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CR’s in-house ergonomics expert reviewed eight popular models from Herman Miller, Mavix, Razer, and others. Here’s what we learned.
If you’re like most gamers, you’ve probably planned your latest build down to a T.
Bleeding-edge graphics card?
Enough solid-state storage to fit a good chunk of your Steam library without having to constantly re-download everything?
You better believe it.
Do you complete the job with a state-of-the-art gaming chair?
Great question. These days, some might even say it amounts to a $1,000 question.
That’s why we asked our resident ergonomics expert Paul Ritchey to take eight popular gaming chairs out for a spin, subjecting them to a battery of tests at our facilities just north of New York City, to see how well they fit your game.
The list of contenders, ranging in price from $110 to $1,800, includes the Cooler Master Ergo L, Gtracing Gaming Chair, Herman Miller x Logitech Embody Gaming Chair, Homall Gaming Chair, Mavix M9 Gaming Chair, Razer Iskur, Secretlab Titan Evo 2022, and Staples Emerge Vortex Gaming Chair.
As with every product we test, we purchased the chairs with our own funds to ensure that the manufacturers didn’t try to game the system with cherry-picked units.
Because Paul is a certified professional ergonomist (CPE) and doctor of public health, we took a close look at the ergonomic design of each chair (how well it complied with standards and best practices), but we also evaluated the comfort, ease of use, and ease of assembly, though those scores received slightly less weight in our final ratings.
The comfort scores come from a panel of three people who reviewed each chair after sitting in it for 90 to 120 minutes in a typical work setting. Ease of use considers things like how simple it is to adjust the chair’s controls while seated, how well the controls are labeled, and how clearly the model’s features are explained in manuals and other documentation from the manufacturer.
In cases where the chair is available in multiple sizes, we purchased the regular or standard size. It’s worth noting, though, that, based on manufacturer recommendations, some chairs have a narrower height range than you might expect, so be sure to consult the specs when choosing the best option for you.
What did we learn?
Those sleek designs may look great, but they can actually inhibit proper seating and lead to discomfort—particularly in models with the heavily sculpted bucket-seat design.
“The point of the bucket design is to help people in race cars and sports cars remain in the seat when making a quick turn,” says Ritchey. “But there are no g-forces in gaming, so there’s no functional benefit to that design. Instead, the contours and wings may limit your ability to comfortably fit and shift around in the seat, restricting your play and inflicting unnecessary stress on your body.”
In the end, you want a chair that properly fits and supports your body, and that means it’s highly adjustable, not to mention comfortable throughout those marathon gaming sessions. As they say with “Civilization,” just one more turn … Just be sure to take small stretch breaks every 30 minutes or so, says Ritchey.
If you’re going to invest in a powerful gaming PC, a high-refresh rate monitor, and the best mechanical keyboard money can buy, why not go for a chair that fits your body properly, too?
We get it: Design matters—and we like cool-looking equipment as much as the next person—but not at the expense of the user experience. That’s why the Herman Miller Embody, $1,800, (designed in partnership with Logitech) and Cooler Master Ergo L, $445, finish at the top of our list of the best gaming chairs.
The price difference between the two models hints at a larger story, too: You don’t have to spend four figures to get a decent gaming chair. At the same time, however, the Gtracing and Staples models seem to suggest that $100 doesn’t go very far in putting you in control of the chair.
In fact, says Ritchey, if you want a modest-priced seat that’s highly adjustable and built for all-day comfort, an office chair may be your best bet, based on our recent reviews.
Before we dive into the details, though, it helps to know what to look for in a good chair.
According to Ritchey, there are a few high-level principles to follow when sizing up a chair. Ultimately, the more it adjusts to fit your torso and limbs, the better off you’ll be.
The armrests should support your arms, elbows resting at your sides (and bent at a 90- to 100-degree angle), while your shoulders are completely relaxed. You may need to raise or lower the height of the armrest to make that happen. Some models also let you slide armrests forward or backward, pivot them, and set them wider apart to provide more clearance for your hips.
The seat should be high enough for you to keep both feet flat on the ground or on a footrest, with equal pressure applied to both. That means your knees are bent at an angle of no less than 90 degrees.
Ideally, you want to adjust the seat pan to leave a roughly 2-inch space between the back of your knee and the edge of the seat. “If you don’t have a gap there, it can cause pressure and discomfort,” Ritchey says.
The backrest should ably support your back, of course, but also allow you to ease into a comfortable recline. To start, you want the angle between your torso and thighs to be a little more than 90 degrees, with the lumbar support positioned to help you maintain the natural inward curvature of your lower spine.
In our review, we looked at criteria in five categories to see how well each chair aligned with modern ergonomics practices, including those outlined by the ANSI/HFES 100-2007 standard, which is widely used by ergonomists and furniture manufacturers.
The categories included the seat pan, backrest, lumbar support, armrests, and general features (like weight capacity) that increase a model’s adjustability.
All the chairs we examined offered some flexibility to customize the fit, but the more expensive options generally provided greater levels of control.
The Cooler Master Ergo L, for example, grants a fairly broad range of accommodating features, allowing you to adjust not only the height of the seat but also the depth of the seat pan (crucial to maintaining that 2-inch gap between the edge of the seat and your knees), the height of the lumbar support, and (to some degree) the position of the armrests—all for $445.
CR members with digital access can read on for an up-close look at each of the gaming chairs we evaluated.
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