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Gaming chairs vs office chairs compared

Many chairs for gamers look like they belong on a racetrack. But the flashy aesthetics are secondary. The true value is the ergonomic support these models provide. If you suffer from back pain in a standard office chair, a gaming chair is one of several upgrades that can help. Here we compare racing-style gaming chairs vs office chairs. Learn which type is a better fit for your needs.

Gaming chairs vs office chairs comparison
Gaming chairs stand out with a striking racing style design.

The first point of contrast in the gaming chair vs office chair debate is the styling. The former stands out with a bucket seat, tall backrest, thick padding, and support pillows. The latter typically comes with a basic fabric seat and mid-back support.

Beyond those first impressions are important functional differences. A racing-style gaming chair has more adjustable parts than an office chair. Its seat, armrests, support pillows, and backrest can all adjust to meet the needs of the user.

In contrast, a regular office chair lacks parts that adjust to the user. As a result, the user needs to adjust to the chair.

Poor posture health problems

Over time, working or playing video games in a non-adjustable office chair can cause serious health issues. Common symptoms of inadequate seating include chronic back pain, lethargy, brain fog, and migraines.

Chair vs Office Chair Definitions

The generic terms ‘gaming chair’ and ‘office chair’ broadly refer to two types of seating. This comparison table introduces the basic differences:

FeatureOffice ChairGaming Chair
Adjustable Seat HeightYesYes
Rocking FunctionYesYes
Back SupportMid-backFull-back
Adjustable ArmrestsNoYes
Reclining BackrestNoYes
Adjustable Lumbar SupportNoYes

Below are quick definitions of each type being compared in this article.

Gaming chair

The original racing-style gaming chair made its debut in 2006. First designed for video game players, this style of chair is now a popular option for all types of desk work.

Adjustable racing style gaming chair parts
Every gaming chair component serves an ergonomic purpose.

Today, most gaming chair brands still follow the original design concept. The typical gaming chair in 2021 stacks a padded bucket seat on top of a 5-point base with wheels.

Over the padding goes a choice of faux leather or soft fabric upholstery. Most models come in flashy two-tone designs reminiscent of racing seats.

Don’t be fooled by the flashy styling — this is a full-fledged ergonomic desk chair. Like all ergonomic chairs, the point of the design is to support healthy sitting for long periods.

Traditional office chair

These are cheap, basic seats with fixed armrests and a fixed backrest. You can only adjust the seat height and engage a rocking function.

Gaming chair vs office seat feature breakdown
Regular office chairs have fixed components that force the user to adapt to the chair.

Most office chairs with limited features cost between $60 to $180. These save you money but come with a health cost. Scientists have been pointing this out for decades.

For instance, back in 1984, researchers showed how adjustable furniture could reduce on-the-job discomfort. In 2009, this study showed how poor ergonomic conditions led to neck, shoulder, elbow, and back musculoskeletal disorders.

Desk worker with bad sitting habits

Despite such warnings, cheap office chairs are ubiquitous. As a result, many people normalize their sitting problems, rather than addressing them.

Here are common health problems caused by sitting full time in a cheap office chair. Most standard office chair users should be familiar with these:

  • Migraines: forward head posture increases stress on upper neck muscles. Pain starts in the neck and explodes in the brain.
  • Chronic fatigue: a misaligned spine forces muscles to work harder against gravity. Chronic muscular fatigue wears down joints and ligaments. Over time, that weakens the body and worsens posture.
  • Constipation: sitting with a curved spine hinders blood flow and compresses the lower intestines. As a result, food passes slower through the system. That causes bloating and incontinence.
  • Depression: there’s a correlation between poor posture and negative emotions. In contrast, those who sit upright tend to be more alert and energetic.

Gaming chairs vs office chairs compared

A head-to-head comparison of gaming chairs vs office chairs yields aesthetic and functional differences. Here is a summary:

Design and Aesthetics

Standard office chairs have discrete designs meant to blend in rather than stand out. Most come with simple features and rudimentary controls. Designs are usually in subdued shades of black and gray. Common upholsteries include nylon fabric or mesh.

Gaming chair vs office chair features
Side-by-side, the visual differences between gaming chairs and standard office chairs are striking. (click to enlarge)

On the other side, a racing-style PC chair has a contoured ergonomic design. There’s a tall backrest, thick padding, and adjustable arms. Some come in bold styles inspired by race cars. Others have subdued styles that you can use discretely in an office environment.

Comfort

The comfort level is probably the most important feature of a chair. This is especially true if you plan to spend long hours in front of a computer. Therefore, it is in your best interest to get a chair that suits you and your definition of comfortable.

Most standard office chairs tend to be more comfortable — over short periods. That is because, for most people, office chair features are familiar and easy to use.

Office chair vs gaming chair comfort level
Office chairs are comfortable over short periods. Over longer periods, they can cause poor posture and chronic fatigue.

