Herman Miller Sayl – Design and Features
Besides a few of the most garish gaming chairs, the Sayl is one of the most idiosyncratic and downright weird-looking chairs around. It’s the brainchild of famed industrial designer Yves Béhar, who drew inspiration from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Béhar wondered if he could apply those principles to an office chair, and the Sayl was born.
Its striking look is thanks to a web-like backing that features dozens of interlocking elastomer strands. Those strands provide elasticity that allows the chair to stretch and bend with your weight. The design provides more support in the areas that require it while allowing your spine to keep its natural “S” shape. This design leads to less fatigue, without the need for additional lumbar support.
The design also requires far fewer materials to create, and that drives the price down. At $725, it ain’t cheap, but it’s only half the price of some of Herman Miller’s flagship offerings, like the Embody ($1,495) and Aeron ($1,445). That’s still significantly pricier than many well-reviewed gaming chairs, but Herman Miller’s build quality puts most of its competitors to shame. Still, there are ergonomic reasons why gaming chairs aren’t all bad, including easy reclining and tall backrests. But their design can also encourage slouching. The neck pillows on the headrests usually shouldn’t be used while sitting, and their “lumbar support” is often just a branded pillow of wildly varying quality.
What’s the difference between the Gaming Edition and the stock Sayl?
Well, the OG starts at $549. But to kit the standard out with fully adjustable, 4D armrests and customizable seat depth raises the price to $755. That means, technically, you’re saving $30 bucks, as both of those features are included here. But there are other restrictions at play. The original Sayl offers a wider variety of customization options, including lumbar support, far more innocuous colorways, and a (currently unavailable) fabric back. What you’re paying for, instead, is a bold color palette.
A twistable rod on the right side adjusts how much pressure it takes to lean the seat, and behind it, another lever adjusts the seat height (from 16 to 20.5 inches). On the other side you’ll find a lever that lets you customize the seat tilt and how far back it can lean. The arms are fully adjustable, able to be lifted, lowered, moved closer to your elbows or slid out of the way, as well as positioned at a variety of angles.
The Sayl is the only Herman Miller gaming chair with customizable colorways, though the palettes are limited. You can only change the seat color from black to slate grey, and there are five different options for the suspension. The chair I reviewed was a subtle white and black with red levers, which is as unobtrusive as the designs come. The other palettes include a deep red, a striking neon green, and a lustrous ocean blue.
Herman Miller Sayl, Gaming Edition – Performance
There is an intrinsic weirdness about the entire Herman Miller gaming chair offering. The design-focused company has taken its best-looking chairs and (arguably) made them look a little worse, removed a slew of customizable options, added literally no features, and presented them as “gaming chairs” with nothing but marketing. That makes its product fit kind of weird. People who like gamer aesthetics don’t need to dish out 750 bucks to buy a chair, but discerning buyers who want a high-end office chair for gaming may not be interested in the not-so-subtle color palettes found here.
But does that matter?
Herman Miller makes fantastic chairs. I use an Aeron every day, and I’m convinced it’s one of the most comfortable chairs I’ve ever planted my precious cheeks upon. Gamers deserve that luxury, too.
The Sayl requires absolutely no assembly. Herman Miller ships its chairs fully assembled, able to roll out from its gigantic box straight to your desk. I find the aesthetic of most gaming chairs to be downright embarrassing, so I was pleased to see how easily the Sayl slotted into my minimalist setup. For those who prefer a more in-your-face look, the other colorways could fit in just fine next to the RGB glow of a monster battle station.
After customizing the Sayl’s height, seat depth, and lean tension, I was impressed, but not surprised, with how comfortable the chair was. The Sayl has won a bevy of awards, including Product Design of the Year from 2010’s International Design Awards jury. Sitting in it myself, I can see why.
Even after hours in the chair, I never experienced any back pain (except, unsurprisingly, after testing the tilt away from the desk). The chair doesn’t provide as much lumbar support as the Embody or Aeron, both of which cost almost exactly twice as much, but I never experienced any lumbar pain whatsoever. (If you’re prone to back fatigue or pain, the OG non-gaming edition of the Sayl does have an optional lumbar addition).
You can slide the armrests forward and back with a simple push, but I was pleasantly surprised that while leaning back and grasping a controller or switch, I never slid them with my elbows. I also found adjusting the arms’ angles inward gave my arms plenty of support while handheld gaming, though I do wish they could articulate even further inward so my entire arm could rest on them.
The forward tilt allows you to lean toward your keyboard or display without hunching. However, there are no gradations to the tilt angle – the seat is flat or leaned forward. And unfortunately, that forward tilt is overly aggressive and can make it feel a bit like you’re slipping off the seat or bracing yourself against your desk to prevent it. Loosening the backward tension and lowering the seat height to ensure your feet are planted on the ground can alleviate the feeling, but I’d prefer a few more setup tilt settings to choose between.
While working, I vastly preferred a more traditional setup, which means I had to adjust nearly every lever multiple times between gaming and working. As is the case with so many office chairs, I could never quite master the exact machinations needed to correctly adjust the dang thing. While seat height, tilt tension, and harm height was a cinch, adjusting the forward tilt felt like black magic. Changing it requires you to lean backward actively, then depress the front or lift the back (or vice versa) of a small hatched lever under the left-side cushion.
My other beef with the adjustments is the chair doesn’t rise high enough. At my desk, the standard range put me about an inch and a half short of total comfort. Anyone over 6-feet tall will want to opt for the extra $50 high-height range, which adds another inch-and-a-half to the maximum seat height.
Herman Miller says more colors are coming soon, and I hope more customization options are, as well. The OG Sayl has an upholstered back option, which in my opinion elevates its look. I’d like to see gaming-specific alterations, including additional tilt configurations, more extreme arm rotation, and a tilt lever neanderthals like me can comprehend. But until then, I have no qualms still recommending this wonderfully weird gaming chair.
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