What’s the difference between a full-back gaming chair and a mid-back ergonomic office chair? Both are designed to support healthy neutral postures — using the same trio of adjustable components. In fact, it’s the full-back vs mid-back contrast that yields the biggest usability differences. The former lets you kick back and relax; the latter keeps you upright in desk working positions. Both types have merits. This article explains why settling the gaming chair vs ergonomic office chair debate comes down to subjective preferences.
Many hype ergonomic office chairs made by top-5 office furniture corporations as god-tier. These masterpieces supposedly provide medical-grade back support that puts gaming chairs to shame.
Based on my tests of the world’s best chairs, this is partially true. However, legit god-tier status belongs to only one model.
The Herman Miller Embody supports the back objectively better than any other ergonomic chair. Other models prioritize lumbar support to encourage neutral sitting postures.
In contrast, the Embody’s Backfit support system support the upper spine. Getting started is easy: plant your feet, tuck your hips deep into the seat, and sit super-straight. Then, toggle the Backfit so that it cups your upper spine in place.
This will ‘hook’ your upper back curve and keep it straight — the effect feels like you’re floating. It also requires noticeably less effort than using standard lumbar-supported ergonomic chairs.
Ubiquitous Lumbar-Powered Neutral Posture Support
After the Embody, all ergonomic chairs use a cookie-cutter lumbar-powered support concept. You can see for yourself how an adjustable lumbar + adjustable arms + reclining backrest combo supports good posture:
Ergonomic Criteria For Healthy Sitting
What makes a chair ‘ergonomic’? OSHA, BIFMA, the Human Factors & Ergonomics Handbook, and other leading institutions define it the same way.
To qualify as ‘ergonomic’, a chair needs three adjustable features. Adjustable lumbar support aligns the spine. Adjustable arms provide extra bracing to hold the spine upright. A reclining backrest helps a seated body move.
Combined, these features support users into dynamic neutral postures. These align the spine as if it was in a healthy standing position.
A standard neutral posture requires a 25-45° lower back curve. A perfect neutral posture also includes a 0° neck tilt.
Sitting in a chair without these features first causes problems in the lower back. Without lumbar support, a seated lower back curve flattens by half. Read the supporting studies:
Gaming (Full-Back) Vs Office (Mid-Back) Chairs
Full-back gaming and mid-back ergonomic office chairs both support healthy upright computing postures. Mid-back chairs have limited reclines that keep users upright. In contrast, full-back chairs add deep recline functionality.
But regardless of the chair, proper usage yields the best results. As a result, deciding on the ‘best’ is subjective — but still extremely important.
Studies show that psychological appeal influences comfort. When users find a chair attractive, they’ll feel more inspired to use it properly — and then perceive it as more physically ‘comfortable’.
- Gaming & Office Types Both support Neutral Postures: that one provides ‘better’ support than the other is easily disproven.
- Proper Usage > Type Of Chair: regardless of model, tuck your hips, plant your feet, and support your lower back for best results.
- Psychological Appeal = Significant Comfort Perception Factor: people who perceive a chair as more comfortable will find it physically so.
- Overhyped Office Chair Selling Points: mediocre luxury extras that you don’t actually need.
- Mid-Back Vs Full-Back Seating Differences: strict cubicle-style support vs a relaxed work-from-home style.
Both Support Standard Neutral Postures
Beyond the Embody, all ergonomic chairs work the same way — using the same 90s-era concept. With planted feet and a supported lumbar curve, users can sit for long periods without muscle strain.
Adjustable lumbar support aligns the lower back. Adjustable arms provide extra bracing to hold the spine upright. A reclining backrest lets you customize support angles (a 100-110° recline works best).
Combined, this trio helps users to maintain neutral sitting postures. These reduce the musculoskeletal stress caused by sitting for long periods without support. Learn more:
Proper Usage > The Type Of Chair
Many first-time ergonomic chair buyers assume that spending more will buy them ‘better’ back support. In reality, all support neutral postures using the same adjustable lumbar + arms + recline combo. Regardless of the chair, proper usage will yield similar results.
As proof of that, here’s an experienced ergonomic chair user (me) in a $1300 Mirra 2 vs a newbie in a gaming chair. To ensure crisp neutral postures, we’re both sitting the same way.
