There's no shortage of options in the market for gaming chairs. But what if you want something a little more luxurious?
I'm fortunate to have owned and tested a few gaming chairs, and it's been fun seeing their evolution over the last few years. There's a wide range available in Australia now, and more and more traditional peripheral brands are getting in the butt-comfort market.
While gaming chairs can be remarkably comfortable, they can also be a little fiddly to put together. So myself and Gizmodo's Campbell Simpson decided to test something — how long would it take us to put one together?
A couple of years ago we had some fun putting together a black and gold-trimmed offering from noblechairs, which is still in our office today. We've also tested some of the Secretlab line, a brand from Singapore that's been doing some manufacturing in Australia for the last couple of years.
Not long ago, we got the latest in their line: the Secretlab Omega Napa. Unlike Secretlab's original offerings, which are priced around the $450-550 mark, the Napa is "a new level of premium".
$1299 to be exact.
The major difference between the Napa line, and where the substantial premium comes from, is the inclusion of napa (or nappa) leather. It's a generic term, and usually refers to a leather that's soft and supple. Napa leather is often dyed — usually through tanning — and commonly found in shoes, handbags, car interiors, furniture, and so on.
The entire chair isn't decked out in napa leather though: the base of the seat and backrest are, while PU leather is used on the back and slightly underneath. The lumbar cushion now uses memory foam, while the head cushion is velour.
After building a few chairs, you get to see some of the little changes that manufacturers make over time. Perhaps the biggest one is the way instructions are laid out. There's a giant sheet included in the box that's easy to read, properly numbered and with lots of clear photos. The larger size — apart from being easier to photograph — was super helpful, and certainly beats having to load up YouTube instructions or a separate PDF.
But irrespective of what brand of gaming chair you buy, the construction tends to follow the same path. Take the wheel base out, flip it over, and install the wheels. Once the piston's in, you then get to work on the chair, removing the screws so it can be attached to the bracket on the backrest.
Most of the pieces laid out on the floor.
Aligning the bracket is really the hardest part: it's the only part that requires a good bit of physical force to keep everything aligned while you get the screws in. It's also the point at which you can remove the armrests, which is mandatory for me since I like to cross my legs in a chair like a tool. (The armrests have been improved, though: they're a little more flexible, a fraction wider, and softer on the elbow.)
From there it's a case of propping the chair up so you can align the tilt mechanism properly — having the large photos makes it easier to get the alignment correct. Once that's on, you're really just dropping the chair onto the hydraulic piston, and then your butt can grace a new throne.
The question is: could you possibly justify spending $1299 — about the same as some gaming ultrawide screen monitors, or perhaps a solid end-of-life 55", 60" or 65" TV — on a really comfy chair?
That's a tall order. It does get a lot easier when you break down the math — how much time do you spend sitting on your arse at the computer, every hour of every day — but the initial outlay is just far, far too much for a lot of people. And that's even when you consider that you're likely to keep the same chair for five or more years, unless something untoward happens. And even if you set five years as the limit for a chair — and almost every chair should last well beyond that — you'd only be spending about 71 cents a day.
The full spec sheet for the Omega Napa, as tested.
So financially there is some justification. But as a fun aside, it's nice to see that the chairs are much easier and quicker to put together. The last time I timed this, it took just over 40 minutes. This time, it only took a smidge over 26 minutes to have our butts on the Secretlab Napa out of the box. I'm still not a fan of the side covers that force you to screw through the PU leather though — surely there's a better solution, or maybe the holes could be pre-punched in the factory.
The styling has gotten more office appropriate, too, although I don't know many who would dare rock the wine red/cream combo in an office. On the plus side, Secretlab have started offering an all-black option for their standard Omega and Titan models, the regular versions of which Mikey and I tried below.
I'll let you in on a little secret: the best gaming chair I've ever had has always been a second-hand affair. My latest purchase was a furnished offering from a local retailer, and before that I had a full-sized, comfy armchair acquired from a warehouse sale.
Standard office and gaming chairs are not built for big and tall people. They cower before our broad frames, shudder beneath our weight and generally fear us. The SecretLab Titan, built for the larger-than-guy-sized gamer, has no fear.
You can find more info about the Napa over at the Secretlab website.