When budgeting a PC setup, how much do you allocate for a new chair? Probably a lot less than you spend on the graphics card, but consider how integral the chair is to the overall experience. A good chair can last you a decade, and you’re not going to be upgrading to spine 2.0 anytime soon. I set out to find the best chairs for long gaming sessions by talking to an ergonomist and spending three months researching and testing chairs with the PC Gamer staff.
After months of sitting our asses in these chairs, our recommendation for the general purpose chair remains the same: the Office Master OM5 remains our all around best pick. We've been sitting on the OM5 for well over a year, and while more chairs have come in, none have achieved the same acclaim throughout the office as the OM5 for comfort and support. Best of all, the chair has kept its form throughout the entire time.
If you're more keen on the racing style of chair so beloved of Twitch streamers, then check our guide to the best of those. Racing chairs generally offer more style than ergonomics and comfort, but our pick, the Vertagear SL5000, gets you pretty close.
Our recommended PC gaming chair
Smartly adjusts itself to your sitting position without manual tweaking
Build quality feels as solid and premium as more expensive chairs
If you prefer making manual adjustments, the cheaper Affirm is a better option
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. My skepticism didn’t last long, though, because when it comes to the OM5, sitting is believing.
These are the elements of the OM5 which are adjustable: the height (self explanatory), the front seat “waterfall” lip, which you can curl forwards if your thighs want the extra space, and the armrests, which can be slid back and forth, and be rotated towards your body. Where all the smart stuff happens is around your hips. Lean back, apply a little forward pressure, and 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.
Office master om5
That crescent-shape is where the smart backrest mechanism lives.
Aside from the fact it doesn’t require regular fussing-with to feel right, what I like most about the OM5 is that the natural tension in the backrest is neither too tight nor too loose. Your mileage may vary of course, but I soon got used to the small amount effort required to make the seat and backrest slide in tandem, and didn’t find myself slipping around when I wanted to remain stationary. In fact, the more time I spent in the chair, the more I found myself enjoying the opportunity to move around relatively freely, taking the opportunity to lean back regularly rather than getting stuck in the same position for extended periods. As Afterman noted, it’s vital to find a chair that encourages movement, and the OM5 does just that.
The workmanship on the chair, from its lightweight aluminium base to the slatted PolyFlex backrest, is robust and impressive, giving it a feel that’s closer to the higher-end models we tested than the budget choices, although obviously not quite so luxurious as the four-figure options.
The 12-year warranty which ErgoDirect offers on the OM5 comes with also speaks of confidence in the build quality, though sites like Office Chairs USA come in slightly cheaper with the standard 12-year warranty. There’s plenty of scope for personalisation, too, with cushion fabric available in multiple colours and a leather option, should you be channeling a more ‘80s power exec vibe. Amazon sells the Office Master OM5 in many configurations. The backrest can also be ordered in a tall version, which I recently got to test alongside a fabric back. Neither should be considered essential to enjoyment, but if you want to spend a little extra to upgrade the option is there.
Office master affirm
The Affirm series is a more conventional task chair than the OM5, but also excellent.
The OM5 is compelling because it gives you close to high-end quality for a midrange price. You feel like you’re getting in on a secret that only seat nerds know about. However, I should also note that one of our testers didn’t like the sliding effect at all. So, if you’re not convinced by the idea of its ‘look mom, no levers!’ trickery, consider checking out Office Master’s new Affirm series (AF528 model tested) as an alternative, which offers a more standard suite of adjustments. It’s another excellent ergonomic office chair, though for my money feels a little less special than the Office Master OM5. But, if the idea of being able to lock your tweaks seems essential, the Affirm is a safer and slightly cheaper bet. Unfortunately Office Master's range is trickier to track down in Europe, but again the E-Blue Auroza is a fine and relatively cost effective pick. It's available online from Tesco.