Over longer periods, the lack of adjustments can cause problems. When users start twisting and fidgeting in their seats, the body adapts. That forces less efficient patterns of stretching and muscle contraction. Over time, slouching becomes more comfortable, while sitting up straight becomes strenuous.

Alternative office chair sitting positons
Ineffective chairs force users to shift positions through the workday to stay comfortable. (Images: Steelcase)

Sitting in awkward positions also forces the muscles to work harder holding up the trunk, neck, and shoulders. That squeezes blood vessels in the muscles, reducing circulation. With an insufficient blood supply, fatigue accelerates.

Tired office worker versus energetic person
Good back support helps computer users be more productive.

That explains why an employee who sits all day doing little physical work often feels tired at the end of a shift.

Improved comfort for computer users

Gaming chairs address unhealthy sitting habits with features that adapt to the user. A thick padded seat provides a comfortable base for the legs and buttocks. A tall padded backrest cradles the spine. Adjustable neck and lumbar pillows support the spine’s natural curves.

Ergonomic type chair features
Adjustable support cushions fit into the spine’s natural curves.

Used as desk chairs, these qualities encourage users to sit with a balanced, healthy posture. When the muscles start to tire, the user can adjust the backrest recline angle, lumbar support cushions, or armrests. Doing so switches up the active muscles supporting the body while putting tired ones to rest.

Initial discomfort is possible

People with poor posture may find gaming chairs very uncomfortable — at first. Poor sitting posture causes slumped shoulders, a bent spine, and tight hamstring muscles. This tightness needs time to open up.

Health benefits of ergonomic seating
People with poor posture may feel discomfort for a few days while adjusting to a new gaming chair.

Usually, it takes a few days of sitting to get used to it. Once your body adjusts, expect a much higher level of comfort than what an office chair provides.

Comfort winner: draw

Gaming vs standard office chairsIn the short term, a regular office chair is more comfortable. That is because most office chairs are simple, familiar to most people, and easy to use.

Conversely, racing-style gaming chairs can be very uncomfortable at first. Sitting with full back support takes time to get used to. Once adjusted, most gaming chairs are much more comfortable than office chairs. That is because they are better at supporting the back while sitting.

Ergonomics (adjustability)

‘Ergonomic’ means ‘adjustable’. A standard office chair has a non-adjustable backrest and armrests. As back muscles tire, there aren’t any adjustments that can help. As a result, users must contort their bodies to find comfort.

In comparison, a gaming chair comes with three standard adjustable components.

Standard ergonomic features on a gaming chair
Racing-style gaming chairs support good posture with three adjustable back support components.

Adjustable lumbar support affixed to the backrest keeps the spine straight. Adjustable armrests provide extra bracing. To encourage movement, a reclining backrest enables frequent position changes while sitting.

These features are based on cutting-edge ergonomic science. Today, most studies endorse dynamic neutral sitting positions as the healthiest way to sit for long periods. This is why ‘healthy sitting’ looks the same in all types of ergonomic chairs.

Neutral sitting examples using different ergonomic chair types
Neutral postures look the same in all types of ergonomic seating. (click to expand)

This method places minimal stress on the body while sitting. That allows users to sit longer without suffering discomfort.

  • Neutral: planted feet plus lower back support helps to maintain a balanced posture.
  • Dynamic: a reclining backrest lets the seated body move. That provides crucial muscle relief and a big circulation boost.

Here is a closer look at the three adjustable components that make a big difference:

Adjustable lumbar support

Every type of ergonomic chair supports a straight back with the same technology. An adjustable lumbar is the key.

A healthy standing body has a lower back curve of between 20-45 degrees. When you sit, the curve flattens to between 10-23 degrees. That leads to lower back problems. An adjustable gaming chair lumbar cushion reverses this effect.

Gaming chair lumbar support pillows

Adjust the pillow up or down so that it applies pressure to your lower back curve. Lumbar support four inches maintains a lower back curve of around 47 degrees. That reduces pressure on the spine while sitting. As a result, users can sit for longer periods without discomfort.

Adjustable armrests

Most traditional office chairs have fixed arms. When these fail to meet the user’s needs, it’s left to the spine to support the weight of the arms.

Back pain from fixed office chair armrests
When fixed arms fail to meet user needs, the spine must carry extra weight to compensate.

The average adult male’s arm weighs around 12 pounds. When a chair’s arm support fails, that’s like strapping 22 pounds of extra weight to your neck as you sit.

Adjustable armrest
Adjustable arms help to support the upper body’s weight so the spine doesn’t have to.

Gaming-style armrests conform to the needs of the user. That reduces the load on your spine. During a gaming session, these will support wrists by placing hands close to the mouse and keyboard.

