds a significant amount of bulk to your desktop while providing your with less in the way of unbroken horizontal surface to hold desk toys, a landline phone (remember those?), or papers. If you're considering the Varidesk Pro Plus, you should understand that its structure comes at the cost of less horizontal real estate.
If maximizing your desktop space is a priority for you, you might want to consider combining the Pro Plus with monitor arms also made by Varidesk. This futuristic-looking setup allows you to eliminate your monitor's base entirely (provided it's a compatible model) and allows for a level of adjustability you just can't replicate with a regular monitor setup.
I stand about 6'1", and found that the Varidesk Pro Plus could elevate to slightly higher than I needed it to for perfect computing posture. If you're taller than 6'3" it might not quite serve your needs, but that could conceivably be fixed by finding a way to raise the base of the Varidesk (or buying a taller base desk). Varidesk also makes a "big and tall" option called the Exec 48 specifically for people 6'1" or taller.
The way the Varidesk elevates is somewhat strange at first, since the desk portion comes forward, horizontally, as the desk elevates. When I first saw it in action I was a little concerned that the desk would end up unbalanced as a result, but after extended use this turned out to be far from the case.
The Varidesk Pro Plus is extremely stable, with no wobble to speak of once it's locked into place. Even when supporting two monitors and a laptop, you won't notice any distracting sway or bounce when you type. The Pro Plus also offers more room on its keyboard and mouse shelf than other similar standing desk designs, with a generous space to push your keyboard forward if you like. This makes the model an especially good choice for gamers, as different games often require different positions for your keyboard and mouse to maximize comfort and performance.
If you like to use a large mousepad or tune your settings in a way that requires big, sweeping movements of your mouse, the Varidesk Pro Plus isn't a good choice for you, since the area allowed for your mouse is limited to about the size of a normal mousepad. For most gamers this will be sufficient, but if you prefer having a massive desktop to swing your mouse around then you'll want to look elsewhere.
Two-tier vs. single-tier standing desk design
This desk offers a two-tier design, with a separate, slightly lower shelf for your mouse and keyboard and a larger elevated platform designed to hold up to two monitors. I've used a number of different standing desk options over the years, and I've come to learn that this two-tier design is possibly the single most significant consideration there can be when choosing a desk if you care about long-term comfort and ergonomics.
According to ergonomics experts, the top edge of your monitor should be just slightly above eye level. This is something that can be difficult to get just right in a standing position if your desk isn't designed to accomadate it, especially since a lot of popular gaming monitor options lack significant vertical height adjustment options. When you're seated it's usually a simple enough matter to adjust your chair up or down an inch, but a human's standing height is a lot harder to adjust.
Getting stuck looking up or down at your monitor while standing can cause neck pain, and once you add in the need to also have your keyboard and mouse at the proper elevation for comfortable use the situation becomes even more complex. For some monitor/keyboard/height combinations a single-level standing desk might be the right way to go, but in other cases you'll want (or, rather, you'll need) a two-tier height design like that provided by the Varidesk Pro Plus to avoid the aches and pains of an improper desk setup.
To figure out what sort of design is right for you, sit up straight in your chair with your hands comfortably on your keyboard and see if you can get your monitor to the proper height without needing a stand or other additional elevation. If you can, then you could replicate this same arrangement on a single-tier standing desktop, and you'll want to confirm that the monitor can actually be lowered to the proper height with the addtional elevation the two-tier Varidesk Pro Plus would provide. If, on the other hand, your monitor is a little lower than it should be when it's on your normal desktop, or if you're a fan of monitor stands or other ways of elevating your screen, then the Varidek's two-tier structure is a good choice.
The hardest part about switching to a standing desk, I've found, is the initial discomfort and fatigue you'll experience for a couple of weeks while your body gets used to the new setup. If you can make it through this tough period you'll likely be a standing desk convert for life, but I've also seen people hit a wall a day or two into their standing desk experiments and call it quits. The convertible aspect of the Varidesk Pro Plus is a major help for addressing this challenge, as you can spend an hour standing, then an hour sitting, and switch back and forth as needed.
While most standing desk setups and accessories are designed and marketed with office work in mind, fatigue is just as much of an issue with long-term gaming, especially if you're involved in any kind of competitive situation. I've found that a standing posture can actually give me a psychological advantage when playing something like Overwatch (not an advantage that actually makes me measurably better at the game, of course, but more of a boost of energy, confidence, and focus). Being distracted by tired, aching feet is the last thing you need when virtual people are trying to kill you.
