Updated on June 6, 2016
I have a confession. Sometimes I splurge a bit and make large purchases when not entirely necessary. When it comes to cycling, for instance, I am willing to pay top dollar for a nice bicycle. I ride my bike every day, and so perhaps I can subconsciously justify the purchase on the basis that when the purchase price is spaced out over the course of months or years, it might not be so bad. On the other hand, sometimes you just need something that works. That is exactly what the AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair is. It’s a no-frills, back to basics office chair that just works. It gets the job done, and manages to do it fairly well, especially considering the price point.
I’ve written quite a bit about the AmazonBasics line in the past, particularly when reviewing the AmazonBasics High Back Executive Chair. As a quick refresher, AmazonBasics is Amazon’s attempt to address the market for white-label products imported from China and often fulfilled by Amazon. In short, Amazon merchants will often source non-branded products from China, “add value” largely through branding and marketing, and sell the products under an in-house label on the Amazon marketplace.
AmazonBasics is Amazon’s attempt to remove the middle man and provide similar high-quality products at a low price point under the Amazon brand. The Mid-Back mesh chair shares much of the same DNA as the AmazonBasics High Back Executive Chair, but is packaged as an office chair. Like its cousin, it is a high-quality entry-level ergonomic office chair with ample support and features to compete with chairs twice its price point.
Let’s begin with what the Mid-Back Mesh Chair does well. The first thing I noticed is that this chair is made from high quality materials. The mesh back is similar to the one found on my beloved Aeron, and provides ample support while maintaining breathability. The chair itself is sufficiently sturdy and feels solid, even for someone with my relatively large frame. According to Amazon, the chair is rated to support up to 225 lbs, though I would wager you’d be fine well beyond that point if need be. The seat cushion is top notch. It’s just firm enough to provide ergonomic support where necessary while not being too firm so as to cause pressure points.
Obviously, the chair does not ship assembled, so there will be some assembly required. Luckily the instructions are straightforward and easy to follow. Realistically, you should be able to put it together in less than 15 minutes if you are at all mechanically inclined.
Amazingly, the Mid-Back Mesh Chair includes a tilt lock feature. I’ve written quite a bit about the importance of tilt lock vs tilt adjustability, but in short, you want tilt lock if you can find it. Tilt lock lets you set a fixed amount of recline permitted by the chair, which in turn can facilitate better ergonomics. I would not buy a chair without it, and lucky for you, the Mid-Back Mesh Chair includes such a feature, which is often only found on higher end office chairs. It also has a height-adjust, which I would expect on any modern office chair, but is worth highlighting.
So where does the Mid-Back Mesh Chair fall short? Well, actually there aren’t too many things I would change. As an entry-level office chair, it understandably does not have all the features you’d find on a high end Aeron or similar. It does not have adjustable arm wrests or lumbar support, for example. However, for the most part, I’d say it includes the essentials, while making reasonable tradeoffs on luxury features.
Pros of the AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair:
- Build Quality – For an entry-level chair, the Mid-Back Mesh Chair is surprisingly sturdy.
- Mesh Back Support – Supportive, yet soft and breathable, the back support is fantastic.
- Tilt Lock – This was a nice surprise on an entry-level chair. It is worth buying the Mid-Back Mesh Chair over comparably competitors for this feature alone.
- Price – The Mid-Back Mesh Chair is affordably priced.
Cons of the AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair:
- Fixed Arm Wrests – I’ve written quite about the basics of proper mousing technique and how arm wrests can actually interfere with proper mousing. Luckily, the arm wrests on the Mid-Back Mesh Chair are low, but I would still get rid of them if possible.
- Lack of Advanced Adjustability – The Mid-Back Mesh Chair does not have adjustable lumbar supports, forward-back tilt or other features you might find on higher priced office chairs.
The AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair is functional and gets the job done for a price that won’t break the bank. It has many features that you are unlikely to find on other entry level chairs such as tilt lock, and is a quality chair that will last a long time. If you’re looking for a well designed, basic office chair, this is the one.
Final Verdict: This is the Toyota Camry of Office Chairs. A great bargain that will get you where you need to be.
Posted on May 31, 2016
Here at 9 to 5 Ergonomics, I’ve written quite a bit about the benefits of standing desks and the proper standing desk posture. Interestingly, I haven’t written much about the various standing desks available on the market. Today I am going to review the X-Elite Pro height adjustable sit/stand desk. I actually own two standing desks – the X-Elite Pro that I use at work and a Jarvis desk that I use at home and hope to review another time.
The X-Elite Pro is a fantastic alternative to buying a full-on standing desk. Rather than a stand-alone product, it allows you to convert your existing desk into a sit-stand desk. The X-Elite Pro sits on top of your existing desk and provides a platform that you can move up and down. When fully retracted, the X-Elite Pro can function as a regular sitting desk. When extended, it can be used like a standing desk.
