Gaming chairs and ergonomic office chairs both support healthy neutral postures. Each relies on adjustable lumbar, adjustable arms, and a reclining backrest to do the job. With proper usage, a $200 model provides similar physical support as a $1500 one! So why choose one type over the other? Why pay more than necessary? Beyond the physical, luxury extras impact the perceived comfort of a chair. Over long periods of sitting, that matters! ChairsFX clarifies gaming chair physical and mental comfort factors. Use these to find the perfect computing chair for your particular needs!
There’s no universal comfort rating system for ergonomic computing chairs. Even so, there’s enough information on the table for ChairsFX to put one together.
The broadest definition of ‘comfort’ is ‘an absence of discomfort’. Traditionally, researchers study comfort as physiological reactions to environmental stimuli. These are often objective (muscle activity measurements) or subjective (reported feelings).
For example, kneeling chairs are designed to support perfect posture. Somebody motivated enough to use one properly will align their muscles, lower muscle activity, and feel relaxed. But somebody forced to use one might use poor form. That would result in reported ‘discomfort’.
This shows how the perception of comfort influences how the body responds. As a result, many modern car seat studies consider both physiological (objective) and psychological (subjective) factors when measuring comfort potential(1).
We’ve mashed the best of those studies together with our existing library of ergonomic science. Combined, these produce a foolproof method for finding your ultimate ergonomic computing chair!
Gaming Chair Picker Flowchart
What kind of gaming chair is best for your particular needs? This 6-step selector flowchart considers both physiological and psychological factors. The first three steps are the hardest to decide.
First, choose a full-back or mid-back design as your starting point. Second, gauge how much you’re prepared to spend. Third, decide whether you need a small, medium, or XL-sized chair.
After that comes the fun stuff: choosing your upholstery and color preferences. That prepares you to make use of our ChairsFX gaming chair reviews. Once you know broadly what to look for, zeroing in on a final selection is fun and easy!
Step 1: Choose Mid-Back or Full-Back
Full-back gaming and mid-back ergonomic chairs both support dynamic neutral sitting postures. At a glance, healthy sitting looks similar in both types of chairs:
However, office chair industry leader Herman Miller has long insisted that mid-back chairs — without headrests — have the physiological edge. Used as intended, these support a perfect 25-45° lower back curve and 0° head tilt as the default position.
A study on car seats with and without headrests supports this. Without one, the head naturally gravitates to its least stressful position: evenly balanced over the shoulders with a 0° neck tilt.
In contrast, adding a headrest will promote a rearward or forward neck tilt. Either will round the upper back. That, in turn, will flatten the lower back curve and throw the entire spine out of alignment. Over time, that will lead to neck, shoulder, and lower back pain.
But despite this reality, Herman Miller recently bent the knee to the full-back gaming chair concept! Unlike its mid-back classics, the new Vantum Gaming Chair provides full-back support with deep recline functionality — and a posture-distorting headrest!
Why the abrupt change? In a Vantum press release, Herman Miller declared its mid-back models too restrictive for the times. Today’s “gamers require versatility. Beyond upright postures, “reclined positions for moments of relaxation” are crucial.
New Ergonomic Realities For Modern Gamers
Herman Miller’s sudden embrace of the full-back gaming chair concept isn’t random. Behind the scenes, four big-picture factors tout flexible, multi-purpose ergonomic seating as the way of the future.
That shift began in the Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics — the defining textbook documenting institutional workplace design standards. Its 2021 5th edition updates ergonomic support standards beyond cubicle-era desktop computing.
Herman Miller’s Vantum chair release reflects the Handbook’s updated standards. Top esports doctors also agree with its assertion that movement has a bigger impact on performance optimization than chair ergonomics.
- Old cubicle-era paradigm: good back support for long days of desktop computing.
- Institutional ergonomic shift: beyond good back support, today’s multi-device users also need neck support and sedentary computing solutions.
- Psychological comfort factors: these are gaining more recognition as WFH and quiet-quitter trends solidify.
