What to look for in a Gaming Chair
Gaming chairs are specialized chairs designed for the needs and comfort of gamers. The designers of these chairs have thought about how gamers sit, how they move, and what they need out of their chair, and gone on to make something that meets those needs.
Despite the name, it’s not just gamers who use gaming chairs. You could benefit from a gaming chair if you:
- Work in an office and want to boost your productivity
- Work from home and spend lots of time sitting down
- Suffer from back pain
- Have mobility issues and need extra support when seated
- Spend a lot of time playing games (obviously)
- Or just want to be more comfortable when sitting down!
The first-ever gaming chairs were designed for racing games to act as car simulator seats. Therefore, they tended to replicate sports car seats, with high straight backs and thick upholstery.
Since then, gaming chairs have evolved and the market has become much broader. There are now many different types of gaming chairs, to meet the needs of many different types of gamers. That brings us nicely onto the next section of this buyer’s guide…
Different Types of Gaming Chair
We can categorize gaming chairs into different types. The four broad categories you should know about are:
- PC Gaming Chairs
- Console Gaming Chairs
- Racing Simulator Seats
- Bean Bag Chairs
The chances are you’ll already have some idea of which of these four types of gaming chairs you want to buy, as it will depend on what you plan to use it for. I’ll talk about each of them in more detail below.
PC Gaming Chairs
PC gaming chairs are very much the prototypical model; they’re what most people think of when they hear the word ‘gaming chair’.
These chairs are designed to sit behind desks, which makes them a good choice if you play most of your games on your PC, or want a chair that doubles up as an office chair for a workstation.
They typically consist of a mobile 5-star wheeled base with a pedestal seat mounted on top. They also usually have swivel capabilities to allow you to move around freely at your desk, high armrests for wrist support as you use your mouse and keyboard, and a high back to support your neck and prevent you from straining while looking at your screen.
Almost all PC gaming chairs are set in an upright position as default, but many can tilt backward and lock in various reclined positions.
Confusingly, these types of gaming chairs are sometimes referred to as ‘racing gaming chairs’ on account of the fact that they’re modeled off car seats. However, they’re not to be confused with racing simulator seats, which I’ll move onto later.
Console Gaming Chairs
Console gaming chairs are – yep, you guessed it – designed for console gamers. They’re much more versatile than PC gaming chairs and tend to come in a much broader variety of different shapes and sizes.
That being said, the most popular type of console gaming chair is the classic ‘Rocker’. Unlike PC gaming chairs, Rocker gaming chairs don’t have pedestal seats or wheels. Instead, they feature L-shaped seats that sit directly on your floor. The name ‘rocker’ comes from the fact that the backrest can often rock back and forth as you move.
They’re less ergonomic than PC gaming chairs and aren’t meant to be used at a desk, but a lot of people find them much more comfortable for consoles as they support more comfortable, ‘laid-back’ postures many gamers using controller pads like to sit in.
They also often feature additional technology that integrates them more closely with your consoles, such as surround sound speakers and USB ports for charging.
Racer Simulator Seats
Racing simulator seats are advanced high-end gaming chairs designed specifically for racing games. They’re typically attached to a frame or ‘cockpit’ on which you can mount racing game accessories like a wheel, gear sticks, pedals, and more.
Some racer simulator seats are suitable for casual gamers, and some advanced models are even used for professional racing driver training. These technologically advanced rigs can be really, really expensive – sometimes costing tens of thousands of dollars.
Bean Bag Chairs
Bean bag chairs are large sacks usually filled with even foam or beds and upholstered in either suede or microfiber. They’re not specifically designed for gaming, but many gamers choose them because of how soft and comfortable they are, and for the way, they conform to your body.
While they’re not particularly ergonomic or supportive, one advantage of this type of chair is that they can accommodate a huge range of postures and positions. The biggest bean bag chairs can even allow you to layout a flat with plenty of room. Another reason many gamers choose them is that they tend to be cheaper than other options.
Things to Consider When Buying a Gaming Chair
Ok, so now you know about the different chairs and brands available, you’re almost ready to start shopping around.
Before you rush off, though, you need to know about the different features of gaming chairs and what to look for. This is important as it will enable you to properly evaluate each chair to make sure that it has the features you’re looking for, and that it offers good value for money.
Here are things you should consider:
Ergonomics is probably the most important thing to consider when buying a gaming chair as it’s the reason most gamers want a chair in the first place, but what exactly is it?
Well, ergonomics refers to the way in which something is designed based on a set of psychological and physiological principles to best fit the user. An ergonomic gaming chair is one that is optimized around the gamer that sits on it to improve productivity and efficiency.