To make things easier (and more comfortable), you may want to consider investigating in a padded mat to stand on. Varidesk makes an "anti-fatigue" mat specifically for standing desks, and it's easy to imagine how the resilient layer of padding would be more comfortable than a typical unforgiving office carpet or hardwood floor. Since your gaming station is more likely to be deployed on a plusher, more comfortable home carpet you may not have as much need for a fatigue mat, but the option remains if you experience any foot discomfort.
The mat doesn't work with every desk, most notably those with protruding feet that would be incompatible with the rectangular dimensions of the mat. You also have to scoot it out of the way when you want to use a chair, which means it isn't an ideal solution if you plan to switch from sitting to standing often. All things considered, the Varidesk anti-fatigue mat will work best for someone who wants to commit to standing for at least half of the time and who doesn't already have a comfortable floor on which to do it.
A surprising complement for the Oculus Rift
During my testing of the Varidesk Pro Plus desk and the anti-fatigue mat, I discovered that the combination is very well suited for use with the Oculus Rift VR headset, for a few specific reasons.
The Rift tracks your location in virtual reality through the use of sensors, and when you first calibrate your sensors you go through a process to ensure they can "see" both your headset and your controllers through your full range of motion. This calibration is supposed to work regardless of whether you are seated or standing and whether the individual using the headset is taller or shorter than the person who calibrated it, but in practice I've found that tracking can suffer at the limits of the calibrated area. If someone shorter than the calibrator reaches down towards the ground with their Touch controller, for example, the sensors can occasionally lose track of the controllers, resulting in a frustrating game experience.
You can fix these tracking issues by re-doing the sensor calibration or by physically tilting or moving the sensors, but the adjustable Varidesk offers a superior solution. When your much-shorter friend wants to try your Rift you can just lower the Varidesk a notch or two to place them in the sweet spot for the sensors, and then once you take the reigns again you can move the desk (and the sensors) back to exactly the right spot with just a couple of clicks.
Of course this solution won't work for everyone, and depends somewhat on the desk beneath the Varidesk and on whether or not you want to have two large monitors on the desktop, as that would make it impractical to also place the Oculus sensors where they would need to be without blocking your view of your displays. But for single-monitor Rift users, this is an added bonus of Varidesk's adjustabile nature.
As far as the mat goes, it can also play a role in virtual reality for standing-focused experiences. Games like The Climb and Robo Recall are titles best played standing, but which don't require much in the way of horizontal movement. I found that the Varidesk anti-fatigue mat did a good job providing me with tactile feedback and keeping me centered in my VR space without the need for the intrusive visual boundaries that pop up in the headset itself when you stray too far from your center. And of course there's also the fact that the mat is more comfortable than a bare floor to stand on, especially if you like to do your VR without shoes.
Again, this VR benefit is situational. If you aren't interested in standing VR games or if you have a full room-scale setup and are unconcerned with remaining centered in your space, the mat won't add anything to your virtual reality gaming. But for the many Oculus Rift owners who primarily play standing titles in a limited amount of space in front of their gaming desks, a mat like the one made by Varidesk can offer a substantial improvement to the experience.
Consider your needs and goals
There's a lot to think about when buying a standing desk, and even if you do decide to make the switch the Varidesk Pro Plus might not be exactly the right model for you. You need to consider how often you plan to be standing, how much horizontal desk space you need for non-computing tasks, and whether your existing desk can properly support the Varidesk on top of it, just to start. The anti-fatigue mat requires a different set of considerations, involving the state of your floor, the shape and position of your desk's legs, and more. Once you throw virtual reality into the mix, there are even more factors to consider.
As someone who has been using standing desks for years, I can confidently say that I'm very glad I made the switch. I don't stand all the time, but having the option offers a fantastic sense of freedom and is a great way to cut down on back pain caused by long car commute times. I've come to enjoy gaming while standing more than I ever thought I could, and I plan to make the Varidesk anti-fatigue mat a regular part of my Oculus experience.
The Varidesk Pro Plus is a solidly built, versatile solution that doesn't require you to throw out your existing furniture. For those in the standing desk market, it's worth a long look.