The internet of things is everywhere, even your desk. Almost a year and a half ago, a small startup called Stir decided to try and sell an adjustable standing desk for the seemingly outrageous sum of $3,890. That price accounted for the best, quietest mechanical motorized legs the company could find, as well as a beautiful, hard-coated polymer surface — but it also accounted for hardware that helped the desk learn your sitting and standing habits to encourage you to stand up more frequently.
Despite the high price, the Stir Kinetic Desk had a successful launch last spring — so much so that Stir is expanding its product line with a second desk, the brand new M1. It has a new design, all the features of last year's model, and a significantly lower starting price. $2,990 is still a huge chunk of change, but knocking $1,000 off the entry price point will likely open up Stir to an entirely new market — indeed, the company is positioning this model as something that they'll take custom orders on for businesses who want to buy in bulk, though consumers are still welcome to buy as well.
The most notable thing I noticed when checking out the M1 was its new design — rather than a thick, rectangular slab of painted and treated wood, the M1 has gentle curves and a much thinner profile. It felt much friendlier to work at than last year's model, as the sloped edges were friendlier to my wrists when typing. A less expensive finish and a thinner piece of wood are major components in what let Stir knock the price down, but for my money the new shape is a definite improvement over the original.
Improved ergonomics, but a less flashy finish
There's also a new cable routing system around the back that is much cleaner and easier to use than last year's model — open trays around the back give you more flexibility for setting up your cords. Last year's model required you to shove everything into cutout boxes on the top of the desk, which worked well enough, but this is a bit simpler and easier to work with.
The "smart" components of the desk have been upgraded, as well. The desk's surface now features a 5-inch touchscreen, rather than the 4.3-inch model found on the original. Stir increased the size based on user feedback — the larger size gives a bigger target area for users to perform the key "double-tap" prompt that moves the desk between your pre-determined standing and sitting heights. The bigger screen is also quite a bit clearer than last year's model, and it isn't the only part of the desk technology that has been upgraded. There's a new processor on board to speed things up, and the hardware guts will be upgradable and replaceable going forward — that way, new technology can be added to the desk without having to actually replace the surface and mechanical legs, both of which should last for many years.
The core experience of using a Stir desk is essentially unchanged, however, but that's not really a bad thing. You can still tell the desk how often you want to stand (50 percent of the time, or two-thirds of your day, for example) and tell it how often you like to switch between positions (every 30 minutes vs. every two hours) and then the desk will respect those choices. When it comes time to switch positions, the desk gives you a gentle "nudge" by slowly rising and falling one inch. You can either then double-tap the touchscreen to switch positions, or simply ignore it. Based on how you ignore or respond to its nudges, the desk then learns and adjusts how often it prompts you.
What's new this year is that the M1 can connect to Bluetooth devices like the Fitbit line and use that as a personal identifier — so if you had one desk at home and one desk at work, you'd not only be rich but also be able to sync your preferences between both desks. The data is stored in the cloud via a Stir login that can be synced with your devices. It's a bit of a niche feature, as most people probably won't encounter more than one of these desks, but it's a thoughtful inclusion nonetheless.
It's easy to recommend the M1 over its more expensive counterpart
While there's no question that these desks are strictly luxury items, anything that reminds us to get out of our sedentary lifestyle is much-needed right now — and there's a lot to like about Stir's desks beyond the "smart" features included in them. While $2,990 for the M1 (or a whopping $4,190 for the original Stir F1 desk with the new upgraded screen and technology) remains a huge cost, there's no doubt you're getting a quality piece of furniture here. The company told us that the mechanical legs should last some 30 years — and even if you keep your Stir desk around for half that time, you're likely getting your money's worth. I'm definitely happy to see Stir continue to improve on its products and release new ones — if a 2016 model manages to be even cheaper, I might just have to seriously think about getting one myself. If you're up to buy one this year, you can place your orders now on Stir's website.