- Esports touts fitness over ergonomics: most leading esports doctors now prioritize fitness over chair ergonomics. Building strength evens out imperfect sitting habits.
Bottom line: institutional and commercial ergonomics now syncs with esports performance experts. A versatile, full-back seat that supports good postures and relaxed ones is best for the typical modern gamer. Learn more:
Gaming Chairs Vs Office Chairs 2022
Herman Miller now touts full-back gaming chairs with deep reclines better for typical gamers. Even so, its mid-back classics are still hyper-relevant.
For example, many young streamers grind all day in full-back gaming chairs. But when they become famous, many start streaming as a business on set hours. Then, they switch to mid-back Herman Miller chairs.
Ninja, Shroud, Tfue, and Timthetatman have all followed this trajectory. When time is money, elite mid-back chairs will keep you in focus mode at all times!
Bottom line: full-back chairs provide more versatile all-day sitting support. Mid-back chairs enforce stricter postures that promote focus. The former better supports casual WFH. The latter is ideal for shorter bursts of high-tensity ultra-productivity. Learn more:
Step 2: Choose Your Luxury Level
What’s the difference between a cheap and an expensive ergonomic chair? Both are designed to support neutral postures over long periods. Whether you pay $200 or $1500, you can expect a similar quality of back support!
Typically, paying more will get you slightly better ergonomic adjustability (arms, lumbar, support, or recline functions). Beyond good back support, these extras will give you more direct control over your sitting experience.
More significantly, you can expect a better-quality build, nicer aesthetics, and greater sensorial appeal. Herman Miller once did a comfort study to justify luxury extras. It found that people who can personalize and prettify their workspaces enjoy enhanced well-being and comfort.
The payoff is that an employee’s comfort directly affects key predictors of operational efficiency. These include productivity, job satisfaction, retention, well-being, and worker health.
In the old cubicle era, psychological luxuries were trivialities reserved for rich people. That has changed. Recent polls suggest that over half of the workforce are now ‘quiet quitters’. They’re burned out, mentally checked out, and only there for a paycheck.
In the modern landscape, a bare-bones workspace can support your back just fine. Paying a premium for luxury extras will boost your happiness, perceived comfort levels, and motivation for the tasks at hand!
Bottom line: first, choose either a full-back or mid-back chair style. Second, decide how much you’re willing to pay for luxury extras. If you don’t want any luxury, several fully-ergonomic mid-back chairs without frills cost less than $300.
Herman Miller Aeron Vs Staples Hyken
The Herman Miller Aeron ($1195-2195) is the top-rated mid-back chair on ChairsFX. The Staples Hyken ($205.30) is the top-rated equivalent priced under $300. The Aeron has 3D armrests; the Hyken’s can only adjust up and down.
Otherwise, they both provide the lumbar support and backrest recline you need to sit in neutral postures. Paying extra for the Aeron gets a softer mesh, a sturdier build, prettier looks, and fancy tilting functions.
All of these are nice to have — but none necessary for physiological comfort. Are they worth paying over $1000 more for? It depends on your psychological preferences.
Secretlab Titan Vs GTRacing Ace S1
The Secretlab Titan Evo 2022 ($549-$674) is the top-rated full-back gaming chair on ChairsFX — by a large margin. The GTRacing Pro Series ($169.99) is the top-rated equivalent priced under $200.
The Pro Series has 1D arms, a standard tilt mechanism, and old-school lumbar and headrest pillows. Compared with the Titan, it does a similar job at supporting healthy neutral sitting positions. If money’s tight, it’s a sensible choice.
But if you have the budget, the Titan does everything better. For instance, instead of a cheap lumbar pillow, it has an integrated system with height x depth adjustability.
Instead of a basic headrest pillow, the Titan has a strapless magnetic memory foam version. It has a massive 11″ adjustment range. It’s also specially designed to support a textbook 0° neck tilt!
While impressive under the hood, Titan chairs are also spectacular on the surface. Chairs come in a whopping 50+ styles in both Softweave fabric and Neo Hybrid Leatherette versions. A final bonus: better than the Pro Series 1-year warranty, the Titan is guaranteed for five years.