That means: hips tucked deep into the seat, planted feet, a supported lumbar curve, and armrests used to prop up the torso.
Bottom line: excluding the Embody, gaming and ergonomic office chairs work the same way; proper usage trumps the type of chair being used. Learn more:
Psychological Appeal = Major Comfort Factor
When a chair looks more comfortable, users are liklier to perceive it as more physically comfortable. For example, a comfort study was done using airplane seats with and without headrests.
In seats without a headrest, users would keep their heads balanced at a 0° tilt (good neck posture). Adding a headrest encouraged a rearward head tilt and slouchier posture. Even so, most subjects reported slouched, headrest-supported seats as more comfortable.
Corporate Ergonomic Chair Reverence
Psychological appeal also explains why high-end ergonomic office chairs are so passionately revered. We’ve already shown how most provide cookie-cutter neutral posture support.
Nonetheless, buying a pricey chair from a top-5 office furniture mega-corporation comes with massive expectations.
Most assume that paying a premium guarantees medical-grade back support, museum-quality aesthetics, and rock-solid 12-year durability. In reality, the durability is legit; the aesthetic appeal is subjective.
But on the back support front, only the Embody objectively lives up to the ‘medical-grade back support’ hype.
Overhyped Ergonomic Selling Points
Many hype ergonomic office chairs as medical-grade marvels that put gaming chairs to shame. If talking about Herman Miller’s Embody, it’s true. But the rest all provide the same support features as full-back gaming chairs!
But wait — there are more overhyped aspects worth your attention!
Exagerrated Mobile Computing Support
Many hype the Steelcase Gesture as the world’s most advanced mobile computing chair. This 2013 design has arms specially designed with 360° rating functionality to support mobile computing!
But in reality, the industry’s best mobile supporting chair provides toylike support compared to a standing desk. Beyond the Embody, all elite chairs provide similarly mediocre mobile support.
Overblown Synchronous-Tilt Value-For-Money
Beyond overhyped back support and mobile computing support, there are other dubious selling points to consider. The third is synchronous tilt: this tilts the seat up as a user reclines. Many chairs justify high prices by including this feature.
But in reality, synchronous tilt is an extraneous feature for two reasons. First, to activate it, you need to disengage from your workstation and lean back.
Second, if you’re going to disengage from your work, you’ll get a better movement boost by standing up to take a movement break.
Overhyped Selling Points Summary
Look closely and you’ll find a lot of overhyping going on among elite ergonomic office chairs. Summary:
- Back support parity: all elite chairs (excluding the Embody) use the same cookie-cutter concepts (adjustable lumbar + arms + recline = neutral support)
- Mythical mobile armrest support: none of the elite chairs support long mobile computing sessions. Regardless of the chair, you’ll need a standing desk for proper support.
- Extraneous sync-tilt: pricey tilting functions let you work your hips while sitting in disengaged postures. But if disengaged, standing breaks > flopping willy-nilly in a chair.
- Strict neutral postures are overkill? in response to rising gaming chair popularity, top office chair brands are abandoning strict posture concepts for more casual ones.
Beyond the back support functions (lumbar, arms, recline), what luxury extras do you really need? Take a good hard look at the facts:
Strict Mid-Back Vs Relaxed Full-Back
Herman Miller kicked off the ergonomic seating revolution in 1994 with the release of the iconic Aeron chair. Its adjustable lumbar + arms + reclining backrest support formula shook up the industry.
In the years that followed, several mid-back riffs on the same support formula emerged. In fact, from a historical perspective, the biggest innovation since the 1994 Aeron was the 2006 emergence of full-back gaming chairs.
Upon release, 2006-era full-back chairs were derived as gimmicks. That perception changed for good 14 years later, during 2020 Covid lockdowns. Then, gaming chair sales skyrocketed — while office chair sales crashed.
Soon after, office furniture mega-corporations began bending the knee to the full-back ergonomic chair style.
Generational Shift To A Full-Back, Casual Support Style
In late 2022, three of the world’s largest office furniture corporations released full-back gaming chairs. First, Respawn (part of the HNI Corporation) dropped its Respawn Flexx Faze Clan Edition.
