Comfortably Different: Humanscale Diffrient Smart Chair

Comfortably Different: Humanscale Diffrient Smart Chair

Vahan Baladouni
Aug 5, 2013

Product: Humanscale Diffrient Smart Chair
Price: $1,199.00
Rating: Strong Recommend*

In the past several years, as my daily time in front a computer increased at home, my need for a comfortable desk seat went from a planned luxury into an ergonomic necessity. Task chairs capable of fully supporting body weight without the need for careful adjustment are rare, as many of the best models available come equipped with a catalog's worth of adjustment control which can complicate set up and maintenance. The Humanscale Diffrient Smart Chair takes a different route, engineered for a weight-sensitive and automatic incline for a much simpler experience.

Though the chair's name initially implies something "different", Humanscale's latest task seat is actually named after the chair's designer, Neils Diffrient, a talent who has contributed to the field of ergonomics for many years (Humanscale as a company has been producing office and healthcare products since 1983 with a focus on human engineering)At its core, the Diffrient task chair combines clean aesthetics with hidden functionality. But unlike other task chairs, with a dizzying array of control adjustments and size options to be chosen for individual fit, the Smart Chair accommodates the individual user with an innovative sensing mechanisms.

Design: To start, the chair is one-size-fits-all, designed to fit 95% of the office population, supporting up to 300 lbs. The sculpted seat cushion easily fits the contours of the body and relieves a common ailment plaguing those seated in front of a computer for hours: pressure points. The chair's 3 panel mesh back supports the lower lumbar region without the need for additional support devices (e.g. Aeron's lumbar support option). 

In order to maintain an appropriate posture, the self-adjusting recline of the chair uses a weight sensing intelligent counter-balance system to provide back support with customized tension. Additionally, the 5 casters confidently anchors the chair, while providing a smooth glide across surfaces, even when tested on my carpeted floor. And with many textile colors available for the mesh back and seat pad, the chair can fit just about any decor scheme.

Aside from adjusting the chair's height by a cylinder lever, or the simple arm height setting, the Diffrient Smart Chair handles comfort adjustments automatically. In addition, the seat cushion itself can be moved forward or backward to give the user's thighs the right amount of support.

Desktop Ergonomics: To help me find the ideal desk setup with the Diffrient task chair, I was visited by two of Humanscale's representatives for a short session revolving around establishing an ergonomic setup. The pair advised me on a proper height of the chair, alongside the ideal amount of recline (110-130 degrees) which permits the arms to stay relaxed as they reach the computer keyboardAs the Diffrient sets the tension of lumbar support depending on body weight, I felt comfortably cradled as I reached for my mouse and keyboard upon setting up with existing desk and laptop station. Since I do not have a keyboard tray I was told to increase my chair's height to keep my shoulders from crouching over. This worked at relieving any tension to the shoulder when partnered with the addition of a footrest.

*Additional tips from the Humanscale website can further assist in optimizing your own current office setup in similar manner.

Overall Experience: After having the Diffrient Smart Chair at my desk for several weeks during my review period, I've come to fully appreciate the unassuming technical design setting it apart from other task chairs (including the one I currently own). The chair is undeniably and automatically comfortable; the seat pan is cushioned enough to relieve any pressure, while the 3 section mesh back allows for full support and a comfortable air exchange to keep users cool during warmer days. An unexpected plus: I could lower the armrests to the level of the seat cushion, permitting me to play my guitar comfortably from the chair.

With other task chairs with variable lumbar support, I've found myself changing the location of the lumbar pad to cradle me as my posture changed throughout the day, especially toward the end of a work day. I was impressed with the Diffrient Smart Chair's ability to provide proper lumbar support throughout the day without this need for constant adjustment, the chair always providing the necessary resilience to keep my posture from slouching.

Reclining back in the Smart Chair is also unique compared to other task chairs. Rather than have the seat and back both recline, only the mesh back portion moves when stretching backwards while the seat is stationary. I found this feature helped me to stretch periodically.

Final Thoughts: Neils Diffrient has designed a task chair that takes the guesswork out of achieving the perfect fit. Rather than having to tune various mechanisms to get comfortable, this chair accommodates most body types with innovative smart sensing technology which takes most of the guess work out of the ergonomic equation. The lightweight and smooth function of the Diffrient Smart Chair allows maximum comfort with little effort on user's part, making it a fantastic choice for both workspace and home office users seeking reprieve from pains attributed to working from a desk regularly.

Pros: Self-adjusting, lightweight, excellent support, one size fits most body types, smooth operation, clean modern design, many color options, green design, replaceable seat cushion and mesh back.

Cons: Expensive, not for all budgets. 

Our Ratings:

Strong Recommend*
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

(Images: Vahan Baladouni; Humanscale)

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was provided by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes.

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