13 Jan 2020

What is the difference between an ergonomic office chair and a gaming chair?

As the world came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone’s lives started revolving around the notion of trying to do everything from home, particularly working from home. This worldwide phenomenon ignited the interest of many working adults to start rethinking their working space, whether is it in terms of comfort, productivity or even aesthetics. When it comes to purchasing a new chair for their homes, they are usually stuck between 2 choices: gaming chairs or ergonomic office chairs.

Both chairs are often mistaken for their respective counterparts as they both seem to perform the same functionalities, but observing their individual features side by side, these chairs are in fact vastly different.

Today, we would be breaking down the core differences between an ergonomic office chair and a gaming chair, as well as which chair to buy depending on your own taste and preference.  

But first, what exactly is an ergonomic office chair?

Founded by Polish biologist Wojciech Jastrzebowski in 1857,the word “ergonomics” comes from two Greek words, namely “ergon” and “nomos.” “Ergon” means work and “Nomos” means laws, hence ergonomics can be loosely translated into “laws of work". An ergonomic office chair can thus be referred to any type of chair that serves to maximize your comfort, productivity and efficiency when using it in your workplace or at home. 

Example of ergonomic office chair

Need a chair that gives you that all-day comfort? Get the top rated ergonomic chair today!

Then what defines a gaming chair?

A gaming chair, as its name suggests, is a chair specifically designed for playing video games. Especially for dedicated gamers, who can play up to several hours on end, these chairs are meant to make the user feel comfortable even after prolonged gaming sessions. The first gaming chairs were invented in 2006 with a company called DXRacer that originally manufactured seats for luxury sports cars. 

In the market, there are three categories of gaming chairs, namely: 

PC and Racing Chairs, which are the most popular and commonly used chairs to play video games at a desk,

Rocker gaming chairs, which are curved chairs that balance on an angle, allowing you to rock forward and back,

as well as floor gaming chairs, which are super plush and resemble cushions!

For this article, we would be referring to PC and racing chairs when we are discussing about gaming chairs.  

With that out of the way, here are some of the pointers to differentiate gaming chairs from ergonomic office chairs!

1) General Design

Gaming Chair

Inspired by racing seats meant to keep the driver safe and prevent him/her from shifting around, this gives rise to many problems when it comes to its ergonomics. As ergonomics is primarily focused on comfort and catering to various positions when sitting down, being fixated to a certain position is not only uncomfortable, but unhealthy as well.

Another by-product of gaming chairs being heavily inspired by racing seats, gaming chairs are also catered to small, slender builds. This is primarily because racers are traditionally known to have leaner and fitter physiques in order to accommodate to the rigorousness of competitive racing, where racers often face the risk of overheating and exhaustion considering that they experience extreme G-forces and speeds. Most gaming chairs which are more affordable normally come in recommended weight limits of 110kg or less, whereas those with larger weight ratings are not only much scarcer, but also come with a hefty price tag.

Ergonomic Office Chair

On the other hand, ergonomic office chairs are often minimalistic in design and generally look bare boned. This is because manufacturers of these chairs normally place more emphasis on the practicality of these chairs, which is what makes them so comfortable to sit on, just like a pair of average looking shoes that fit you snugly.  

2) Seat Design

Gaming Chair

Seat Pan

Most gaming chairs adopt a bucket seat design, whereby both sides of the chair are raised intentionally. Inspired by racing seats, these are known as side bolsters, which are a vital part of racing chairs as they help to hold the driver in position while racing and attempting fast maneuvers and drifts.

While this could assist the gamer in terms of immersion due to the visuals and the physical experience of sitting in a chair that cradles you, this design does not serve any other functional purpose when it comes to gaming and, on the contrary, could be counterproductive.

This is because of the increased restriction to the space available to you when you sit, which could potentially restrict blood flow to your feet and leave you aching after what is supposed to be an enjoyable gaming session.

Elevated Front Lip

Also, if you notice how driver seats are normally shaped, you will realize that the front of the seat is usually more elevated than those you find on regular chairs. This is because it helps the driver reach the gas pedals of the car by propping them up slightly, while keeping the driver secure in the seat.