Soon after, Haworth dropped the Fern x Halo Gaming chair. Within the same timeframe, Herman Miller released the Vantum Gaming Chair as a seating ‘revolution’. Like the others, it has a full-back design that supports relaxed, semi-neutral postures.
In a press release, Herman Miller Gaming GM Jon Campbell explained the move away from a strict neutral postures as generational. According to Herman Miller research, ‘Gamers’ (Millennials and younger) demand more versatility:
In a later interview, he doubled down: existing Herman Miller chair owners sitting in neutral postures are doing it wrong!
Choosing A Gaming Or Office-Style Chair
The evidence shows that gaming and ergonomic office chairs both support healthy neutral postures. In all cases, proper neutral sitting techniques will bring the best out of the chair — regardless of its price.
On top of that, frequent breaks + a healthy lifestyle when away from the computer can iron out potential kinks. That means the ‘best’ type is the one that you find most appealing.
- The ‘Best’ Chair Type Is Subjective: gaming and ergo office chairs both support healthy neutral postures. Whichever type appeals to you is the best one to choose.
- Healthy Lifestyles > Type Of Chair: regardless of chair types, neutral tactics + frequent breaks + healthy lifestyles away from the computer yield the best results.
- Pro Gamers Use Ergo Chairs + Fitness Model: some pros gaming chairs; others use mid-back ergo office chairs. Most balance things out with healthy habits when away from the computer.
The ‘Best’ Type of Chair is Subjective
Given recent trends, hard-core office chair fans have three options. First, they can hold onto the strict, cubicle-era sitting styles of yesteryear. Second, they can go with the flow by adopting a slouchier style in a full-back gaming chair.
But a third option makes the most sense. That is: choose whichever style of seating appeals to you the most.
With proper usage, any type of ergonomic seating will suffice. Proper usage means:
- Maintain neutral-ish postures while sitting.
- Take frequent standing breaks to stretch your legs.
- When away from the computer, prioritize exercise, smart nutrition, and sound sleep.
Fitness Beats Chairs Ergonomics
The modern esports performance optimization template goes well beyond the chair. Most teams now prioritize healthy lifestyles (and mindsets) when away from the computer to boost performance.
These days, it’s well-known that frequent stretching breaks can relieve built-up gamer stress. Longer exercise breaks help even more. Stacking on clean eating and sound sleep can render imperfect gaming postures irrelevant.
Even so, frequent stretching breaks can relieve built-up gamer stress. Longer exercise breaks help even more. Stacking on clean eating and sound sleep can render imperfect gaming postures irrelevant.
These concepts are supported by three prominent esports doctors we recently interviewed. Dr. Jordan Tsai works with players from Cloud9, Evil Geniuses, TSM, 100 Thieves, and other top teams.
He touts fitness as more important than a good chair to maintain health while sitting. “A regular range of motion exercises, strengthening, and stretching are all critical.”
Dr. William Duncan works with both esports and traditional athletes. He adds that gamers should “work on strength & endurance and use a good chair.”
Esports Priorities For Healthy Deskwork
To boost performance at a desk, the doctors we spoke to agreed on these priorities (in order of importance):
- Health trinity: regular exercise, good nutrition, sound sleep.
- Good posture: try to sit straight in whichever type of chair you use.
- Frequent breaks: breaks reset the brain, boost blood flow, and work sedentary muscles.
- Good ergonomic chair: choose whichever type aligns with your preferences.
From an esports health perspective, the gaming chair vs ergonomic chair debate is irrelevant. A healthy lifestyle with frequent breaks and regular exercise can override the damage caused by sloppy sitting.
For instance, when I first started using gaming chairs, I had terrible posture. After adapting to neutral postures, I gained enough energy to work out and eat right.
These days, I don’t see a need to sit with a strict posture. A looser style is more comfortable. When things veer off course, it’s easy to reset. Learn more:
What Chairs Do The Pros Use?
Many of the world’s top esports teams use full-back gaming chairs; a few use Embody chairs. Most teams also invest heavily to ensure peak player performance. But many players don’t maintain strict neutral postures while competing.