If you can afford to pay extra for such luxuries, the psychological comfort boost you’ll receive should be obvious. If not, don’t sweat it — grind away on a cheap Pro Series chair until you can afford more luxury!
Step 4: Clarify Your Sizing Needs
Ergonomic chairs of all types are roughly categorized into small, medium, or XL sizes. Choosing the right size is an important physiological comfort factor.
For sizing benchmarks, Secretlab Titan and Herman Miller Aeron chairs both come in three sizes.
Full-Back Sizing Benchmarks
The small Titan chair supports users from 4’11” to 5’6″. The medium supports sizes 5’7″ to 6’2″; the XL supports sizes 5’11” to 6’9″.
Even if you don’t plan on buying a Secretlab chair, Titan sizing guidelines can help you decide which size works best for you.
Mid-Back Sizing Benchmarks
On the mid-back front, the Herman Miller Aeron is one of the only chairs available in three sizes. These numbers are fairly consistent with what’s offered in the mid-back industry:
Notably, mid-back chairs offer fewer XL options (with smaller dimensions) than full-back chairs.
That means everybody heavier than 300 pounds will find that full-back chairs offer the best XL support:
Step 3: Choose An Upholstery Preference
There are three main options: mesh, faux leather, and soft fabric. The best chair upholstery comfort rating system I’ve found considers three factors.
An upholstery’s sensory qualities and its breathability are the first two. The ergonomic comfort of the chair itself is the third. Here’s how the comfort of each measures up given the three factors:
- Soft fabric: has the best sensory qualities and second-best breathability.
- Mesh: best breathability; worst (steely synthetic) sensory qualities; worst durability.
- Faux leather: least breathable; most attractive; easiest to maintain.
We’ve already established that full-back gaming chairs are more comfortable/ relaxing than mid-back ones. Given the upholstery rankings, that makes fabric gaming chairs the most comfortable of all.
Jump down to the physiology section for a closer look at upholstery comfort factors.
Choose a Color
Your choice of upholstery will have a bigger comfort impact than the color of your chair. After a few weeks, even the most vibrant design will blend in with the rest of your decor.
Even so, different colors do produce different energies in a workspace. Your basic choices are cool, neutral, or warm hues. Jump down to the color psychology section for more on this (minor) comfort factor.
Step 5: Read Reviews In Your Selected Genre
By this point, you’ve decided on a full or mid-back style, a price range, chair size, upholstery type, and color. Now is when you’ll get the most out of reading ChairsFX reviews.
If you prefer something more relaxing, check out our library of full-back gaming chair reviews. We review the best small ones, XL models, fabric editions, pink designs, and more.
If you fancy a productivity-boosting mid-back version, check out our mid-back office chair reviews. These cover the best ergonomic office chairs by price: high-end, mid-range, and priced under $300.
Physiological Comfort Factors
Physiological comfort is the absence of musculoskeletal stress. Psychological comfort is a mentally relaxed state free from pain and negative thoughts. Both play a significant role in the perceived comfort potential of a chair.
For example, it’s easy to tell at a glance that Chair B is more comfortable than Chair A. In contrast, the physiological and psychological differences between Chairs B and C aren’t as clear. So how to gauge which is more potentially comfortable — for your specific needs?
The answer: don’t overthink it. With regular exercise, frequent breaks, and sound nutrition, any ergonomic chair can deliver the goods.
Healthy Lifestyles Precede Good Ergonomics
From a broad comfort perspective, a good ergonomic chair paired with sloppy lifestyle habits will yield mediocre results. But a cheap one + healthy habits can make you healthier, happier, and more productive.
Dr. Jordan Tsai provides physical therapy for many of the world’s top esports teams. He’s also on Secretlab’s Ergonomics Advisory Board. But instead of shilling Secretlab chairs, he clarified to ChairsFX that “developing healthy habits is the most important thing to work on.”
