on May 3, 2013
I ordered this chair after looking at reviews for close to 100 chairs on a number of different websites. I have gone through 3 chairs in the past 4 years, and I determined that this one offered the best chance at longevity.
So...let's take a look at the high and low points at this "Big and Tall" chair.
First: Delivery. I ordered this chair one evening, and 36 hours later it was at my door. Not bad for free shipping. Your experience might be different, depending on where you are located.
Packaging: The box was pretty banged up, but everything inside was in perfect shape. Further, the package of assembly hardware was a breath of fresh air. Each of the different bolt types were clearly labeled. Not only that, but there were EXTRA bolts! And even THOSE were labeled.
Sturdiness of parts: The components of this chair must be built to military specifications. The arms are heavy, the plywood in the seat and back are extremely rigid, and the base could be wielded as a weapon in the event of a zombie apocalypse. The integrity of the gas piston remains to be seen. My experience with these is they all seem sturdy until they fail, and when they do fail, it happens without warning. This one seems especially solid, but time will tell.
Assembly: This was a surprise. The directions are in the form of diagrams with indications of what goes where and lists the specific bolts used to fasten parts in place. The entire assembly time took between 10 and 15 minutes. It would be useful to have someone to help with the assembly, because the parts are large and heavy. My wife held the seat steady on a table while I attached the back to it. Then she sat in the chair while I bolted the arms in place.
As I tightened the bolts, it seemed as though I was over tightening them, or that the internal pieces into which the bolts are inserted had stripped, because it takes a LOT of turns of the supplied hex wrench to really snug up these bolts. That is not the case. Keep tightening until you can't tighten any further.
Comfort: This is highly subjective, so I will give you my impressions, with a few caveats.
First: The seat is firm. There is plenty of padding, but it is dense foam over a very thick and rigid plywood core. If you like a firm seat, you will love this one. I like it.
Second: Back height. This is one area in which I personally experience a great deal of difficulty finding a comfortable chair. This one is no different. Manufacturers of big and tall chairs don't seem to realize that two people of the same height can have significantly different body proportions. For example, my son and I are both 6'5" tall. His pants inseam is 36" while mine is 31.5." This means that my torso is 4.5" longer than his. He can sit in this chair and experience good support of his back and neck. For me, this is a mid-back chair. The top of the back hits me right between the shoulder blades. It provides no neck support whatsoever.
I experience the same thing in cars. Seat headrests don't reach my neck and are therefore useless. In fact, typically people 6'2" or taller tend to "try on" an automobile as much as test drive one. There are cars my son can comfortably drive that I cannot even sit in, because my head presses against the headliner. And we are the same overall height.
In any event, in order for me to utilize the back of the chair for neck support, I need to slide forward on the seat. This creates a gap between the back of the chair and the small of my back, necessitating the use of a pillow to provide a measure of lumbar support. I am used to needing to do this, but I wish that a chair manufacturer would build a office chair with an adjustable headrest. And in THIS chair, the design of the headrest forces my head up, so looking at the display is difficult and the keyboard impossible from that position. Once this chair is no longer under warranty, if it is still holding up, I will have an upholstery shop install a headrest that actually supports my neck and head, after having a friend with a machine shop bend the hack forward a bit so it is more vertical.
Third: Back ergonomics. If I just lean back in the chair, it feels great. Terrific back support from the lumbar through thoracic spine regions, and if I slide forward a bit, it supports the cervical spine as well. And it's comfortable! Sadly, I don't use a office chair as a recliner. I have one of those, and it's in the living room in front of the television. I use this chair in front of my computer. And as an office chair, in order for it to support my back, I need to lean back with my head pointing at the ceiling. So there's the dilemma. It's comfortable and supportive when used as a chair for relaxing. For typing (its primary purpose), back and neck support is non-existent. The back needs to be more vertical, or the lumbar region of the chair needs to nor bulge out so much. If it is supporting my lower back, my mid back and neck are unsupported. If I sit so my neck and mid back have support, not only is my lumbar region not supported, my head is pointing skyward. The way it is designed, after an hour or so, my neck and shoulders feel like they are on fire from a lack of support. (Poor ergonomic design for my body type.)
Fourth: Tilt mechanism: this functions smoothly and feels solid. No issues here at all.
Fifth: Swivel mechanism: the spindle upon which the chain is seated seems to be machined to very tight tolerances. I can pull this chair away from my desk with my legs out from under the the desk, lift my feet off the floor, and the chair will slowly and smoothly rotate me in circles...it's like the chair sits on a ball bearing mount. This isn't an issue at all. It just speaks to the high quality of the construction.
Sixth: Casters: I use the chair on a chair mat in a hardwood floor. They roll easily. I have no ideas how they would work on carpet. They don't seem to be particularly heavy duty. If they fail, I will amend this review. For now, they work fine.
Seventh: Leather: Seems to be of standard quality for a chair in this price range. It's attractive, and I don't expect durability to be an issue.
Eighth: Arm rests: This is another area that is highly subjective. Construction wise, they are very heavy duty. chrome plated and padded. They could double as a sledge hammer if you were demolishing a house. I suspect they will be a bit short for many people, curving down toward the seat rather sharply at the front. For me (I have a 38" sleeve length). the right one supports my elbow. This works very well for my right arm when I am using the mouse but not typing. The left one will never see any use at all, because with my hands on the keyboard, the armrests are behind my elbows and 6" below them. In short, with the chair properly adjusted the right arm rest supports my elbow nicely for extended mouse use. For typing, they serve no function at all. If they were longer and adjustable for height they would be great. As designed, they could just as easily be left off the chair.
Ninth: Use by shorter people: my wife is 5'2.5" tall (that 1/2" is important, and woe is me if I say she is 5'2" tall). This chair does not fit her. If she sits with her back against the back of the chair, the seat is too deep for her legs to bend at the knee. But really...people her size have no difficulty finding chairs that fit them well.
Summary: If this chair had a back that was 4-5" higher, and adjustable to being more vertical (or a lumbar region that protrudes less), as well as adjustable arm rests, it would (for me) be perfect. Because it doesn't, it is not nearly as comfortable as it could be. But it is well made, and if it stands the test of time, I will have the back modified to fit my long torso.
If you are looking for a well-made chair that will support more than 300 lbs, this might be about the best thing out there. Buying a chair without first "trying it on" is always risky. I have done my best to point out the perceived strengths and weaknesses of this one so you can make an informed decision before laying down your hard-earned money.
Would I have bought it if I had a chance to try it out first? Nope. It doesn't fit me well, and I would have kept looking. If I manage to find one locally that does fit well and is solidly built, this one is PERFECT for my son,and it will be his. If I can't, I'll have this one modified to fit me.
Update 11/14/2016: Well, the chair is dead. This is sad, because there should be a lot of life left in it. But...
The bottom of the chair, where the pedestal enters, is shot. This happened all at once, yesterday. Not the chair lists heavily to the right, and tilts forward at a steep angle.
If I could buy a replacement for this part, I would. Seems a shame to throw away a perfectly good chair because one piece failed.
Update 11/19/2016 See the attached photos. In what is arguably the most critical part of the chair, the manufacturer used cheap metal to save a few bucks. The metal BROKE. This rendered the chair unusable.
If you buy this chair, spend the extra money on the 5 year warranty. The warranty that comes with the chair (also 5 years) seems to be not something you can actually use. I have been getting the run around for a week, trying to get satisfaction on this issue.