Our Favorite Products for a Budget Friendly Workstation

3 years ago when we started, we were in the upstairs of a warehouse, above a woodshop. Our workstations were old laptops sitting on desks we made from chopped-up old doors, with a grab-bag of weird chairs from wherever we could find them. We’ve iterated a lot since then. I’d like to share some of what we’ve learned in how to build a budget friendly workstation. Hopefully it helps you spend less time agonizing over purchase decisions than we have over the years.

These are our current budget-friendly favorites:

The Chair

### WorkPro Quantum 9000, Mesh Seat – $280-350

Office Depot’s house brand seating is surprisingly really good. The Quantum 9000 isn’t a Herman Miller Aeron, but it’s great in its own right for a third of the cost. Picking this up over an Aeron, you’re giving up seat tilt and lumbar adjustment but not much else. We love this chair. It’s even better if you can pay or trick someone else into assembling it for you, though, as even unpacking the box of boxes in boxes is a tiring task. One quick note: There’s a version of this that comes with a fabric seat. You want the mesh seat. Trust me. Two words: Butt sweat. That’s not a good look at the office. At the time this was written, these chairs were going for $345 on Amazon, but we’ve routinely snapped them up for $280 each on sale.

The Desk

### 48” Crank Adjustable Height Standing Desk – $365

This is a bit of an assembly hassle as well, so again, consider paying someone to assemble these for you. There’s nothing particularly fancy about this. It’s just a crank adjustable sit/stand desk on the cheap. We weren’t expecting much when we made our first order, but in person these piano black desks are quite attractive. The stable T legs and casters make it easy to reconfigure your floor plan, and the hand crank just pulls right off and can be reattached to the opposite side in seconds. Though they’re not advertised, ours came with some handy stick-on 3M cable management loops in the box. Our biggest complaint with the desk is that when you buy a hand-crank desk, you naturally get what you paid for: Switching all the way from sitting mode to standing mode isn’t a snappy, effort-free process.

The Monitor

### BenQ GW Series GW2765HT 27-Inch – $350-400

You probably don’t need to spend almost $400 on a monitor. But if you can, your money probably won’t go much farther than this. Big screen, big WQHD resolution, great color accuracy, great contrast, very little backlight bleed. It’s a worthy competitor to an Apple Display or Dell UltraSharp for a half to even a third of the cost. There isn’t much more to say here, as there aren’t really any downsides that we’ve noticed. These are just great monitors.

The Computer

### Refurbished 13” MacBook Pro Retina – $1000-1300

I debated even mentioning the computer. Everyone has different needs. This one meets ours. First off, why Mac? It’s Unixy, and that means good support for the developer tools we like. It’s not Linux, so it runs any productivity software we want and has good battery life. (I’ve never managed to get good battery life from laptop running Linux, ever.) We get the 13” because that’s enough, the Retina because it’s thinner and lighter than the non-Retina (and easier to look at for 8 hours straight), and we buy refurbished for the obvious reason that it’s cheaper that way. We’ve never received a bad refurb unit from Apple. The one downside is the warranty period is significantly shortened. You can hack this: Many business charge/credit cards offer extended warranty protection for all products purchased on them. Put your laptop on the AmEx. Problem solved.


It took years to dial in what our go-to choices are, but now we’ve pinned down a full contemporary work setup for less than $2500, without many compromises. Of course, if you have additional and/or better suggestions, I definitely want to hear about them. Hit us up in the comments.

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