Hands on: UpDesk UpWrite Midnight

While UpDesk Midnight is an admittedly awesome desk, we’re not entirely convinced that the nifty dry-erase desktop is worth an additional 200 bucks.

In case you haven’t noticed, a revolution has quietly been mounting over the past few years. People are rising up (literally) and taking a stand against sitting down. How? By trading in their regular desks for those of the standing variety.

Standing desks are all the rage right now — and for good reason. There’s a growing body of research that  suggests sitting all day is really bad for you. Incredibly bad, actually. Doing it for 8 hours a day has been shown to cause myriad health problems; to avoid them, people are opting to stand while they work instead. It’s supposedly really good for you, so in the spirit of science, we got in touch with UpDesk and took the company’s newest model — the $1,149 UpWrite Midnight — for a spin.

A desk you can take note on, no Post-Its needed

Setting up a standing desk like the UpWrite Midnight is a bit more difficult than your average desk, what with the motorized legs and all. But once you’ve got this badboy up and standing on its own, it actually looks pretty sharp. The UpWrite Midnight has a clean, glossy black top, mellowed out by the desk’s smooth, sumptuous curves. A bit of a scoop on the front side lets you belly up to it and feel mostly enveloped by your workspace, but without being surrounded.

UpDesk UpWrite Midnight

We would’ve appreciated a more sharp-edged and modern look than the gentle curvy one, but it’s still a pretty good-looking desk. Yet not a huge one. There’s not too much desktop real estate on this thing, so if you like to have lots of files, books, and other documents spread out on your workspace, you’ll probably want to spring for something a bit larger. If you rock a modern workspace with just your computer and not much else, it’s more than large enough.

The setup process was a breeze, and the features were extremely useful.

The glossy black top looks pretty good, but does have one drawback: It’s not so great at hiding fingerprints and smudges. The laminate top also tends to feel a bit stickier underneath your arms than wood, since it doesn’t breathe as well. It’s not uncomfortable by any means, but it doesn’t quite feel as smooth, warm, and inviting as wood.

But the squeaky surface hides a secret ability: The UpWrite Midnight’s top happens to be a giant dry-erase board, meaning you can draw all over it — doodles, important dates, to-do lists, and of course, all the tic-tac-toe games you’ll ever want to play. The desk even comes with a set of neon-colored markers for you to get started with. Therefore, if you’re the type who rips through Post-It notes at a feverish pace, this thing would be brilliant for you. I’m not usually the kind of person who takes a lot of notes, but I found that simply having the ability to write notes made me slowly start doing it. So, heck, even if you’re not the note-taking type, this might help add an extra bit of organization to your life.

Making the transition

If you like the idea of standing up a bit more throughout the day, but would prefer not to be on your feet all day long, this is exactly the kind of desk you want. Unlike some other setups, the UpWrite Midnight slides up and down at the touch of a button. You can shift from standing to sitting whenever you please, allowing you to transition at your own pace and gradually warm up to standing for long periods of time.

In our experience, it took a bit of time and effort to get used to the change. At first you can only stand for an hour or two before your back starts to get tired and you start shifting your weight or standing in odd positions. Over time, however, you’ll find that standing gradually gets easier as your leg and back muscles strengthen and adjust. Before long, being on your feet becomes your preferred working position; you’ve just got to push yourself a little.

But does it actually make you healthier?

Standing desks are all the rage because they supposedly make you healthier. By liberating you from your office chair, these things are supposed to add years to your life and alleviate all sorts of problems, including back problems, slowed metabolism, and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. So do they?

Your back muscles start to strengthen and your posture starts to improve.

I can’t speak to the whole adding years to your life thing, and I have absolutely no idea if I’m more or less at risk of diabetes or heart disease, but I can definitely say that my lower back feels considerably better today than it did a month ago. As you stand more and more, you start to get used to it — your back muscles strengthen and your posture improves. Before you know it, you’re hooked on standing.

I can’t objectively vouch for the boosted metabolism part either, but I can say with a high degree of confidence that I burned more calories per day standing up than I did sitting down. For the past few months, I’ve been wearing a smartwatch equipped with a heart-rate sensor, accelerometers, and algorithms that estimate the number of calories I burn throughout the day. According to the watch, I burn 300 or 400 more calories on days when I stand for a few hours than on days that I stay seated.

Verdict

The UpWrite Midnight is a stellar desk. The setup process was a breeze, and the features were extremely useful. Easily-accessible variable height controls and presets make it a great starting point for anyone who’s not quite ready to stand up all day, and the dry-erase surface is a wonderful organizational tool.

That being said, we’re not entirely convinced that it’s worth the extra dough. Compared to UpDesk’s other models, the Midnight costs a full $200 extra, and all you get in return is a dry-erase laminate top. Don’t get us wrong, being able to write all over your desk with neon markers is pretty cool, but it’s not $200-dollars cool. We loved the desk, but would just as soon save a stack of cash and opt for one of UpDesk’s other products.

Highs

  • Variable height
  • Savable presets
  • Dry-erase surface for notes

Lows

  • Shows smudges
  • A tad noisy
  • Expensive
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