Offers as many adjustment options as much more expensive chairs
Comfortable seat and mesh back
Arms feel cheap
May require a lot of fine-tuning to get the chair to feel just right
Perhaps you’ve already blown the kids’ college fund on bleeding edge GPU whizzbangery and now have limited funds with which to purchase a new gaming throne. The budget section beckons, and truth be told it’s an intimidating place, full of generic-looking chairs with underwhelming customer reviews. However, there are bargains to be found, though you’re going to have to accept the odd flaw in your gem.
Office Star’s range of chairs don’t look noteworthy at first glance, but the customer reviews are consistently good. I 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.
Progrid back managers chair
She's no looker, but the ProGrid will stop your wallet from squealing.
In practice that means you spend a fair amount of time initially getting the chair locked in exactly as you’d like it, during which the feel remains unremarkable. But once you hit the sweet spot of comfort and support, the effect is transformative. I found that when I had it arranged just so, the time I spent with ProGrid compared favourably with the midrange Office Master models.
Sure, in terms of build quality you’re not getting the same standard—the plasticky arms in particular feel cheap—but the mesh back is perfectly functional, and the thick foam seat proved surprisingly pleasant during extended sessions parked on it. Office Star also do a high-backed model for stringbeans like me, and one with a partially leather seat.
There are a couple of caveats, the first of which is minor: During building, one of the nuts used to fix the chair to its pneumatic adjustment mechanism is positioned so that there’s no easy way to tighten it using the Allen key. It’s doable, but unnecessarily annoying.
The other issue bears more scrutiny. Because the ProGrid requires you to set it up ‘just so’ for the best results, once I had every element how I liked it I didn’t want to mess with the settings too much, not least because the levers are pretty clunky to interact with. However, once I had the seat pan position and chair tilt fixed in positions I was happy with, I was able to get a nice combination of bounce and support in the back rest. The fact that you can really fine tune the feel of the ProGrid makes it a strong choice, and very hard to beat at this price.
Note for UK readers: The ProGrid may be tricky to find in the UK. Alternatively, you might consider something like this Eliza Tinsley Executive Armchair, which also has good customer reviews.
Alternatively: Ikea Markus
The Markus makes up for its lack of adjustments with high overall quality
If all that knob twiddling sounds like too much effort dedicated to the art of sitting down, you should go for the Ikea Markus ($199/£125) instead. This high-backed mesh chair from the Swedish meatball merchant was first identified as a strong budget choice by in this Lifehacker article from 2012, and later highlighted by The Wirecutter. I previously owned one for a couple of years, and it served me well provided you didn't want to spend more than a couple of hours on your moneymaker, after which a certain amount of fatigue sets in due to the comparatively stiff back and austere cushioning.
Adjustments here are limited to seat height and tilt, but I barely use the latter function. Unlike the OM5, the travel in the backrest is a little too loose when unlocked, so I always end up fixing it pretty much fully upright whether typing or playing. The armrests, however, can’t be altered at all. Effectively that means you need to enjoy sitting in this chair in its standard position. Luckily, that’s pretty likely. The backrest has a swatch of lumbar support woven into its mesh that has proved consistently supportive. I rarely find myself slouching, because its upright nature encourages sitting flush against the backrest. There’s also just enough movement when locked that you don’t feel totally rigid.
The chair comes with excellent build instructions and a 10-year warranty, (though that won’t cover basic wear and tear), and the quality of materials used is impressive. The base is aluminium and there’s leather padding on the armrest, headpiece, and seat itself, which is fairly wide. The foam will however be a little too firm for some tastes. I find myself fidgeting a bit after a couple of hours and need to get up. Which, of course, you should do anyway—but the Markus is not what I’d call plush. (Perhaps the designer spent too long perched on a sauna bench and this felt like a cloud in comparison.) Still, if you like the high-backed style and are strapped for cash, it’s a fine option.
The backrest's tilt, in addition to movement, always offers great support
Stylish, excellent build quality and lifetime warranty
Makes all other chairs feel a bit lackluster
The Steelcase Leap is one of the most iconic modern chairs, with a price to match its performance. The Wirecutter named it the best office chair a couple of years ago, but I prefer the newer Steelcase Gesture ($1014, specced as pictured) 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 I enjoyed the other chairs singled out here, every minute that I spent in them I was secretly wishing I was in 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.’
