Earning the Best Buy Award, the Steelcase Series 1 is a decent all-around chair that won't break the bank compared to the top products. It's not the best chair for serious sitters but is a good option for a home office that gets mild to moderate use or anyone who isn't planted to their chair for 40+ hours a week. It appears to be solidly constructed and is decently comfortable but can't compare to the top-tier chairs overall.
Steelcase Series 1 Review
Pros: Good value, breathable back
Cons: Armrests seems flimsy, not the most comfortable for extended use
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Steelcase Series 1 has its fair share of flaws and we wouldn't really recommend it if you sit down for the entire day with it. However, it's great for shorter periods of time and a handful of our judges were more than happy to use it for a full day. However, we did notice that the armrests are a little on the wider side, so more petite users might find that problematic.
The most important metric of our review process — and the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of an office chair — is Comfort. This metric accounts for 50% of the total score for the Steelcase Series 1 and is based on the opinions of our panel of judges after trying out each of these chairs for extensive amounts of time. Unfortunately, opinions of the Series 1 were mixed, earning this chair a middle-of-the-road score.
Most of our judges felt that the seat of the Series 1 chair is adequately comfortable. All of the judges found this chair to have acceptable amounts of padding but a few found the seat to be angled forward just a little too aggressively, feeling like the chair was going to dump them out. Opinions of the backrest were a little more split, with no judge being overly fond of the backrest and several severely disliking it. This chair doesn't give you a ton of reclining options and the lumbar support is definitely on the weaker side compared to other models.
The armrests on this chair also failed to receive rave reviews from our testers. They tend to shift around when you put pressure in them and don't offer a ton of padding. The majority of our judges spent significant amounts of time constantly readjusting them while sitting in the Series 1 in an often fruitless quest for a comfortable position.
Overall, only about half of our judges would be content sitting in the Series 1 for eight hours or more, with the remaining calling it quits with this chair after four or five hours.
Next, we compared and scored how adjustable the Series 1 is compared to other chairs. We specifically looked if you can adjust the backrest, seat depth, armrests, and reclining settings, which accounts for 35% of the final score. The Steelcase Series 1 has most of these features, earning it a slightly above average score.
The Series 1 has an adjustable lumbar support brace but you can only adjust the height, not the amount of support it offers or curvature, so you are out of luck if the stock setting doesn't match up with your spine. You can't adjust the reclining resistance and tilt limiter separately, they are both combined into the same knob and you only have three combinations to choose from. On top of that, two of these settings had a barely noticeable difference so your reclining choices are fairly limited with this chair.
The armrests on this chair do have a considerable amount of adjustability. They can be moved in and out, forward and back, up and down, and swivel. However, they do have a reduced range of motion compared to some of the other chairs and are attached to the backrest, so the armrests do recline as you do. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just a matter of personal preference but the majority of our judges would rather have the armrests remain stationary as they recline.
The Series 1 also has an adjustable seat pan depth and overall is fairly easy to adjust to reach an ergonomic position for most people at most desks.
Our next series of assessments account for 10% of each chair's final score. In this metric, we focused on how sturdily each chair is constructed, if we noticed and signs of wear and tear or other damage throughout our testing process, if other user reviews had common complaints, and the length of the included warranty term to determine scores. The Steelcase Series 1 did exceptionally well, earning one of the better scores of the group and placing right at the top of the pack.
The vast majority of the reviews for this chair that we found are positive, with only a few complaining of structural issues. One said the lumbar support broke after only a few months and another thought the gas cylinder for raising or lowering the chair started to leak after a while. These seem like isolated incidents and we overall thought the Series 1 was quite well constructed. It doesn't seem quite as solid as some of Steelcase's premium chairs but we didn't identify any particularly worrisome spots. The lumbar support did give us some pause — especially after reading the review where it broke — but it seems solid to us after months and months of testing. The Series 1 also includes Steelcase's 12-year warranty, which does help alleviate any concerns we had about the backrest and the rest of this chair's construction.
Ease of Assembly
For our final round of tests for the Series 1, we looked at the amount of work it took to put together before you can start sitting in it. This last metric accounts for the remaining 5% of its final score, with this chair delivering another top-notch score, again putting it at the top of the group.
The Series 1 arrived completely assembled and didn't require any effort on our part to get it ready to go aside from unpacking it, which only took 5-10 minutes.
Overall, the Series 1 is a great value. It's not the cheapest or best chair out there but it's fairly comfortable and ergonomic to sit in, with plenty of adjustable features to conform it to your personal preferences. It's a good middle ground between not spending a ton of money on a chair and not having a cheap chair that is so uncomfortable that you can't stand to sit in it.
While we are the first to admit that the Series 1 isn't the most comfortable chair we have tested to date, it is far from the worst. Most of our testers were more than happy to use it for 5-6 hours a day and it only started to elicit complaints from users who were sitting in it all the time, 8-10 hours a days for 4-5 days a week
— Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman