Standing desks are all the rage in modern offices these days, thanks in large part to plenty of research that claims sitting all day is detrimental to your long-term health. And you can spend a lot of money finding the right one -- take the just-announced Altwork Station that goes up for pre-order today for $3,900. It's a tremendous amount of money, but the Altwork Station is far more than your average adjustable standing desk. It's a somewhat crazy but intriguing vision for giving users a totally customizable workstation, whether you want to sit, stand or even recline, and there's some very impressive engineering behind all this. As a product for the average consumer, it might not make sense -- but that doesn't detract from the five years of work that went into the Altwork Station.
At its most basic, the Altwork Station looks kind of like a futuristic dentist's chair. There's a comfortable place to sit and an intimidatingly large arm that extends from the left side of the chair and holds up your laptop, monitor (via the standard VESA mount) and a small desk-like surface. The area that extends out from the arm can swivel out from the chair to make a standalone workstation that can be raised up and down, allowing for it to be used as a standing desk.
The desk's surface is where you'll find a control panel for adjusting the height of the standing platform; once you get it set to the height you desire, you can save that setting and easily adjust between the seated and standing positions. However, there's a lot more going on in the seated position than in your average desk. Once you settle into the built-in chair and swivel the desk and your screen back in place, there are more controls to get your chair set exactly the way you want. You can roll out an adjustable leg support that completes the "dentist chair" vibe and then move that up and down as you see fit.
Then, most dramatically, you can recline the chair as far as you want -- and the monitor and desk move with you. To test it out, I sat in the chair and reclined till I was basically lying down with a 30-pound Apple Thunderbolt monitor hovering over my head. The demo had an Apple keyboard and mouse hooked up, and they stayed attached to the desk thanks to a set of magnets. The best way I can describe it is that it's like laying on your bed doing work, but with the screen and keyboard properly aligned to your field of vision and hands so you can work more naturally. And whatever distance you've set up for your hands and screen will stay consistent as you recline, so you don't have to readjust everything as you move between positions (the video above, starting at 1:55, will give you a good idea of the various ways the Altwork Station can be configured).
It's odd and a bit disconcerting having the huge screen hovering over my head, but the Altwork Station is an incredibly heavy and solidly engineering piece of gear. CEO Che Voigt has worked with multiple aerospace engineering companies designing high-tech hardware and that experience shows in this product, and that experience shows here. It's an incredibly complex piece of gear that still manages to be fairly intuitive -- after spending just a short amount of time with it, I was navigating the different positions and adjusting it to fit my body with ease.
Despite its impressive engineering, the Altwork Station is definitely not for everyone, and that's not just because of its high price. It's a huge and heavy piece of gear; while it should fit through most doorways, it weighs a whopping 210 pounds. That weight is necessary to support a human and your computer gear and move it around in a variety of positions, but it also means it's the kind of workstation that you'll want to set up and leave in place for a long, long time. It has wheels for rolling it around, but moving anything this big and heavy is a pretty big challenge.
As such, Altwork will deliver it just about fully assembled when it ships its first workstations in mid-2016 to buyers on the west coast. The company plans to start deliveries there so it can more easily provide service from its location in northern California -- and as from there it'll prioritize delivers based on volume to certain locations. That means it could take a while for certain locations to get their workstations delivered.
And once that $3,900 promotional price period is over, the Altwork Station will increase to an eye-popping $5,900. The company says its trying to price things in the same realm as a really high-quality mechanically adjustable desk alongside a similarly excellent chair and a monitor arm, but no matter how you slice it that's a lot of cash. Ultimately, it's a product that's hard to recommend to most normal people, but it's also a fascinating engineering study. It'll be interesting to see if Altwork can find an audience with this product -- and if it does, hopefully it can bring some of this technology to more people at a lower price point down the line.