According to Steelcase, the Gesture was designed as the result of research that showed the influx of new devices in the workplace had led to people sitting in all sorts of cockamamie new positions. (Nine of them, if their Joy Of Sitting-style infographic is to be believed.) The solution here is similar to the one offered by the OM5: A backrest and seat which articulate in response to how you move around in the chair. However, whereas the OM5 travels through a single curve between fully upright and reclined, the Gesture’s backrest can also tilt in and out as it moves backwards.
The Gesture's design screams quality. It is the chair you're looking for.
The result of that additional point of articulation is that you always feel completely supported and comfortable. I suffer from back pain caused by bad posture, but it pretty much melted away when using the Gesture. You get the same core benefit the OM5 provides, in the sense that you can switch tasks and positions without having to adjust the chair, but the truth is that the Gesture does the job notably better, and is in a different league in terms of overall enjoyment. Which is as you’d hope, given that it costs twice the price.
That money buys you a lifetime warranty and truly exceptional build quality, though. In my chat with Melissa Afterman, she told me that ergonomically it’s fine not to have armrests, but they will of course provide significant extra comfort and support. The correct positioning is so they just graze your forearms without putting any pressure on the elbow. That’s easy to achieve with the Gesture because its armrests can be lowered, angled and tilted in every manner conceivable. Easily the most flexible of any of the chairs I tried. As for other adjustments, there’s one knob to slide the seat pan forward, and another that alters the tension in the backrest. As with everything about the Gesture, these just work perfectly.
Price aside, I can’t fault the Gesture. It’s the little bear’s porridge of fancy chairs. The fabric (of which there are 13 colour ways to choose from, plus leather options) is wonderfully soft and every aspect of the chair feels premium. It’s got that thing all great objects of design have: you just want to keep touching it. Interestingly, Wired weren’t as impressed, with their reviewer complaining about overheating in it. I didn’t find that at all, and would say I tend to run hot. (Particularly when on a bad Hearthstone tilt.)
Would I personally throw down this amount of money on a chair? Absolutely. In fact I was so sold on the Steelcase Gesture that a year after this piece was originally published I acquired my own. Every minute I've spent on it since has been a joy, and only confirmed my initial feelings. Plus, owning two kidneys seemed like overkill anyway.
Mirra, Mirra, on the floor, you're almost the fairest chair of all
Alternatively: Herman Miller Mirra 2
Beloved of failed startups the world over, the Herman Miller Aeron chair is a masterpiece of design. The Mirra 2 is similarly styled to the Aeron, and provides a very viable alternative to the Gesture, particularly if you prefer a more lightweight chair with mesh-based support rather than foam cushioning. UK readers can buy the Mirra 2 from Office Chairs UK. With the backrest unlocked it gives a pleasingly springy amount of recline, whilst the curved, spongy armrests are more satisfying to rest on than the flatter versions found on most of the other models I tried.
A note on the price. Follow the link above, and by jettisoning the arms entirely, and losing a number of other niceties like the tweakable lumbar support, (the tension in the left and right sides can be adjusted individually using little levers in the backrest), you can bring the price down. That would bring the Mirra 2 into contention with the OM5, but I wouldn’t recommend stripping features from it. The stuff you’re losing is an essential part of what makes the chair a strong choice in the first place.
Herman miller embody
The Embody's rakishly curved back is much more comfortable than it looks.
If money really is no object (hi Notch!) then Herman Miller also make the Embody. It’s the most obviously high-end looking of the chairs I tried. Viewed from behind its dramatically-shaped backrest has a biomechanical look that would be at home in a Prometheus 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.”