Dr. Tsai recently Tweeted out his entire esports wellness manifesto in a mega-thread(2). On the importance of posture, he advises: “Posture changes are more important.
Regular movement of the spine (even seated) will do far more for you than sitting in perfect posture the whole time.”
Dr. Tsai’s position is a common one in the pro esports industry. Many point to sedentary lifestyles and the lack of exercise as the biggest health problem. Indeed, on a global scale, most modern societies are trending towards dangerous levels of inactivity.
Beyond back pain, problems caused by slothful habits include obesity, hypertension, depression, and a host of musculoskeletal disorders.
Notably, ergonomic science seeks to fit users to a task. To that end, the latest Human Factors And Ergonomics Handbook completely ignores sedentary health risks. Instead, it focuses on making people more immobile — to better process more data.
Luckily, the esports industry has picked up the slack. Players who are relaxed, healthy, and comfortable perform better. A good chair helps, but exercise helps even more!
Ergonomic Spinal Support Fundamentals
Children have perfect body mechanics — until they develop poor posture habits. As time passes, many forget what healthy body mechanics are!
But with clear biomechanical targets, people have tangible ends to strive for. Doing so can resurrect optimal muscle memories. With just a few days of practice, these can maintain healthy posture habits on subconscious autopilot.
So here are the targets. The healthiest way to sit for long periods is in dynamic neutral postures. These align the spine into the same angles as a healthy standing one. That includes a 25-45° lower back curve and 0° head tilt.
Mixing in movement — while retaining the targeted angles — mitigates sedentary harm. Small position changes keep muscles active while maintaining good blood circulation.
Here’s how perfect neutral dynamic sitting looks in a mind-back Herman Miller Embody:
Full-back gaming chairs also support neutral postures. Here’s how text-book neutral postures look in a Secretlab Titan Cookies and Cream chair:
Maintaining these angles — in any type of seating — mitigates the musculoskeletal stresses caused by sitting. As a result, users gain more comfort, energy, and mental focus.
Bottom line: use a 25-45° lower back curve and 0° head tilt (strictly or casually) as your biomechanical sitting benchmarks.
Core Ergonomic Components
Physiological comfort is the absence of musculoskeletal stress. In a gaming chair or ergonomic office chair, three components provide the support to achieve these positions:
- Adjustable lumbar support: helps to maintain a healthy (25-45°) lower back curve.
- Reclined backrest: a 100-130° recline (with lumbar support) reduces spinal disc pressure.
- Adjustable arms: support the shoulders; provide extra bracing for the spine.
Therefore, when assessing the physiological comfort potential of a chair, consider its core components. How well do they support a 25-45° lower back curve over long periods?
Leave the 0° head tilt out of the equation: it has a greater psychological than physiological impact.
Mid-Back Vs Full-Back
Full-back and mid-back ergonomic chairs support the cervical spine in different ways.
The former uses a soft headrest as a brace; the latter balances the head naturally over the shoulders.
Mid-Back: Better Posture Support
Some people try to make their mid-back chairs more ‘comfortable’ by adding a headrest. In fact, this makes things worse! For one thing, most mid-back chair headrests are hard and ill-fitting. In contrast, a good gaming chair headrest softly cradles the entire cervical spine.
For another thing, because mid-back headrests provide imperfect support, they compel users to tilt their necks rearward.
That destabilizes the 0° neck habit that mid-back chairs are designed for. As a result, the neck becomes more prone to a forward tilt as well.
What’s more, a rear-tilted neck in a mid-back chair distorts the entire spine! Specifically, it forces the thorax to rotate rearward. That, as a result, flattens the lumbar curve.
Full-Back: More Relaxing
A headrest on a mid-back chair promotes a rearward head tilt. That distorts a mid-back chair’s intended posture support.
In sharp contrast, full-back chairs encourage rearward neck tilts — and the slight postural loss that comes with it! It’s a tradeoff in support of a more comfortable sitting experience.
