Paying $1500 for an ergonomic office chair won’t deliver magical health benefits. Instead, expect the same healthy sitting benefits that a $170 gaming chair provides. On top of those you’ll get luxurious extras that are nice but not necessary for healthy sitting. To illustrate this point, ChairsFX compares gaming chairs vs ergonomic task chairs. Which type provides better value for computer users in 2020?
“Ergonomic” defines as “relating to the design of furniture or equipment which makes it comfortable and effective for people who use it.” Among most modern studies on healthy sitting habits, a chair needs three features to qualify as “ergonomic”. Those are adjustable lumbar support (the most important), adjustable armrests, and a fixed-angle reclining backrest.
In 2020, there are four types of chairs that qualify as ergonomic computing chairs:
- High-end task chairs: the most advanced models range in price from $600-$1600. Top brands include Herman Miller and Steelcase.
- High-end gaming chairs: pro esports chairs have the most advanced gaming chair features. Top brands include Secretlab and Anda Seat. Prices range from $350-$550.
- Affordable ergo office chairs: these resemble high-end task chairs, with stripped-down features. Mid-range models cost $250 to $600. Several cheap models are also available for less than $250.
- Cheap gaming chairs: despite having the most basic ergonomic features, these support good posture as well as pricier models. Several popular models in this range cost less than $200.
Across price ranges and feature sets, all models achieve the same ends. That is to enable the user to sit for long periods in a neutral position.
Neutral sitting 101
A neutral posture is the healthiest position to use while sitting for long periods. That involves feet planted flat on the floor, knees bent at 90 degrees, with the hips aligned slightly higher. This configuration places the least amount of stress on the lower back, shoulders, and neck while sitting.
In non-ergonomic chairs without specialty support, back muscles provide the power to hold the spine upright. As the muscles tire, users will curl the hips forward while using the backrest for support. That flattens the lumbar curve and misaligns the entire body. To counteract this, add lumbar support.
Essential ingredient: lumbar support
Even in a cheap wooden chair, adding support to the lumbar area gives the spine the support it needs to stay straight.
Every ergonomic chair on the market employs lumbar support as the primary feature to support a neutral sitting position. Try it out at home to see for yourself. Use a wooden kitchen chair with a rolled-up towel or yoga mat for lumbar support. With only that as support, you should be able to comfortably hold a neutral posture for around 15 minutes.
Once your back muscles tire, take a short walking break to refresh. Then, your DIY ergo chair should be good for another 15-minute burst of work. Repeating this process, it’s possible to work an 8-hour shift sitting in a pristine neutral position.
Supporting ingredient: movement while sitting
A neutral posture is the best default sitting position, but it shouldn’t be your only one. That’s because sitting in fixed positions for long periods (even with perfect posture) is bad for you. Thus, ergonomic chairs also come with adjustable features that promote movement.
For example, when sitting in my ($489) Secretlab Titan Cyberpunk chair, I do a lot of writing in a standard neutral position. When reading, watching movies, or passive web surfing, I like to deepen the recline. When it’s time for more writing, I resume sitting neutrally.
If you switch over to a $1595 Herman Miller Embody, expect several luxury extras, but the same fundemaneltal benefits.
Both approaches meet the same ends. That is first to help the user maintain a neutral posture as their default sitting position. Second is to enable movement while sitting. As a user deviates from the neutral position, both types of chairs keep the spine in a healthy alignment.
All ergo chairs basically do the same thing
The bottom line is that all ergonomic chairs do the same fundamental thing. That is to support users into a neutral position for long periods of sitting.
Strengthen your core and optimize your posture while sitting at a computer.
While your attention is diverted with computing, sitting this way yields health, wellness, and productivity benefits.
Once your body attunes, good posture becomes a habit that enhances every part of your life. Expect to stand taller and feel more confident, with plenty of excess energy to spend on enjoying life.
Going higher up the pricing scale gets you more comfort, better aesthetics, and some luxury extras. Those are nice to have, but not essential. Good posture as an ingrained computing habit is the prize.