I can’t confirm that, but what the Embody’s flexible matrix design definitely does offer is superb support in the lower back area, while the higher part bends reed-like to enable you to recline for a second and then switch back to sitting fully upright. The puckered fabric used for the seat material also stays pleasantly cool, despite prolonged exposure to my warm thighs. (The image of which, I apologise for.) The Embody is clearly an excellent chair, and one of our testers absolutely fell in love with it, but for my hypothetical dollar the Gesture is just that little bit more special.
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 three chairs—budget, midrange and high-end—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.”
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.
Armed with her advice, I began cross-referencing customer reviews with chair round-ups written elsewhere to create a shortlist. Over the course of three months I then called in samples and tested them, with help from the variously shaped rear-ends of the PC Gamer team.
Whilst it’s impossible to be exhaustive with our first pass at a subject this big, I’m confident that any of our picks will delight you (and your butt). Of the chairs we tested, the one I believe offers PC gamers the best value is the Office Master OM5. It has all the ergonomic functionality of name brand chairs at twice its price, impeccable build quality, and good looks that are substantially customisable. What’s unusual about the OM5, though, is that it actually dispenses with a lot of the fiddling found on ergonomic chairs in favour of a simpler approach.
When it comes to rating graphics cards, we judge their performance based on strict benchmark tests. Not so with chairs. Of all the elements in your dream gaming set-up, none is likely to be so subjective as the choice of chair. Personal preference in terms of look and feel, plus your own body shape, have a huge bearing on what will be the right chair for you. That said, I think the ones highlighted here are all strong options for most people.
One of the main things I learned during testing is that there’s even less uniformity across countries with chairs than there is with PC component parts, making it tricky to find universal recommendations except at the high-end. When we revisit the topic I want to find more midrange options that will be easy to find for readers in Europe and the rest of the world.
As part of testing I wanted to take a look at the racing-style bucket seats which you often find Twitch streamers sponsored to sit in, and had better customer reviews than I expected. I couldn’t get hold of anything from the DXRacer range, but did try three Maxnomic models—the Casual Sport (pictured top), Pro-Gaming & Office and the Office Comfort. These are fun, eye-catching chairs, which offer reasonable amount of adjustability. The variation in price point largely amounted to niceties like extra cushioning and optional head and lumbar support pillows—neither of which I was a fan of, although others who tried them were more impressed. At this sort of price, though, I think that you’re better off going for a dedicated ergonomic task chair like the Office Master ones, which unquestionably provide a more supportive experience long-term.
One for the future: The hybrid is a future rival for the OM5's king of butts crown.
Speaking of which, there are a number of ergonomic chairs I still want to test and will continue working on trying to source. Ergohuman, who also do standing desks, have a range around the $600 mark which includes some interesting headrests I’d like to try. At the higher end I want to get hold of Knoll Generation Chair, to see how it stacks up against its Steelcase and Herman Miller rivals. Melissa Afterman also suggests taking a look at Ergocentric’s tCentric Hybrid as an alternative to the Office Master chairs.
If you’re trying to find the Titan-Z of ergonomic chairs, then a LifeformCore-flex Brezza might be the answer. The unusual split-style of the seat is designed to encourage small but constant user movement, preventing cramping or cutting off circulation. Interesting, but definitely one to sample first. Last up on my current shortlist to audition is the HumanscaleFreedom, though the customer reviews seem a little mixed.
Finally, I’d be keen to hear what you’re perched on. I’m sure there are some amazing chairs out there waiting for my cheeks. (Again, apologies for the image.) Let me know in the comments what you recommend.
The last word, though, should go to the expert. Afterman told me that when gaming, “you have high visual demands with the computer screen and you also need high precision with your fingers or your hands. Being able to support the forearms on the work surface or the desk is a way to increase precision. However, you can get support from the armrest too. The key is bringing the monitor, keyboard, and mouse closer to you, so that you can relax back in the chair and keep the ears balanced over the shoulders and the shoulders in line with the hips.”
The right seat will only take you so far. Getting your gaming space set up correctly is every bit as crucial, a subject we plan to revisit soon.
Here’s a selection of links I used at the start of testing to narrow my search…
A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which helps support our work evaluating PC components.