A well-placed headrest + lumbar support keeps the entire spine in a decent alignment. This brings more comfort than strict mid-back chair positions. But a neck pulled off the centerline rotates the thorax rearward.
Some people find the comfort gains worth the loss of postural integrity. When ready to sharpen up, they switch over.
For example, many world-famous streamers began their careers using full-back gaming chairs. But after becoming famous, they switch over. For example, Timthetatman, Ninja, Shroud, Tfue, and other top names have all recently switched to using mid-back chairs.
Learn more in this analysis:
Proper Chair Sizing
A 2021 study out of Taiwan(3) sought to compare the comfort of three types of seats. It measured the objective joint angles of each user, plus subjective comfort reports.
Using those, it found the mid-back office chair more comfortable than the gaming chair. The fatal flaw with this study is that they used a gaming chair too large for the user!
Look closely and you’ll see three glaring problems that any halfwitted ‘ergonomist’ should probably notice:
- The gaming chair seat is too deep. That pulls his knees too far forward.
- Knees pulled forward curl the hips forward. That flattens the lumbar curve, causing pain.
- The headrest is too high. Instead of cradling his whole cervical spine, it only supports the top part.
That makes the Taiwanese study a failure at accurately measuring gaming vs office chair comfort.
Even so, it serves as a great example of how the wrong-sized chair can ruin one’s sitting experience! As another example, look at this poor little guy:
From the rear, his gaming chair fit looks great. But a closer look shows that he’s in a world of hurt:
- The overly-high armrests put pressure on his shoulders and arms.
- His hips curl forward instead of tucking deep into the backrest.
- The seat is too high, forcing an overly sharp drop for his thighs. That forces his hips forward even more.
Bottom line: for the best ergonomic results, make sure to choose a chair suitable for your size!
Proper Workstation Integration
Finding a chair that fits your body type is only part of the battle. For best computing results, you also need to sync your chair with your workstation. There are two factors to consider here:
All Users Under 5’10” Need A Footrest
Most adult-sized desks are 28-30″ high. For a proper desk sync, users shorter than 5’10” must raise the armrests too high. That places the neck and shoulders in an uncomfortable position. Over time, that will cause pain.
The solution is to add a footrest. Here are three shots of a 5’9″ user in a Secretlab Omega (rated for sizes 5’3″ to 5’11”).
- Short person + small chair: good fit.
- Small chair + standard desk: to keep feet planted and sync with the desk, short bodies must raise the armrests too high. That bunches up the shoulders.
- Small chair + desk + footrest: a footrest lets the user sit taller. As a result, short people can enjoy a good sync of chair, body, and desk.
Beyond letting you sit taller, footrests also add unique movement opportunities. Learn more:
Consider Height-Adjustable Monitor Stands
A well-fitting chair synced perfectly to a desk can still go wrong if your computer screens are too low. Any configuration that makes you tilt your head down will curl the upper back into a slouch.
A cheap and easy fix is to replace your screen stands with desk-mounted adjustable ones. These attach one or more screens to floating arms. With the push of a finger, you can adjust the height, swivel the screen, or position it any way you like!
There are plenty of good-quality single, dual, and triple screen desk mounts on Amazon. Most cost less than $100 and are very easy to install.
(Physical) Upholstery Comfort Factors
Computing chairs come in three types of upholstery: mesh; faux leather over padding, or soft fabric over padding. Which is the most comfortable? At a glance, it’s clear that mesh offers much better breathability than a fabric gaming chair.
But there are other factors to consider. At the 2020 International Comfort Conference, a comfort rating system was proposed to assess desk chair upholsteries(4).
It cites sensorial, thermophysiological (breathability), and ergonomic factors as the keys. Considering these factors, let’s compare an ultra-breathable Herman Miller Aeron against a Secretlab Mint Green SoftWeave chair. Which is more comfortable?
The Aeron has the thermophysiological edge by a large margin. The Titan’s soft fabric delivers more relaxing sensations than the Aeron’s synthetic, steely mesh. That leaves ergonomics as the deciding factor.