So what’s the point of paying more for a high-end chair? Below, we analyze gaming chair vs task chair features to answer that question.
Gaming chairs vs ergo task chairs
A good ergonomic chair for computer users should be comfortable, adjustable, and good for your back. Comparing ergonomic chair guidelines from several leading sources reveals a common set of seating standards:
- Lumbar and back support: the most important element. This on its own is enough to support good posture while sitting.
- Reclining backrest: back and forward recline ranges indicate how much seated movement the chair can provide.
- Adjustable armrests: adjustability helps to synch armrests with your desk. That configuration absorbs the weight of the arms, sparing the spine from carrying the load.
Beyond these fundamental features, it’s also important to choose the right size of chair for your body. Choosing a model too large or small will negate the health benefits of the three key features.
Below, we compare gaming chair vs ergonomic task chair features by using the above standards.
Healthy posture support
When a person sits, the hips curl forward and the lumbar curve narrows. That leads to slouching and health problems. To counteract this, ergonomic chairs come with adjustable lumbar support. This wooden chair lumbar support demo shows how lumbar support works.
Ergonomic chairs use this same principle to support healthy sitting — with more comfort and luxury. Many task chairs are mid-back. Some add a neck rest that adds support for the upper body. In comparison, gaming chairs are high-back. Attached to the backrest are neck and shoulder support pillows.
In both types of chairs, the lumbar support is essential, while the neck support is optional. For example, Herman Miller chairs all come without neck support. The company claims its back support technologies are so robust that upper-body support is redundant.
The mid-back design of task chairs provides support from the sacrum to the thoracic part of the spine. In contrast, gaming chairs provide support from the sacrum to the cervical part of the spine.
If you try out a high-end task chair, you’ll instantly discover why don’t need neck support. Top models offer such solid mid-spine support that the head stays in balance atop the neck. For instance, one of the Herman Miller Aeron’s key features is PostureFit back support.
PostureFit supports the lumbar and sacral-pelvic areas. Two pads fixed to the unit flex independent of each other. The top pad supports the lumbar. The lower pad stabilizes the sacrum. You can adjust the lumbar height, and also the depth of both pads. Together, the pads encourage the spine to stay in a healthy S-shaped position.
Gaming chairs lack the precision of task chairs. The tall backrest supports the entire spine, while the neck and lumbar pillows support the spine’s natural curves. To ensure the right fight, you can adjust the height of both pillows.
Task chairs support the mid and lower back with superior precision. Gaming chairs support the entire back using a tall backrest and support pillows. Both result in the same end: a healthy computing posture over long periods of sitting.
Seated movement functionality
Beyond posture support, ergonomic chairs provide opportunities to move while sitting. On paper, paying more gets you more complex seated movement features. In reality, the very best movement-for-health feature is free: take breaks.
Esports therapist Dr. Joshua Lee says that the lack of breaks is the most common gamer mistake. “Even if it’s for 5-10 minutes every few hours, it’s a big help.”
Personal example: I work at a computer 6 days a week, for around 12 hours each day. In that time, I usually do around 4-6 hours of productive work. Around that are plenty of breaks of varying length. Any time I sit down to knuckle down and work, I do so with a fresh mind and body. When either gets tired, I stand up and take a break.
During breaks, I have plenty of options. I can do stretches on my balcony, drink coffee, go to the gym, eat, tidy up, power-nap, etc. When working in this style, chair movement features aren’t essential. Even so, when paying a premium, it’s worth having the best that a product has to offer.
Gaming chair movement features
Pro esports gaming chairs offer a solid stack of seated movement features. In my experience, the adjustable backrest recline is the most useful. When doing intense work, angle the backrest forward. When doing more casual work, deepen the recline. Changing the recline angles maintains posture alignment while working different muscle groups.
The second feature I use most often is the rocking function. When engaged, it lets me work my calves, yielding an energizing circulation boost. That’s not so impressive — even the most basic traditional office chairs come with this feature.