Like the side bolsters, this feature is often replicated in gaming chairs which are not only useless, but also counterproductive when it comes to the overall ergonomics of the chair. This is because ideally, you should be seated with your knees at a 90-degree angle as it takes pressure away from your hips and knee joints. Sitting on a gaming chair with an elevated front lip discourages you from doing so, which might lead to spinal or knee misalignments in the long term.

Seat Depth

Because most gaming chairs comes with a bucket seat design, adjustability options when it comes to seat depth can be extremely limited. This could result in one of the two problems: Either your seat depth becomes too shallow, leading to increased pressure on a small portion of your thighs, or that your seat depth is too deep, which results in a lack of lumbar support as the backrest would be way out of reach.

Ergonomic Office Chair

Seat Pan

Most ergonomic office chairs are often accompanied by a waterfall seat design as its front edges are curved, akin to a rock smoothened by water. The downward sloping nature of the seat helps to relieve pressure from the back of the thighs, while improving blood circulation in the legs.

Adjustable seat depth and height 

Ergonomic office chairs are also popular due to their high level of customizability, which originates from the numerous amounts of adjustment points available.  

One feature of ergonomic chairs is the ability to change the seat depth and height to fit any person, regardless of body type. This allows the chair to support a wide range of sitting positions for the user, ensuring proper posture and form.

Ideally, the seat depth of the chair should allow 2 to 3 fingers’ width between the back of your knees and the seat pan, preventing upper body aches as well as weakened pelvic and abdominal muscles, whereas the seat height should be such that your knees are not only at a comfortable 90-degree angle. Overall, the lumbar support should also be sufficiently flushed to your lower back to fit its natural curvature.

3) Headrest

Gaming Chair

Most gaming chairs do not have a built-in headrest but rather rely on headrest pillows. Due to the lack of adjustability when it comes to the positioning and angle of the headrest, some individuals might actually feel uncomfortable as instead of supporting the neck, it becomes an obstruction as the headrest could be too high or too low, leading to unnatural sitting positions.

Ergonomic Office Chair

On the contrary, the headrests of ergonomic chairs are normally adjustable in terms of headrest height, level of protrusion or even the angle by which it can be angled at to target different parts of your neck. Overall, the adjustability of headrest on ergonomic chairs provides more well-rounded support to your neck and your shoulders.

4) Lumbar Support

Gaming Chair

Lumbar Pillows

Most gaming chairs in the market come with detachable lumbar pillows as a form of lumbar support for the user. While studies have revealed that these pillows do help in improving the overall comfort of individuals using the chair as opposed to without, lumbar support pillows are still inferior when it comes to ergonomics compared to a built-in lumbar support.

This is because while lumbar pillows are usually made with memory foam, which conforms to the shape of your back, most of these pillows only come with a single-strap design, which results in flimsy lumbar support. Additionally, the amount of padding in the pillows cannot be customized, hence comfortability is also compromised as the pillows can either be too soft or too hard based on the individual’s preference. 

A flat backrest also does not cater to the natural curvature of the lower back, which needs to be supported throughout the day. With a flat backrest, the muscles surrounding the lower back would have to sustain increased pressure to support the curvature of your spine, which could lead to injuries and back pains in the long term.

The warranty is also usually much shorter compared to built-in lumbar supports, which is a factor you also must take into consideration.

Ergonomic Office Chair

Built-in lumbar support

For ergonomic chairs, the lumbar support is more thoughtfully designed to cater to the comfort of the individual. In fact, our flagship product, the ErgoTune Supreme, incurred thousands of dollars just to develop across a span of 2 years.

This is due to the intensive level of research and development that is required to ensure your chair can cater to a range of sitting positions that you would subconsciously adopt throughout the day.

The implementation of other mechanical systems to work cohesively together with the built-in lumbar support of the chair ensures that your lower back would be fully supported, even during prolonged hours of sitting.

5) Armrests

Gaming Chair

In order to cater to the vigorous hand and arm movements of the average gamer, the armrests of gaming chairs are generally more flexible and adaptable that those of ergonomic office chairs. Most gaming chairs in the market boast “3D armrests” or more, where “D” refers to the dimensions by which the armrests can move. 3D Armrests can not only move upwards and downwards but can also swivel sideways and move forwards and backwards.  