The mechanism for lifting the desk is a bit different from many other sit/stand desks that I’ve seen on the market. Rather than lifting with a motor or a crank, with the X-Elite Pro you just press a latch on the front of the desk and lift. A hydraulic system will maintain the height of the desk when you release the latch, similar to the way that you can raise and lower the height of many office chairs. In practice, that means that the X-Elite Pro is somewhat limited in the amount of weight that it can support. At the very minimum, you must be able to lift some portion of the weight of the desk in order to raise it. The X-Elite Pro is rated to support 20 lbs. by the manufacturer, which is enough for a monitor and keyboard, but not much else.
The platform itself is actually relatively large at 20″ x 28″. However, I would not recommend putting your monitor speakers and a Thunderbolt monitor on the X-Elite Pro. They won’t fit. Even if you do manage to squeeze them in, the weight will make the X-Elite Pro feel wobbly.
In terms of height range, the X-Elite Pro will fit most individuals shorter than about 6′. If you are taller than 6′ (a I am), you may need to get a bit creative with how you set up your peripherals and monitor. Personally, I use a stack of paper and monitor stand, which works find, if a bit of hack. According to X-Elite, the height range while standing is from 7 to 16 inches, and is 2.5 inches while fully retracted.
The 7 to 16 inches range should be fine for most people. Strangely, it’s actually the 2.5 inches while retracted that can be a bit frustrating. Many other sit/stand desks have a separate tray for a keyboard and mouse. As a result, this tray sits flush with your desk when the platform is retracted. In addition, you can use the platform as a pseudo-monitor stand in order to elevate the monitor above the same level as the keyboard and mouse. With the X-Elite, this isn’t an option, and using the platform at a height of 2.5 inches above your desk can be awkward. As a result, you will likely need to move your keyboard and mouse off the platform when using it as a sitting desk. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s an unnecessary step.
Pros of the X-ELITE PRO Height Adjustable Sit / Stand Desk:
- Large Platform – The 20″ x 28″ platform is big enough to fit all the necessities.
- Easy To Use – The mechanism for raising and lowering the platform is as simple as can be.
- Fantastic Bargain – An entry point into the sit/stand world at a reasonable price.
Cons of the X-ELITE PRO Height Adjustable Sit / Stand Desk:
- Sturdiness – As a sit/stand platform, rather than a true sit/stand desk, the X-Elite Pro just isn’t as stable as my Jarvis Desk.
- Height Range – The 7-16″ adjustible standing height will work for most folks, but the 2.5″ retracted height can be awkward.
In reality, the X-Elite is a fantastic bargain for what it does. It’s an entry point into the standing desk world and gets the job done for the fraction of the cost of a full stand-alone standing desk. With that said, it does not get you all the way there, particularly when it comes to sturdiness. However, at the price point, it is among the best in its segment.
Final Verdict: A fantastic entry-level sit/stand platform for those looking for a standing desk at a reasonable price.
Updated on May 27, 2016
I used to believe that no mouse could possibly surpass the design brilliance of the Logitech MX Wireless Mouse. Simply put, the Logitech is perfect. It fits my hand well. It’s got long-lasting lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. It works over bluetooth. It’s just… fantastic as mice go. But, today I’m going to talk about a mouse that might actually give the Logitech a run for its money, the Swiftpoint GT Wireless Ergonomic Mobile Mouse.
Like the Logitech, the Swiftpoint is a departure from nearly anything else you’ll find on the market. Unlike the Logitech, though, this thing is a radical design departure, unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s… small. Really small. In fact, it is mean to mimic the feel of a pen rather than the feel of a mouse. It is also heavily influenced by the gestures you would typically make when using a touch pad, but manages to accommodate them in a unique and tactile way.
So how does it work? Well, the Swiftpoint GT actually supports two distinct modes of use. In the standard mode, it works just like a regular mouse. You move it around your desk or tracking surface and it moves the cursor. Nothing fancy there. In the “touch” mode, however, the mouse really comes alive. By tilting the mouse to the side, it mimics a finger on a touch screen monitor. You can flick the mouse and perform other gestures to move between screens or scroll through webpages. In short, it is an intuitive one-stop shop solution for those of us who want to use a mouse for precision work, but also enjoy using gesture inputs for efficiency.
What’s more, the most recent versions of the Swiftpoint GT work on both Mac and PC. Initially, I really only saw the usefulness on Windows. There are a number of tablet PC devices running windows 10 that are essentially a macbook and iPad in one. For those devices, having a Swiftpoint GT is more obviously useful because it allows you to quickly go between the two input paradigms seamlessly. However, on a Macbook, the lack of a touchscreen would initially seem to undercut the Swiftpoint GT”s most useful feature. Not so.