The most impressive (on paper) but the least useful feature is the multifunction tilt-lock. That lets you tilt and lock the seat at angles. This is a ‘relaxation’ feature that pulls your body further away from the mouse and keyboard.
For working, tilt-lock doesn’t add anything. However, For relaxing (daydreaming, watching videos, napping), it’s an awesome luxury to have. Aesthetically, chairs without tilt-lock also look cheap.
The bottom line is that no pro esports gaming chair movement features are essential. To stay fresh, the best option is to take walking breaks every 20 minutes. Despite this functional reality, it’s nicer overall to have full features compared to saving a few bucks.
Task chair movement features
High-end ergonomic task chairs offer the same movement features as pro esports gaming chairs. Beyond those, the best task chairs also offer a very cool feature called synchronous tilt (synchro-tilt). This feature is the biggest reason why high-end ergo chairs cost so much.
The gist is that the human body thrives when in motion. Sitting in fixed positions reduces the natural pumping action of the muscles. Synchro-tilt angles the seat in sync with the backrest when leaning back. That helps users to change positions while maintaining a healthy posture.
Herman Miller’s Aeron chair has one of the largest synchro-tilt ranges in the industry. It combines a seat pan angle of -1° to 16° with a backrest range of 93° to 104°. Most of the other top-rated task chairs have a smaller synchro-tilt range. For example, the $900+ Steelcase Gesture has a seat pan angle of 1° plus backrest recline from 98° to 125°.
In broad terms, buying a task chair for less than $1000 will get you synchro-tilt with a 1° seat pan angle. It’s nice to have, but the tiny range is almost unnoticeable. To get the “wow” factor, you need to spend more than $1000.
Winner: task chairs
Task chairs with synchro-tilt offer better seated movement features than gaming chairs. High-end gaming chairs also let you angle the seat and backrest, but each piece needs to be manually set.
The synchro-tilt feature on high-end task chairs is amazing. As you rock back and forth with sync-tilt activated, the controlled movements feel like an amusement park in your hips. On the downside, sync-tilt is expensive and only useful when relaxing. For upright working, a locked seat pan works better.
Ergonomics = adjustable features. For computer users, ergonomic furniture provides comfort while supporting healthy movement. The point is to reduce musculoskeletal problems, back pain, and other health problems.
Among ergonomic features, some are essential to support a healthy spine. Features beyond the essentials generally add more luxury.
This article boils ergonomic seating guidelines from various sources down to three essential ergonomic features:
- Adjustable lumbar: provides the main support to keep the spine straight.
- Adjustable armrests: helps to spare the spine from absorbing the weight of the arms.
- Tilt-locking backrest: provides customized back support plus opportunities to move while sitting.
Considering the core essentials, here is how gaming chair ergonomics compare with task chairs:
|Gaming chair||Task chair|
|Seat width:||Extra-wide models are available.||Most chairs are one-size-fits-all.|
|Backrest:||Adjustable lumbar support plus deep recline.||Adjustable lumbar plus limited recline.|
|Armrests:||Pro models are 4D adjustable.||Most models are 2D adjustable.|
|Range of motion:||Manually tilt the backrest and seat.||Synchro-tilt automatically tilts the seat when you recline.|
Pro gaming chairs and high-end task chairs both meet contemporary ergonomic guidelines for office furniture. One feature missing in gaming chairs is a depth-adjustable seat. That is needed in task chairs since most are one-size-fits-all.
But with gaming chairs, extra small or extra-large users can buy specialty chairs. Small gaming chairs provide a seat depth suitable for small bodies. Also, the best heavyweight chairs provide extra-deep seats to support larger sizes. In contrast, few task chairs cater to extra-large sizes — most models are slim fit.
High-end ergonomic task chairs come with ultra-adaptive backrests. For example, the Aeron’s seat and backrest used 8Z Pellicle Mesh. This mesh has eight different tension zones that adapt as the user moves. As a result, users enjoy consistent support in the chair, no matter what position they sit in.
