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Cheap Office Chairs Buying Guide

High-end office chairs can cost as much as $1,200. The celebrated Aeron chair by Herman Miller (starting at $869) comes in three different sizes, and every piece adjusts to give users the precise position they need.

It's also guaranteed for 12 years. While cheap office chairs don't come with the Aeron's warranty and pinpoint adjustability, not to mention its brand name and design pedigree, many aren't lacking in comfort and offer more than a nod to ergonomics. Ergonomic chairs are designed to maximize efficiency and safety. This includes adjustable seat height, tilt, and armrests. It also includes being able to swivel -- ideally 360 degrees -- and roll into position easily. Look for proper lumbar support, which provides a slight curve to your lower back where it would naturally arch.

Ergonomic Office Chairs
Mesh Office Chairs
Office Chair Reviews
Best Office Chairs

The seat pan should be wide and deep enough for you to sit comfortably for many hours at a time. Tall users should make sure their thighs are fully supported, the Labor Department advises, and short users should be able to sit against the backrest without the backs of their knees touching the front of the seat pan. The edge of the seat should be rounded (this is known as a waterfall seat) in order to avoid cutting off circulation to the legs. The seat height should be adjustable so your feet are flat on the ground and your knees are slightly higher than the seat edge. The armrests should be padded and lack any sharp edges. If they aren't adjustable, test out the height to make sure they aren't too high or low for you. Ideally your shoulders should be back and relaxed with your elbows close to your sides. Look for breathable seat and seatback material that is easy to clean. Generally mesh is the most breathable and leather is the easiest to wipe clean. Finally, make sure the cheap office chair you choose has a stable five-leg or five-point base.

The Office Star Space 5500 (starting at $150) boasts all these must-have features, including fully adjustable seat height, tilt, and armrests, and it's made completely of mesh to be extra breathable. We also like the Staples Vocazo (starting at $105) and the Alera Nico Mid-Back Chair (starting at $134). The Staples Vocazo impresses us with a one-year manufacturer warranty -- the only warranty we found on a cheap office chair. The Alera Nico Mid-Back Chair garners praise in reviews for its upholstered back and a seat that looks and feels like leather. The cheapest office chairs on our list don't fare so well. Users posting reviews of the Z-Line Designs Task Chair ZL1001-01TCU (starting at $64) complain about the back coming loose. The chair also has no armrests. Likewise, reports of a flimsy back on the Techni Mobili 0097M (starting at $68) worry us. While this cheap office chair does have armrests, they aren't padded or adjustable.

Ergonomic Office Chairs

There are lots of elements to look for in a good budget office chair. Ergonomic office chairs help eliminate discomfort, fatigue, and even injury while maximizing the amount of work you can get done. An ergonomic office chair should be as adjustable as possible in the seat height, tilt, and armrests and provide proper lumbar support. Other features to consider are the chair's seat pan, armrests, material and base.

Review continues below

Ergonomic Office Chairs.

Ergonomic office chairs are designed to increase productivity and decrease discomfort in the workplace. Adjustability is key. An ergonomic office chair with adjustable seat height will help your lumbar support by aligning the curve of the backrest with your lower back. According to the Department of Labor, the seat is at the proper height when your feet rest fully on the ground and the backs of your knees are slightly higher than the seat of the chair. Adjustable armrests ease the tension in your shoulders and arms. Consider tilt as well; the ideal sitting position is with your back completely against the seatback at a slight backward tilt.

The Office Star Space 5500 (starting at $150) provides users to a precise fit with adjustable seat height, tilt, and armrests. The Staples Vocazo (starting at $105), the Alera Nico Mid-Back Chair (starting at $134), and the Techni Mobili 0097M (starting at $68) offer tilt and seat height adjustment, but the armrests are not adjustable. The specs on the Z-Line Designs Task Chair ZL1001-01TCU (starting at $64) don't mention any tilting mechanism and the chair has no armrests at all.

The tilting mechanism is what got one mid-range office chair recalled recently. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Realspace PRO 3000 Series Desk Chair sold at Office Depot has been recalled due a report of a finger getting pinched.

Office Chair Lumbar Support.

Good lumbar support is probably the most important thing to look for in a budget office chair. To avoid back injury and fatigue, look for a curved seatback that lets you sit with a slight arch in your back instead of hunching forward. Test out the chair and make sure the curve of the seatback aligns with the curve of your lower back. All of our picks should provide proper lumbar support.