For example, Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyljev plays CS:GO player for Natus Vincere. His gaming setup walkthrough(1) shows off a less-than-ideal forward neck bend.
Instead of focusing on perfect posture, he maintains peak performance with similar cookie-cutter strategies that elite teams and streamers use.
Top Streamers: Quasi-Neutral Postures + Fitness
Like esports pros, many of the world’s top streamers also use a semi-neutral posture + fitness performance strategy. Every top-10 streamer is a multi-millionaire with a limitless chair budget.
Even so, there’s no clear consensus chair. Some use full-back gaming chairs; others use mid-back Herman Miller chairs.
Beyond the chair, most top-20 streamers also stay sharp by maintaining active, healthy lifestyles. That include regular exercise, clean eating habits, and plenty of downtime to avoid burnout.
These tactics help them maintain their elite status by making sure their streaming performances are on-point.
Best Ergonomic Chairs Of 2023
Here at ChairsFX, I use a Secretlab Titan Evo 2022 ($560) with a Magnus Pro desk ($799 + accessories). That combo lets me maintain near perfect multi-device computing postures while sitting and standing.
Last year, three esports doctors helped me configure my Titan to support 0° neck postures. Method: adopt a good neutral posture with a 100° recline; use the headrest to brace your neck.
Recently, I took a fresh look at the world’s best ergonomic chairs. My objective: see which would legitimately upgrade my Titan sitting experience.
Herman Miller’s Embody fit the bill. It provided better back support using an alternative (upper back support) method. That, as a result, delivered an equally perfect neck posture — achieved with less effort than in a Titan.
Significantly, none of the other elite chairs support the neck. Instead, all serve up a cookie-cutter lumbar-supported style. That makes none of them viable upgrade over my Titan — except for one.
Despite serving up a cookie-cutter support style, Herman Miller’s Aeron pops for two reasons. First, it’s extremely easy to use. Second, its 8Z Pellicle Mesh is world-class. That in particular helps to justify its high price.
Herman Miller Embody: Best Back Support
The physical point of an ergonomic chair is to support neutral postures. No chair does this better than the Herman Miller Embody. It’s unique Backfit system is the key to its magic.
Turn the Backfit dial clockwise to tilt the upper portion of the backrest forward until it cups your upper spine. Then, turn it counterclockwise to toggle the bottom (lumbar) portion forward or back.
When configured properly, the result is spectacular. The Backfit curve suspends your upper spine against gravity’s pull. With hips tucked deep into the seat, that helps hold your entire spine up in a clean neutral posture — from the tip of your spine to your neck.
Beyond the world-class back support, the Embody boasts museum-quality good looks and a rich array of adjustable features:
- Synchro-tilt: seat pan angle 3° to 15°; backrest 94° to 120°
- Pixelated back support: the backrest has a central spine with flexible ribs. Each rib adjusts when you move for consistent support of your spinal curves.
- BackFit angle adjustment: lets you angle the backrest to fit the curvature of your spine.
- Seat adjustments: adjust the seat’s height and depth.
- Armrests: 2D-adjustable
- Backrest: adjust recline tension; 3-position tilt-lock; synchro-tilt
- Sizing specs: 5’4″ to 6’2″; 300-pound weight capacity
Learn more: Detailed Embody Pros and Cons
Gaming Edition: Logitech G Gaming Edition $1695 from Herman Miller
Herman Miller Aeron: Most Luxurious
The Aeron was released in 1994 (29 years ago). The Aeron Remastered upgrade (2017) added fancier mesh and tilting functions. It offers good — but predictable — back support. Reason: many chairs have copied its back support formula over the years.
Even so, compared to other chairs, the Aeron makes it very easy to achieve neutral postures. Once the chair is properly adjusted, plant your feet, tuck your hips, and sit down.
However, what truly sets it apart is its world-class 8Z Pellicle Mesh. It has a luxurious, high-tech feel with the perfect tautness — even while shifting positions.
The feel, consistency, and breathability make for a jaw-dropping combo. That makes sitting in this chair feel inspiring. But psychological appeal is subjective. Some might find it worth paying $1700+ for.
Others might find the limited recline options a deal-breaker. Why spend so much on a chair that limits your options so severely?
