The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of tech gear

The Best Office Chairs of 2018

Thursday November 29, 2018
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Searching for the absolute best of the best when it comes to office chairs? We looked at tons of different chairs, then bought the 9 most promising chairs to test head-to-head and see which seat is truly supreme. We've been testing out these products for months now, having our team of judges switch between chairs and rate how comfortable each one is and the different levels of adjustability after trying them side-by-side. Additionally, we also ranked and scored the durability of each chair and the difficulty of assembling it. Check out the full review to see which chair reigned above the rest, which is the best bang for the buck, and if the premium-priced chairs are really worth it.


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Awards Best Buy Award   Editors' Choice Award  
Price $300 List
$299.00 at Amazon
$1,295 List
$1,100.75 at Amazon
$1,426 List
$999.00 at Amazon
$998 List
$978.00 at Amazon
$817 List
$680.00 at Amazon
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Pros Great value, durable, comfortableAppears quite durable, very adjustableSturdy, easy to assembleExtremely comfortable, tons of adjustability, sturdy constructionAppears well-built, comfortable
Cons Looks aren’t universally appealingExceptionally expensive, harder to assembleUnjustifiably expensive, could be more adjustablePriceyCould have more adjustable features, pricey
Bottom Line If you want a great budget chair or want to emulate a racecar driver, then the DXRacer is for youThis chair is one of the top performers but its exorbitantly expensive price tag is a bit of a turn offWe expected a significantly more impressive performance from this incredibly expensive chairIf you want an office chair that is the absolute best of the best, then the Leap is for youThe Think does well but it could do quite a bit better
Rating Categories Racing Series Embody Diffrient Smart Steelcase Leap Steelcase Think
Comfort (50%)
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Adjustability (35%)
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7
Durability (10%) Sort Icon
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Ease Of Assembly (5%)
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Specs Racing Series Embody Diffrient Smart Steelcase Leap Steelcase Think

Best Overall Office Chair


Steelcase Leap


Editors' Choice Award

$978.00
at Amazon
See It

Adjustable Lumbar Support: Yes | Adjustable Seat Pan: Yes
Exceptionally comfortable
Highly adjustable
Very easy to put together
Expensive

Earning the top score out of all the chairs we have tested to date, the Steelcase Leap easily nabbed the title of Best Overall Chair and an Editors' Choice Award for its unmatched performance. The Leap was commonly ranked as the most comfortable chair by the majority of our judges, especially when it came to back support, and all of our judges agreed that they would be more than happy to sit in this chair for an entire workday. In fact, a decent number of the judges continue to use this chair for the foreseeable future. It has an impressive set of adjustable features to perfectly match your body and held up very well to our testing process, with no noticeable damage after months of use. It also is one of the easiest chairs to assemble.

However, all this performance comes at a price. The Leap retails for close to $1000 for a full-adjustable, fabric covered model and extras like leather upholstery or a headrest driving up the price even more. You can cut costs a little bit by forgoing the swivel and depth adjustments on the armrests or even going armless, but we wouldn't really recommend doing that if you are going to be sitting in the Leap for the majority of every workday. While it is expensive, it is the best of the best and should last for many years.

Read Full Review: Steelcase Leap


Best Value Chair


DXRacer Racing Series


Best Buy Award

$299.00
at Amazon
See It

Adjustable Lumbar Support: Yes | Adjustable Seat Pan: No
Very comfortable
Sturdy construction
Lots of adjustment abilities
Can look out of place in the office

Looking for a great office chair but can't afford the $1000+ price tag of the Steelcase Leap? If that is the case, then you should consider the Racing Series Chair by DXRacer. This is an all-around great office chair that retails for a fraction of the price of the Leap and gives you the added bonus of feeling like a Formula One driver whenever you are working at your computer. This high-backed chair offers plenty of support and is surprisingly comfortable, with the majority of our judges saying they could easily sit in that chair for 8-10 hours. The backrest and armrest are both very adjustable, with the overall construction of the chair feeling quite durable and well-built. It also isn't too much of a pain to assemble.

However, the DXRacer definitely stands out from every other chair we tested when it comes to looks — not necessarily in a good way. This chair is available in a wide variety of colors, some quite exuberant and others more subdued, but this chair tends to stand out — no matter what color scheme you pick. It's a great chair and we highly recommend it for budget-conscious shoppers, but it can definitely stand out quite a bit in the office.

