Most popular premium gaming chairs cost over $300. That buys you better adjustability, nicer upholstery, and a longer warranty. In contrast, gaming chairs priced under $300 cut corners. Even so, they also support good posture for long periods of sitting. So why pay more? Who benefits? This article explains the important differences between cheap and expensive gaming chairs. Often, paying less delivers better value and greater user satisfaction.
Many first-time ergonomic chair users overestimate the complexities of healthy sitting. As a result, newbies often spend more than they need to on a gaming chair.
In fact, healthy sitting mechanics are simple, intuitive, and easy to grasp. Without support, the spine distorts while sitting. A distorted spine drains energy, overworks muscles, and leads to chronic pain.
The point of an ergonomic chair is to keep the spine in a healthy alignment while sitting for long periods. In all types of chairs, a healthy alignment looks the same. This is called a neutral sitting position.
Whether you pay $100 or $600, you’ll get the support you need to sit comfortably in neutral positions. To be clear: paying more money for a gaming chair does not guarantee you better back support.
Rather, it gives you more luxury. If you can afford to pay for more luxury, enjoy it and have fun! If you can’t, the benefits of healthy sitting are still yours!
Cheap Vs Expensive Chair Differences
To qualify as ‘ergonomic’, a chair needs three essential features. Adjustable lumbar support aligns the spine. Adjustable arms provide extra bracing to hold the torso upright. A reclining backrest helps the body move while sitting.
These days, even a cheap $120 gaming chair offers the basics with a few extra luxuries. If you level up to a premium chair, you also get the basics, plus more extras.
Premium extras include better adjustability, nicer upholstery, and prettier aesthetics. These enhance the sitting experience the same way a premium pair of boots does the hiking experience.
If you’re just walking to the dog park, any pair of cheap boots will do the job. But if walking the Appalachian Trail, a $500 pair of leather hiking boots would serve you much better.
Gaming chairs work the same way. Part-timers and casuals can get great value from a cheaper chair. In contrast, those who sit full-time at a desk can get better long-term value by paying more.
Superior Features In Expensive Chairs
All gaming chairs come standard with adjustable arms, backrest, and lumbar support. Those features are what you need to support healthy sitting at a computer. Paying more gets you four key upgrades, summarized below:
Higher Quality Upholstery
The quality of premium gaming chair faux leather and fabric upholsteries are superior to cheap ones. Summary:
Cheap Vs Expensive PU Leather
Most gaming chairs use a variation of PU leather. This is artificial leather made by coating polyurethane onto a thin layer of fabric. Premium PU is softer, more breathable, and more durable. Styling is also high-end.
In contrast, cheaper leather chairs have basic, generic styling. As well, lower-quality leathers are less durable, with a rougher, more plastic-like feel.
After a year of heavy use, expect a cheap PU leather chair to fall apart. On the positive side, cheap PU leathers are decently breathable. That means no clamminess or pools of sweat, even after long hours of sitting.
Under the $140 mark, that changes. Among Amazon’s best-selling gaming chairs, be wary of upholsteries below this price point. Most are plasticky and fragile with a very cheap look and feel.
Cheap Vs Expensive Fabric Upholstery
For several years, fabric-upholstered gaming chairs were all pricey luxury models. That has changed, with an emerging collection of cheap fabric gaming chairs.
At present, Secretlab’s SoftWeave upholstery is the best in the business. SoftWeave is an advanced technical knit that interlaces loops of resilient yarn. The process yields next-level breathability plus control over every pixel in a design.
Secretlab SoftWeave chairs cost $519-$569. The cheapest fabric alternative is the GTRacing GT505 (Price not available on Amazon). Both do a good job. But head-to-head, you can see the difference in quality.
Better Quality Padding
Good-quality gaming chair padding is firm and resilient. Even after years of use, it looks and works like new. In contrast, low-grade gaming chair padding is soft, squishy, and inconsistent.
Cheap vs Expensive Chair Padding Types
There are two basic types of chair padding used in the furniture industry. Most sofas and cheap chairs come stuffed with polyurethane foam (PU). PU foam is a soft, spongy material with a density of between 20 and 35kg/m³.