Office Chair Seat.

The seat pan in an office chair needs to be wide enough and deep enough to properly support your legs. A curved or rounded edge -- a "waterfall" design -- keeps the seat from cutting off the circulation in your lower legs. There are no ideal measurements because office chair users come in all different sizes. Larger users need a wider seat and taller users need a deeper seat. Shorter users need a shallower seat and possibly a footrest so they can rest the bottoms of their feet on flat ground without having to scoot forward and lose the lumbar support provided by the backrest. All of our picks have seat pans between 18 and 21 inches wide and 18 to 21 inches deep. The specs on the Z-Line Designs Task Chair and the Techni Mobili 0097M don't include exact measurements. All the budget office chairs on our list appear to have rounded, waterfall seat designs.

Mesh Office Chairs

Material.

Cloth, mesh, and leather upholstery seem to be the most popular fabric choices for office chairs. Cloth is the cheapest and breathes well and mesh office chairs are ventilated and durable, according to eHow. Leather upholstery is easiest to wipe clean, although it tends to be on the expensive side.

Mesh office chairs seem to be a popular choice in the budget price range. The Z-Line Designs Task Chair has both a seat and backrest made of breathable mesh and the Office Star Space 5500 comes with a mesh back and a padded mesh seat. The Staples Vocazo has a mesh back and a microsuede seat, while the Techni Mobili 0097M has a mesh back and a fabric seat. The cheapest office chair we found, the Flash Furniture Black Mesh Computer Chair LF-W-118A-BK-GG (starting at $55), has a mesh back and a padded mesh seat. The Alera Nico Mid-Back Chair is made from something a little different: Caresoft upholstery designed to look, feel, and wipe clean like real leather.

Armrests.

Armrests are an important ergonomic feature in cheap office chairs, because they help take the strain off your shoulders, neck, and arms. The Labor Department points out that you don't want armrests that are too high, low, wide, or close. The goal is to sit in a relaxed position with your shoulders back and down and your arms resting lightly on the armrests at your sides. The armrests should be slightly padded and lack any sharp edges for added comfort. If you are looking at an office chair with armrests that are not adjustable, try to spend plenty of time sitting in the chair with your arms on the armrests to make sure your shoulders and arms are in a comfortable position. If proper positioning is not possible, look for a different chair with armrests that are adjustable or fit your proportions better.

Of the cheap office chairs on our list, only one has the whole package when it comes to armrests. The Office Star Space 5500 mesh office chair comes with fully adjustable, padded armrests. We did find another budget office chair with padded, adjustable armrests: the Boss Open Back Mesh Task Chair (starting at $95). The Alera Nico Mid-Back Chair comes with padded armrests, but they aren't adjustable. The armrests on the Staples Vocazo and the Techni Mobili 0097M mesh office chair are not padded or adjustable, while the Z-Line Designs Task Chair has no armrests at all.

Base.

The base is what supports the chair and keeps it from tipping over. According to the Department of Labor, a chair base with less than five legs is a tipping hazard. All of the low-cost office chairs we reviewed have a five-leg base.

Mobility.

Many office workers swivel around to reach and file materials and wheel from one spot to another. Casters and swivel mechanisms make it possible to get into position easily. There are different casters for different floor surfaces; the most common are for carpet. We didn't find any in the budget price range designed specifically for hard surfaces. The swivel mechanism allows you to rotate your seat without moving the entire chair. A 360-degree swivel is very common in inexpensive office chairs. The manufacturer doesn't specify whether the Techni Mobili 0097M swivels all the way around, but otherwise all the chairs on our list can turn a full 360 degrees.

Office Chair Reviews

We based our evaluations of office chairs' performance in large part on a close reading of user reviews. Certain models are sold by only one or two retailers and therefore only reviewed in one or two places. Office chair reviews are somewhat harsh and no budget office chair escapes criticism. Two chairs in particular garner negative reviews due to poor-quality materials and numerous reports of a faulty product.

Users expect budget office chairs to be comfortable enough to sit on for long periods of time and to properly support the back, legs, buttocks, shoulders, and arms. Also high on the list are durability and quality. Finally, office chair reviews address ease of use -- how easy the chair is to put together and how well it moves and adjusts to accommodate the user.