Read Full Review: DXRacer Racing Series

Best Chair on a Tight Budget


Modway Articulate Ergonomic Mesh


Best Buy Award

$136.00
at Amazon
See It

Adjustable Lumbar Support: Yes | Adjustable Seat Pan: No
Inexpensive
Decently comfortable
A respectable set of adjustments
Doesn't seem the most durable

If you are shopping for a new seat without spending a ton of cash, then the Modway Articulate Ergonomic Mesh is the chair for you. This chair can't match the top products when it comes to comfort or adjustability, but it did quite well, considering it costs almost $900 less than the Steelcase Leap. Most of our judges rate this chair very favorably, with most of them finding it more than suitable to sit in for a full workday.

However, the seat isn't all that adjustable and the range of motion of the adjustable armrests isn't quite as large as some of the other models. They won't drop as low as some of the other models and don't have the ability to pivot or adjust their depth. This is quite unfortunate, as the default position of the armrests feels a bit on the wide side. While these are some somewhat significant flaws, it's hard to find a better office chair for less than $200, earning the Modway a Best Buy Award.

Read Full Review: Modway Articulate Ergonomic Mesh



Analysis and Test Results


To rank and score these products, we conducted extensive research and analysis, then bought all the best and most promising office chairs to test head-to-head and see how well all of their advertising claims actually stack up. We spent several months testing these products side-by-side, dividing our testing process up into four weighted metrics — Comfort, Adjustability, Durability, and Ease of Assembly — with our full results discussed below.

Value


As you most likely realize as soon as you start comparing different chairs, there is an enormous spread in the prices of these products. Budget chairs retail for $50 or less, but your back might end up paying the price, instead of your wallet. Top-of-the-line models can retail for upwards of $1000, but usually offer much more support and adjustability to improve your sitting experience. Our favorite overall chair is the Steelcase Leap, which retails for around $1000, depending on which options you select. While this chair is undeniably pricey, it is a worthy investment in helping to prevent any sitting-related health issues and is durable enough that it should last for many years. If this $1000 price tag is outrageous to you, then you might want to consider the DXRacer Racing Series, priced at a much more reasonable $300. This chair is almost as comfortable as the Leap and is great for most people if you are going to be sitting in it for long periods of time. If $300 is still too high or aren't necessarily going to be in the chair for 40 hours a week, then the Modway Articulate Ergonomic Mesh is the most budget-friendly chair that we would recommend. It's decently comfortable and offers a solid set of adjustments, but doesn't feel quite as well built as the top products, meaning you might end up spending more than you expect in the long run if you need to replace it sooner than you would have with one of the higher-end models.

Comfort


For our initial round of testing, we rated and scored how comfortable each office chair is. This is our most significant testing metric, accounting for 50% of the score for each chair. In particular, we had our panel of judges rate the comfort of the seat, backrest, and armrest of each chair, as well as their overall impressions and how happy they would be to sit in each chair for a full workday. Our panel of judges tried out each chair side-by-side for a few months and was comprised of both men and women, with a wide range of heights.


Earning the highest score out of the entire group, the Steelcase Leap is our judges' favorite when it comes to comfort. The vast majority of our judges rated this as the most comfortable chair overall, with only a single judge disagreeing and scoring some other chairs higher. This was also our tallest judge, measuring in around 6'3", which might be something to consider if you are on the taller side.


Our judges unanimously agreed that this is one of the most comfortable when it comes to the backrest, but our tallest judge was again the lone voice of dissent for both seat and armrest comfort. However, they all stated that they would be more than happy to use the Leap for a full workday or even longer.

Following the Leap, the Herman Miller Embody, the Steelcase Think, the DXRacer Racing Series, and the Humanscale Diffrient all merited a 7 out of 10 when it comes to comfort. Overall our judges were quite happy with these chairs, but there were usually one or two judges that strongly disliked some aspects of these chairs, with none receiving unanimous approval.

Our judges all agreed the Herman Miller Embody had quite comfortable armrests, but a single judge found the seat and backrest to be quite uncomfortable. Consequently, that judge could only sit in the chair for a few hours at the most. The rest of our panel rated this chair very highly when it came to seat and back comfort and were more than happy to use it for a full day.


The DXRacer didn't have a single judge that scored it well below average when it came to its seat, backrest, or armrests, but it did have a few judges score it average in these categories, cumulatively bringing its score down. Everyone was also happy to sit in this chair for at least 4-6 hours, with most being fine with 8-12+.