- Sync-tilt: seat pan angle from -1° to 16°; backrest 93° to 104°
- Upholstery: Pellicle 8Z mesh provides eight tension zones.
- Adjustable lumbar: choose a height or depth-adjustable unit.
- Seat: adjust the height; tilt up or down; sync-tilt with the backrest.
- Armrests: 3D adjustable.
- Warranty: 12 years.
Learn more: Aeron Vs Other Elite Office Chairs
Secretlab Titan 2022 Series: Best Full-Back
The Titan is the Swiss Army Knife of desk chairs. Like other full-back models, it provides the flexibility to sit as you wish. Like the Herman Miller Embody, it supports the back and neck into textbook perfect neutral postures.
I’ve been using a Cookies & Cream Softweave edition for the past 1.5 years. In my experience, it and Herman Miller Embody both support neutral back & neck postures effectively.
But compared to the Aeron, the Titan does a better job at actively supporting a 0° neck posture. It also goes beyond the super-strict Aeron by letting you sit however you like. From a long-term perspective, that flexibility is invaluable.
For instance, over the past 1.5 years, I’ve learned that sitting postures are fluid. When in peak form, my posture tends to be on-point. But in more trying times (burnout, stress, etc), I tend to get slouchier. My Titan supports me across the spectrum. I really like that.
Psychological Appeal Bonus
Physiological comfort factors include physical (ergonomic), psychological, and environmental. In service of the latter two, the Titan comes in a whopping 50+ styles.
There are enough styles here to delight most sensibilities. Choose conservative office designs, fancy embroidered video game styles, cool fabric pastels, and plenty more. Check out this Furniture Color Psychology Guide for details.
Titan Evo 2022 Features
- Functionality: 4D armrests; multifunction tilt-lock; recline from 85-165°.
- New 2022 Series Features: integrated 4-way adjustable lumbar support; magnetic headrest pillow; pebble seat base with waterfall edge.
- Sizing: small 4’11” to 5’6″; medium 5’7″ to 6’2″; XL 5’11” to 6’9″.
- Warranty: five years.
Learn more: Titan Evo 2022 Gaming Chair Review
Conclusion: Comfort Vs Focus
Soon after the first gaming chair dropped in 2006, a hard-core band of ergo office chair evangelists emerged online. They deride gaming chairs as scams — while adoring mega-corporate office chairs with zeal. Subjectively, they’re right!
Full-back gaming and mid-back office chairs both support good back posture — using the same support methods. However, psychological appeal is also a major comfort factor.
Those who perceive mega-corpo office chairs as medical-grade will find them physically so. If that brings inpriation to maintain neutral postures, everybody wins.
Comfort Vs Focus
At this stage of my life, flexible seating best suits my needs. So my Titan Evo 2022 Series serves my needs just fine — for now. Many world-leading streamers also start off using racing-style gaming chairs. But after hitting the big time, they often switch over to Herman Miller chairs.
For example, Ninja is the most-followed streamer on Twitch. After several years using a Maxnomic gaming chair, he recently upgraded to a Herman Miller Embody. Timthetatman, Tfue, Shroud, and other elite streamers have all done similar. Why did so many use gaming chairs early in their careers? Why do they often switch to ergonomic office chairs later on?
Early in streaming careers, comfortable all-day support helps to maintain the grind. After they hit the big time, time is money. Then, stricter support better ensures high performance over shorter, more focused sessions.
That boils down to a very simple conclusion to the gaming chair vs office chair debate. Since both support neutral postures, choose whichever type you fancy the most. Then, make sure you use it properly.
Choosing a mid-back model will limit your recline and keep you locked in focus mode. Opting for a full-back model will also give you the option to kick back and relax.
Regardless of chair type, make sure to tuck your hips deep into the seat and keep your feet planted. Take frequent movement breaks. Hit the gym to iron out any kinks.
Then, it doesn’t matter what type of ergonomic chair you decide on — as long as you feel inspired enough by it to maintain good posture. Then, everyone wins (you, your spine, the chair maker’s reputation).
- Youtube, “Set up like S1mple – WITH CFG!” ESL Counter-Strike, March 18, 2022, https://youtu.be/REjATuWa5TY