Comfort.

Comfort seems to be the No. 1 priority among consumers posting office chair reviews. After all, who wants to spend money on a chair that isn't comfortable? Sam's Club members who have posted reviews of the Office Star Space 5500 have nothing but good things to say. One user who has degenerative disc disease says she has always had problems finding a comfortable office chair and this one provides a customized fit with all its adjustable components. She ordered the chair through the company she worked for and liked it so much she bought another one to take with her to a new employer. An Amazon user posting an office chair review likewise notes that the Office Star Space 5500 can be adjusted in lots of different ways to customize it to the user's specific needs, making it extremely comfortable.

Another chair that gets high marks for comfort is the Staples Vocazo. A user who posted a review on the Staples website compares the Vocazo to the famed, high-end Herman Miller Aeron, which the user sits in all day at work. Other office chair reviews single out the Vocazo's padded microsuede seat and all the ergonomic features. As for the Alera Nico Mid-Back Chair, the super-soft, smooth, leather-like material and abundance of padding in the armrests, back, and seat combine to impress users posting reviews at Newegg. However, some note that the chair sits high even at the lowest position, so shorter users may need a footrest. Users posting office chair reviews on Amazon also find the chair very comfortable, saying that the lumbar support and adjustability of the chair make it a good fit.

Office chair reviews of the Z-Line Designs Task Chair ZL1001-01TCU on the website of J&R Electronics tend to focus on quality and durability, giving the chair low marks. But consumers who are able to use the Z-Line Designs Task Chair without any problems call it comfortable, although they don't give many specifics. Office chair reviews of the Techni Mobili 0097M don't mention comfort, as most are occupied with the quality issues discussed on the next page.

Best Office Chairs

Office Chairs Durability.

Consumers spending up to $150 on office chairs expect them to last a while -- at least longer than a year or two. One discount office chair that seems likely to hold up well is our pick for the best office chair in the budget price range, the Office Star Space 5500. Users posting reviews at OfficeMax rate this chair very highly due to its high-quality materials and durable feel. One user posting a review on Amazon confirms the quality and durability, saying the chair is still in great condition after five years of frequent use. While reviews of the Staples Vocazo don't say much about durability, it is the only chair we found in the budget range with a warranty. It comes with a one-year limited manufacturer's warranty.

Users posting reviews of the Alera Nico Mid-Back Chair on Amazon have high praise for the chair's sturdy design and high-quality materials. One user says you can tell by the look, feel, and weight of the chair that it is durable. Conversely, durability seems to be the main issue with the Z-Line Designs Task Chair ZL1001-01TCU. Users posting reviews at both Amazon and JR.com report a faulty seat back. In the worst-case scenario, that means the back of the chair actually falls off, which is a huge injury risk, and in the best-case scenario, the screw attaching the back to the seat continually works itself loose and makes the seatback wobbly and unstable. The same problem applies to the Techni Mobili 0097M. Numerous users posting reviews at both Amazon say when they put just a little bit of pressure on the back of the chair it snaps off completely. One user reports that several employees were nearly injured, while another user says he had the part replaced and it happened again. Some users also say the staples and piping that hold the mesh backing in place pop out often.

Ease of Use.

Ease of use covers how easy it is to assemble and adjust an office chair, how easily it rolls, and generally how easy it is to work in the chair. Again the Office Star Space 5500, the best office chair among our picks, scores high with users. Users posting reviews on Amazon say it rolls easily on carpet and is simple to assemble. They also admire the adjustability of the seat and armrests. Users posting reviews at Staples.com say the Staples Vocazo is super-easy to put together, with clear, easy directions and all the necessary pieces. Users find it moves easily as well.

While the Alera Nico Mid-Back Chair gets high marks for comfort and durability, users posting reviews at Newegg note that assembly can be frustrating. Some had to resort to grinding and sanding to get certain parts to fit together. Once the chair is assembled, most users seem to find that it adjusts and moves easily. Many also seem willing to overlook the assembly issues considering the chair is so comfortable. Ease of use, like comfort, is simply not addressed in reviews of the Techni Mobili 0097M, which instead focus on the problem with the seatback. As for the Z-Line Task Chair, with the exception of one positive review stating that the chair is easy to work in, most reviews on the J&R site are negative.



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In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Office Chairs
  2. Discount Office Chairs Features Comparison Table
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