Every home should have at least one desk. I know, that's a bold claim, but it's true. You may work from home, or need a place to do homework. Maybe you're a gamer and want to get into Twitch streaming. All of the above ambitions require a comfortable work surface.
CNET has had a "" article for a while now, and we know what the and are, so now is the time to give you options beyond standing desks. This article has everything you need from standing desks to executive desks and beyond. I've spent hours building desks, moving desks, sitting at and sitting on desks to give you the lowdown on the greatest around.
I have used a lot of desks over the course of my career, but I can honestly say I've never used a desk quite like the Magnus Pro XL. It is at once the most industrial-looking table, while also giving off huge gamer energy. Measuring 70 inches long and made almost exclusively of metal parts, this desk is not meant for one-person assembly. It took nearly two hours to put it all together, but once it is finished, it's a work of art.
It has a five-setting standing system and the motors are some of the quietest I've heard while testing. The motion is smooth, and even though the desk weighs quite a lot, it rises quickly and without hassle. I never thought of using a standing desk for gaming before, but it really helps to break up the hours of sitting.
If you can manage the cost of getting the extras I would recommend it. The cable management is already excellent with the built-in power supply unit, as well as the large trench down the back, but the optional magnetic conduit lets you hide all of your wiring sins. I especially liked the PC mount that connects your gaming tower to the leg, making it rise with the table so your cables don't get stretched as the desk moves.
The cost of this desk is my only sticking point. Fully loaded, it will set you back $1,500, though you could reduce that with fewer optional extras. But if gaming is your job and you need a large desk to help you, I cannot recommend the Magnus Pro XL enough.
At first glance, the Branch standing desk looks pretty generic, but the level of craftsmanship is apparent on closer inspection. All of the materials feel premium with a weight that only comes from good engineering.
Putting it together was simple, and only took about 30 minutes, though I think having two people would reduce that significantly. It was also extremely well packaged -- something that Branch does with all its products -- so it was in top shape once I had it all together.
The Branch desk can remember four separate heights and has a handy cable door at the back to keep your desk clear and tidy. While the desk can feel a little too business-like -- I received the white top and white legs -- if you choose one of the warmer woods and the gray legs, it will likely blend into your home office better.
Of course, if you are furnishing an office then the Branch desk and Verve office chair from our best office chairs is a great combination.
This light writing desk is a lot like many of the others I tested. Writing desks tend to be easy to put together -- this one took 10 minutes -- and are small in stature. It can hold maybe one monitor and a laptop comfortably, but not much else.
The beauty of that, though, is it can be placed in almost any room and still look nice. There are a lot of finishes to choose from, too, and each one comes with a lamp to illuminate your work. The best feature, though, is the outputs. The Fenlo desk has a standard power outlet, two USB-A ports and, impressively, built-in wireless charging. It is much easier to manage cables for your laptop, tablet and phone when you can access them from the front.
The Fenlo is very light, so it does suffer slightly from the wibble-wobbles, even when its legs are tight. This only happened when I loaded it to its max weight though, so if you are using just a laptop you should be fine.
Gaming desks can often be extremely expensive, especially when you add extras. This desk from Monoprice is simple, cheap, and stable -- all good things -- and also has some neat extras like a headphone hook, cable management tray, and an off-desktop cup holder. Having your beverage off to the side of the desk is a great idea. If you knock it over, it's going on the floor, not on the expensive electronics on your desk.
The work surface is grippy, with grommets in the rear to push cables through. I wish these were a little bigger, but they do the job as long as you don't have too many cables. There is also a notch in the front that lets you get closer to the work surface while maintaining a good posture.
At the price, the Monoprice is a decent entry-level gaming desk, though I did note -- and I've seen this in many of the desks I tested -- that not all of the holes that should have been predrilled were. When the manual tells you to screw something in a specific place, there should be predrilled holes to make that happen or you could end up splitting the wood.
How we test
Testing desks is something of a subjective game. Much like office chairs, the tests are based on comfort, reliability and ease of setup rather than things you can test in electronics such as wattage and battery usage. I still tested each one rigorously however, and will continue to test them for longevity in the coming months.
I tested these desks by asking three people to try each one. Each of them used the desk for at least 16 hours and then gave me their impressions. The three people were 6-foot, 1 inch; 5-foot 8 inches; and 5-foot, 4 inches tall, respectively to give me a good cross-section of average user height.
Setup time and package quality
Building desks can often be difficult and time-consuming. For each desk, I timed how long it took to unpack and assemble, and I noted if the manual was easy to follow or not. I followed the instructions as closely as possible so that each build was performed as if I had never built one before. I also thoroughly checked the packaging, to make sure it wasn't damaged, and if it was secure enough to carry the desk it had in it. Any damage was noted, and images were sent to the manufacturers for review.
Modern desks need to be able to hold a good amount of weight. If you're at a writing desk you might only have a small laptop, but if you're using a gaming desk, it likely has two monitors and a giant gaming PC as well. For each desk, I checked the maximum load specification, and I tried to match that with the materials we actually use on our desks.
- A heavy gaming PC tower
- Two 27-inch gaming monitors on a dual monitor arm
- A MacBook Pro
- Two different keyboards and assorted mice and trackpads
- My phone stand and USB hub
- A podcasting mic and headphones
Depending on the length and weight capacity of the desk, I mix and match these items, then check for any bowing of the top or inconsistencies in how the desk felt as I worked.
This is a bit of a throwback from when my dad used to make furniture. Anything my dad built would be critiqued by my mum, and if it didn't pass muster she would say "It's a bit wibbly-wobbly, isn't it, Dear?" Once I have built each desk and loaded it for normal use, I would check it for the wibble-wobbles. This means rocking it from side to side and forward and backward to check that all the screws, bolts and fixtures kept everything rigid.