I use gestures such as the two-finger scroll and four-finger swipe between desktops all the time. With the latest version of the Swiftpoint GT, it is possible to use mouse to input the most common magic trackpad gestures on OSX. In short, it becomes the best of both worlds on both Mac and PC.
There are a number of other useful aspects to its design as well. In particular, because it is so small, you can use it as a mouse on particularly small tracking surfaces. Whats more, for such a small device, it actually tracks particularly well. It goes without saying that this mouse is incredibly portable to boot. It uses rechargable lithium-ion batteries and connects via bluetooth, which is to be expected for a mouse in this price range.
So where does this thing cut corners? Well, as one might expect with such a radical design, the Swiftpoint GT might still be working out a few bugs. Particularly on OSX, it seems that the Swiftpoint GT is not quite there yet. Many folks have mentioned problems with the bluetooth connection, and support for all touchpad gestures is still a feature that is in ongoing development.
Pros of the Swiftpoint GT Wireless Ergonomic Mobile Mouse:
- Unique pen-based design – small, portable and ergonomic. One of the most innovative designs on the market.
- Gesture support – This is the killer feature of the Swiftpoint GT. Gives you the precision of a mouse with the efficiency of a touchpad.
- Lithium Ion Batteries – Rechargeable batteries are not only good for the environment, but convenient as well.
- Bluetooth Connectivity – A modern convenience factor that I would expect from a mouse in this pricerange
Cons of the Swiftpoint GT Wireless Ergonomic Mobile Mouse:
- Ongoing Development – As a new product, it seems that some of the features are not 100% ready for primetime, and a number of users have reported bugs, particularly with bluetooth connectivity on OSX.
- Price Point – The high price point may dissuade some potential buyers from giving the Swiftpoint GT a shot.
The Swiftpoint GT Wireless Ergonomic Mouse is in a class of its own. With a revolutionary design and a clear value-add for those of us that like to use gestures for efficiency, this mouse is, without a doubt, worth a shot for those of us that are willing to step a bit outside the box.
Final Verdict: Compact, cutting edge wireless mouse for those that are willing to take a leap of faith.
Updated on May 23, 2016
Last week, we discussed in depth how you can avoid mouse elbow through improved ergonomics, proper mousing technique and stretching. Mouse elbow is one of those injuries that if you have it, you know it. It begins with an ache, then a distinct pain, and if left untreated, can prevent you from working for weeks or even months at a time. Most injuries related to ergonomics tend to fall into this category. The affects are acute, obvious and treatable.
Today, however, I am going to talk about a different class of ergonomic prevention: eye strain. Eye strain can be particularly insidious because its effects are not always obvious. Whereas mouse elbow is (obviously) felt in the elbow, eye strain can manifest in the form of headaches, neck and head pain or even general sleepiness. Granted, there are often more direct symptoms as well, such as dry eyes, itchy eyes or blurry vision. However, deterioration in eye sight can be so slow as to become unnoticeable day to day. Over time, however, the effects of poor habits with regard to your eyes can add up. Here are some tips to minimize eye strain at work.
According to OSHA, your monitor should be positioned at least 20 inches away from your face. There are some rather intricate physics principles for why this is the case, but the short version is that, in general, your eye needs to work harder in order to bring text into focus that is closer. However, as text moves further away, it becomes more difficult to disambiguate characters. Therefore, you will likely find that the most comfortable range is somewhere between 20 and 36 inches from your face.
Every now and then, take a break from staring at your monitor. Stare off into the distance or allow your eyes to relax out of focus. Doing so will not only give your eyes a chance to break out of the 20-36 inch focus range discussed above, but it may actually give you a chance to see a difficult problem in a different light (both literally and figuratively).
When focusing on a computer monitor, particularly when you are “in the zone” coding or working on a hard problem, it is common for your reflexes to slow down. You will often blink less and your eyes will produce fewer tears. This can lead to dry, irritated eyes. Teach yourself to blink more often and it may reduce eye irritation.
Adjust Environmental Lighting
Proper environmental lighting is incredibly important in reducing eye strain at a computer monitor. There are two types of light to take into account. First, try to avoid sitting near bright specular lights. These are the sorts of lights that produce “hot spots” of glare on your monitor. If possible, try to work under lights which have a diffuser, the textured and semi-transparent panel of plastic or glass that makes it so that you can’t see the actual bulb. Second, the ambient light level should be set so that it does not overpower the contrast settings of your monitor. If the ambient light is such that you cannot see text on your monitor without maxing out the brightness setting, consider reducing the level of ambient light with window shades.