PU foam supports short periods of sitting (like watching TV on the couch for an hour). In contrast, premium gaming chairs come with cold-cured foam padding. Cold cure foam is the premier padding choice in the furniture industry.
It’s made from a blend of polyurethane polymers and additives. This pours into a mold, foaming up with air bubbles under low-temperature curing.
Compared to generic foam padding, cold-cured foam has greater compression resistance. That helps it retain its original shape over the long term. When you stand, it pops back to its original shape.
Thus you can sit full-time in this quality of padding for years and it will always feel like new. In comparison, you can expect a cheap chair’s padding to flatten out after a year or so.
Premium Foam Is Firm; Cheap Foam Is Soft
Within the realm of cold foam padding types, there are softer and firmer blends. Most ergonomists will tell you that firmer padding is better for your back. Soft padding provides inconsistent support. Over long periods of sitting, that imbalances muscles and leads to back pain.
Among gaming chairs, the higher price, the firmer the padding:
- DXRacer Racing Series: 50 kg/m³
- DXRacer Master: 54 kg/m³
- AKRacing Master Pro: 55 kg/m³
- Noblechairs HERO: 60 kg/m³
- Vertagear PL4500: 64 kg/m³
- Anda Seat Kaiser: 65 kg/m³
- Secretlab Titan: 65 kg/m³
- Arozzi Vernazza: 70 kg/m³
DXRacer is the exception among premium brands. That company targets first-time gaming chairs users. Most first-timers are familiar with soft, fluffy padding.
|Sofa||PU Foam||20 to 55kg/m³|
|Cheap Office/ Gaming Chair||PU Foam||30 to 50kg/m³|
|Premium Gaming Chair||Cold-cured foam||50 to 70 kg/m³|
The bottom line is that firm foam provides more consistent support. That keeps the user balanced while sitting, making it easier to sit in a healthy alignment. To learn more, see this feature:
4D Adjustable Armrests
Most cheap gaming chairs come with armrests that adjust up and down (1D armrests). Others come with 2D armrests; these also let you adjust side-to-side. Meanwhile, premium 4D armrests let you adjust the arms in four directions.
With more adjustability, you have a better chance of finding the perfect support for your arms. This is significant. A 170 pound person’s arms weigh around 10 pounds each.
When sitting, the spine and back muscles exert force to hold the arms up against gravity. Over time, this strains the back, forearms, and wrists. Well-positioned armrests absorb this load. As a result, the spine and back muscles don’t have to.
Over short periods, basic 1D armrests work fine. But instead of the chair adapting to your needs, you must adapt to its limits. Over longer periods, that can lead to muscle strain. Then, the extra adjustability of 4D armrests becomes very useful.
Multifunction Tilt Mechanism
The easiest way to spot the difference between cheap and expensive gaming chairs is to look under the seat. Cheap chairs have a single lever. That lets you lock the seat or enable a rocking function.
Pricier chairs come with two levers under the seat. One controls the chair height. The other offers multiple functionalities. First, you can enable the rocking function or lock the chair. In addition, you can also tilt the seat and lock it at angles.
Learn more in our detailed explanation:
Cheap Vs Expensive Chair Usability
Paying more for an expensive gaming chair ensures a better quality sitting experience. But there are several cases where paying more for luxury features is overkill. Check the incentives to pay more or pay less.
Cheap Chairs: For Part-Time Casuals
If you only need support for 2-3 hours per day, a cheap chair delivers better value for money. There are two reasons. First, over shorter periods, sitting with less-than-perfect posture isn’t a problem. Thus, the need for fully adjustable features is less urgent.
Second, most cheap gaming chairs are guaranteed for one year of full-time use. If used part-time, you can expect a cheap gaming chair to last well past its warranty period.
Here are some candidates likely to get more value out of a cheap chair than a pricey one:
- Adolescents: most cheap chairs are compact-sized models appropriate for pre-teen sizes. These provide young people a healthier spot to play video games from than a bed or sofa.
- Students: a cheap chair provides good support for a few hours of daily gaming/ homework.
- Casual desk workers: anyone who sits part-time at a desk can enjoy the support of a cheap gaming chair.
