When budgeting a PC setup, how much do you allocate for a new gaming chair? Probably a lot less than you spend on the graphics card, but consider how integral the chair is to the overall experience. The best gaming chair can last you a decade, and you’re not going to be upgrading to spine 2.0 anytime soon.
Gaming chairs have exploded in popularity over the last few years. DXRacer introduced racing-style PC gaming chairs to the masses more than ten years ago, but their popularity has only grown with more and more influencers sitting their butts in these seats that look straight out of the Fast and the Furious.
Racing-style gaming chairs aren’t intrinsically better than traditional office-style desk chairs for PC gaming, but they do feature a distinctive style and set of features that clearly make them appealing chairs for gamers. We set out to find the best gaming chairs of both types for extended desktop gaming sessions by talking to experts and spending months researching and testing a variety of options.
Our favorite gaming chair
Seat type: Racing seat | Recline: 165 degrees | Weight capacity: 240 lbs | Weight: 66 lbs | Available colors: Stealth, Classic, Amber, Royal, Ash
Velour memory foam pillows
Versatile tilt mechanism
Vertagear’s SL5000 was previously our favorite racing-style gaming chair. The discreet logos, premium build quality and noticeable craftsmanship were things we really took note of. After testing Secretlab’s latest Omega chair, it’s clear other manufacturers were paying attention too. The Omega is one of the most well made chairs we’ve tested. From the casters to the base, lift mechanism, armrests and seat back, Secretlab clearly used some of the best materials available.
The chair features a high quality cold-cured foam that provided support which was a little bit firm at first but became really comfortable after longer gaming periods. What really made the Omega stick out from the crowd is the included velour memory foam lumbar and head pillows. These were so comfortable that we could easily fully recline the chair and take a nap if we wanted to. If you’re looking to treat your butt with a chair that will truly last, the Secretlab Omega is worth every penny.
Noblechairs Epic Real Leather
A luxury upgrade made with real leather
Seat type: Racing seat | Recline: 135 degrees | Weight capacity: 265 lbs | Weight: 62 lbs | Available colors: Black, Brown beige, Brown black, White
Resembles luxury seats
The EPIC series from Noblechairs is another of the more comfortable chairs we tested. Marketed as a luxury office chair, it features high-quality materials to mimic the interior of a luxury car rather than a racecar. The Epic Real Leather we tested is the first gaming chair to be made with real genuine leather. It’s easily the most expensive racing-style chair we’ve tested but it’s clear that Noblechairs spared no expense when it came to the luxury materials and design. Like the Secretlab Omega, the Epic series features a sophisticated tilt/height mechanism that allows you to fine-tune your comfort and rock back and forth in the chair. It may be pricey, but the Epic Real Leather is about as luxurious as racing seats can get.
Adjustable racing seat with a high backrest
Seat type: Racing seat | Recline: 140 degrees | Weight capacity: 330 lbs | Weight: 59 lbs | Available colors: Blue, Carbon, Green, Red White
May be too firm for some
When you’re going for a racing-style chair, you have to keep in mind that style takes precedence over comfort. For more comfortable support, you may want to look into Vertagear’s Triigger chair, which is more like a Herman-Miller office chair. We spoke to a variety of manufacturers, including Vertagear’s own founder, who indicated to us that bucket-seat chairs aren’t really made for comfort.
Despite this, the SL5000 is one of the most comfortable racing-style chairs around. If you’ve ever sat inside a race car’s seat, you’ll know that these types of chairs are designed to hold you in tightly to prevent your body from moving around during high speed cornering. If you’re in the market for a racing-style chair and know that these style of chairs favor more firm support than plush La-Z-Boy recliners, the high-quality construction and attention to detail in Vertagear’s SL5000 makes it one of our top recommendations.
Budget friendly racing seat with a mesh back
Seat type: Racing seat | Recline: 130 degrees | Weight capacity: 275 lbs | Weight: 50.7 lbs | Available colors: Red, Blue, Grey, Green, White
Breathable mesh back
Doesn’t recline as far as others
While it may not be the cheapest gaming chair you can find, the RESPAWN 200 is very reasonably priced at $215. The design certainly brings a lot to the table but will likely be a dividing point for some. There’s a lot of plastic—including the base, but we found the build quality to still be better than some more expensive options we’ve tried. Looks aside, what really impressed us with the chair is its comfort.
This shouldn’t be too surprising since the manufacturer OFM has been creating ergonomic office furniture for quite some time now. What sets the RESPAWN 200 apart from the competition is its reinforced mesh backing. Combined with the leather seat cushion, the chair stayed very comfortable and cool during our extended gaming sessions and offers some killer bang for your buck.
The most comfortable chair we’ve tested
Seat type: Task chair | Material: Breathable fabric | Recline: 116 degrees | Seat height: 16-21 in | Weight capacity: 400 lbs | Weight: 78 lbs
Most comfortable chair
Stylish color options
The Steelcase Leap is one of the most iconic modern chairs with a price to match its performance. Wirecutter named it the best office chair a couple of years ago, but we prefer the newer Steelcase Gesture for a number of reasons. Foremost of which is, holy smoke, it feels good. If your eyes are still watering at the cost, know this: much as we enjoyed the other chairs singled out here, none of them came close to the comfort of the Gesture.
Imagine your butt and back being perfectly cupped by the giant ever-loving hand of the deity of your choice. That’s what the Gesture is like. Or, as it became known amongst us testing it: ‘the dream chair.’ Anyone that spends a significant amount of time in a chair should seriously consider splurging on this one. The steep price buys you a lifetime warranty and your butt the most comfortable embrace it’ll ever experience.
