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Gaming chairs vs office chairs compared

Modern science tells us that sitting in fixed positions for long periods is bad for health. Yet in the current computing era, long periods of screen-based sitting time is the norm. So what’s the best option for people who spend long periods sitting in front of a computer? ChairsFX compares gaming chairs vs office chairs. Which better serves the needs of full-time desk workers?

Office chair vs gaming chair comparison
Gaming chairs stand out with a striking racing style design.

Side-by-side, there are striking visual differences. Racing style gaming chairs stand out with high contoured backs and thickly padded seats. They also have many moving parts. The seat, armrests, support pillows, and backrest can adjust to meet the needs of the user.

On the opposing side, standard office chairs are not designed to garner attention.

Dreary working environment with cheap office chairs
Commercial institutions buy billions worth of cheap, mass-produced furniture every year.

Most office chairs have mid-back designs with basic seats and non-adjustable parts. Key selling points are low prices and consistent styles.

Chair definitions

‘Gaming chair’ and ‘office chair’ are generic terms. This section clarifies the characteristics of both chair types before comparing the two.

Gaming chair

Gaming chairs use back support technologies developed by the racecar seat industry. These come with a bucket seat design and tall reclining backrest. Highlights include a thick padded seat and adjustable neck and lumbar pillows. Adjustable arms provide extra reinforcement by absorbing the weight of the arms.

Adjustable parts found on most racing style gaming chairs
Every gaming chair component serves an ergonomic purpose.

Gaming chairs also come with a backrest recline function. That helps the user to move while sitting in the chair. These high back racing style designs have been helping gamers to reach pro levels since 2006.

Gaming chairs have reclining modes for work rest and play

These days, the Secretlab Titan stands at the pinnacle, used by many of the world’s top esports teams. It has a deep reclining back that also angles forward to 85°. When playing video games, users often lean forward during intense battles. The 5° forward tilt ensures consistent back support during those moments.

Pro esports chairs for those who play video games
Top brands include Secretlab, AKRacing, Maxnomic and Noblechairs.

Other pro esports gaming chairs lack forward tilt but otherwise have comparable high end features. Those include 4D or 3D armrests and a multifunction tilt mechanism. That lets you tilt the seat upward and lock at angles. Popular models come from Secretlab, AKRacing, Noblechairs, and other top gaming chair brands.

At lower price points, cheaper gaming chairs come with less adjustability, thinner padding, and shorter warranties. There are also extra-small and extra-large gaming chairs catering to diverse body types.

Traditional office chair

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

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

For decades, ergonomic scientists have been pointing out the harmful effects of fixed furniture designs. One 1984 study 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.

Most popular office chair models
Amazon’s best-selling traditional office chairs are all cheap, basic models with limited functions.

Despite such warnings, traditional office chairs still generate billions in sales revenue each year. That’s because they serve the needs of enterprise buyers who prioritize low prices.

For consumers, office chairs are available for sale through portals like Amazon. On Amazon, the most popular cheap office chairs sell for between $60 to $180.

2020’s most popular traditional office chairs

Gaming chair vs office chair comparison

The meteoric rise of gaming chairs in recent years has upset the domination of ubiquitous office chairs. Gaming chairs have flashy looks, thick padding, and adjustable components. Office chairs rely on discrete looks, durability, and budget pricing. Which type is better for long periods of sitting at a computer?

Contemporary ergonomic chair guidelines make a few things clear. A chair with a reclining backrest reduces lumbar disc pressure and muscle activity. Adjustable armrests help to offset the weight of the arms. Sitting with a pelvic rotation that supports the curve in your lower back is ideal.

Given those realities, how do gaming chairs and office chairs measure up? Read on to find out the winner of the office chairs vs gaming chairs faceoff.

Design and Aesthetics

The aesthetic differences between office chairs and racing style gaming chairs are easy to see. A standard office chair has a discrete design meant to blend in rather than stand out. These have simple features with rudimentary controls. Most models come in subdued shades of black and gray, usually upholstered with nylon fabric or mesh.

Gaming chair vs office adjustment parts
Side-by-side, the visual differences between gaming chairs and office chairs are striking. (view larger image)

On the other side, a gaming chair stands out with a contoured ergonomic design. There’s a tall backrest, thick padding, and adjustable arms. Some gaming chairs 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.

Head-to-head, office chairs tend to be more comfortable that gaming chairs — for short periods of sitting. 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 with 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 forces 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 using a gaming chair
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.

Enhanced comfort for computer users

Gaming chairs address unhealthy sitting habits with features that adapt to the user. There are small, average, and extra-large models to suit all body types. 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 features of gaming chairs
Adjustable support cushions fit into the spine’s natural curves.