Reclining backrest

When sitting for long periods, changing positions yields important benefits. For one thing, muscle movement serves as a pump, helping to improve blood circulation. For another, reclining while sitting sends more nutrients to the spinal discs. That movement also helps to refresh the hips, joints, and ligaments.

A standard office chair backrest doesn’t adapt to the user. If you feel back pain, you can lean into the backrest, rock the chair, or slouch. In a gaming seat, you get more options.

Gaming recline options

A gaming backrest can recline and lock at varying angles. Toggling your backrest recline every few minutes encourages dynamic (aka ‘active’) sitting.

Many studies endorse regular position changes as essential while sitting for long hours. Doing so prevents back strain. It also keeps back, abdominal, and leg muscles active while seated. Over time, that strengthens core muscles, making it even easier to sit up straight.

BONUS: Seat Ergonomics

The best gaming chairs also come with a multifunction tilt mechanism. That lets you angle the seat pan in sync or independently of the backrest.

Mutlifunction tilt lock
A multifunction mechanism lets you tilt and lock the seat at angles.

Doing so helps to switch up the back muscles at work while sitting. That helps seated bodies stay fresh and comfortable for longer sitting periods.

Ergonomics winner: gaming chairs

Gaming iconGaming chairs offer superior ergonomic features. An adjustable seat, backrest, and armrests work together to hold the body up against gravity while sitting. As a result, the muscles don’t have to. That leaves more energy for intense computing over long, comfortable hours.

Accessories and extras

Since traditional office chairs don’t have ergonomic features, they don’t come with any accessories. They ship with tools and an assembly manual.

Gaming seat delivery and assembly

Most gaming chairs typically ship in heavy packages of 50+ pounds. Inside are all chair components and Allen keys for assembly. The key addons included are adjustable neck and lumbar cushions. Some models offer more, like retractable footrests or built-in massage units.

Accessories winner: gaming chairs

PC game chair iconLow-cost office chairs don’t come with any accessories or extras. What you see is what you get. Standard gaming chairs ship with neck and lumbar pillows add-ons.

Price

Most popular standard office chairs sell for less than $150. These typically come with with 30-day to 6-month warranties.

Gaming chairs are more expensive. The cheapest gaming chairs cost between $120 and $200. Those usually come with 1-year warranties. The most expensive high end esports chairs cost between $350 to $550. Warranties on high end gaming chairs range between 2-5 years.

Paying more for a gaming chair will get you more adjustability, thicker padding, and higher quality upholstery. When sitting full-time, paying more for extra comfort can make a huge difference. See this Cheap vs Expensive Gaming Chair comparison to learn more.

Price winner: gaming chairs

PC gaming chair iconTraditional office chairs cost less than cheap gaming chairs. However, most cheap gaming chairs ship with at least a one-year warranty. Professional quality gaming chairs come with warranties of 2-5 years.

Office chairs are comfortable for short periods but less so over longer ones. Gaming chairs are the opposite, offering comfortable computing support for long hours. As a result, you can expect to get more daily use out of a gaming chair, for the duration of its warranty. So while office chairs are cheaper upfront, gaming chairs typically offer better value for money.

Other types of ergonomic chairs

The gaming chair vs standard office chair comparison is no contest. One has benefits for your back while the other doesn’t have any! Comparing gaming chairs with ergonomic office chairs tells a different story.

FeatureErgonomic ChairGaming Chair
Adjustable Lumbar
Adjustable Armrests
Reclining Backrest
Max Recline130°180°
Synchro-Tilt
Mesh Backrest

These chairs range in price from $150 to $1600. Across the entire range, all rely on the same ergonomic principles that gaming chairs do.

Essential ergonomic components for a chair
Office chairs can qualify as ‘ergonomic’ with three essential adjustable features.

Since 2020, this sector has been in a rapid state of upheaval. Corporate office closures and a work-from-home shift have forced rapid industry innovation.

Circa 2021, we can break ergonomic office options down into three basic categories. Including racing gaming chairs, that presents consumers with four types of ergonomic computing chairs to choose from.

Premium ergonomic office chairs

Price range: $600 to $1600

At the highest end is a collection of ultra-luxurious ergonomically designed chairs. The $1400+ Herman Miller Aeron is one of the most comfortable office chairs in the world. Since its debut in 1994, it has reigned as the gold standard of ergonomic seating. It has adaptive mesh upholstery, adjustable arms, recline functions, and a 12-year warranty.

Aeron tilt-sync feature
With synchro-tilt activated, the seat angles in sync with the backrest.

Most ergonomic office chairs in this price range cost more because of a fancy luxury feature. Once active, synchronous tilt (synchro-tilt) angles the seat in proportion with the backrest. When you lean back, the seat angles up. When you lean forward, the seat angles down.

Definition of an ergonomic task chair
Key synchro-tilt task chair features, using a Sidiz T80 as the model.

