Monday, April 01, 2013

IKEA GALANT Desk Review

In the past few years, I've gone through a fair number of desks at home. There's been that MFD, oversized, poorly designed thing that had been in the family for over a decade, the barely big enough GALANT, two VIKAs, and my current GALANT. Yes, I went back.
Ikea GALANT Desk (Top: 80cm x 120cm)
The first GALANT was retired because of its relatively small surface area at only 60x80 cm, if I remember right. Being cheap and paranoid about adjustable legs failing, I went with the Ikea VIKA next at barely $50. That thing was unstable. It'd wobble and resonate if I bumped it or typed too hard -- partly due to the not perfectly straight floor. And the laminate wore off at certain contact points (wrists). The final straw was that it was black-brown, which made it impossible to keep looking clean. I then set out to get new desks, which resulted in two new VIKAs -- I wanted an L-table -- with a real wood desk surface. Those were super wobbly, and I just got sick of dealing with that. One is now used as a side storage table, and the other was pawned on Craigslist for a 50% loss. So we complete the circle: back to GALANT.

With four A-legs from my first GALANT desk, I only had to get a new and larger desk surface. Learning my lesson about dark-coloured surfaces, I went with the beech veneer version (birch is the lightest wood colour, beech is browner). And wanting enough desk area to drown in, I went with an 80x120 cm desk. Why not the L-table? The corner of the room it was going into wasn't smooth and had an awkward "bump" for a sewage pipe, so it wouldn't have gone in well.


This desk was actually purchased a few years back when I still drove often and worked close to an Ikea, so no delivery charges to worry about. Only annoying thing I can remember about the purchase experience was that I had to take the desk off the second shelf alone. That was not fun.


Configuration

1 80x120 cm Beech Veneer desk with Frame (CAD$ 120)
4 A-Legs (CAD$ 20 each)
Current Cost = CAD$ 200
Ikea GALANT Support Frame and Mounts for Legs
Videos
Working Ikea GALANT Desk T-Leg in Action
Functioning Ikea GALANT A-Leg Overview
Stuck/Broken Ikea GALANT A-Leg
Time-Lapse Assembly of GALANT Desk

Assembly
You kind of get what you pay for. GALANT desks are all steel except for a few connections and the table top. Everything was pre-drilled and I only needed to attach the wood (particleboard) desk top to the steel frame. The screws actually screwed into plastic anchors in the desk. I'm not entirely sure how those plastic anchors help, but I do remember my first GALANT desk being wobbly because I didn't do the screws tight enough -- my fault.

One major thing I remember is that the legs had to go on the steel under-frame before the wood top went on. The legs were very easy to attach, first with my thumb, then using an Allen key to tighten them up.


Adjustment of the leg heights was done both before and after they were attached to the frame. The initial height wasn't to my satisfaction and extra fine-tuning was required. Also, I had to play around with them before attaching them because they were finicky. To make the height adjustment, it was first necessary to loosen the lower tube by unscrewing it (lefty-loosy, righty-tighty). After I had them at the height that I wanted, I tightened them back up. There are pre-set height labels, but nothing is notched physically, so it's a crapshoot. I spent most of my time adjusting the heights and probably re-adjusting them after having the table right-side up.


A-Leg Stuck / Broken

When one leg "broke" (others have "broken", but they started working very quickly again), I wrote it off, took it apart, and tried to figure out what was wrong. By "broke", I mean that I unscrewed/loosened the leg far enough that it wouldn't tighten up again no matter how many times I turned it clockwise. I actually bought a replacement leg after I thought I broke one. Turns out, all I had to do was loosen the leg as far as it could go, pull it out, and screw around with the rubber mechanism at the top of the narrower, lower leg tube.
Ikea GALANT Height Markings on A-Leg
Stability
Again, you get what you pay for. The two GALANT tables I've owned now have been very stable. They do not wobble, even on an uneven floor, when bumped, they feel sturdy being of a mostly steel construction, and the veneer lining the particleboard is very hard wearing. I've gone through two table tops now and neither have stripped at any contact points.

The most worrying and likely weakest points in GALANT tables must be at the legs. Because they are height adjustable, there is a risk of them losing their grip and falling back to their lowest points. I have only ever had experience with the A-legs and they have not failed once with a dead load of 30-40 lb (monitor and bookshelf speakers). Not sure what would happen if you jumped on one...


On the bright side, there are four A-legs at a minimum attached to each table. A 60x120 cm table is rated at "80 kg" ("176 lb") on the Ikea website -- seems like many tables on Ikea's site are rated at the same, regardless of size, even a glass model. Both the A- and T-legs are supposedly rated at "60 kg" ("132lb") each on the website, so I would trust the 80 kg per table than 60 kg for each leg. Best idea may be to not put your entire body weight onto these tables (no hanky panky).


Let's look at this for a second: if A-legs fail, they'll only drop to the length of the upper leg, which is 60cm (maximum height is 90cm) and a 30cm drop at most. Things may slide or topple off, but it'd be difficult to make the steel fail.


To be on the safe side, I'd go with the T-legs. They are still adjustable from 60 to 82 cm (8 cm less than the A-legs) and they appear to have a sturdier mechanism compared to the A-legs. I have never owned or played with T-legs (edit: not anymore), so do check it out yourself. However, it looks like T-legs use a screw or bolt rather than the rubber grip for A-legs.


Expandability / Customizability

These tables are modular by design. You can mix and match table tops and legs. If you want to expand, you can add extension frames and tops to your current table. The most expensive part may be buying new legs if you're not going overboard on the expansion. Just remember to pick a more "durable" desk colour that you won't get sick of and that Ikea won't discontinue on you like beech veneer (argh...). My recommendation would be to get a deep desk at 80 cm and only go for straights. The L-shaped table is very appealing, but the second you pull it out of a corner, it may not work anymore. And if you check out Craigslist, there are a LOT of L-tables for sale because I'm guessing people are moving out and they can't fit it in their car or new place -- don't be one of them. On the other hand, take advantage of "them" and buy cheap?

The GALANT line appears to be an Ikea staple in that it's been around for a long time, and due to its popularity, it probably won't be discontinued any time soon. This has meant a growth in accessories. They include cable management trays, divider screens (think cubicle walls), computer tower holders, and keyboard drawers. And if you're really feeling rich, I do recall seeing GALANT label drawers.


Everyday Use

This is my second go with GALANT desks. I used my first one for at least 2 years, and the newest one has been going 2 years strong. I've only wanted to expand my desk rather than switch things up. The modular design is amazingly helpful when you feel the itch to grow. I find it to be a very stable platform, very customizable right from the start in terms of leg choices, desk size, and desk appearance. The limited warranty from Ikea is a whole 10 years long, and I have not had a single durability issue with the legs after 4 years of use. The desk tops have lasted 2 years each thus far, so we'll see where that goes. Even if I had to replace the top, it'd be relatively cheap if I can just get the top without the frame -- think you can do that. I would definitely recommend these desks despite their $200-$300 price tag. They are simple and elegant. I wouldn't go as far as saying they are timeless, but something that wasn't really en vogue should never really go out of style.

Score: 9/10

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