Autonomous Standing Desk and Chair Review
November 14, 2023
Autonomous was nice enough to send me one of both their Smart Desk Pro standing desks and ErgoChair Pro chairs in exchange for posting about them on Twitter, and I wanted to cover them in more detail on my blog as well so I could give my full thoughts on them for anyone in the market for a standing desk and chair. I care a lot about a quality, ergonomic desk set up and have tried a lot of different products, so I like to think I have a decent perspective here.
The tl;dr is that they’re both really nice, though they have a few small things I would personally tweak.
Small note: I’m Canadian but I’m putting all the prices in US dollars since most of my readers are American.
I’m a programmer and care a lot about the place that I sit and stand at for an inordinate amount of time, so over the years I’ve tried a lot of different products to make my setup more comfortable, inviting, and just more pleasurable to use. That includes a few standing desks.
My first standing desk was the cheapest one I could find on Amazon that had memory presents (trust me, you really want to spend the extra twenty bucks or whatever to not have to hold a button down for awhile and hope you hit the approximate height you like).
I would not recommend this approach. It had a single motor in one of the legs that then twisted a rod that moved the other leg up. This results in a cheaper desk, but a much less reliable one, and I pressed the button one day to find my desk surface at a 45° angle when the motor had an issue getting the other side to cooperate. The desk had a comically short warranty so I was just out of luck and instead of just originally spending a bit more for a quality desk, I was now just doing that anyway but out the cost of an additional desk.
I ended up buying a Jarvis standing desk by Fully after being recommended by a friend, and it’s been great. Both that desk and the Autonomous one are very similar and have dual motors with one per leg. At the time of writing, both have Black Friday sales but the Autonomous desk comes in a fair bit cheaper at $489.00 (with my code “22BFSELIG”) for the Autonomous and $599 for the Jarvis.
I can’t speak to the Jarvis desktops (I bought mine just as the frame itself, as at the time shipping to Canada was very expensive), but I like the white laminate one from Autonomous a lot. I originally thought it would be one of those IKEA style ones that are filled with cardboard, but this sucker is heavy and has nice grommets to route your wires through. Funnily enough those I visually prefer the square corners of the IKEA cardboard edition versus the rounded Autonomous ones, so I ended up using it with the IKEA top.
Autonomous also offers an even cheaper “SmartDesk Core” but it does not offer the height adjustability that the Pro offers so that model was a non-starter for me. In order to have an ergonomic wrist angle with my keyboard I like to put the desk quite low, so make sure you have an idea of where your ideal desk height is and that the desk you buy supports that. I was kinda surprised to see that the Autonomous desk, despite being listed as having a higher minimum height than the Jarvis, actually beats the Jarvis. At the lowest height, the Autonomous desk is 25" off the ground, while the Jarvis sits a quarter inch higher at 25.25".
The Autonomous desk is also noticeably quieter than the Jarvis when in operation. Not to say the Jarvis is loud per se, but the Autonomous is a fair bit less noticeable when going up and down. My initial reaction was that maybe the Autonomous has weaker motors, but if I sit on both desks, both are still easily able to go up and down, and I weight 180 lbs, and I’m not sure anyone’s every day desk has more weight than that on it. They also go up and down at pretty much the exact same speed as far as I can tell.
One area where I will give it to the Jarvis though is I slightly prefer their control system. I imagine it’s to prevent accidental input, but the Autonomous requires you hold down the buttons for a beat before they engage and start moving the desk, while the Jarvis is as soon as you touch it. This is probably a matter of preference, but it also manifests when you’re manually moving the desk with the up and down arrows, and when you reach your setting and release your finger, the Autonomous takes a second before it stops so unless you account for that you typically overshoot your target slightly. I’d love to see a dip switch or something on the controller that would allow you to control this functionality.
Overall, especially with the price advantage, I’d go with the Autonomous desk personally. Pleased as punch, and now I have an extra desk set up in the corner of my office in case I… want to change it up I suppose? Now I finally have a use for that LG Ultrafine 5K that’s been sitting in my closet for two years!
Oh, and get a standing desk mat. This is not negotiable, there’s a reason grocery store employees all use them. Standing for hours on a hard surface is not great for you, and will catch up to you eventually. It will make the standing desk a million times more inviting and comfortable to use, and they’re pretty inexpensive.
Standing desks always seem like a slam dunk, “duh” upgrade to people, but chairs seem unfortunately underappreciated. But they shouldn’t be! All the time you’re not standing, you’re sitting, and doing so in a good quality chair will pay dividends in the health of your body over the years.