Ergonomic Office Chair

This is primarily where ergonomic office chairs tend to fall behind. Most ergonomic office chairs only possess up to 2D armrests, which means they are unable to cater to the forward and backward range of motion of the arms.

The ErgoTune Supreme, however, is famed for its GyroBrace 5D Armrests, which adds an additional range of motion, allowing your armrests to rotate a full 360 degrees, catering to any activity throughout the day whether be it typing, texting or gaming.

6) Backrest Recline

For both gaming chairs and ergonomic office chairs, they offer sufficient backrest recline to be ergonomic, although gaming chairs are generally more exaggerated when it comes to the degree of recline their chairs can go to. (I.e 180 degree recline)

According to a study, the most ideal recline angle to be in is 110 to 130 degrees, where disc pressure is not only the lowest, but the muscles in your lower back are worked the least. Most ergonomic chairs and gaming chairs can recline up to 110 degrees, which helps reduce fatigue and muscle ache while working for prolonged hours seated.

The ErgoTune Supreme can even recline up to 136 degrees, which gives you the added flexibility to change your seating position when working. For example, you can recline to an angle of 100-110 degrees during work, with the option of reclining up to 136 degrees when you feel like you need a quick shuteye.  

7) Backrest

Like how the bucket seat design prevents you from swaying in your seat, the primary purpose of the winged backrest is to keep the racer’s upper body sturdy during races. Implementing a winged backrest onto a gaming chair, on the other hand, is detrimental to the comfort of the user due to the additional restriction on his/her upper body when using the chair. Compared to the wingless backrest ergonomic chairs have, a winged backrest is much less comfortable and useful.

8) Upholstery

Gaming Chair

Usually made from leather or faux leather supported by high density foam in higher end chairs, these materials are aesthetically pleasing and can be easy to clean but fall short in terms of other areas.

For example, leather has the tendency to peel under hot weather if not maintained and moisturized, which can be rather unsightly. These materials also generally have a very “sticky” feel to them, which is due to a chemical reaction between one’s body oil and the material.

On top of that, leather usually commands a significant price point, which can greatly inflate the price of your gaming chair. 

Ergonomic Office Chair

In comparison, ergonomic office chairs have a greater variety of upholstery which includes mesh and fabric

These materials not only stand up to leather in terms of durability but are also much more breathable.

The ErgoTune Supreme features an upholstery with a hybrid of both mesh and fabric, known as the Duraweave Hybrid Mesh. Combining the strengths of mesh, which is known for its breathability from its net-like structure, as well as the durability of fabric, this chair is highly favored especially in hot and humid climates like Singapore. 

9) Production Process

Gaming Chair

Looking across Amazon, you would realize that most gaming chairs have extremely similar designs with each other. This is because gaming chair companies engage in private labelling, where third-party manufacturers are outsourced to design and produce their chairs and companies brand these products to be theirs.

This leads to a stagnation in terms of the innovation and ergonomics of gaming chairs in the industry, which is already evident considering that adjustments like side bolsters and raised front lips are still kept intact after so long. 

Ergonomic Office Chair

Primarily catered to the ergonomics of the user, ensuring that their chairs are catered to their comfort is integral to succeeding in the industry. Hence, large amounts of time and resources are usually devoted into this aspect particularly for more well-known ergonomic chair brands.

Conclusion

Gaming chairs do have their place when it comes to the niche market of gamers who place great emphasis on flamboyant aesthetics and designs and are willing to pay the steep price of it. If you are a fanatic of racer seat designs, a gaming chair would be suitable for you.

For the average user, however, it is better off to purchase an ergonomic office chair due to the higher build quality, greater sustainability and comfortability. Most of the time, an ergonomic office chair would always triumph the average gaming chair when it comes to its practicality and ergonomics. On top of that, you can also potentially avoid paying the steep price and leave yourself disappointed when the comfort of the chair does not meet your expectations.

Overall, do familiarize yourself with the differences between the ergonomic office chair and the gaming chair so that you can ultimately make a wise and informed decision.