The Herman Miller Embody takes this concept to a higher level with an ultra-flexible “Pixelated” backrest. Its human-like spine has “ribs” attached to a central pillar. Over the top is a flexible plastic layer that moves the entire backrest as a single unit. As the user moves, the system flexes with different tension levels to provide consistent back support.
In comparison, high-end gaming chairs have rigid steel frames covered in cold-cured foam padding. Cold-cured foam is the highest-quality padding type in the seating industry. It’s used in theater seats, luxury cars, and pro esports gaming chairs. Although not as flashy as Herman Miller technologies, cold foam padding is also adaptable.
When you sit in a gaming chair seat, the padding compresses in spots to accommodate your body. When you stand up, the padding pops back into its original shape. The same principle applies to cold-foam padded gaming chair backrests. As you lean into the backrest, the foam cushions your body while adapting to its shape.
Both gaming chairs and ergonomic task chairs adapt as the user sits down. Pricey Herman Miller chairs come with ultra-adaptive backrests that provide precise micro-support. In comparison, cold foam-padded gaming chairs also adapt to the user’s body, although with less fancy flair. Using one type over the other yields no proven physical advantages. Over time, both approaches work just fine at supporting comfort over long sitting periods.
Chair style appreciation is subjective. Personally, I find the Herman Miller Embody to be one of the most attractive chairs on the market. However, its high price and good-but-not-great features dissuaded me from buying one.
As another example, the Herman Miller Aeron is the top-rated task chair on this website. Even so, its styling looks like something my grandmother would appreciate.
In contrast, I love the bold brash styling of my Secretlab Cyberpunk chair. However, many would probably find the styling to gaudy for use in a professional setting.
Both types of chairs can suit both gaming and professional office needs. Gaming chairs are generally cheaper, with more varied style options. However, in response to gaming chair design popularity, many top brands like Steelcase and Herman Miller now offer similarly vivid color options. In sum, both types of chairs offer superb aesthetics, depending on personal preferences.
Only task chairs come with synchro-tilt. Pro gaming chairs can also tilt the angles of the seat and backrest, but using manual settings. Another feature exclusive to task chairs is a seat depth adjustment. That is essential since most task chairs are one-size-fits-all.
For these extras, expect to pay a massive premium. Is it worth it? Both gaming chairs and task chairs meet modern ergonomic office chair guidelines.
What’s more, gaming chairs come with a deep recline, making them more versatile. Task chairs are ideal for work, but they force you into an upright position at all times. In comparison, you could spend a whole day in a gaming chair doing various activities. You can work, relax, watch videos, or even take a nap. From this perspective, spending $1500 on a task chair that can do less than a $400 gaming chair is impractical.
Winner: gaming chairs
Task chairs with advanced synchro-tilt cost over $1000. Meanwhile, the best full-featured gaming chairs cost less than $500. The back support on high-end task chairs is more precise than what gaming chairs offer. Beyond precision, both work the same. Both support a healthy sitting posture over long periods of sitting. Beyond that, gaming chairs are more versatile. Without any doubt, gaming chairs offer much better value for money than task chairs.
Head-to-head chair comparisons
Now that we’ve concluded our broad comparison, it’s time for specific comparisons. Here, we match three of our top-ranked gaming chairs against three top task chairs.
Secretlab Titan vs Herman Miller Embody
The Secretlab Titan costs $459 to $489 and is available from Secretlab in North America, Europe, the UK, Oceania, and SE Asia. A fully-loaded Herman Miller Embody cost $1595. You can buy it online direct from Herman Miller in America, Europe, and the UK.
The Titan is the top-ranked gaming chair on this website. Compared to other high-end models, it offers some clever extras that make a big difference. For example, instead of a lumbar pillow, the Titan has a depth-adjustable lumbar. As well, while other chairs restrict the legs, the Titan has a flat, wide seat offering plenty of legroom. In comparison, the Embody is Herman Miller’s most expensive chair — but not its most full-featured.
