Way back in the pre-apocalyptic mists of 2016 I wrote PC Gamer's first ever guide to the best gaming chairs. Though my mots justes are now lost to the erosion of regular updates, I can still vividly recall sitting in the Steelcase Gesture for the first time and being as blown away as anyone can be by furniture.
At the time I called it 'the little bear's porridge' of fancy chairs, and declared I'd be willing to sell a kidney to cover the eye-watering cost of owning one. A year later I made good on that claim—organs thankfully intact—and have loved sitting in it ever since. I've also recommended the chair to colleagues who've had the same experience. Wes picked one up second-hand (failed startups are your friend here) and simply calls it 'The King Chair'.
When I wrote that article I saw three main categories of chair that would work for gamers: Basic office options from Amazon and Ikea, high-end 'task' chairs from the likes of Herman Miller and Steelcase, and the bucket-style racing chairs which were rapidly becoming ubiquitous for streamers. At the time I came down in favour of ergonomic 'task' chairs, largely finding the racing chairs to be cheaply-produced and not that comfortable. In the years since the quality of specialist gaming chairs like the Secretlab Omega and DXRacer's Master, which Steven recently reviewed, has leapt forward. Substance now matches style.
So now feels like a good time to check out Steelcase's entry level ergo chair, the Series 2, which at $500 is priced similarly to good quality gaming chairs, to see if it can compete. Launched last fall, the Series 2 is billed as offering numerous improvements over the Series 1.
Colors: 19 back, 25 upholstery, 2 frame options
MSRP: $499 (plus add-ons)
Optional add-ons: stool ($116), polished aluminium frame ($82), coat hanger ($19), 4-way adjustable arms ($57), armless (-$133), additional lumbar support ($16), wheels for hard floors ($17)
Looks-wise, it's the kind of chair you'd expect to find the receptionist at a private dentist's office sitting in. It's sleek, modern and classy without being over-designed. The Series 2's main selling point is what Steelcase calls 'Air LiveBack technology', which I call a combined plastic and fabric mesh back. It feels very supportive but also pleasingly elastic, with the selling point I suppose being the breathability of all those holes. Good news if you run particularly hot during marathon raids, I guess, and there's an array of upholstery options to pick from.
What I initially did not love was the conjunction of butt and lower back, which didn't feel comfortable with the Series 2 at first. But adjusting the lumbar support bar, which is sandwiched between the fabric and plastic layers of the back, I was quickly able to find the sweet spot and it transformed how I felt about the chair.
To get some other opinions I loaned the chair to the front desk of my apartment building over the holidays and it received sterling feedback from the extended use.
The cost of comfort
As with the Gesture, the seat and back of the Series 2 operate in tandem, which means that as you lean back the seat pan will slide forward. The degree to which they move can be adjusted using the underside comfort dial. There are three settings to switch between, varying from pretty much full support to reclining at the slightest pressure. It's a pity there aren't more to pick from, because I found myself sticking with the firmest setting for both work and gaming. I'd have liked a setting with a little more lean, because ideally you should avoid a chair with an overly rigid seat pan.
You should also avoid chairs with fixed armrests, and the Series 2 delivers nicely here—at a price. The basic arms will move up and down, but for an extra $57 you can opt for '4D' arms that can be adjusted up, down, back, forward, and also angled and pulled snug into the body. As with the Gesture, they're made from firm foam which is enjoyably squeezy. I found it easy to position them to be consistently comfortable, though if you're militantly anti-arm you can also opt for none at all, saving yourself $133.
That's the only saving you'll make though, as the rest of the customisation options will swiftly see the Series 2's price balloon. You can probably live without the $16 coat hanger, but I imagine that for some a $70 headrest will be a deal breaker.
So who would I recommend the Series 2 for? Well, if you're of a certain age, or don't want to go all-in on the gamer aesthetic, then this is a simple, well-featured task chair for a decent price—though not what most of us would actually consider budget. You get Steelcase's excellent design, without the luxurious build quality or genuinely sublime performance of the Gesture. Which is no surprise given that this chair is roughly half the price, depending on where you shop.
I do have a nagging feeling that if you want to go down the ergo chair route, it might be worth saving up for something top-of-the-line to really experience the benefit. Particularly as this is an investment you'll use daily for years, if not decades.
An additional caveat I have about the Series 2 is that in order for me to strongly recommend it you need to enjoy firm, upright back support, as that's the setting I'm sure is going to see most use.
Overall, as much as I want to endorse the Series 2 as an entry level ergo chair, the last five years have seen so many improvements to the quality of specialist gaming chairs that I suspect most people reading this will get more pleasure from sitting in a big plush bucket. The market for gamers' butts is incredibly competitive now, with more and more entrants arriving all the time.
That sounds more erotic than I ever expected chair coverage to. My takeaway from my time with the Series 2 is that much as I love the raw functionality of good ergo chairs, at this price something like the Secretlab Omega is going to be the safest bet for most gamers looking to make a substantial upgrade to their seating.