I think I'm addicted. I start my morning with a 15-minute Energize program, a top to bottom brisk, rhythmic shiatsu tapping and rolling. As someone who regularly wakes up with a host of aches and pains, I sort of just melt into the chair as it starts to do its thing. I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders and neck, so being able to aim the rollers exactly where I need them to be is by far my favorite thing about the uThrone gaming chair.
When you think of a massage chair, you probably think of some giant overpriced lumpy thing that looks like aliens would use when interrogating prisoners. The folks at Osim hoped to make something slightly less terrifying with the uThrone, the world's first massage gaming chair. It's still a very expensive chair, but holy crap, has it been a revelation for my back.
We have seen other gaming chairs attempt the whole built-in massager thing. But the 'massage' function usually just ends up being some pitiful vibrations near the lower back area that aren't strong enough to provide relief after hours of gaming or working. The uThrone's hidden magic trick is its V-Grip massage tech, a pair of massage rollers hidden in the chair that move up and down a track along the chair's spine.
These rollers massage your neck and shoulders and work themselves down to the top of your posterior. Think chair massages at a nail salon with these rollers pressing against your flesh instead of a stranger's hands.
This isn't Osim's first stab at massage furniture. Its product catalog includes some very nice and very expensive full-body massage chairs, especially the funky-looking $11,000 pod (opens in new tab). The $899 uThrone gaming chair is the cheapest massage chair it offers (and the only one with wheels). For a gaming chair, it's pretty expensive; as a high-end massage chair, it's actually pretty affordable.
Conveniently concealed in the right armrest are the massage controls. From here you can cycle through preset programs and direct the massagers specifically to trouble spots on your back, neck, or shoulders. There are three Auto Programs you can cycle through that provide quick 15 minutes massage routines; Neck and Shoulder, Lumbar, and Energize.
I have chronic lower back pain issues, so being able to hit those areas was a dream. You have a lot of control over the position, and you can choose between rolling and tapping (think balled fist) over grip (open hand massage) techniques. One thing I find lacking, however, is that there's no way to decide on the intensity. Some people prefer deep, almost painful massage while others prefer something a little more gentle... and I didn't find anything for the latter.
The rollers really get in there. So much so, parts of my lower back were sore the following day after the first time I used the chair, just as I would be after any deep massage. Anytime I found it too intense, I just threw on the back pillow as a buffer; that helped a lot whenever I felt my chair-bound masseur get too harsh.
And if having a gaming chair give you a massage while you check email isn't enough, there's a pair of Bluetooth speakers in the headrest. While I love the idea of reclining back, listen to the Final Fantasy 7 soundtrack while working out some knots in my shoulders, these speakers don't sound great. Since they are inside the chair's headset, the sound is muffled, like putting a pillow over a speaker.
If you're playing something chill or catching up on a podcast, that's fine, but if you are heading into that relaxation zone, a good pair of headphones will do a far better job.
Assembly was pretty easy, thankfully, only taking about 25 minutes on my own. I build about a dozen or so gaming chairs a year, and this was by far the quickest and least complicated chair I've put together.
The chair comes in plain black or with blue or orange accents. We got in the orange for review, and frankly it sticks out like a sore thumb. I get it; I'm sure someone will love this color, though I think all black is the way to go, especially if you're using this as an office chair rather than a gaming chair.
As much as I feel like this chair is spoiling me, there are some underlying issues. First off, there's no way to sit comfortably in the chair without the extra lower back pillow and neck rest. The reason is the cushioning in the chair itself is very thin along the spine. Which makes sense; it needs to be hollow so the massage rollers can move up, down, and all around the chair. The upshot of this, however, is that without the pillows, there doesn't feel like much support.
The armrests, weirdly, are only adjustable by height and don't rotate. 4D (aka can turn inward/outward) armrests are pretty much the standard in most gaming chairs, so it's strange not to see that here. The uThrone also comes with a mere two-year warranty. Considering all the electronic bits and bobs that could break inside the chair, I'd like to see something a bit more extended.
Since the uThrone can recline back 145 degrees, it's strange there isn't an option that comes with some sort of footrest, something we've seen in other, cheaper gaming chairs. The power cable is on the shorter side too, so make sure you've got a power outlet at a relatively close distance and not anywhere too open, so you don't accidentally run or trip over it.
The uThrone does as advertised, and it does it well. As a massage chair, it's easy to use and gives killer massages. And it's cheaper than a lot of premium massage chairs out there. It does feel super niche though; the uThrone fulfills a hyper-specific 'need' that I don't really think exists in the wider world. It's the luxury of wanting a massage chair that also doubles as a gaming chair. But it turns out the uThrone is a luxury I'm not willing to leave behind, because while not perfect, the idea of living in a world where gaming chairs aren't all capable of giving me a massage in the morning is now truly frightening.