F.lux is a fantastic program that will automatically adjust your contrast settings throughout the day. In addition, consider adjusting the theme colors of your text editor or IDE. In general, dark text on a white background is considered the best when displaying paragraphs of writing. However, light text on a dark background can work as well, so long as the contrast of colors is not overpowering. XCode, for instance, ships with a number of different contrast settings, so explore a bit and see what works.
As a rule of thumb, try to use a font size that is as least 3 times as big as the smallest font that you can see. Among other things, using a larger font will allow you to more easily discern characters and those pesky brackets that are preventing your code from compiling.
See the Optometrist
This one goes without saying, but many people tend to ignore it for some reason. Go to the optometrist and make sure your prescription is up to date. If you need glasses, or your prescription is out of date, your eyes will be doing overtime trying to bring things into focus that they cannot possibly bring into focus. I am ashamed to say that I put this off for several years until the pain and suffering go so bad that I finally caved and got a pair of glasses. Now, I no longer have headaches from working at a computer and my glasses look pretty cool to boot!
Hopefully you found this list helpful. Remember, your eyes are your window to the world, so treat them well! If you have any other tips and tricks for how to reduce eye strain at work, let me know in the comments below!
Posted on May 17, 2016
After a marathon coding session or a really intense game of World of Warcraft, it’s not uncommon to come out of the fog to slowly discover an aching pain in your wrist or elbow. The typical computer geek will likely brush this pain off as something that comes with the territory. After all, you’re not truly a computer aficionado until you’ve put in some sweat and pain, right?
This is absolutely, 100%, the wrong response and, in my opinion, part of what makes repetitive stress injuries (RSI) so insidious. What might start as a dull ache or pain can morph into a career ending injury if one isn’t careful. I’ve already written extensively about how to use a mouse properly and the best ergonomic mouse on the market. The best method for avoiding mouse elbow is to never get it in the first place, and these two items will go a long way in reducing the likelihood of developing such an injury. Today, however, I’m going to talk about mitigation strategies for one of the most common injuries encountered from improper mouse usage, mouse elbow.
What is Mouse Elbow?
Mouse elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) is a repetitive stress injury typically felt in the forearm and elbow. It is caused by inflammation of the tendons that join the forearm muscles with the elbow, and most commonly the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB):
The ECRB is critical for stabilizing the wrist and serves as an extensor and abductor of the hand. Recall that poor mousing can put your wrist in both extension and abduction (AKA radial deviation):
Interestingly, mouse elbow is the exact same form of tendonitis often referred to as “tennis elbow” and, to some degree, the same muscles that can be strained by the motion of a tennis racquet can be strained by mouse usage. In short, “mouse elbow” is actually caused by poor mousing habits in both the arm and wrist.
How to Heal Mouse Elbow
First and foremost, stop. Just stop.
Stop doing the thing that hurts. Go on a walk. Take some photos. Breathe in the great outdoors. Do something other than the motion that is causing the pain. I realize that this is often easier said than done. Many of us who are chained to a desk all day may find it difficult to get away from the office.
In that case, try mixing it up. Try a trackpad if you are using a traditional mouse. Try standing instead of sitting, which might alter your mousing habits to some degree. If you are somewhat ambidextrous, you might try mousing with your left arm for while (though be careful to maintain good form).
The bottom line: if you don’t find a way to change your habits, your mouse elbow will never heal.
Apply ice for 15-20 minutes at a time. I have often found that freezing several cups of water in advance works well. You can peel away the top layer of the cup, and use the ice as a sort of massage tool simultaneously:
Ice acts to reduce swelling and is particularly valuable within the first 48 hours of injury.
Stretching can improve mobility over time and, in some cases, promote healing. It is important to not over do it with stretching initially. In fact, within the first 48 hours, stretching may actually cause more harm than good. Tendonitis is basically a number of small microtears in the tendon and aggressive stretching can inflame the tendon further — bad news.
After the first 40 hours, try out wrist stretches that work to counteract the tight muscle and/or tendon injury. For instance, in order to stretch the ECRB, you would actually want to put the wrist in flexion:
I prefer to do the strech above wile also looking over the opposite shoulder. For instance, if stretching the right wrist, then look over your left shoulder, and turn your torso such that you feel a stretch in the arm flexors, all the way up the arm to your pec as well.
If the Pain Doesn’t Go Away…
Then, unfortunately it’s time to see a doctor. Tendonitis and RSI injuries can be a real pain the arse. A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory (likely NSAIDs) or, in serious cases, may recommend surgery.
All the more reason to avoid mouse elbow altogether by keeping an eye on your ergonomics from the start! Remember, it is always easier to prevent an RSI injury than to rehab one that has always developed.
