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Single Motor vs Dual Motor Standing Desks: Which is Better?

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Have you ever checked out standing desks from a brand only to be confused by the question of motor configuration? Chances are you’re not the only one. 

If your resources allow it, making the choice between a single motor system for your desk and a dual-motor system is not as straightforward as it may appear. Things tend to be a little more nuanced than “the more the merrier” with these things. 

What to do then? Learning the differences between both options as well as their advantages and disadvantages will set you on the path to making the right decision for yourself. Drawing on several decades of hands-on experience with sit-stand desks, we’ll discuss the important features of these desks to help you decide which one is the perfect fit for you. 

Different Motors Produced and Manufactured in Standing Desks

Standing desks are usually fitted with either a single motor or a dual motor. To extend these differences even further, you should know that each of these categories of motors from different brands may have wildly different characteristics. 

For this and many other reasons, it’s difficult to make sweeping generalisations about standing desks. In a lot of cases, dual motors perform better than single motors. Crucially, though, this doesn’t happen in all cases. 

More Motors Doesn’t Always Equal Better 

The natural instinct is to believe that a factor with higher values is invariably better than the others, but this doesn’t necessarily apply to the motor configuration of standing desks. You’ll need to closely examine the features and specifications of a single motor to get a feel for how it stacks up against a dual motor. Some of the most notable specs to keep an eye on are the adjustment speed and weight capacity. 

Earlier, we talked about how brands and manufacturers equip their motors with specs, and these specs are usually clearly identified by the manufacturers. However, the simple fact that these specs were listed does not make them accurate. 

A sort of general rule with electric standing desks is that a certain degree of concession should be expected. For instance, desks with fast adjustment speeds will invariably move slower the more loaded they are. If there is a significant drop-off, it is usually not a smart choice for customers who intend to put a lot of weight on their desks. This applies to both single-motor and dual-motor configurations.

Single Motor Consistency

To help you understand how the adjustment consistency of single motors works and how much of a difference this feature makes, we conducted a few benchmark tests. First, we tried out the StandDesk Simple single motor desk, a fairly ordinary product as far as these things go. 

It moved at roughly 1.06″ per second when the desk was empty. Even with a maximum weight of 242 pounds on the desk, it was able to average 1.02″ per second. This was more consistent than the other two motor systems we tried.

Next, we tested the VertDesk v3, another single motor desk. The overload protection technology on the VertDesk v3 prevents the desk from lifting more than 275 pounds. The desk was able to average 1.55″ per second when tested under minimal stress. The speed reduced marginally to 1.35″ per second when we filled it to its maximum capacity of 275 pounds. We shut off the overload protection feature and loaded the desk with 350 pounds. Even with that, the desk still averaged an adjustment consistency of 1.27″ per second. This single motor performs as well as some dual motors. 

Dual Motor Consistency 

Dual-motor systems are not all capable of handling high speeds or heavy loads. We examined products using two Bosch motors, such as the IKEA Bekant and found them to be extremely unreliable. When we tested it, it had a maximum capacity of 154 lbs. The desk could move at 1.25″ per second with a light load. The speed reduced to.33″ per second while lowering when we loaded it to 150+ pounds. One of the strangest dual-motor workstations we’ve ever seen.

Having said that, not all dual-motor systems work in the same way. The UpDesk Elements, which uses Linak motors, had no trouble lifting loads of over 300 pounds when we tried it. We only saw a significant decline in performance from 1.43″ per second to 1.24″ when we overloaded the table to 400 lbs.

Desk Motor Reliability 

The quality of a motor goes a long way toward determining its reliability. For low-cost electric standing desks, there are many lower-quality motors available. The difficulties faced by many of these are similar in nature. 

Worm drives and gear systems are thought to be responsible for many of these issues. Over lubricated worm drives and gears, as well as exposed worm drives and gears, are examples. Similarly, the magnets used and the way the wires are wrapped around the motor core inside the motors differ in quality.

