By Rhino A.

Once you’ve spent money on books, tuition, and a meal plan or once you’ve saved money on a down payment on a first house but need a workspace, what are the most affordable options available for a budget desk that we can use in our life right now?

What if you need a desk, have limited means but want a good quality place to do all your work (or a good gaming computer desk, if that’s what you choose to do)?

These student desks can also function as a beginning Studio RTA desk for people looking to create their own personalized music studio or video editing bay. These options offer more than just a flat writing surface with sticks for legs above the floor; we picked desks that looked a bit more extra than using a card table.

These are the student desks we are comparing today:

  •         Sauder Beginnings Student Desk
  •         Furinno Go Green Home Laptop Notebook Computer Desk
  •         Flash Furniture Clifton Black Computer Desk
  •         Mainstays Student Desk with Easy-glide Drawer

We are going to compare the following:

  •         First impressions from the product description and what options are available?
  •         How easy is it to assemble the product?
  •         What does the final assembly look like?
  •         If you don’t have a computer, is this desk worthwhile?
  •         Price (at the time this product was reviewed)

Because this review about student desks, we’ll give each desk a report card with a final grade!

Sauder Beginnings Student Desk

Sauder is a company that specializes in RTA furniture (Ready-to-Assemble Furniture). On their website (www.sauder.com), they have a wide selection of pre-assembled furniture from chairs to bedframes. Over 100 different types of desks are listed in the Sauder website.

First Impressions:

One of the few cases where the product description tells you exactly what this is intended for: “Beginnings Student Desk.” It’s not a simple looking desk and there is clearly an area designated for a computer tower on the side. The monitor could go on either the desktop or the elevated tier built onto the desk. For a beginner desk, you shouldn’t confuse it for a simple desk and I appreciate that.

The cabinet door at the bottom is a plus but I can see having to reach for anything there as inconvenient so it’s going to be used for random storage that you won’t need to access very often.

The color of the model we ordered said “Cinnamon Cherry,” which implies there are other colors available. But if you’re into reddish-brown woods, this is a very nice color that stands out among the other desks that tend to be espresso, black or white.

Assembling the Product:
The material is mostly engineered wood or particle board, meant to keep the cost down, but is not expected to be very sturdy. However, all of the parts were well-packaged; it arrived with reinforced cardboard corners and shrinkwrap. No damage to any of the pieces when they were inspected upon arrival.

One of the best things about this assembly is the labeling. Some of the pieces have stickers to indicate parts of the structure in the diagram in the instructions, but other pieces have the names marked on the side of the board! Even the packaging of the fasteners are in bubble plastic compartments and also labeled. Genius!

 

The presence of a cam lock system with hidden cams and cam dowels means that this desk is going to be sturdier than expected.

While assembling step-by-step, I noticed that I had to read each step a few times to understand how things connected; some of the details in these diagrams are so small that if I did not pay careful attention, I will affix the wrong part to the wrong board. This is odd to me because the instruction booklet the pages are 8 ½” x 11”, which is the standard size for paper; there is no need for these detailed parts in the diagram to be super tiny. The instructions could use a bit more shading to make the orientation of the boards more apparent, even though they do label the edges and sides as “finished” and “unfinished.”

Some of the steps are awkward because while assembling, the structure does not lay flat so you need some kind of support to deal with the uneven distribution of weight. It’s hard to tell at times if a piece is touching the ground in the diagram, but while assembling, it’s handy to use the foam that came with the packaging prop up the structure when needed.

Despite the instructions, the assembly is relatively easy. The trickiest parts have been installing the door and screwing in a panel that somehow needed to float in place while affixing screws because of the way the structure was positioned.

There are covers for the screws and for the hidden cams but they don’t seem to fit. Even with a ridiculous amount of pressure or even using a hammer, they still did not fit. I prefer leaving the screws and the cams exposed, so this part wasn’t ultimately necessary but I followed through.

Total assembly time was about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

 Appearance:

When assembled, it is a solid looking desk. The keyboard shelf slides out nicely. The handle on the door makes one think that it’s a pull out drawer rather than a cabinet door, but it logistically makes sense when you are reaching for that area below your knees. Despite the material being mostly engineered wood, the desk is very sturdy because of the cam lock system that supports the structure.

If you don’t have a computer, is this desk worthwhile?

While called a beginner’s desk, this desk is specifically meant to house a computer tower with a dedicated area. It’s still usable without a computer, but the empty space is odd enough to hold a stack of books or possibly a tall organizer of sorts in that space. It’s still a good desk overall.

