The world's most in-depth and scientific product reviews

Humanscale Diffrient Smart Office Chair Review

We expected a significantly more impressive performance from this incredibly expensive chair
Humanscale Diffrient Smart Office Chair
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:   $1,426 List | $949 at Amazon
Pros:  Sturdy, easy to assemble
Cons:  Unjustifiably expensive, could be more adjustable
Manufacturer:   Humanscale
By David Wise and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Nov 29, 2018
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 13
  • Comfort - 50% 7
  • Adjustability - 35% 6
  • Durability - 10% 9
  • Ease of Assembly - 5% 10

Our Verdict

The Diffrient Smart Office Chair by Humanscale has the highest price tag of the entire group, retailing for over $1400. However, we found its performance isn't quite commensurate with its premium price. This chair scored above average in each of our metrics but didn't really distinguish itself from the other chairs of the group in any way besides its price tag. It does feel well-built and was a snap to assemble, but there are other chairs that our judges found to be more comfortable and have more adjustability — the most important traits a good office chair should have, making it hard to recommend the Diffrient.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $1,426 List
$949.00 at Amazon
$998 List
$1,036 at Amazon
$600 List$1,595 List$817 List
$788.40 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
70
86
75
75
74
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Sturdy, easy to assembleExtremely comfortable, tons of adjustability, sturdy constructionSuper easy to assemble, very adjustableAppears quite durable, very adjustableAppears well-built, comfortable
Cons Unjustifiably expensive, could be more adjustablePriceyCould be a lot more comfortable, design isn’t universalExceptionally expensive, harder to assembleCould have more adjustable features, pricey
Bottom Line Given its premium price, this chair’s relatively lackluster results are exceptionally disappointingOur favorite office chair that we have tested to date, the Leap is by far the best you can getThis chair definitely makes a style statement but we wish it were a bit more comfortableIt’s hard to justify spending an exorbitant amount for a chair that isn’t the absolute bestWhile the Think overall did well in our review, it didn’t quite make it onto our list of favorites
Rating Categories Diffrient Smart Steelcase Leap Herman Miller Sayl Herman Miller Embody Steelcase Think
Comfort (50%)
7
8
6
7
7
Adjustability (35%)
6
9
9
8
7
Durability (10%)
9
9
8
9
9
Ease Of Assembly (5%)
10
10
10
5
10
Specs Diffrient Smart Steelcase Leap Herman Miller Sayl Herman Miller Embody Steelcase Think
Seat pan adjustment Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjustable lumbar support No Yes Option available Yes; You can adjust the amount, but not the location Yes
Lumbar support Yes; A slight protrusion Yes Option available Yes Yes
Recline lever No No No No No
Tilt limiter No Yes; 5 stop points Yes; 3 stop points Yes; 4 stop points Yes; 4 stop points
Armrest width adjustment Option available Option available Option available as a third-party upgrade Yes Option available
Swivel armrests Option available Option available Option available as a third-party upgrade No Option available
Armrest depth adjustment Option available Option available Option available as a third-party upgrade No Option available
Tension knob No Yes Yes Yes No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Diffrient scored slightly worse than the DXRacer and a bit ahead of the Modway Articulate Ergonomic Mesh. It scored about the same as the DXRacer when it came to comfort and durability, outperforming the Modway. However, the DXRacer offers more adjustability than either of these other chairs. When it comes to price, both the Modway and the DXRacer are far less expensive, retailing for about $1300 and $1100 less, respectively.

The Diffrient is a great chair, but it is a bit pricey.
The Diffrient is a great chair, but it is a bit pricey.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Performance Comparison


To determine which office chairs we were going to recommend, we looked at dozens and dozens of different models, then bought all the ones that showed the most potential to really test out and get to the bottom of which office chair is really the best. We rated each chair in four different weighted categories, with the Humanscale's results below.

