Stir's new smart desk is a relative bargain at $2,990

We poke fun at Stir sometimes, but that's mostly because $3,900 is a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a standing desk -- yes, even a "smart" one. But once you get past the sticker shock, it's clear the company is doing some cool things: The existing Kinetic Desk has a sleek design and can learn your sitting and standing habits. (The fact that there are built-in outlets to keep your stuff from falling over is also a plus.) Again, though, four grand is a lot to spend, especially if you're a company looking to issue several of these to your employees. With that in mind, Stir is releasing another desk that's relatively more affordable. Which is to say, it costs $2,990. Still not cheap, exactly, but a thousand-dollar price cut is a start.

Despite being billed as the less-premium model, the new Kinetic Desk M1 does all the same things as the original (now called the F1). They're also roughly the same size, with a footprint of 30 by 60 inches. So far as we can tell, then, the differences mostly boil down to design -- that and the kind of delivery service you get. For starters, the M1's curvy shape is perhaps less striking than the mid-century lines on last year's model (though who knows, maybe you thought the original was too severe). Also, if you look closely at both models, you'll see that while the F1 has a sleek, glossy finish, the M1 has a slightly textured look -- a combination of CNC-machined wood and a powder-based coating. The truth is, both desks feel well-built -- as they should, given the price. But the original F1 also looks more modern, and definitely more expensive. Which makes sense, given that it costs around a thousand dollars more.

The one other physical difference has to do with the built-in cable management and honestly, the lower-end M1 might actually be the winner here. Whereas the F1 has two doors on either end of the desk that open to reveal electrical outlets, the M1 has all the outlets lined up on the back edge of the desk, along with some trays for managing all your messy cables. Personally, I like how the open outlet layout on the back gives users a little more flexibility in terms of where they put their various gadgets on the desk (meaning, you don't have to cluster them around the two port doors). My only complaint is that to plug your stuff into the outlets on the M1, you have to pass the cables through two slots carved into the far end of the desk. Not a bad idea in theory, except each slot has a bulbous opening at the end, making them look suspiciously like penises. I'm surprised no one on the company's design team caught that.


Feature-wise, the M1 brings a larger, 5-inch touchscreen (up from 4.3 inches), and it now supports multitouch gestures. That display is also now field-upgradeable, which should come as a relief to IT departments considering issuing these desks to employees. Additionally, there's a more robust processor on the inside that's said to be four times faster than on the original. Accordingly, since the F1 is supposed to be the higher-end model, the company also upgraded the original so that it too has the bigger display and faster CPU.

Whichever desk you choose, the UI is going to be the same too. As ever, you can hook it up to a Fitbit fitness tracker so that you can see how many calories you've burned while standing. Now, though, you can log in automatically over Bluetooth just by walking close to the desk. (You can still log in manually, if you don't have a compatible device, or don't have it with you.) In addition, your data is now stored in the cloud, not on the device -- a feature that should come in handy for businesses that run various satellite offices. For example, if I were to visit Engadget's San Francisco workspace, the smart desk there could import my user profile, much the same way any new Windows device can roam your PC settings. Lastly, the on-screen UI has been updated so that the settings menu is accessible with just one swipe, instead of several. Also, a new "lock" feature physically prevents the desk from adjusting up and down -- a usual feature if you're in a meeting and don't want to be interrupted.

The M1 and updated F1 are both available today, with the M1 priced at $2,990 (available in black and white) and the F1 selling for $4,190 (that's up from $3,890 -- sheesh). Keep in mind, though, that even if you place your order today, you're still looking at about eight weeks until the M1 ships. Better find yourself a comfy desk chair to use in the meantime.