Beyond pricey Herman Miller models, Steelcase, Hon, and other brands make slightly cheaper synchro-tilt variants. All come with superb high-end features. Beyond synchro-tilt, you get an adjustable lumbar, adjustable armrests, and a depth-adjustable seat.

Gaming chairs vs task chairs

Ergonomically designed office chairs range in price from $150-$1600. At the high end, top models offer better adjustability and durability than racing-style gaming chairs.

Best ergonomic synchro-tilt chairs
These are among 2020’s best synchro-tilt task chairs.

Another big difference is that task chairs typically come with a limited backrest recline. The point is to force users to sit in an upright position at all times. Gaming chairs are more versatile.

Versatile use for a racing style gaming chair
Gaming chairs are more versatile than all types of office chairs. (click to expand)

Beyond upright desk work, you can use a gaming chair for watching movies, relaxing, reading, or even napping. Check out this detailed comparison to learn more:

Ergonomic task chairs vs PC gaming chairs

Affordable task chairs

Price range: less than $600

There are two classes of chairs in the affordable range. Here is a summary:

Task chairs priced under $600

Many premium models cut costs by removing the pricey synchro-tilt feature. That means the seat remains flat, rather than tilting automatically while reclining. Our top-rated option in this price class is the Secretlab NeueChair.

NeueChair review conclusion
The NeueChair offers high-end performance for less than $600.

It offers comparable features as the Aeron, minus synchro-tilt functionality. Its 5-year warranty also pales compared to the Aeron’s 12-year protection. With these differences, a NeueChair costs around $900 less.

Best task chairs under $600

Ergo office chairs under $300

These models come with basic features and limited warranty protection. Standard features in this class include the basics. Most come with adjustable lumbar support, 1D armrests, and a recline to around 120 degrees.

Soutien Ergonomic Office desk chair
The Flexispot Soutien chair is our top-rated model priced under $300.

This genre offers basic, healthy support without the frills. The biggest downside to these models is durability. Most won’t last longer than a year. That makes them cheaper upfront, but more expensive over the long term.

Best ergonomic office chairs under $300

Hybrid gaming office chairs

Price range: less than $170-$1600

The newest class of ergonomic seating is the hybrid gaming chair. This concept merges the best gaming and office chair concepts into a single package.

Hybrid Gaming Chair Design Concepts
Hybrids combine the best qualities of both office and gaming chairs.

Most offer gamer-style aesthetics onto office chair frameworks. A few do the opposite, melding office qualities onto racing-style frames. If you can’t decide between a racing-style gaming chair or office chair, hybrids are a good genre to consider.

Review of the Best Hybrid Gaming Chairs

Summary of findings

Regular office chairs lack adjustability. Over time, using one might become uncomfortable and distracting. Luckily, consumers have more options these days. Any ergonomic office chair with adjustable lumbar, adjustable armrests, and a reclining back can help.

Choosing one type over the other depends on your budget and your preferences.

Most comfortable

For short periods of light desk work, traditional office chairs are very comfortable. In libraries, internet cafes, and meeting rooms, these work just fine.

Gaming chair and other computing chairs
The comfort level of an office, gaming or task chairs depends on how you use each type.

But office chairs force users into static sitting positions. Over longer periods of sitting, discomfort may set in. Then, any type of ergonomic model is a much better option.

Best for productivity

All ergonomic office chairs support a healthy sitting posture. With good posture, mood, energy, and focus levels improve. The best ergonomic option for hard-core productivity is a pricey synchro-tilt task chair.

Aeron task chair
The Herman Miller Aeron reigns as the best ergonomic chair in the world.

These models force users to sit upright with a perfect working posture while letting the body move. That relaxes muscles, keeps the blood pumping, and helps the mind to stay focused.

Gaming chair vs task chair ergonomics
Gaming chairs and task chairs both meet BIFMA ergonomic guidelines for computing furniture.

The downside is that synchro-tilt chairs are expensive. If you can’t afford $1000 for a premium chair, gaming chairs are an effective and affordable option.

Gaming chairs vs office chairs conclusion

In the 1800s, distance runners wore leather shoes with stacked heels and spikes. Those failed to absorb the shock of impact and protect joints. As a result, many runners suffered pain, with a high risk of injury.

Early shoes caused injuries for runners
Early running shoes and classic chairs both fail to support the health needs of users.

Today, many people use standard office chairs for full-time desk work. These fail to support the spine while forcing users into static sitting positions.

As a result, many suffer from stiffness and back pain, with a high risk of injury. In comparison, chairs from top gaming chair brands provide comfortable, healthy support. You can sit in these models for long periods without suffering stiffness or pain.

Back support while sitting
Boost vitality and performance with any chair that supports healthy sitting habits.

Thus, the big gaming chair vs office chair difference comes down to ergonomics. Chairs with adjustable features are a smart choice for those who work at desks all day.