As desk chairs, these elements 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 vs office chairs — 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 using gaming chairs
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 in a gaming chair to get used to it. Once your body adjusts, expect a much higher level of comfort than what an office chair provides.

Use the gaming chair backrest to support your upper body while keeping the spine aligned. With a healthy sitting posture, circulation improves. The shoulders open. Each inhalation sends oxygen goes deeper into your lungs.

Eye level computing using a gaming chair.
Gaming chairs position your eyes at the screen, without needing to move your head. (Image: QUT Esports)

In a good quality chair, you might forget that you’re sitting and experience a floating sensation. Then comes a surge of energy during gaming sessions. After that, the mind clears and concentration intensifies. It’s the ultimate gaming experience. That is why most pro esports players rely on gaming chairs. For long periods of intense computing, they help boost performance by keeping posture on-point.

Comfort winner: draw

Gaming chairs and office chairsIn the short-term, a regular office chair is more comfortable than a gaming chair. 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. Further, those with poor sitting posture will need time to adapt to sitting with an aligned spine. Once adjusted, gaming chairs are much more comfortable than office chairs. That is because they are better at supporting the back while sitting.

Ergonomics (adjustability)

Gaming chairs have more adjustable options, but to what end? Ergonomics is a scientific discipline that studies human efficiency in working environments. The point is to design tools that enhance human well-being and performance.

Gaming chair vs office chair recline

To compare the ergonomics of gaming chairs vs office chairs, we look at how their features adapt to the user.

The classic office chair has a fixed backrest and armrests. Gaming chairs give more adjustment options to support healthy computing. While sitting, you can angle the backrest, adjust support pillows, and change armrest positions. Use these features as you need. For example, when you start work in the morning, you might feel fresh enough to sit up without support.

Gaming chairs come with adjustable support pillows
Rest your back against the support pillows to give your muscles a break.

As your back muscles tire in an office chair, your best option to stay comfortable is to slouch. In a gaming chair, all you need to do is lean into the backrest. That will ensure good posture and relief for tired muscles.

Gaming chairs come with a host of adjustable features that support healthy computing. Here is a summary:

Armrest ergonomics

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.

Gaming chairs use adjustable arms
Adjustable armrests help to support the upper body’s weight so the spine doesn’t have to.

Gaming chair armrests conform to the needs of the user. For instance, you can adjust to the height of your desk to absorb the weight of your arms. That reduces the load on your spine. During a gaming session, they support wrists by placing hands close to the mouse and keyboard.

Backrest ergonomics

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 chair, you get more options. For a start, as soon as you sit down, you can adjust the support pillows to fit your body.

Gaming chair back support

Align both to fit into the curves of your neck and lower back. Then lean your body weight into the high back. The backrest keeps your spine straight, while the pillows maintain a healthy alignment.

A gaming chair backrest can also recline and lock at varying angles. For intense gaming or deskwork, position the backrest to support an upright sitting posture. When thinking, reading, or relaxing, set a deeper recline to relax. Some high end models like the Secretlab Titan and Maxnomic OFC also let you tilt the backrest forward. That helps to support the back even when the user leans forward to stare at the screen.

Gaming chair reclining options

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.

Seat ergonomics

Many ergonomic scientists claim there is no such thing as a “perfect” desk chair sitting position. Rather, good posture while in motion is the ideal.

Secretlab Titan gaming chair back support angle adjustments
Recline plus seat angle tilt-lock gives many options to distribute load and keep muscles fresh. (Images: Secretlab)

That’s why the best ergonomic gaming chairs like the Secretlab Titan also come with a multifunction tilt mechanism. That lets you angle the seat pan in sync or independently of the backrest. 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 chair iconGaming chairs have 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.

These ergonomic features give pro gamers and savvy computer users an edge. The chair manages your sitting posture instead of your muscles. That allows longer, more comfortable computing sessions — with greater concentration and focus.

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 chair delivery and assembly

Gaming chairs ship in heavier packages (usually 50+ pounds). Inside are all chair components and Allen keys for assembly. The key addons included are adjustable neck and lumbar cushions. Some gaming chairs offer more, like retractable footrests or built-in massage units.

Accessories winner: gaming chairs

PC gaming 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 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.

Cheap vs Expensive Gaming Chairs

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.

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 periods. 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 offer better value for money.

Other types of ergonomic chairs

Gaming chairs are better than office chairs for full-time computer users. Only the former meets modern ergonomic seating guidelines. Those state that an ergonomic chair should have adjustments in three areas:

  1. Adjustable lumbar support
  2. Backrest with recline functionality
  3. Adjustable armrests

Including gaming chairs, consumers have four types of ergonomic office chairs to choose from.