The Steelcase Think scored very similarly to the Steelcase Leap, but this time our tallest tester found the Think to be extremely uncomfortable, rather than just mildly uncomfortable. However, everyone else did score it quite highly.


The Humanscale Diffrient had a bit of a mixed reception with a pair of judges absolutely detesting his chair and were only able to sit in it for an hour or two, while the rest of the panel rated it quite well — though definitely lower than the top chairs overall.



Next, the Herman Miller Sayl, the Modway Articulate Ergonomic Mesh, and the Alera Elusion Series all came next in our comfort rankings, each chair earning a 6 out of 10. For the most part, the scoring of these chairs was a bit more consistent. None of the judges particularly disliked any of these chairs, with them instead receiving more mediocre scores across the board.

We liked the seat on the Alera slightly more than the Sayl and the Modway, but found that all three of these chairs are about the same when it comes to back comfort. Our judges scored the armrest of the Sayl the highest, followed by the Modway, and then the Alera.


Our testers did all agree that they could sit in the Modway for upwards of 8 hours, but a few judges did find that they only really wanted to sit in the Alera or the Sayl for 5-6 hours.


Finishing out the back of the group, the SPACE 5700E AirGrid earned a 5 out of 10. This chair received relatively lackluster marks across the board and not a single judge wanted to sit in it for more than 5-6 hours.

Adjustability


For our next round of testing, we compared the different level of adjustments each office chair has and how easy they are to use. We looked at the various adjustments for each chair's backrest, such as lumbar support, reclining lever, tilt limiters, and a headrest and the seat and armrests. We also scored each chair on the ease of use and capabilities of the reclining tension knob and if you could adjust the chair to support you in a proper ergonomic position. In total, these assessments account for 35% of the total score.


Earning a 9 out of 10 for their excellent set of adjustable features, both the Steelcase Leap and the Herman Miller Sayl tied for the top spot out of all the chairs. The Leap has a bit more adjustability than the Sayl when it comes to your back, allowing you to adjust both the position and how firm the lumbar support is, while the Sayl only lets you adjust its position. However, it is much easier to adjust the lumbar support on the Sayl than the Leap.


Neither of these chairs have headrests or the ability to lock in the reclined position, but you can set how far back you recline using the tilt limiters. The Sayl gives you 3 stop points to choose from, while the Leap gives you 5. These both have fully-adjustable armrest, allowing you to move them up and down, in and out, forward and back, and swivel them. Additionally, these chairs allow you to move the seat pan forward and back. It's also easy to adjust the tension knob to set the proper amount of resistance to reclining and we found it fairly easy to adjust both of these chairs to achieve a proper ergonomic position.


Following these top two performers, the Herman Miller Embody earned an 8 out of 10 for its exceptional set of adjustable features. The main flaw we found with the Embody is the inability to adjust the height of the lumbar support. You can engage or disengage it and adjust its curvature, but a handful of our testers felt that it would have been much better at a different height. It does have a headrest and has 4 stop points that you can set as tilt limiters for when you recline.


The armrests also only move up and down and in and out, lacking forward/back or swivel capabilities. It does have a fully-adjustable seat but does take a bit more work to get into a proper ergonomic stance, depending on your desk.

The Steelcase Think and the DXracer Racing Series both followed, each earning a 7 out of 10. These chairs both have adjustable lumbar support, but we found the DXRacer to be more comfortable and provide more back support than the Leap — on par with the Herman Miller Embody or Sayl. The DXRacer also has a reclining lever, allowing you to lock it in a reclined position — similar to a La-Z-Boy reclining chair. It also has tilt limiter to lock the seat upright when not using this feature and the seat goes up high enough to act as a headrest.


The Think has 4 tilt limiter selections, but we didn't like the setpoints as much as the Leap. It also lacks a headrest. It does have armrests that are fully-moveable — unlike the DXRacer, which can't adjust width — and can adjust the seat pan in or out, again, something the DXRacer lacks. However, we were able to achieve correct ergonomic posture with both of these chairs.


The Humanscale Diffrient and the Modway Articulate Ergonomic Mesh rank next in articulating features, each earning a 6 out of 10. The Humanscale got off to a rough start in this metric, lacking any sort of adjustable back support or any tilt limiters to stop you reclining all the way back.


You can move the backrest up or down on the Modway to match the lumbar support to your spine, but it doesn't have reclining tilt limiters in the traditional sense. You can use the reclining lever to set the angle of the backrest relative to the seat and lock it in place, as well as lock or unlock the reclining pivot in the base, which gives you free range of motion to recline the chair with the seat and backrest locked together.