That technical definition sounds fairly abstract and jargon-filled, I know, so let’s put it another way…
An ergonomic gaming chair is one that helps you to maintain proper posture, supports your movements, minimizes back pain, and improves your gaming reaction times. All the important stuff, right?
So how do you know if a gaming chair is ergonomically designed? Well, there are some important ergonomic features to look out for. Any gaming chair that claims to be ergonomic should have, at a minimum:
- A high level of adjustability. You should be able to configure the seat height, back angle, and armrests to better suit your body’s dimensions. The more adjustment, the better.
- Lumbar support. The very best gaming chairs will have adjustable lumbar support than you can change to fit the curvature of your spine. Less expensive chairs will have a lumbar pillow that does the job, albeit in a more basic way.
- A high, curved backrest with lots of upper back and neck support.
- Tilt lock or tension mechanisms to lock your backrests tilt in place and accommodate different postures.
There are other advanced ergonomic features besides these, such as breathable mesh materials, responsive motion, 4D armrests (that are adjustable in all dimensions), and more – but these are only likely to be found on expensive, high-end gaming chairs. Depending on your budget, you may need to make some compromises on these.
The second thing to consider when buying a gaming chair is the build quality. The higher the build quality, the longer your gaming chair is likely to last. You don’t want to invest in a chair that breaks or becomes uncomfortable after a few weeks of use.
Again, the build quality will be closely tied to the price, so don’t expect the world if you’re looking for something on the lower end of the price range, but try to get as good a build as possible.
One good indicator of build quality to look at is the frame. High-quality frames will be made of metal, usually durable steel. Wood or plastic frames are less likely to hold up well over time.
The base is another important aspect to consider. Look for wide aluminum bases. Narrower, nylon bases are less durable. You want your casters to be as wide as possible too. The wider the caster, the more durable the build. 3” or more is ideal, 2” or less is not so good.
The type of filling of the cushioning is also important. Mold shaping or cold foam represents the top end of the spectrum, so look for this if you want a high-quality gaming chair and cushioning that won’t go flat after a few months.
Most gaming chairs will be upholstered in PU leather. Real leather is very expensive and while you can get it, it’s likely to hurt your wallet.
PU leather is usually good enough for most people’s needs so I’d recommend sticking with that as it’s probably the best value for money. Some chairs are upholstered in synthetic webbing or microfiber too.
When considering upholstery, breathability is another aspect to consider. Some chairs feature breathable mesh upholstery to aid with heat dissipation. The more breathable the upholstery, the more comfortable and less sweaty you’ll be, so if this is something that’s important to you, look for a chair with mesh material.
For PC gamers, armrests are important. You need good ergonomic wrist support to support your lower arms and wrists well, as this will enable you to have faster reaction times and will ultimately improve your skill in-game.
Most PC gaming chairs come with armrests, but many console gaming chairs don’t. That’s okay, as if you’re looking for a console gaming chair you won’t be using a keyboard and mouse, so arm support is much less important.
The best armrests are adjustable so that you can fit them to your body and height. You want to be able to adjust them so that your shoulders are at rest while your elbow is at a right angle and your arms are supported.
At a minimum, armrests should be height adjustable. Ideally, they’ll also be width adjustable so that you can free up more wriggle room when you need it. Some armrests will flip up and out of the way to make it easier to get in and out.
Weight Capacity & Recommended Height
Many first-time gaming chair buyers forget to consider this, but it’s absolutely crucial to getting your first purchase right. Gaming chairs can have very different weight capacities and recommended heights, and you need to make sure you buy one that’s suitable for your own weight and height.
Gaming chairs with the largest weight capacities are often marketed as ‘big and tall’ gaming chairs. Exact numbers differ, but most heavy-duty chairs can support up to and over 500 lbs of weight.
If you’re unsure, check the weight capacity and recommended height with the seller beforehand to make sure you fall within the correct range.
Compatibility with Consoles
For console gaming chairs, compatibility is important. Many console gaming chairs integrate with your consoles in various cool ways.
Some chairs have USB ports that allow you to charge your controllers from your armrests. Some have to surround sound built into the headrest that plays sounds coming from your console directly next to your ears.
Some chairs even have motion compatibility features that make them rock, tilt, turn, shake, and vibrate based on what’s happening in your game. Cool, right? Bear in mind, though, that these kinds of features will usually come at a premium, so you might not be able to get them if you’re on a tight budget.
Another factor buyers often overlook is the dimensions of their gaming chair. You should check the dimensions beforehand to make sure it will fit both your available space and your own body shape.
Some chairs, for example, have narrower seats, which makes them less suitable for people with larger thighs or bottoms. Most sellers will list the dimensions on the website page where the gaming chair is being sold but, if not, don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t forget to measure your available space first to make sure it will fit!