Both are great chairs. The Titan is much cheaper, while the Embody has some sublime luxury extras. Both offer exceptional comfort, posture support, and durability. Design-wise, both are among the most striking in the industry. If you’re torn between choosing a Titan or Embody chair, your life is a good one!
- Armrests: the Titan has 4D armrests; the Embody has 2D. However, the Embody offers a massive range of 6″ height and width adjustment. The Titan compares with a 3-inch height and width adjustment. It also goes beyond the Embody’s range by adjusting forward/back and also diagonally.
- Lumbar: both are depth adjustable.
- Upholstery: the Embody uses a skin-like textile covering. The Titan has mesh, leather and faux leather styles.
- Warranty: the Embody comes with a 12-year warranty. The Titan has a 3-year warranty extendable to 5 years.
- Neck support: the Titan uses a neck pillow. The Embody doesn’t have any neck support.
Winner: Secretlab Titan
The Secretlab Titan offers a healthy and luxurious sitting experience. The Herman Miller Embody has a longer warranty and more precise lower back support. However, the Titan is 1/4 the price with comparable ergonomic features. Both chairs support a healthy sitting posture. The Embody does so with fancier bells and whistles, for around $1100 more.
Buy the Titan from Secretlab for $459 to $489. (Available from Secretlab in North America, the EU and UK, Oceania, Singapore, and Malaysia.) Alternatively, buy the Embody from Herman Miller (USA, EU, UK) for $1595.
Secretlab Omega vs Herman Miller Aeron
The Secretlab Omega is a compact chair suited for users between 5’3″ to 5’11” (160-180 cm). It’s available from Secretlab for between $379 to $449. In comparison, the Aeron comes in three size variations to suit users from 4’10” to 6’7″ (147-200 cm). You can buy a fully-loaded Aeron chair direct from Herman Miller for $1395.
Unlike the Titan chair, the Omega comes with an extra-large memory foam lumbar pillow (see our Titan vs Omega comparison). It doesn’t attach to anything. Simply chuck it behind you and lean back. The memory foam compresses against your spine, while also filling your lumbar curve.
Head-to-head with the Aeron, the Omega lack synchro-tilt. That aside, the two chairs match up well.
- Armrests: the Omega has 4D armrests while the Aeron comes with 3D versions. The Aeron has 4″ height-adjustment range while the Omega’s is 3 inches. Omega armrests have an adjustable width range of 24.4-27.6 inches. The Aeron’s armrests don’t offer width adjustment.
- Lumbar: the Omega comes with an extra-large memory foam pillow. It works, but lacks the precision of the Aeron’s superb Posturefit support.
- Backrest: the Aeron reclines from 93° to 104°. The Omega reclines from 85°(forward tilt) to 165°.
- Tilt lock: the Aeron tilt has a 16° seat tilt range. The Omega’s seat has an 11° tilt range.
- Neck support: the Omega comes with a memory foam neck pillow. The Aeron is a mid-back chair without any shoulder or neck support.
- Upholstery: Omega chairs come in 35 styles including PU leather and Softweave fabric variants. The Aeron chair uses an “intelligent” black mesh that adapts to the body’s micro-movements.
- Warranty: the Omega comes with a 5-year warranty. The Aeron chair comes with a 12-year warranty.
The Secretlab Omega doesn’t have the (awesome) synchro-tilt that the Herman Miller Aeron chair comes with. That aside, the Omega’s ergonomic features match or exceed the Aeron’s, for a fraction of the price. Beyond that, the Aeron’s antiquated style hasn’t changed since 1996. In comparison, the Omega offers plenty of designs ranging from conservative to psychedelic.
Buy the Omega from Secretlab for $379 to $449. (Available from Secretlab in North America, the EU and UK, Oceania, Singapore, and Malaysia.) Alternatively, buy the Aeron from Herman Miller (USA, EU, UK) for $1395.
GTRacing Ace M1 vs Steelcase Gesture
The Ace M1 is the only sub-$300 chair on the market (from a legit brand) offering full pro esports features (read review). For such a cheap chair, it matches up surprisingly well with the excellent-but-pricey Gesture model.