Synchro-tilt task chairs

Price range: $450 to $1500

The $1400+ Herman Miller Aeron debuted in 1994. Today, it remains the gold standard of ergonomic chairs. It has adaptive mesh upholstery, adjustable arms, recline functions, and a 12-year warranty.

Herman Miller Aeron tilt-sync feature
Standard tilt only reclines the backrest. With synchro-tilt activated, the seat angles in sync with the backrest.

Its defining feature is a robust synchro-tilt. Once activated, it angles the seat in proportion with the backrest. When you lean back, the seat angles up. When you lean forward, the seat angles down.

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

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

Head-to-head with the best gaming chairs, task chairs offer more precise ergonomic features. But they are also a lot more expensive than gaming chairs.

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

Another big difference is that task chairs force users to sit in an upright position at all times. In a gaming chair, you can recline deep enough to take a nap. Check out our detailed comparison to learn more:

Ergonomic task chairs vs PC gaming chairs

Fixed-tilt task chairs

Price range: $359 to $799

The biggest deterrent to buying a synchro-tilt task chair is the price. Fixed-tilt task chairs drop synchro-tilt to lower the cost. Otherwise, they come with similar ergonomic features as high end Herman Miller models.

Neuechair back support features
These models come with an adjustable lumbar and backrest recline, plus a fixed seat that doesn’t tilt.

One of the cheapest chairs in this range is the Sidiz T50. It costs around $350 and comes with a range of sophisticated features.

Sidiz T50 features
Sidiz T50 features: mesh backrest, depth-adjustable seat, adjustable lumbar, and adjustable armrests.

  • Backrest: recline and lock in five positions between 90° and 115°.
  • Support: height and depth adjustable lumbar and headrest.
  • Upholstery: breathable adaptive mesh backrest with fabric padded seat.
  • Seat: height and depth adjustable.
  • Armrests: 3D adjustable (up/down, forward/back, angled left or right)
  • Warranty: 30-day money back guarantee; 3-year warranty.

At present, there’s not a huge selection of options in this class. Current top picks come from Sidiz, Cougar, Secretlab, and Vertagear.

Best conventional tilt ergonomic task chairs

Ergonomic office chairs

Price range: less than $250

The multi-billion-dollar office chair industry is making a dual transition. First, because B2B sales are down, home office consumer sales have become a priority. Second, with the global shift to working from home, the demand for ergonomic working equipment has skyrocketed. Bloomberg attributes the surge to “aching work-at-home backs”.

Cheap ergonomic office chair reviews
These are part of a new wave of cheap ergonomic chairs for computer users.

In response to these trends, a new class of cheap office chairs has emerged. These models come with adjustable armrests and adjustable lumbar support at a minimum. Some also come with backrest recline functionality. They’re a bit more expensive than traditional chairs, but also more versatile and supportive.

Look for dozens of new releases to emerge in this class in the coming months.

Best ergonomic chairs under $250

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 office, gaming and 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, ergonomic chairs are a much better option. “Ergonomic” means they have adjustable features that adapt to the user.

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.

Herman Miller Aeron task chair
The Herman Miller Aeron reigns as one of the best ergonomic chairs 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.

On the downside, synchro-tilt chairs are very expensive. Both the Herman Miller Aeron and Herman Miller Embody cost over $1000.

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

If you can’t pay so much for a desk chair, gaming chairs are an effective and affordable option. A big advantage is that gaming chairs support both upright work and lounging.

Secretlab gaming chair deep recline
Enjoying a deep recline in a Secretlab gaming chair.

If you want to procrastinate in a gaming chair, you can set the recline into a lounging position. That makes it easy to disengage from the computer and waste several hours daydreaming.

Gaming chair vs office chair 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 users suffer from stiffness and back pain, with a high risk of injury.

Classic office chairs

In sharp contrast, ergonomic office chairs serve the user. Used as a desk chair, these offer adjustable components that address the physical stresses of sitting. A backrest with adjustable lumbar promotes optimal posture. Armrests absorb the weight of the arms. A reclining backrest loosens the hips and helps to relieve tired muscles.

Ergonomic chair working positions

Thus, the gaming chair vs office chair debate comes down to ergonomics. Any desk chair with adjustable parts is better equipped to support healthy sitting. That makes all ergonomic office chairs a better option than a classic office chair.

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

Among ergonomic chairs, there are two fundamental chair styles. Racing style gaming chairs stand out with a high back racing-style design and easy-to-use features. You can adjust the support cushions, the backrest, the armrests, and even the seat on pro models. These adjustments help to promote a healthy posture while sitting.

If you don’t like the look of racing style gaming chairs, choose a task chair with classic office styling. The bottom line is that any well-built ergonomic chair is much better than an office chair for full-time desk work.

Types of ergonomic office chairs for modern computer users

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