This doesn’t mean all young people should stick with cheap gaming chairs. For some (but not all) students, a $500 Secretlab chair or $1400 Herman Miller chair is worth the expense. Learn more in this report:
Premium Chairs: For Full-Time Power Users
Many of the world’s top esports teams train full-time using premium gaming chairs. Elite team training regimens also include proper rest, nutrition, and exercise. These tactics give pro esports players the edge they need to perform at their best.
In a similar fashion, full-time desk workers can gain a performance edge with a good gaming chair. Motivated go-getters thus have an incentive to pay more for a premium chair.
Would you pay a premium to gain a performance edge? Here are some candidates in a logical position to do so:
- Aspiring esports pros: enjoy pro-tier support as you grind your way to the top.
- Streamers: support good posture over long sitting periods; look good while doing so.
- Young professionals: gain an edge over your peers as you climb the corporate ladder.
The common theme in all cases is the desire to gain a performance edge. If that’s what you’re looking for while sitting at a computer, a premium gaming chair is for you!
Best Gaming Chairs For All Budgets
Here’s a quick look at the best gaming chairs in each price class:
Best Expensive Gaming Chairs
The best expensive gaming chairs of 2021 include both racing-style and office-style models. Prices range from $1595 to $499:
1. Herman Miller Embody
The most expensive gaming chair on the market. Its highlight is an ultra-adaptive backrest that works like a human spine. (Embody review)
2. Herman Miller Aeron
A full-mesh beauty with precise posture support and robust sync-tilt functionality. (Aeron review)
3. Secretlab Titan
The world’s best gaming chair comes in 40+ styles in 3 sizes with next-level ergonomic functionality. (Titan 2022 review)
4. Sidiz T80
Gorgeous gaming-office hybrid with features that match up well with pricier Herman Miller chairs. (T80 review)
5. AKRacing Master Pro
Classic racing-style with premium features, extra-thick padding, and a 5-year warranty. (Master Pro review)
For more of the best options in the premium price class, see this:
Best Cheap Gaming Chairs
The cheapest good-quality gaming chairs on the market cost between $110 and $200. These typically come with 2D or 3D armrests, conventional tilt, and a 1-year warranty. Most models in this size are compact-sized.
Between $200 and $300 are slightly more advanced options. Most chairs in this price class have larger dimensions and full-blown pro features. On the downside, durability is suspect, as most only come with a 1-year warranty.
Here are the best models among both price classes:
1. GTRacing Pro Series Classic
The cheapest quality option for slim sizes. Has 2D armrests and a rugged build that supports full-time computing. A no-brainer bargain for budget users. (Pro Series review)
2. GTRacing Ace S1
Upgraded version of the Pro Series with 4D arms and better quality upholsteries in 5 leather and fabric styles. (Ace S1 review)
3. E-Win Knight Series
Specialty gaming chair for short, thick sizes. Supports 400 pounds with 2D arms, a wide low rider seat, and 2-year warranty. Use the code ChairsFX for the discount. (Knight review)
4. Neo Chair Marvel Editions
Marvel superhero-themed chairs in 5 styles. Comes with colorful embroidery, 3D arms, a lumbar massage unit, and a 1-year warranty. (Marvel Neo Chair reviews)
5. Respawn 200
Popular gaming-office hybrid. Has a mesh backrest, integrated lumbar support, 2D arms, and a 2-year warranty. (RSP-200 Review)
For other cheap options priced under $300, see these reviews:
- Best Gaming Chairs Under $200 (slim fit)
- Gaming Chairs With Wide Seats Under $250 (medium to XL)
- Best Gaming Chairs Under $300 (medium to XL)
Both cheap and expensive gaming chairs meet ergonomic standards that support healthy sitting. Cheap chairs are built with lower-quality materials and offer bare-bones adjustability.
Cheap gaming chairs (priced under $300) are also less durable. After a year or two, expect the padding to flatten out and become uncomfortable.
Even so, a cheap gaming chair is a massive upgrade over a standard office chair! Teens and part-timers can easily enjoy healthy sitting with a $150 gaming chair.
In contrast, expensive gaming chairs are more comfortable and durable. Full-time users looking for a performance edge could pay more for a chair as an investment. If you’re planning to sit full-time, paying extra is a wise investment.
In all cases, proper usage of your chair will yield more benefits than the chair itself. Master the art of healthy sitting and prosper in any type of ergonomic chair!