Evaluating reviews of office chairs
Herman Miller started the trend in ergonomic office chairs. Though the hugely successful Herman Miller Aeron chair is still considered prestigious and stylish, it's not the only ergonomic office chair out there anymore. Other manufactures have incorporated and even improved on some of the Aeron's features, like its mesh seatback and adjustability. We've searched reviews to find other chairs worth considering.
A few newer ergonomic chairs have won design competitions as well as praise from experts. Experts note a trend toward what one calls "less is more" design. Manual controls (levers and dials) are replaced by materials and structural elements that enable a chair to adapt to the user's weight and movements. Designers and makers also are becoming more environmentally conscious; many use recycled (and recyclable) materials. They've also come down in price; even the Aeron chair (a bare-bones version) is available for less than $650.
For reviews of newly introduced office chairs we looked at articles about the winners of annual design awards bestowed by Interior Design magazine and Red Dot, a European organization that holds a worldwide design competition. Bloomberg Businessweek, CNNMoney.com, About.com and Contract magazine review office chairs and recommend specific models, as do blogs like FourHourWeek.com and retailer TheHumanSolution.com. Wired magazine, Slate.com and Unplggd.com also offer reviews of high-end office chairs, though some of the reviews are older and don't include the newest models.
For budget-priced task chairs we found user reviews on retail sites most useful because few experts review chairs that cost less than $500. We looked at Staples.com, OfficeDepot.com, BestBuy.com and Overstock.com for user reviews of lower-priced office chairs. We also found Buzzillions.com worth a look because it gathers reviews from different retail sites; you can look at composite ratings and read lots of reviews without leaving the site. Original review sources are identified, so it's possible to avoid reading the same reviews twice on different sites.
Reviewers universally emphasize the importance of testing a chair for an extensive period of time before committing to a purchase. Ergonomic chairs come in a variety of designs and sizes, and as one reviewer noted, "The right size is critical to comfort." It is therefore important to check on the retailer's return policies in the event that you need to exchange one chair for another.
Some mid-priced office chairs are downright "unsittable," Slate.com's Seth Stevenson says. Although we found good reviews for other Steelcase office chairs, he didn't like the Steelcase Cachet (*Est. $400). With a seat and back made entirely of hard plastic, the Cachet is "glorified lawn furniture," Stevenson writes. Similarly, though we found good reviews for other Herman Miller chairs, Stevenson says the Herman Miller Celle (*Est. $450 to $650) isn't as comfortable as other models. With its hard seat padding and a stiff back, he says the Celle is "unforgiving." One plus is that its seat is wider than most, making it a plausible pick for heavier individuals (or those who just like a more generous seat area).
In addition to comfort, reviewers and users also discuss cost. How necessary is it to spend upwards of $900 for a quality ergonomic chair? Retailer TheHumanSolution.com addresses this question on its website, outlining the key functions of a true ergonomic chair (adjustability, lumbar support, etc.) and offering recommendations for $500 chairs that meet these criteria.