Real talk: the noblechairs EPIC gaming chair is the firmest "gaming" chair I've ever sat my butt on. And I kinda like it.
The market for places to put your gaming butt is fairly fierce. Over the last years several new brands have joined the Australian market, some of which are even manufactured locally.
One of the more recent entries down under is noblechairs, a British brand currently only distributing their EPIC faux and real leather chairs through MWAVE and Scorptec. There's two basic options available to Aussies: a faux leather chair in black (with coloured trim) starts from $399. An esports themed version of the faux line will set you back around $469, although the features are largely unchanged, while the real leather version will set you back $699.
It's an awful lot to pay for a chair - but it's about the same amount you'd pay for a swivel chair with a headrest and armrests from a regular furniture retailer or IKEA.
As you'd expect, a chair in this price bracket comes with a few features. There's a velvet pillow for a headrest, a second cushion for lumbar support that hooks through the back of the chair, 4D armrests and cold foam upholstery. The armrests and casters themselves are made from polyurethane, while the base and frame are made from aluminium and steel respectively. PU faux leather is used from the back, front and side-rail covers for the basic model, while the full leather edition uses real leather for the front and side-rail covers.
The arms come pre-attached, making installation easier than most. Part of the annoyance of putting a "racing" or gaming chair together is the manual labour involved. But as I discovered during a livestream with Cam from Gizmodo, the noblechairs EPIC series made it a little easier by having the armrests already bolted into the base of the chair. You can always remove them later if you're the type who likes to sit lotus, though.
The actual base of the chair is surprisingly firm. We've got a few gaming chairs across the tech pod, including the Omega Stealth I reviewed last year, as well as a new offering from DXRacer. At home, I've also got a second-hand furnished chair that was my go to gaming lounge for several years, which is still going strong.
The firmness actually caused a bit of debate amongst us all. Danny, our publisher, preferred the softer seating of the Secretlab chair. Both are harder than the DXRacer in our office, which is too spongy for my liking. It's not right to say the noblechairs EPIC is hard; think of it more like really stiff foam memory you've ever sat on. It's good if you have a tendency to slouch.
The instructions are fairly clear. They're fairly straightforward to follow, and if you're not mucking around and have plenty of space to rotate the chair as you build it shouldn't take any longer than 15-20 minutes to put together.
It's flexible enough, although it doesn't recline as much as some. The back will adjust up to 135 degrees, the same amount as the DXRacer F series but less than the 165o of Secretlab's Omega Stealth. That's not a dealbreaker in practice though - there aren't too many situations, especially if a seat you'll be working a lot in, where you're fully reclined.
The armrests feel out of place compared to the rest of the chair. It's fairly standard for gaming chairs to use polyurethane for the armrests, but it feels cheap compared to the quality of the rest of the chair. It's a quirk I've had with chairs of this ilk for a while. If you're spending R700 on a chair for the next several years, you might want something with velour or at least a little more padding. The armrests aren't uncomfortable - don't get me wrong - but they look out of place, and they feel it too.
The curved base is a nice touch. Like shoes or people's feet, something that gaming chairs often overlook is the base. The five-pointed star is rounded on the sides, rather than having a harsh edge. It certainly helps if you accidentally smack your foot against it (which can happen if you find yourself under the desk, playing around at the back of your PC case).
Larger gamers will want to look elsewhere. The real and faux leather chairs we tested have a rated limit of 120kg, and while in practice you can allow for an extra 10kg that still disqualifies plenty of would-be customers. It's also only 141cm tall from base to top, which means gamers 185cm/1.85m or taller will want to consider alternatives (like Secret Lab's Titan, or AKRacing's ProX line.)
Of course, the main killer - as always - will be price. Nobody wants to pay $699 for a chair, leather or not, even though most people end up using the same gaming chair for years on end. Put it this way: you're more likely to keep the same gaming chair for four or five years than you are your phone, graphics card, console, or smartphone.
If you're in an air-conditioned environment, you can probably look at the much more affordable faux leather series which starts from $399. That's the same territory as the Vertagear SL2000 chairs, but a fair chunk more than the DXRacer F line of chairs, the Aerocool Thunder TGC12 chairs, the AK Racing K7012, Arozzi Monza line, and almost all of the DXRacer offerings. (If you want to compare prices, it's best to do a quick search on StaticICE.)
There's a lot of competition for your butt these days. That said, out of the three we have in the office, it's the firmness of the noblechairs that I find the most comfortable. But with so many chairs using similar, if not identical materials, and so many similar features, you're best served heading to a retailer and trialling one out for yourself.
It's a lot easier to just buy something online. But if you're spending $300 or more, you want your chair to last at least three or four years. Your butt's worth it.