I have an Uplift Desk at the office, which I got a couple years ago. It’s been very solid and reliable. It was the Wirecutter pick at the time I got it, and might still be. It’s my first standing desk, though, so I can’t compare it to anything else.
One piece of advice is to research the type of wood surface you get. I picked a wood that was a soft wood compared to others, and the first desk top got damaged in shipping due to the wood being softer. Uplift sent me a free replacement, and it had a couple small indentations from the plastic strips that were wrapped around it. They are not in a noticeable spot, but something to be aware of.
Over the last 6 months I jury-rigged some setups to experiment and see if it turned out that I liked standing for work. Somewhat to my surprise I found I liked it and didn’t even want/need a standing desk that was adjustable once I knew my preferred desk surface and monitor heights. I had an old ikea “jerker” standing desk in my basement from a job years ago, assembled that, and am thrilled with the thing. If you live in a major metropolitan area you might turn up a used one on craigslist for $100 or so. Very robustly built, large work surface, and reasonably attractive if you don’t mind a semi-industrial look.
The bar you’re unsure about is for support, so the whole desk doesn’t wobble at high heights.
I have had two standing desks. My previous one was a hand-cranked Home Depot desk for cheap. Here’s the 46" model. You can get it in all sorts of sizes, and it’s awesome. If you’re okay with a hand cranked desk and — critically — your wife isn’t very short, this is a great desk. Extremely stable. The bar can be placed along the back of the desk, rather than the middle, which is good.
If your wife is shorter than 5’10" or so, then a lot of standing desks will pose issues for you unless you can get the “extended height” versions that let you lower the desk.
I’m currently using the Jarvis desk from Fully. Mine is 60" wide and has a bamboo top. It’s the extended height version, which is good, and I got casters because I love having wheels on things. It’s nice. The bamboo top is quite thin — too thin, probably — which makes it susceptible to wobble. Or, at least, it’s more susceptible to wobble than I would like.
A friend of mine got the Uplift Desk that Evan mentioned. In my opinion, it’s a little nicer than the Jarvis. It wobbles less, if that’s important to you. It costs even more than the Jarvis, but the difference is substantial.
That being said, at 46" wide wobble becomes less of a factor, so it depends on the size you’d like.
Hard to say what buy. Lots of great options. I have an 82" Jarvis frame and electric lifting column, and I fastened it to a custom desk top. I love this setup. However, it’s cheaper to get a good deal on a combined legs + desk or an adjustable topper if you already have a good desk.
I will second the Home Depot work table/desk as a cheaper option. Mine is the 62" version with 2 drawers. Very sturdy and stable. Hand crank comes off easily so one doesn’t have to worry about walking into it (do NOT recommend doing that!). Price was around $350US and free delivery. Assembly went quickly.
Look forward to bringing it downstairs to my workshop after we finish building out our lower level. An adjustable height work bench will be wonderful!
The most important thing I would say is that if you are either taller than average or shorter than average, get a desk with 3-stage legs instead of 2-stage legs. 3-stage legs let desks both telescope higher, and collapse lower, than usual.
The crossbar you mentioned actually becomes quite important when the desk is raised high. Without it, desks move side to side significantly more.
Beyond that, I have a 3-stage Herman Miller Renew—because I scored one cheaply. I like it. Very stable, motion is smooth. But I am also very partial to Steelcase’s Airtouch desks. They use a mechanical movement that makes raising and lower your desk almost instant (and requires no force). That encourages me to actually switch positions more often and with less distraction from what I’m focused on than electronic desks, which delight you with their futurism and all, but waiting for them is like waiting for the elevator. I believe Humanscale’s Float desks use some similar kind of mechanism.
I’ve been using this desk from Ikea and it works well for me. Goes up/Goes down. I can sit at it/I can stand at it. Not wobbly. Has an iOS app but I don’t see the need for it. Also comes in a smaller size.
Configurable: Atlas is an office furniture system, so the configuration options are extensive. Mine comprise three-stage leg with crossbar and 1600 x 800mm work surface. There are also options to configure it as a meeting/project table, cluster of desks with shared power hub, etc.
Height range: The three-stage option goes from 650mm to 1,250mm (25.6 in to 49.2 in).
Build quality: The desk is extremely sturdy - the base is made of metal, and so is the cable tray; it does not wobble even if I lean on it while the desk is raised. The work surface is hardy and easy to clean with dish soap.
Aesthetics: This is subjective, but I like how it looks and feels; the curved design, color (chalk white) and texture of the base matches those of other Herman Miller products, such as the Embody chair and the Ollin monitor arm. However, some people may consider it bland or clinical since this is basically an office setup.
Warranty and support: Comes with five-year warranty. The support is quite good (if you buy it from authorised retailers); this desk actually replaced my HM T2 desk which had a faulty controller. Since the T2 desk was out of production, I was offered the option to replace it with another HM desk carte blanche - and I chose this desk.
The major downside is the price - HM furniture is expensive, but I think you do get what you pay for.