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How We Tested Office Chairs

Thursday November 29, 2018

In our quest to find the best office chair, we did tons and tons of research on the available models, comparing user reviews and the manufacturer's specifications on each one, then picked out which chairs we thought had the most potential at winning an award. We then bought all of these and set them against each other in a series of head-to-head challenges. Our testing process was divided into four weighted rating metrics — Comfort, Adjustability, Durability, and Ease of Assembly — with our full testing plan outlined below. If you want to see how specific chairs did or which ones came out on top, then you should head on over to our complete office chair review here!

Comfort


Our initial round of assessments focused on how comfortable each of these chairs is. Comfort is probably what comes to your mind first and foremost when talking about these products and consequently, this is the most important rating metric, responsible for 50% of the total score for each chair. To evaluate this inherently subjective metric, we had a group of judges test out each chair for a few days, then rate each one.


In particular, we had each judge compare and rank how comfortable the armrest on each chair is, how the seat felt, and the backrest.


Finally, we also had each judge decide how long they could comfortably sit in each office chair. We then aggregated all of their opinions and averaged their scores to determine the final comfort score for each office chair.

Adjustability


After comfort, our next most important set of tests evaluated how adjustable each of these office chairs is. This round of tests accounts for 35% of the overall score and is based on five different areas of adjustability: back support, armrests, seat adjustments, reclining tension, and if you can configure the chair to achieve a correct ergonomic position based on standard guidelines.

For backrest adjustability, we looked at each chair to see if it had adequate lumbar support, as well as if it has the option to customize the amount of lumbar support each chair provides.


We also compared and scored each chair based on the user-friendliness and capabilities of the reclining lever and the tilt limiters, such as the different positions you can lock the chair into and the different setpoints for the limiters. Finally, we also compared how high the backrest on each chair goes, awarding points accordingly. In particular, we had our tallest judge score the height of the backrests, noting which ones were comfortable enough for him and which ones weren't.


Next, we looked at how much customization is afforded to you by the armrests on each chair. Specifically, we awarded points to each chair if you can move the armrests up or down, in or out, forward and back, or swivel. We also had our panel of judges rate the armrest adjustability, to see if the chair offered enough range of motion to accommodate both our largest and smallest tester.


For out seat adjustment test, we had our panel of judges rate the amount of customization available on each seat, such as its range of motion up and down, as well as forward and back. In particular, we had both our shortest and tallest tester note if they could achieve the correct height and depth to place their feet properly on the ground.


Next, we looked at the tension knob adjustment of each chair. This knob sets the amount of resistance when reclining and we scored each chair — if it had one — on how easy it is to reach and how easy it is to adjust to find your preferred setting.


Finally, we used standard guidelines for an ergonomic desk setup to see if our judges could successfully adjust the chair to get their body position to match the guidelines and how much work it took.


We again made sure that our tallest and shortest testers tried out each chair for this test, to make sure that the chairs had enough range of movement for a wide variety of people.

Durability


Next, we evaluated and scored how durable each chair is. While we can't do a true test of durability, as we only bought a single unit of each model and tested them for a few months, rather than years, we combed through hundreds and hundreds of user reviews for mentions of common problems, looked at the included warranty with each chair, and gave each chair an overall score based on our assessment of its construction and any damage sustained throughout the course of our testing. Altogether, this trio of assessments accounts for 10% of the overall score.

For the first test of this metric, we combed through all of the 1 and 2-star user reviews for each of these products, both on the manufacturer's site and on major retailers, looking for any commonly encountered problems or issues with components of the chair breaking. We deducted points for any common issues we found that seemed reasonable and well-documented, omitting any that seemed like one-off issues or problems clearly stemming from misuse.

When it came to evaluating warranties, we awarded more points the longer and more comprehensive each warranty is. Finally, we looked for any signs of damage over our relatively short testing period, reasoning that if any of these chairs suffered component failure or had something break over the few months that we tested, they probably weren't going to fare the best over the multiple year lifespan we would expect from these products.

Ease of Assembly


Last in our testing process, our assembly metric accounts for 5% of the overall score for each office chair. While the assembly process for some of these chairs can be quite tedious, it usually only has to be done once, so even the most difficult assembly processes can usually be coped with.


For this metric, we looked at how long it took to assemble each chair and how many tools were required. Additionally, we also compared and scored the quality of the instructions included with each chair.

Conclusion


Hopefully, this has given you a better understanding of exactly how we tested office chairs and how we scored to pick our award winners. If you want more background on picking out office chairs in general, head over to our Buying Advice guide for a full breakdown of the different types of chairs available and their pros and cons. Alternatively, check out our comprehensive Office Chair Review to see which chairs came out on top!