The Diffrient scored quite well in our comfort test, but wasn't the...
The Diffrient scored quite well in our comfort test, but wasn't the best of the bunch.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Comfort


The weightiest testing metric out of our entire process, our group of comfort evaluations comprises half of the total score for each office chair. We selected a group of judges of varied size and stature, then had them try out each chair for enough time that they had a good feel for it. To award points, we had each judge rate various parts of the chair with respect to comfort and decide how long they would be alright sitting in it. The Diffrient did quite well, tying for the second place position overall with a 7 out of 10.

Our judges' response to the Diffrient was one of extremes, with about half of them rating this chair very highly and being more than happy to sit in it for 10-12 hours and half of them detesting it, only able to sit for 1-2 hours before experiencing substantial discomfort.

Opinions on how long you could comfortably sit in the Diffrient...
Opinions on how long you could comfortably sit in the Diffrient differed drastically among our testers.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Looking at specific parts of the chair, the seat and armrests were actually rated quite highly across the board, but it was looking at the backrest where the difference of opinion became noticeable, receiving much more of a mixed response.

The Diffrient has a decent amount of adjustability.
The Diffrient has a decent amount of adjustability.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Adjustability


Ranking next in significance, our adjustability metric is responsible for 35% of the final score for each office chair. We had the same panel of judges try out the full range of motion available to them on the backrest, armrests, and seat of the Diffrient and rate their impressions, as well as assess the customization afforded to you with the reclining mechanism. The Diffrient didn't do quite as well, meriting a 6 out of 10 for its marginally above average adjustability.

We weren't fans of the minimal lumbar support and fixed backrest.
We weren't fans of the minimal lumbar support and fixed backrest.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

This chair got off to a bad start when we scored its backrest, as it barely has any lumbar support and you can't adjust the backrest at all. The version of this chair we tested only has the ability to raise and lower the armrests, but the newer versions are fully adjustable, letting you move them up or down, forward or back, and swivel them.

The Diffrient did redeem itself a bit by having a very adjustable seat, letting you change both the height and the depth.

We did appreciate the fully adjustable seat.
We did appreciate the fully adjustable seat.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Unfortunately, this chair doesn't have a way to manipulate the amount of resistance required to recline and we found the default setting to be far too low.

The low reclining resistance made it easy to feel like you are going...
The low reclining resistance made it easy to feel like you are going to fall out of this chair.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

It also doesn't have tilt limiters, so you can definitely find yourself reclined much further than you would have liked by only slightly leaning back.

We felt this chair is one of the more durable models that we have...
We felt this chair is one of the more durable models that we have seen.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Durability


Next, we moved on to comparing how durable and sturdily constructed each chair is. We used both our own observations and other user reviews to determine scores, as well as taking the length of the warranty period and coverage into account. This set of evaluations is responsible for 10% of the final score, with the Humanscale Diffrient earning a 9 out of 10 for its great showing.

We didn't really find any common issues in all the other user reviews that we read through and our chair held up quite well to our tests, showing no noticeable signs of wear — though we did only test for a few months. The only potential issue we saw was some of the adjustment levers did seem a little on the flimsier side.

This chair also has one of the longest warranty periods, with a 15-year term on everything but the arm pads, cushions, and fabric, which is only warrantied for 5 years.

This chair required almost no assembly at all.
This chair required almost no assembly at all.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Ease of Assembly


For our last category of assessments, we judged each chair on the effort required to go from unboxing to sitting in it, as well as how easy the directions for this process are to understand. The Humanscale Diffrient tied for the top spot overall, meriting a 10 out of 10.

The process is so simple, you don't even need directions and we had it ready to go in less than 5 minutes. You just need to set the top on the base and you are ready to go.

Value


This chair is a horrible value option, pairing an uninspiring performance with a premium price.

Conclusion


While the Humanscale Diffrient is a solid chair, we would expect a chair in its price range to be pretty close to perfect.

David Wise and Austin Palmer