As explained in the next section, full-back ergonomics are more comfortable than what mid-back chairs offer. Based on upholstery comfort ranking criteria, that puts fabric gaming chairs ahead of mesh ones 2-1. Therefore, fabric gaming chairs are the most comfortable of all.
Psychological Comfort Factors
This picture conveys the psychological difference between the two types of seating. Mid-back chairs imply a business-like style that’s strict and precise.
In contrast, full-back gaming chairs connote a stronger sense of deep relaxation. Here’s a closer look at the psychological differences behind the two styles:
Mid-Back Chairs Imply Serious Focus
The best mid-back chairs are all about super-serious business. For instance, Herman Miller’s Aeron and Embody meet corporate norms with sleek conservative styles. They also deliver super-accurate spinal support.
This level of mid-back ergonomics forces users into near-perfect postures at all times. The problem is that adhering to crisp upright postures all the time can feel stifling.
As a result, many people ruin their mid-back sitting experience by adding a headrest. But Herman Miller has made it clear: “Leaning your head back on a headrest while in an upright position would be improper posture…”
That compromises the physiological benefit of the chair to fill a psychological desire.
Full-Back Seats Promote Relaxation
A study on passenger aircraft seats found that headrests trigger a comfort expectation. Without one, users instinctively keep their heads balanced at a clean 0° tilt. But adding a headrest to a seat compels users to tilt their heads rearward.
The study found that using a headrest doesn’t significantly reduce neck muscle activity. But it does (slightly) degrade postural accuracy by rounding the upper back.
Even so, most participants were willing to sacrifice postural perfection for slouched, relaxed postures. These were especially favored for passive tasks like watching in-flight films.
Gaming Chairs Are A Postural Gateway
The postural loss for a comfort gain makes full-back gaming chairs a user-friendly ‘gateway’ to good posture. Mid-back chairs force you to sit upright at all times. If you start with poor posture, making the transition to sitting perfectly is harsh! Conversely, a full-back gaming chair with a headrest lets you ease into good posture.
With a 120° recline, gravity pulls your spine tight against the backrest. Then, the headrest and lumbar support put the spine into alignment.
As your back muscles get stronger, you can work your way to sitting more upright. Once you’re ready for perfection, set a 100° recline and maintain a 0°. With strong enough back muscles, it takes around 5 days to lock a perfect neck posture habit down.
Summary: full-back chairs with headrests trigger an expectation for greater comfort. They fill this desire by supporting relaxed postures that keep the spine aligned. This provides a gentle path for people with poor posture to ease into healthy new habits.
The most vivid chair I ever tested was a bright-yellow Cyberpunk edition. For around six weeks, it seemed to light up my entire office with intense, crackling energy. Every time I entered my office was a thrill.
However, that effect only lasted for around six weeks. After that, the chair blended in as a regular part of my workspace.
But even if temporary, the color of your chair will have an impact on the energies in your workspace. Different colors produce different light energies.
Color Psychology Fundamentals
When these strike the retina, they convert to electrical impulses. Each hue sends unique inputs to the hypothalamus(5).
For thousands of years, green was an important indicator of potential food sources. As a result, it’s the only color that requires no mental processing before the brain recognizes it.
To the left of the green wavelengths are blue ones. Studies have shown these calm the mind and spark out-of-the-box thinking. On the other side, warm reds raise subconscious alarm bells. That boosts focus on tasks requiring mental focus (like proofreading or translation).
In between are plain old neutral blacks, grays, and whites — longtime corporate staples.
Summary Of Gaming Chair Color Palette Effects
Bottom line: the color of your chair only makes a small impact. In a shared office, your chair should blend with the existing office decor. At home, the novelty of any style will wear off after a few weeks. Learn more:
Conclusion: Full Flowchart
Use this flowchart to choose the perfect gaming chair for your particular needs. Start by deciding on a full or mid-back style, a price range, chair size, upholstery type, and color.
Once you have a rough idea of your perfect seat, use ChairsFX reviews to narrow down your picks. Here’s the entire process in one picture:
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