Are you dealing with an RSI injury? What approaches have worked well for you?
Posted on May 12, 2016
Today we’re taking a look at the AmazonBasics High-Back Executive Chair. It’s no secret that Amazon has been on an absolute tear lately. They have been a pioneer in everything from server hosting to supply chain management to warehouse technologies. However, Amazon has historically be hesitant to source its own physical products. That is, until recently.
AmazonBasics is Amazon’s answer to the increasingly common practice of sourcing white-label products from China. Many of these products find their way onto the Amazon marketplace under a variety of different labels. The model works like this:
Amazon merchants will purchase a non-branded product from a Chinese manufacturer on sites such as Alibaba. They will then add unique features and sell the product under their own brand. In effect, the value-add of the merchant is the branding and marketing, while the core product can be found for much less if you are willing to purchase it elsewhere. AmazonBasics is Amazon’s attempt to cut out the middle man on many products that are commonly white-labeled.
While the AmazonBasics brand is in its infancy, the High-Back Executive Chair is an incredible bargain, and shows that Amazon is serious about producing high-quality products at an affordable price.
To begin with, the High-Back Executive Chair is not really an office chair in the same sense as an Aeron, for example. As the name implies, it is an executive chair, which typically would mean that it is designed with less of an emphasis on ergonomics and more of an emphasis on plushness and luxury. I am including it in our discussion, however, because the Amazon High-Back Executive Chair bucks the trend, and actually does include a number of ergonomic features.
This chair is well designed. It is comfortable, and provides ample back support to sit in for hours at a time. The key to the design, in my opinion, is the curved and supportive seat back. Unlike many executive chairs which make it easy to slouch, the AmazonBasics executive chair is made from high-quality leather that is molded over a curved frame. It is soft enough that it doesn’t cause pressure points, but firm enough to provide ample lumbar support.
In addition, the high-back executive chair is adjustable in both height and tilt, which allows you to dial in the proper ergonomics for your height. Rather than a tilt lock, the executive chair opts for a tilt tension adjustment. In short, a tilt lock allows you to specify the exact reclining angle that you desire, whereas a tilt tension adjustment typically only allows you to specify the spring tension applied when you recline in the chair. The tilt tension adjustment on the executive chair still gets the job done relatively well.
The high-back executive chair does have its drawbacks, though. To begin with, it has fixed arm rests, which is a big no-no when it comes to ergonomic design. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, proper mousing technique requires that the arm be free to move in all dimensions so that you can mouse with the whole arm. Doing so can prove difficult with the high-back executive chair because the arm rests get in the way.
The all-leather design does provide for a luxurious feel, but it does not allow for the same breatheability as many porous-back office chairs. The seat back is not adjustable on its own, and the seat cushion is not quite as contoured as other office chairs on the market.
Pros of the AmazonBasics High-Back Executive Chair:
- Ample Lumbar Support – The high-back executive chair is one of the most supportive executive chairs on the market.
- Plush Seat Cushion – The seat cushion is soft enough that it can feel like sitting in a couch rather than an office chair.
- Tilt Adjutment – Provides tilt adjust functionality, a step towards a more ergonomic design not commonly found on executive chairs.
- Price – The high-back executive chair is priced below $200
Cons of the AmazonBasics High-Back Executive Chair:
- Lack of Lumbar Support Adjustability – The seat back is not adjustable on its own.
- Fixed Arm Rests – Fixed arm rests can get in the way and prevent proper mousing.
- Leather Seat Material – Though the material provides a luxury feel, it is not as breathable as more modern construction materials.
The AmazonBasics High-Back executive chair is a fantastic compromise between a plush executive chair and a chair that is explicitly designed as an ergonomic office chair. It is far more adjustable than many executive chairs and has a particularly well designed seat back that provides ample lumbar support, provided that the chair fits your height. If you prefer the luxury executive-chair feel, while requiring a more ergonomically-minded design, this may be the chair for you.
Final Verdict: A fantastic blend of luxury executive design with modern ergonomics.
Updated on May 11, 2016
Today, as part of our series of ergonomic chair reviews, I am going to talk about my experience with the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Mid-Back Swivel/Tilt Chair. The Elusion Series is a mid-tier office chair, which means that it has a number of features found on higher end chairs such as the Herman Miller Aeron. However, the Elusion Series can still generally be had for a price under $200, which makes it a fantastic candidate for the best ergonomic chair under $200.