However, the Humanscale Diffrient has far more armrest and seat adjustability than the Modway, but both can be easily used to set up a proper ergonomic sitting position, though the armrests on the Modway can make it a little funky, depending on your desk.

The Alera followed this pair, earning a 5 out of 10 for its mediocre adjustability, followed by the SPACE 5700E, which earned a 4 out of 10. Both of these chairs lack a headrest, though the back on the Alera is quite high, and both have a tilt limiter to keep you locked up right or free to lean back. However, the Alera does have adjustable lumbar support, whereas the SPACE does not.

Both of these chairs have rudimentary armrest adjustability, but the seat is fixed in place for both chairs — neither having the ability to adjust the seat pan depth. Despite that, we were able to get both of these chairs into correct ergonomic seating position without too much of a hassle.

Durability


For our next round of tests, we evaluated the design and construction of each chair and scored their durability. We combed through hundreds and hundreds of user reviews for these products, looking for any well-documented issues or common failure points, as well as comparing the included warranty and our overall impression of the construction over our testing period to determine scores. Additionally, we also took any damage sustained over the course of our tests into account when finalizing the score. In total, these tests account for 10% of the final score for each chair.


A large group of chairs tied for the top spot, with the Steelcase Leap, the Think, the Herman Miller Embody, the DXRacer, and the Humanscale Diffrient all earning a 9 out of 10. We didn't find any common issues for these chairs in any of the user reviews we found aside from some arriving damaged from shipping and none of these four chairs sustained any major damage from our testing process.

All of these chairs except the Humanscale seem really well-built — the Diffrient has a few levers that seem a bit on the flimsier side. However, it does have the longest warranty of any chair we tested, 15 years for the bulk of the parts and a 5-year warranty for fabric/cushions/arm pads. The Embody, Leap, and Think all have a 12-year warranty, while the DXRacer has a 2-year warranty for parts but a lifetime warranty on the frame.

Following this top group, the Herman Miller Sayl received an 8 out of 10. This chair received a few negative reviews about the armrest padding and we did notice this padding beginning to wear after only a few months of testing. We also thought the height adjustment lever seemed to be a little flimsy, but it does have a 12-year limited warranty.

The SPACE Seating 5700E came next, receiving a 7 out of 10. We found a handful of reviews that complained the mesh began to stretch out or the cushion tore within a year. We also were a little suspect of the fabric quality and the overall construction of this chair, definitely suspecting it to be less durable than the top models. It includes a 3-year warranty on upholstery foam and fabric and lifetime on the rest.

The Alera came next, earning a 6 out of 10 and the Modway came last, receiving the lowest score with a 5 out of 10. We found that there are a pretty significant number of user reviews complaining that the Alera suffered some issues and even more reviews noting that the Modway Articulate Ergonomic Mesh had broken. Neither of these broke in our tests, but we did feel that these chairs might wear out quite quickly. The Alera has a 5-year limited warranty, while the Modway only has a 1-year warranty that only covers manufacturer defects.

Ease of Assembly


For the last set of tests, we compared and scored the assembly process for each of these chairs, as well as the quality of the written directions. This metric accounts for the remaining 5% of the overall score.


We found the Steelcase Leap, the Steelcase Think, the Herman Miller Sayl, and the Humanscale Diffrient all are supremely easy to assemble, each tying for the top spot and earning a 10 out of 10. All of these chairs essentially came fully assembled or took less than 5 minutes of work to get them ready to go.


Following this top group, the SPACE 5700E earned an 8 out of 10 and the DXRacer earned a 7 out of 10. These both took less than half an hour to put together and have solid documentation, though it is just a little easier to assemble the SPACE.

The Modway came next, meriting a 6 out of 10. It is about the same amount of work to assemble as the other chairs, but the directions were far less easy to understand. The Herman Miller Embody and the Alera both earned a 5 out of 10. The Embody took a little over 45 minutes to assemble and we solidly struggled to thread the screws into their threaded inserts as the threads appeared to be damaged or suffer manufacturing defects. The Alera took about the same amount of time as the Embody to assemble and also didn't have the best directions.

Conclusion


Hopefully, you have a good idea which chair is the perfect pick for you, whether you want the best seat of the bunch or are shopping on a tight budget. If you want some more information on how we scored these products, head on over to our How We Test article for a full explanation of our process or check out our Buying Advice guide for more background on picking the perfect chair.


David Wise and Austin Palmer