Today, I’m investigating the Steelcase Series 1 office chair, the cheapest ergonomic chair in the Steelcase product lineup. While the brand usually offers high-end, expensive office chairs, the Series 1 presents a more accessible price point.
Does it sacrifice the brand’s usual standards to achieve it?
- In the Australian market, this chair costs around $750.
- Add shipping, and you won’t get much change from $900.
- If you include the optional headrest, expect to part with another $60.
This leaves you with difficult questions.
Should you save $250 by buying a similarly specced ErgoTune Supreme? Or should you splash on a high-end option like the Steelcase Leap chair, priced at around $1500? Let’s find out.
Reasons To Buy The Steelcase Series 1.
Above: The Steelcase Series 1 cuts a handsome shape. Five colour schemes are available in Australia.
The Series 1 has very good build quality, especially considering its relatively modest price point of about $1,000.
The office chair comes with an impressive 12-year warranty on the mechanism, casters, and gas lift, plus a lifetime warranty on the frame and base.
The Series 1 is proudly built in Michigan, USA – another pleasant surprise, given the Asian manufacturing dominance at this price point. I couldn’t find any imperfections in its frame, nor fault the durable-looking backrest mesh.
Both are consistent with the reputation we’ve come to expect from Steelcase chairs.
The Series 1’s design is understated, smart and practical.
Like all Steelcase chairs, it shies away from flamboyant luxury and embraces a safe, minimalist look.
Above: Notice how the Series 1’s armrests are attached to the backrest instead of the seat base.
I personally find it a bit boring, but I can see it appealing to professionals who appreciate its friendly, non-intimidating vibe (e.g., coaches and doctors).
Adjustability is good without being outstanding. You get 9 adjustment points:
- Tilt with tension adjustment (without the ability to lock it at an angle, which is odd).
- Fully adjustable armrests (width, height, rotation, and depth).
- Seat pan depth and seat height.
Adjustable lumbar support? Yes, but in height only, thank you very much. Depth isn’t available, and neither is the option to spec the office chair in different sizes (more about this shortly).
These shortfalls translate into mixed feelings about the chair’s comfort.
I do like the Series 1s’ fabric seat base.
Your backside will enjoy being planted into it for 3-4 hours at a time, but long stints may pose a problem. If you regularly pull 8-10 hour workdays, you may want to consider the more cushy Steelcase Leap instead.
Where The Steelcase Series 1 Falls Short.
Above: Steelcase Series 1’s lumbar support is adjustable in height only – not depth.
The Steelcase Series 1 is not a comfortable chair for taller users. Available in only one size and featuring a low backrest, it will make anyone above 185 cm feel like they’re sitting in a kids’ chair.
The chair’s build is another sticking point.
The top surface doesn’t feel nice to touch and is too firm. If you like to dig your elbows into your chair’s armrests, you’ll find it irritating to the skin.
Weirdly, they attach to the chair’s backrest rather than the seat base, which leads to a lot of vertical movement when reclining.
Beyond a certain point, the armrests elevate too high to be usable for typing. If you happen to recline while the armrests are still under your desk, they’ll collide with its underside.
The rest of the chair is built well, but feels … unsubstantial. This becomes especially apparent when comparing Series 1, 2 and the Leap side-by-side.
The latter two chairs have a more chunky, solid vibe.
This is a huge miss by Steelcase in a world where even chairs in the $350 price range, like the budget-friendly Sihoo M57, offer bi-directional lumbar support mechanisms.
Unless your back curve happens to align with the default curve line of Series 1’s backrest, you’ll find yourself wishing for more adjustable lumbar support.
The bad news about comfort continues to Steelcase Series 1’s backrest.
Above: LiveBack technology is simply a series of horizontal rubber bands across the back. I don’t love it.
Steelcase makes a lot of fuss about the chair’s integrated LiveBack technology, but I think it’s more noise than substance. Yes, it offers a degree of flex in the backrest, allowing your spine to move throughout your workday.
Finally, the recline function could be much better, but this is an issue with Steelcase chairs overall, rather than the Series 1 specifically.
I personally find that the hip-thrust movement distinctive to Steelcase ergonomic chairs does not make for the most comfortable reclining experience.
They’re not chairs that encourage reclining in that classic synchro-tilt “let me lean back and ponder about what you just said to me, Bob” manner. Rather, they’re task chairs that also recline.
How The Steelcase Series 1 Stacks Up.
We evaluate all office chairs using our 5-point criteria. The scores are adjusted for price point to ensure fairness.
For example, a $1500 Steelcase Leap chair will be held to a higher standard across all factors than a $900 Steelcase Series 1.
|Build Quality & Warranty||3.5/5|
My Verdict On The Steelcase Series 1 Office Chair.
While the Steelcase Series 1 is pretty good at most things, it’s not exceptional at anything. It also falls short in backrest comfort and armrest design.
The Series 1 is at an odd juncture – either a bargain buy from a premium brand or an overpriced budget chair. Take away the Steelcase brand name, and the Sihoo M57 will give it a decent run for its money.
If you’re used to sitting in a Herman Miller Aeron or a Steelcase Leap, you’ll see Series 1 as a downgrade.
However, if you’re looking for an entry-level ergonomic office chair, have a small to medium build and want an understated aesthetic that doesn’t scream “budget”, this Steelcase chair is a pretty good choice.