Many office chairs come with what is a called “tilt tension,” a feature which allows you to dial in the resistance of the chair to backwards tilt. Think of tilt tension as a spring whereby the more that you lean back, the more that the chair will push against you. Personally, I’ve always found tilt tension to be annoying, as I can never quite dial it in to support my back at a comfortable angle. In contrast, tilt lock allows you to specify either a fixed or maximum tilt angle. Since I believe that a somewhat reclined sitting position is optimal, I generally only purchase office chairs with tilt lock functionality.
The biggest selling point for me with the Elusion is that it is 100%, fully adjustable and includes tilt lock functionality. Even the high-end Aeron does not come with a tilt lock on the base model, but the Elusion absolutely shines in this category. In addition, the seat height and arm wrests are also adjustable through a wide range of motion. Even the seat depth is adjustable, though making an adjustment requires removing several screws. In short, the level of adjustability on this chair is among the best in its breed.
The Elusion has a mesh back, similar to the backing found on many higher end chairs, which provides ample support, but also remains breathable. I found the the seat cushion to be somewhat firm, but its contoured shape also fit particularly well which meant that I didn’t really experience any uncomfortable pressure points. I particularly liked the “waterfall” rounded cutoff of the seat cushion behind the knees, which promotes circulation to the legs. Given that the Elusion works so well, where does it cut corners?
Well, the first thing I noticed was that the seat back does not have an adjustable lumbar support. The seat back itself is adjustable, however. As a result, you can dial in the lumbar support and you can dial in the back support position relative to your height, but you cannot dial in both at the same time. As a result, if you are particularly tall or short, you may have trouble finding a good position for the back support without some level of compromise.
I was also disappointed with the design of the adjustment knobs. In short, they just weren’t particularly intuitive, and it took me a while to get the hang of them, particularly the tilt lock.
Pros of the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Mid-Back Swivel/Tilt Chair:
- Adjustable – The Elusion is adjustable in nearly every possible dimension. Even compared to higher end chairs, it shines in this department.
- Breathable Back Support – The porous seat back provides ample support while maintaining breathability
- Contoured Seat Cushion – Waterfall design and well thought out contours mean that the seat cushion fits well.
- Tilt Lock – Provides tilt lock, rather than the tilt adjust functionality found on many lower end chairs.
- Price – The Elusion is priced below $200
Cons of the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Mid-Back Swivel/Tilt Chair:
- Lumbar Support Adjustability – Though the seat back is adjustable, the position of the lumbar support is not.
- Knob Design – The adjustment knobs are unintuitive.
- Seat Cushion – I found the seat cushion to be a bit too hard. It is unclear whether the construction will be durable enough to stand the test of time.
The Alera Elusion Series Mesh Mid-Back Swivel/Tilt Chair is a fantastic chair, period. It has all sorts of high end features that you are unlikely to find on a similarly priced chair, and can even go head to head with higher priced chairs from Herman Miller and others. While I would have preferred that a bit more attention were paid to the fit and finish of the seat cushion and adjustment knobs, the only real deficiency is in the lack of an adjustable lumbar support. However, if you aren’t particularly tall or short, it’s not really a factor at all. Overall, you can’t go wrong with the Elusion.
Final Verdict: One of the best chairs you can find for the money.
Posted on April 28, 2016
As part of my ongoing series to find the best office chair, today I decided to review what might be the best ergonomic chair under $200 on the market, the Office Star Space Seating Deluxe AirGrid Manager Chair. I know that the name is quite a mouthful, but let’s break it down a bit just so that we’re on the same page. Office Star makes a number of different chairs. The Space Seating line is their line focusing on modern, sleek office chairs. Within the Space Seating line, the Deluxe AirGrid is a particular design, and the Manager is a particular version of that design. Office star has literally hundreds of different models, so it is almost always possible to find a model that will work for you.
With that said, the Deluxe AirGrid is one of Office Star’s most popular models, balancing a number of higher end features with a budget-friendly design. It proves to be a more affordable alternative to the Herman Miller Aeron, while still preserving many of the things that make the Aeron such a staple in the office place.
The core of the chair’s design is the ergonomic seat cushion. Office Star claims the cushion is made out of “Eco Leather,” which ends up feeling sort of like a breathable version of suede. I was pleasantly surprised that the material does not feel like the pleather typically found on lower end chairs, and that Office Star took the time to construct a high-quality, durable seat cushion. The stitching appears to be heavy duty and the quality generally top-notch. The cushion is not as firm as the one found on the Aeron, but it is not too soft either.
The lumbar support is not adjustable, though it does provide ample support. It is very similar to the permeable back supports found on higher end chairs, and allows the back to breathe while avoiding pressure points with its suspension design.
Like many higher end chairs, the Deluxe AirGrid is adjustable in both height and tilt tension. The arm wrests are also adjustable. The chair rolls freely on any reasonably firm surface and the caster wheels are high quality and well built.