Price: $49.99

Report Card:

Product Information:BThe site gives good details, but still minimal
Instructions:CClear directions, but small unclear diagrams
Ease of AssemblyBRelatively easy, but some positions are awkward
Final Result:BSolid and sturdy construction, neat appearance
Overall Grade:  BA solid choice for a first desk

Sauder Beginnings Student Desk available here

Furinno Go Green Home Laptop Notebook Computer Desk

Furinno is a company specializing in RTA furniture that has appeared within the last ten years and emphases more modern design while being more affordable for most people.  Most desks on the Furinno website are clean, simple and angular but the desk we are exploring has a little bit extra, making it one of the pieces we wanted for consideration in this comparison.

First Impressions:

Of all the initial impressions of these student desks, I was most excited about the Furinno desk. The addition of the two bin drawer immediately stood out, as several knick-knacks like pencils and office supplies now have a logical home. It’s a simple but welcome addition.

The lower space at the lower side of the desk looks like it is meant for a computer tower, but the top does not have a lot of area for a monitor and a keyword, especially since the bins take the place where the keyboard would normally be on a desk. There is nothing in the structure that makes this desk more suitable for a laptop, as per the name description, but it’s more of a suggested use.

There are nine different color options for this desk, with variations of colors, the shape of the shelves, type of shelving, etc. The high customization means you’re going to find a choice that is going to suit your space and style.

Assembling the Product:

When I opened the package, the plastic bag containing the screws and other small parts used to hold the assembly together was torn so some of this was scattered inside the packaging. I had to rip open the entire cardboard to find all the pieces; it was good they were all there, but it was not a great start.

When looking at the pieces laid out, they look cheap in appearance, but I do appreciate that the components are made of recycled materials (hence the name “Go Green” in the brand description). The poles feel light, but not flimsy and the panels have finished and unfinished sides.

The instructions say it will take 30 minutes to assemble. I’ve set a timer to see how close that is when I complete it. The instructions themselves are on a long piece of paper, folded over. The directions are small but readable and diagrams are easy to understand.

 

Assembling this product went very quickly, no problems to speak of. The hardest part, if any, was nailing the feet to the bottom of the structure because there were no preassigned holes to indicate where to attach them, but this is essentially hammering big tacks on the bottom of particle board edges.

Appearance:

Once this is fully assembled, it doesn’t look half-bad.

This desk is lighter than it looks and it’s not very sturdy. This desk is also much smaller than you think it is.  But the big drawback is that space that is supposed to accommodate your legs is VERY narrow with just over 18 inches of space. This will not fit many office chairs let alone my thick thighs unless I cross my legs uncomfortably at the ankles.

If you don’t have a computer, is this desk worthwhile?

This desk would be fine for a child if that child had a laptop (and not every child has a laptop). And there is nothing inherent suited to using a laptop here.

Otherwise, the fact that this can’t fit the seat of an office chair where the person is supposed to sit is a major strike against this otherwise nice looking desk. This would be better advertised as console furniture rather than a desk.

Price: $35.15

Report Card:

Product Information:CThe product does not match expectations
Instructions:BDiagrams are small, but easy to understand
Ease of AssemblyAVery easy assembly
Final Result:FCannot serve basic functions for a desk
Overall Grade:  C-Cannot recommend as a desk

Furinno Go Green Home Laptop Notebook Computer Desk available here

Flash Furniture Clifton Black Computer Desk

This is considered the #1 Best Seller in Office Computer Desks for Amazon, supported by currently over 700 reviews of the product. The sturdiness, practicality, and the price point of the desk are its benefits and it looks good if you want a desk with no frills. But I want to see if there is anything else to this desk that isn’t readily apparent in the product description so this means building this myself.

First Impressions:

Of the comparisons we’re doing today, this student desk is the most modern. All metal without a single trace of wood, this desk appears to be more durable but also more stylistic than your average student desk. This desk takes advantage of the metal framing by presenting curved sides as opposed to the straight and square angles of wooden boards found on other desks.

There is a clear place for your monitor on the top tier and your keyboard directly in front of you. That section for the bottom tier, I would guess, looks like it is meant for a computer tower to sit but I am tempted to use it as a footrest. There are no other options available, as this is meant to be a complete and standalone desk.

Assembling the Product:

The shipping package had the structures come in plastic bags and the smaller pieces were in a blister pack. No need to guess if all the parts were there; I like how tidy this looks.

As for the instructions, a single page with diagrams and no text is provided. Similar to setting up Ikea furniture.

The pieces are either metal or black laminate so it is scratch resistant. What surprised me is how nice and smooth the non-facing side of the desk was; it was so nice that I was confused which side was the top side at first but the holes on the side gave it away.

One of the pieces looks like it has a burn mark on it, but otherwise, everything was in pristine condition.

The assembly is very easy until you get towards the end where I was trying to get the final pieces to line up to complete the desk.