So naturally, I’ve tried quite a few desk chairs over the years. About seven years ago I went on a quest to get a good quality chair, and tried out all the “greats” of that era. I rented a Herman Miller Embody, a Herman Miller Aeron, a Steelcase Gesture, and a Steelcase Leap. While they were all quality chairs, the Steelcase Leap ended up being my favorite by a fair bit.
Chairs are super personal, and the Leap just seemed to meld with my body the best, so I encourage you to try out chairs in person if possible, or order from a company that allows returns if you’re not satisfied. Seriously, the Herman Miller Embody from what people said sounded like it descended from the heavens, but I just wasn’t a big fan of how it fit against my back despite attempted adjustments. Autonomous seems to fit the bill for allowing to send back if you’re not a fan, though if buying during a sale like Black Friday I would contact them to see if that still applies, as they seem to have an asterisks for sale items.
So basically, take the time to learn the adjustments on the chair, watch a YouTube video or two on proper ergonomics, and adjust the chair to fit you. Just through sheer combinations, the configuration that a chair comes in out of the box is likely not the one that best suits you!
Long story short, the Autonomous ErgoChair Pro (they also have an ErgoChair Plus that seems closer to the Herman Miller Embody style) is a really comfy chair, and I love the red color I ordered it in. Also, between my Leap, my girlfriend’s office chair, and the Autonomous chair, my cat Ruby always chooses the Autonomous to sleep on, so that must mean something (I think it’s the fact it has the widest butt cushion area, which makes it feel a bit like you’re sitting on a throne).
The price difference is pretty substantial too, at the time of writing the ErgoChair Pro is well under half the price of the Steelcase Leap (again, use that 22BFSELIG code to grab an additional 10% off for Black Friday).
I’ve been using the Autonomous chair for about a week now at my desk, and while I think it’s a quality chair, I think I still have a slight preference for my Leap. This shouldn’t be super surprising at over double the price, but there’s a few things that push it slightly in the favor of the Leap for me.
For one, the Autonomous chair is very adjustable, but I can’t quite get the lumbar support to a place I like versus the Leap. It’s just slightly more dramatically pushed in on the Autonomous versus the Steelcase, and that is adjustable, but I can’t dial it back enough (the Leap’s lumbar is a lot more adjustable).
I also like on the Leap how when you recline, the seat cushion automatically slides forward a bit with you, so you don’t like slump off the chair as much. I also like that you can choose how far it can recline, so you can allow for a bit of a recline rather than going like super far back. Lastly, the height of the arms on the Leap can go lower than the Autonomous, which is just enough that I can push the Leap under my desk but not the Autonomous. You could always just not install the arms on the Autonomous though if you don’t use them.
All that said, my girlfriend has your generic $70 Staples chair and I gave her the Autonomous to try for a bit, and she really, really liked it. Again, it’s more expensive, so not super surprising, but a quality chair is important. She also really liked that the Autonomous chair has a headrest versus my Steelcase one (you can buy one for the Steelcase, but it costs extra and isn’t nearly as customizable as the Autonomous one) and is now happily using it. See what I mean about personal preference?
I really wish my Leap had the Autonomous’ adjustment for the angle of the seat, though. And I have to admit the Autonomous looks a fair bit cooler than the Steelcase Leap which kinda just looks like your run of the mill corporate America office chair.
I don’t get sent a lot of free stuff despite loving free stuff, so I was somewhat scared these were going to arrive and I might have to contact Autonomous and be like “ehhhhh, thanks for sending but not a fan”, but I’m delighted that they’re both very nice, price competitive options in the ergonomic desk setup space that I have no issue recommending. And if you do end up going with Autonomous, Black Friday is a great opportunity, and be sure to take 10% off on top of the existing sales with my coupon: 22BFSELIG. (I don’t get any kickback, but you might as well save some extra money! :p)
Seriously, be it these options or something entirely different, do yourself a favor (if you have the means) and treat yourself to a quality desk and chair (and ideally keyboard, mouse, and monitor height). They can make a big difference in your health, especially compounded over years and years and years of heavy use if you’re in a desk-heavy job like programming, design, customer support, etc.
There’s always that adage about treating yourself to quality things if they separate you from the ground, which is normally said in the context of shoes and a mattress, but given that many of us spend as much time at our desk as we do sleeping, I think a quality desk setup easily qualifies as well.