So where does the Deluxe AirGrid not quite measure up? Well, in my opinion, the arm wrest appear to be the place that Office Star decided to cut corners. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, it’s debatable whether you want to use the arm wrests at all in order to maintain proper sitting posture. However, if you do insist on mousing while using the arm wrests, it is critical to maintain arm neutrality and to mouse with the whole arm as much as possible. Instead, the arm wrests on the Deluxe AirGrid encourage the opposite with a concave design. Others have complained that the arm wrests do not properly fit those with larger arms. To me, they just felt cheap, and not nearly as soft and accommodating as the arm wrests found on higher end chairs. Luckily, the arm wrests can actually be left off entirely when assembling the chair if you so desire. Doing so would be my recommendation.
The other downside is that the AirGrid only comes in one size as far as I can tell. The standard size from Amazon fits a medium to large frame, and so smaller individuals may want to consider other models from Office Star.
Pros of the Office Star Space Seating Deluxe AirGrid Manager Chair:
- Back Support – The back support suspension system provides ample support and is breathable. It is basically a knock off of the design from the Aeron
- High Quality Seat Cushion – Not too hard, not too soft. High quality workmanship and durable leather materials.
- Fully Adjustable – Height and tilt tension (though not lumbar support).
- Price – Reasonable.
Cons of the Office Star Space Seating Deluxe AirGrid Manager Chair:
- Arm Wrests – Basically junk.
- Size – May not fit everyone.
The Office Star Space Seating Deluxe AirGrid Manager Chair is a fantastic alternative to many higher end chairs at a fraction of the price. In fact, this may be the best ergonomic chair for under $200 on the market. It is (mostly) of a very high build quality, and will be right at home in any office setting. Throw away or replace the arm wrests and you’ve got a really good chair at a bargain.
Final Verdict: A fantastic bargain chair that will get you 90% of the way there for 20% of the price.
Updated on April 28, 2016
Today I want to tell you a story. This isn’t a one-size-fits all story. It’s not a “this is what you should do” story. Instead, it’s just a story about a journey that I have taken. I prefer to avoid getting on a soap box, so instead I’m putting this out there in the hopes that someone might find it useful. With that disclaimer, here it goes… five years ago I looked like this guy:
I have always been skinny, and I’ve always had a bit of a slouchy posture. I also happen to spend a lot of time at the computer. Combine that with an overly active metabolism and hyperactivity that drove me to run 7+ miles a day, and you end up looking like Justin Bieber did as an awkward teenager.
When I embarked on my career as a computer programmer, I started to realize that, as much as I loved computers, the industry can take quite a toll on your body if you’re not careful. Carpel tunnel, RSI injuries, eye strain, back and neck pain, poor posture, heart disease… the list goes on and on. What really stood out to me initially, however, was that I just felt… aloof. I was spending 8+ hours a day sitting at a desk and was beginning to notice the impact on my already poor posture. This was in the era before standing desks became a thing, and so I began to explore other ways of sitting. I tried a kneeling chair and then a balance ball. Both seemed to help in small doses, but I still found it difficult to overcome the muscle imbalances that only seemed to be getting worse. Then I discovered the weight room.
I am convinced that the single best thing you can do in order to reverse the effects of spending long hours in the office is to get in the gym every day. For me, that meant building strength with a particular focus on the muscles that are weakened by sitting.
I’ve already written quite a bit about the muscle imbalances associated with sitting. In short, sitting tends to weaken key muscles in the posterior kinetic chain and core. In reality, pretty much any weight program designed to target those muscles will help with posture. Frankly, you can go in the gym and do nothing but the balance ball and you’ll probably come out ahead.
But for me, the program that has worked the best is Mark Rippletoe’s Starting Strength. The idea behind starting strength is pretty simple: focus on the most intensive compound movements and the rest will follow. Compound movements are movements that force a number of muscle groups to work together in order to perform the exercise. Whereas a bicep curl is an isolation movement focusing on muscles in the arm, a deadlift involves the glutes, hamstrings, back, arms, and nearly every other muscle in the posterior kinetic chain. Not so coincidentally, these compound movements tend to be the most practical in terms of functional strength that can be applied in the real world. Cavemen needed the ability to lift heavy object off the ground, and the closest approximations to those movements that can be found in the weight room are the press, squat and deadlift.