After finishing the desk, I thought, “That was TOO easy” and rechecked my steps to see if I missed anything. The assembly was just THAT simple.

This took me 25 minutes but could have easily taken me 15 to 20 minutes if I was in a hurry.

Appearance:

When fully assembled, this is a nice, sturdy desk with a simple design. I don’t think that I would put a computer tower on the bottom shelf as it feels too narrow, but it looks like a great catch-all area for items like books or office supply organizers.

If you don’t have a computer, is this desk worthwhile?

This is a dependable, writing surface that looks like it was not developed necessarily with a computer in mind, even though the metal in the structure looking similar to a computer case may lead you to think otherwise. If you did have a computer tower, it would be on the floor while the monitor would be on the top tier. So yes, this is worthwhile.

Price: $39.00

Report Card:

Product Information:BCould use more product information on site
Instructions:ASimple diagrams
Ease of AssemblyAVery easy to assemble
Final Result:APractical piece, very sturdy
Overall Grade:  AGood, economy desk for anyone

Furinno Go Green Home Laptop Notebook Computer Desk available here

Mainstays Student Desk with Easy-glide Drawer

Mainstays is a Wal-Mart exclusive brand, focusing on affordable RTA furniture and I have assembled a Mainstays Cube Storage Organizer in the past, found here.

So I already have opinions on this brand based on my experiences in the past. Let’s see if they hold up…

First Impressions:

This is very similar to the Sauder Beginnings Student Desk with different options; I like that there’s a drawer available to store things near the desktop and the adjustable shelf on the side means that there’s flexibility to accommodate the height of a gaming tower; for whatever reason, I got the impression right away that whoever will be studying on this desk will also be gaming.

There are eight options for colors, all ranging between black and white with most of them in the brown wood texture pattern appearance. All neutral colors, so this desk is more meant to be functional rather than a standout piece in your room.

Assembling the Product:

After opening the package, I know why I thought this was similar to the Sauders Beginning Student Desk…

So we are essentially assembling a Sauder desk. But between “brands,” it doesn’t always guarantee the same quality although many of the materials will be the same. Some home brands come with their own set of instructions, but this one says Sauder in the instructions so we at least know we are getting this from the source.

In the process of building this, the surface of these particular panels was easy to scratch or when putting in the screws, the resulting areas around the holes would peel.

 

Like the Sauder assembly, there are sections where you need to support the assembling structure with foam or padding to keep certain sections balanced and above the ground.

In this assembly, there were a couple of awkward positions where I wished the pieces can float while fastening the ends, just like in the Sauder-branded assembly.

The back panel is thick cardboard with perforation cuts made in a couple of areas, depending on where you wanted to gather your cords. It is very cheap, but it gets the job done, creating a back panel.

And then we come to the drawer. As a main feature of the desk where it is part of the label (Easy-Glide Drawer), so I was looking forward to a satisfying swish of a rolling drawer that would be the hallmark of this desk.

The parts were easy to assemble for the drawer but the pieces did not fit together nor line up at first. The front panel of the drawer did not stay on and the screws that went into the back panel did not secure everything as it should have.

I decided to come back to it the next day, retraced my steps and then the drawer worked. When adding the brackets to the sides for the rolling drawers, they were easy to add.

Total assembly time: 2 hours (although 20 minutes was spent on getting the drawer to work)

Appearance:

From this perspective, everything looks nice, including the adjustable shelf, the two-tier top.

If you don’t have a computer, is this desk worthwhile?

There is still a large writing surface and the structure is still sturdy with the cam-lock system that keeps the whole desk stable. If the drawer were working, this would have been pretty ideal for a non-computer desk because this piece has adjustable shelves.

Price: $49.97

Report Card:

Product Information:BMinimal but decent information on site
Instructions:CSame issues as the Sauder Beginner Desk
Ease of AssemblyCHad some issues while assembling
Final Result:BSolid desk but easy wear and tear
Overall Grade:  B –Average desk but consumer can do better

Mainstays Student Desk with Easy-glide Drawer available here

Conclusion

Desks are very easy to choose based on their aesthetic and price when shopping online but there are many considerations for a desk that are not apparent until you start using them. One of the bigger ones is if you can even sit at the desk with your office chair. Another is figuring out where your computer tower will go (if you are planning to use a desktop computer),  where you can put any extra supplies, and the usable surface space to do your activities. Material compositions and dimensions of a desk can still only tell you so much but not really demonstrate function.

However, desks do not need to be very expensive to accommodate all your activities if you need to keep it within your financial means. When comparing these desks, the biggest bang for your buck is going to be the Flash Furniture Clifton Black Computer Desk for its quick and easy assembly, a firm writing surface and simple design that can be used by anyone.

What would you like for us to compare next? Comment below and we might do a future comparison review based on your suggestion next!