It’s a common refrain among a few standing desk manufacturers that more motors equate to greater reliability. However, dual motors will not cover the shortcomings of a single motor. That is, the desk will still fail to function properly if one of the motors fails. That said, higher quality motors are unlikely to fail. 

Typically, most manufacturers of dual motor desks use a smaller motor than those who equip their desks with one. Dual motors boast the ability to evenly distribute the weight of a desk between each motor, but they are generally less powerful than a bigger single motor. The reason why manufacturers prefer to use compact motors is because of their capacity to be stashed within the frame of the desk. 

Desk Design, Legs, and Single vs Dual Motors

One simple way to tell the difference between single motors and dual motors is to examine the motor itself. A visible motor or motor cover is always included in single motor desk designs. Because the motor in two-leg desk designs is shared, each leg has to be moved simultaneously using a hex rod-driven mechanism.

Dual motor systems are often smaller, and because each motor is driven separately, the motors can be hidden better. The most popular method is to do it inside a rectangular motor box at the top of the columns. This configuration affords dual motors with a more polished appearance than single motors with exposed motors. 

Because single motor desks use a hex rod for assembly, they can take a little longer to put together than dual motor desks. The first leg is usually straightforward to insert the hex rod into. However, the second leg is where users can get stuck. The female half of the gear must align perfectly with the male hex rod because a hex rod is employed. If they don’t, you can find yourself squirming to align these components. You may end up with an uneven desk if the legs are not placed at the same heights.

Pricing

Dual motor systems will typically cost more than single motors since they usually offer higher weight capacities, extended warranties, and a host of extra features. 

Many manufacturers design single motors to be the budget option. Having said that, the quality of the motors generally determines their cost. Some high-quality single motors will cost significantly higher than dual motors of inferior quality. Remember that price is not the most reliable indicator of quality when it comes to motors. 

Desk Load Capacity and Adjustment Speed May Be Variable 

Many manufacturers supply the capacity of the desk and the speed of the adjustment, but these figures are not reliable.

The best option is to choose a desk that adjusts at a steady speed as the load increases. Due to their two motors and their ability to lift greater levels of weight, dual-motor workstations are better suited for lifting.

How Do Single Motor Desks Work?

In a single motor standing desk, two sensors measure the number of times the motor rotates and the direction in which it rotates. Sensors and desk control boxes exchange information, allowing the desk to be raised or lowered.

How Do Dual Motor Desks Work?

In general, dual-motor standing desks work the same way as single-motor desks, but the motors must be synched to assure a stable desk.

The Importance of Synchronization

The legs of standing desks must be synchronized to keep the desk balanced. If one of the motors fails and a leg fails to ascend or descend on request, it will leave the desk lopsided and items placed on the desktop will be at the risk of sliding off.

FAQs

Is a dual motor better for a standing desk?

Some manufacturers suggest that dual motors are better for standing desks than single desks, but this question requires a bit more nuance. Of course, it depends on the quality of the motor; some single motors may actually work better on standing desks than dual motors.

Is dual motor better than a single motor?

As we’ve explained in this article, dual motors are not better than single motors in all cases. Sometimes, and under certain circumstances, single motors may actually outperform dual motors.

Final Thoughts

There’s no blanket, one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to the ideal motor configuration of standing desks. What works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else. Essentially, everything boils down to you and what you want from a standing desk.

Having said that, it’s a smart decision to place quality at the top of your considerations, ahead of quantity. As we’ve seen in this article, single motors can and do end up outperforming dual motors in certain cases. However, if you’re looking to lift heavy loads, dual-motor systems may be a better fit. 

Before deciding one way or the other, it’s best to carefully look up the features of each and compare them against your requirements. Remember that specs listed by the manufacturer may not be accurate, and that price is not a reliable indicator of quality. 

Author

I'm a product researcher at Product Reviewer. I help fellow Aussie consumers make better buying decisions.

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