- Armrests: the Ace has 4D adjustable armrests. The Gesture has better 4D armrests with a wider adjustment range.
- Support: the Gesture can recline back into three positions. It has a seat pan angle of 1° and backrest recline from 98° to 125°. The Ace M1 beats it with recline to 170°, plus an 11-degree seat angle tilt-lock.
- Upholstery: the Ace M1 comes in a choice of PU leather or mesh fabric. The Gesture chair comes in padded mesh fabric with a range of color options.
- Warranty: the Ace M1 comes with a 5-year warranty. The Steelcase Gesture comes with a 12-year warranty.
Winner: GTRacing Ace M1
The Ace M1 costs less than $250, yet offers a wider recline and seat angle tilt than the Gesture chair. Meanwhile, the Gesture has a measly 1° seat tilt angle, with only three recline positions. Buying a Gesture chair over a Master Series will give you less functionality — for over four times the price.
Value for money
The best ergonomic task chairs offer more precise back support — but cost more money. PC gaming chairs offer good back support with less precision but much lower prices.
This section looks at the value for money that each type of chair offers.
Verbose ergonomics cost more
The Herman Miller Aeron debuted in 1994 and was an instant hit. It proved to be a massive upgrade over traditional office chairs, with far better back support. Development took several years and cost $35 million in research and development. Onboard were ergonomic scientists from Cornell, Michigan State, and other top schools.
The Steelcase Leap came out in 1999. it took four years of development that also cost $35 million. Development involved 11 academic studies, 23 patents, and two design teams.
These were among the first two ergonomic task chairs. As with all new technologies, describing the functionality can be verbose. For instance, Herman Miller upgraded the Aeron chair in 2017.
Here is how Herman Miller described the update: “We incorporated two decades’ worth of technological and ergonomic enhancements to improve the health-positive design, and widen the range of cross-performance capabilities. With updates that include a more refined tilt mechanism, adjustable PostureFit SL, and 8Z Pellicle suspension, the new Aeron performs better than ever before.”
In simple English, the update doesn’t sound as spectacular. The revamped Aeron added adaptive mesh fabric, adjustable lumbar support, and minor tweaks.
Cutting through the sales copy, task chairs serve the same purpose as gaming chairs. Most offer less functionality. Most also cost at least three times more than the best pro gaming chairs.
Straightforward ergonomics cost less
In 2006, DXRacer took full advantage of the R&D funded by Herman Miller and Steelcase. Their purpose was to get rid of a warehouse full of unsold luxury car seats. The craziest part is that their scheme worked. In fact, it worked so well that gaming chairs have evolved into a thriving global industry.
With their original gaming chair blueprint, DXRacer took the Herman Miller ergonomic formula and radically simplified it.
- The body has natural curves at the neck and small of back.
- Removable pillows fit into those curves when the user leans back.
- That ensures proper posture while the user sits.
In place of synchro-tilt, pro gaming chairs also let you angle the seat and backrest. That achieves the same effect as synchro-tilt, but you need to set the angles manually.
The most expensive task chairs force users to sit in an upright position at all times. Doing so maintains a healthy posture, while also letting the user move while sitting. But that has some limits. For example, gaming chairs come with deeper reclines better suited to watching movies, napping, and daydreaming. As a work-from-home centerpiece, gaming chairs are a lot more versatile. The best models are also around three times cheaper than the best ergo task chairs.
But ergonomic task chairs offer terrible value for money. Paying $1000 more gets you back support a bit better than PC gaming chairs.
That’s a big reason why pro esports players use PC gaming chairs. Built for PC users, they offer great ergonomics, varied styles, and excellent comfort. But PC gaming chairs are not just for pros. They’re also the best option for office workers seeking a performance boost.
In fact, all gamers and computer users can benefit by using PC gaming chairs. That’s because gaming chairs let you sit longer, work smarter, and be more productive.