Herman Miller Embody
The smartest chair money can buy
Seat type: Task chair | Material: Multi-layer fabric | Seat height: 16-20.5 in | Weight capacity: 300 lbs | Weight: 51 lbs
Stimulates blood and oxygen flow
Unrivaled back support
If money really is no object, Herman Miller has the exorbitant Embody. It’s the most obviously high-end looking of the chairs we’ve tried. Viewed from behind its dramatically-shaped backrest has a biomechanical look that seems like it came straight from a sci-fi cockpit. According to its maker, “Embody is so advanced that it actually lowers your heart rate and reduces stress by stimulating blood and oxygen flow while you sit.”
We can’t confirm that, but what the Embody’s flexible matrix design definitely does offer is superb support in the lower back area. The higher part functions like a more sophisticated version of the OM5, automatically adjusting to your posture and sitting position. The puckered fabric used for the seat material also stays pleasantly cool during extended gaming sessions. The Embody is clearly an excellent chair, especially if you have lower back problems, but the sky high price tag means you might end up spending more on your chair than your actual gaming PC.
Office Master OM5
Mid-range ergonomic task chair with self-adjusting mechanism
Seat type: Task chair | Material: Polyflex back, fabric seat | Seat height: 14.7-25 in | Weight capacity: 300 lbs | Weight: 64 lbs
Highly customizable colors
Limited manual adjustments
On the face of it, the Office Master OM5 sounds like the snake oil of seating. The marketing materials describe it as “a self weighing chair that intuitively responds to a wide range of body weights and sizes without the need for manual tension.” Essentially: don’t worry about all those levers and knobs on the other chairs, this one will magically work out what your butt and back need, no problemo. Our skepticism didn’t last long, though, because when it comes to the OM5, sitting is believing.
There are a couple of manual adjustments possible, but all of the magic happens around your back and hip. As you lean back and apply pressure, the seat pan shifts forwards while the backrest reclines in response, articulating smoothly thanks to wheels on runners that function much like the ones in desk draw sliders. It takes a little getting used to, but transitioning from upright work mode to relaxing whilst playing or watching swiftly becomes a cinch. If you want comfort and can’t be bothered with levers and adjustments, the OM5 is one of our favorites because it gives you high-end quality and comfort at a mid range price.
Office Star ProGrid
Tweakability that mirrors much more expensive chairs
Seat type: Task chair | Material: Mesh back, fabric seat | Seat height: 17-20.5 in | Weight: 41 lbs | Available colors: Black
Lots of adjustments
Requires a bit of tuning
Office Star’s range of chairs don’t look noteworthy at first glance, but the customer reviews are consistently good. We like the ProGrid Back Managers Chair a lot because it offers the kind of tweakability usually only found on much more expensive models. Using its daunting array of levers, you can adjust the height and tilt of the chair, plus slide the seat pan forwards or backwards. The backrest can also be shifted up or down, and the armrests raised or lowered and slid back and forth until you find the perfect position. It may take a while, but once tune it to your liking the chair becomes incredibly comfortable. With so much customization, the ProGrid is a strong choice, and very hard to beat at this price.
How we test office chairs
Between recent articles about the effects of sitting down on your body, and our experimentation with standing desks, you might think PC Gamer has fallen out of love with the humble chair. Dear reader, that could not be further from the truth. As gamers and office workers, our writers spend a significant chunk of each day sat on their money makers in front of screens. Given that most of us don’t plan to change that anytime soon, it only makes sense to do so in a great chair. So that’s what I set out to find.
I wanted to find chairs that maximised comfort, support and value. I knew I needed expert advice to help narrow my search, so I spoke with Melissa Afterman, MS CPE, a Senior Principal Ergonomist with VSI Risk Management & Ergonomics, Inc. who specialises in workstation setups. “Absolutely chairs are still okay,” she told me. “Yes we know that sitting too long is bad for you. The reality is that standing too long is just as bad for you, and so the answer is movement. Taking breaks, getting up at least every hour and moving, or changing your position from standing to sitting every hour so that you’re not standing too long either.”
When searching for a new chair, aside from essential-but-obvious tweakable elements like seat height and armrests, Melissa told me a key element to consider is the backrest: “If you’re typing and working at the computer, you really want more upright support so that you can maintain neutral spine posture and let the chair hold you up,” she said. “But when you switch to gaming mode, you may want to recline a little bit to relax your lower back, while still having good support in that position. So a locking backrest and/or some sort of tension control is important.”
Another feature to look for, though it tends to be found on more expensive models, is a seat pan slider. This enables you to slide the positioning of your butt forwards or backwards relative to the backrest. “The nice thing about that,” explained Afterman, “is that if you’re tall you can get more support behind your leg, and if you’re short it can be set more shallow so you can actually sit all the way back in the chair.” Unfortunately this seems to be a feature found only on office-style chairs so far, somewhat accounting for their higher price tag over their racing-style counterparts.
When it comes to fabric and other materials, it’s pretty much a purely aesthetic decision—though whether you prefer plush leather or breathable mesh should be dictated by how hot you are. No, really. Afterman explained: “Some people run cold, some people run warm, and I think that when you talk about the fabric choices it depends on personal comfort and aesthetics.” As for what you should definitely avoid, Afterman recommended steering clear of overly rigid seat pans and fixed height armrests—both are likely to lead to discomfort.
In terms of how much you should expect to spend, she suggested that in order to tick all the boxes an ergonomist would hope to find, $300-400 ought to be enough for a supportive chair that looks and feels great. Below that, there are going to be tradeoffs. Likewise, if you’re willing to spend more, you can open up greater levels of customisation and luxury.