The press, squat and deadlift are at the core of starting strength. You can also swap in the bench press instead of standing press to mix things up. That’s it. In fact, starting strength is really nice in that I can typically get in and out of the gym in 30-40 minutes. 3 days a week, 3 exercises, 3 compound movements, 2 warm up sets and 3 work sets each. On occasion, I’ll throw in some chin-ups as well to focus specifically on the back, but the goal is always to improve the 3 primary movements: squat, deadlift, press. As a result, my schedule looks something like this:Things do progress a bit from there, but it always comes back to the core movements. There are all sorts of guides to starting strength on the internet, so there is no need to repeat them here. For the basics, I’d recommend:
- The Muscle and Fitness 4-week Guide to Starting Strength
- AOM How To Overhead Press
- AOM How To Squat
- AOM How To Deadlift
I started spending 3 days a week in the gym, every week. After about 6 months, my squat went from about 135 to 250, deadlift from 135 to 305 and press from about 45 to 120 lbs. I have gotten stronger without a doubt, but more importantly, I feel better. I can stand for longer periods of time, I can go about my daily activities more easily, I feel less fatigued at the end of the day and, yes, I look better. In fact, having a solid base of strength has made nearly all aspects of my life better. Not surprisingly, there are all sorts of documented health benefits from increased strength.
Will it work for you? Hell if I know… but it worked for me. And worst case, you’ll end up on a train to jacked city, which in itself is not a bad ticket to have in your back pocket. I can say without a doubt, however, that a general focus on fitness will pay dividends down the road, and a renewed focus on exercises which counteract the long hours spent at a desk is highly unlikely to be a bad thing. So, why not give it a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below!
Updated on April 19, 2016
I’ve spent a great deal of time here on 9 to 5 ergonomics reviewing ergonomic input devices in order to come up with the best ergonomic mouse on the market. Today, though, I’m going to branch off and do something different. I’m going to review an ergonomic chair!
The Aeron Ergonomic Chair by Herman Miller is the gold standard when it comes to ergonomic chairs. I’ve had one for nearly 10 years now, and it still works just as well as the day that I bought it. These things are literally (ok, not “literally”) bulletproof. An icon of the early 2000’s tech boom and bust, I would be remiss to begin my foray into ergonomic chairs anywhere else.
So what makes these chairs so great? Well, in short, they just work. The Aeron supports your back and thighs like no other chair, and does so in such a way that feels natural and without aggravating pressure points. There are two features that really stand out on the Aeron and allow it to function so well.
First, the Aeron features “pellicle suspension” on the back support. I had to look up what that word meant after reading through the marketing brochure, but apparently it is “a thin skin, cuticle, membrane, or film.” In terms of the Aeron, it’s the cloth material that they string taut on the back frame, which provides fantastic support, particularly for the lumbar, but also allows your back to breathe.
Second, the front of the seat portion is rounded off and just seems to fit well, which allows for a solid base from which to maintain proper sitting posture, but also promotes circulation to the legs. Herman Miller calls this the waterfall design, and it is designed to keep pressure off of the back of your thighs.
The Aeron chair comes in 3 different sizes so that you can find the one that fits you best. A is the smallest, B is a mid-size chair and C is the largest. As a rough sizing guide, see the chart below.
Since the old days, Herman Miller has also added new features and functionality to the Aeron. The three most common premium features are the adjustable lumbar support, fully adjustable armrests and rear tilt limiter. As one might expect, the PostureFit lumbar support feature allows you really dial the the amount lower back support you want as well as move the lumbar support’s position up and down the back rest. Adjustable armrests can be a nice feature, although as I’ve mentioned previously, it is often best to leave the armrests off and mouse with your whole arm. I actually strongly recommend picking up an Aeron with a rear tilt limiter. Again, as one might expect, the rear tilt limiter allows you to dial in the maximum amount of rear tilt that you would prefer. I have a tendency to lean back in my chair, and having a rear tilt limiter can often help maintain an upright posture.
The biggest downside that I see to the Aeron is that it is expensive. A fully tricked out Aeron chair will run you somewhere around $900. However, older and used Aerons can be had on Craigslist and through furniture stores for less. The Aeron really hasn’t changed much since I bought mine over a decade ago, so for many folks this might be the best option.
Pros of the Aeron Ergonomic Chair by Herman Miller:
- Durability – The Aeron will last a lifetime. Even if something breaks, parts can be had fairly easily from a variety of sellers.
- Back Support – The porous back support suspension system was ahead of its time and is still the best back support system I have encountered.
- Rounded Seat Cushion – Just seems to fit me well.
- Variety of Sizes – Find the chair that fits you best.
Cons of the Aeron Ergonomic Chair by Herman Miller:
- Price – The Aeron is expensive.
The Aeron by Herman Miller is found in nearly every office building on the planet for a reason. These chairs just work really, really well. I literally can’t even think of a negative other than the high price. The price can be somewhat daunting, but with some creativity they can be had for a bargain. Or, if you want the real deal straight from the manufacturer, you can pick one up on Amazon for under $1000.
Final Verdict: Just buy one. It will last you a lifetime.