Cooler Master Hybrid 1 Ergo Gaming Chair Review

Gaming chairs are evolving. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen more and more chairs that finally put ergonomics on equal footing with style and comfort. While the average racing chair has been a dime a dozen for years, these new models promise the best of both worlds: gamer style, ergo comfort, and the ability to game for hours without paying the toll of a sore back. The Cooler Master Hybrid 1 is exactly such a chair, and though it does a lot of things right, its flaws make it a chair best avoided.

Cooler Master Hybrid 1 – Design and Features

On the surface, the Hybrid 1 looks a lot like a traditional racing seat. It has a wide, thickly-padded bucket seat trimmed in black polyurethane leather. There’s a built-in neck cushion that’s thick and stitched with a white outline of the Cooler Master logo. The entire chair is stylish in an unassuming way, the black accentuated by white and purple stitching, and, sans logo, would be sleek enough to double as a normal office chair.

Look a little closer and it quickly begins to pull away from the masses of similar-looking chairs. The backrest has a mesh center that’s designed to conform to your body. The bolsters and headrest are made of leather-trimmed cold cure foam, giving credence to the “Hybrid” in its name. There’s also a built in lumbar support that’s visible through the backrest that lets you direct support exactly where you need it.

Cooler Master markets the Hybrid 1 as an “ergo gaming chair” entirely because of the components in the backrest. There’s no seat depth adjustment like you might expect if you went “full ergo,” but the blend of flexible, breathable mesh, adjustable lumbar, and the adjustable neck pillow make the chair quite comfy once it’s dialed in. That goes double if you’re a fan of crossing your legs while you sit, as its wide 24-inch seat effortlessly accommodates different seating styles.

The chair is designed for small to medium users. The recommended height range is 5’ 5” to 6’ 3” with a maximum weight of 264 pounds. The backrest measures 30.7 inches tall by 21.3 inches wide, but I suspect that taller users might find the neckrest just a little low, even at maximum height.

The other adjustments are much more common to typical gaming chairs. Levers on the side allow you to raise or lower the chair in a four inch range. The tilt base allows you to rock and can be set to your preferred amount of tension using the large knob on the bottom. It can also be locked in place using the lever on the left.

You can tilt the chair into a full recline using a lever to the right of the seat. And I do mean a full recline. The seat leans back a full 180 degrees, and when you lay in it it tilts backwards, angling my head toward the ground. It’s unnerving. The chair didn’t tip, but even my wife exclaimed “why would they design it like that?!”

Leaning even part of the way back also exposes the inner gear of the recline system. While the Hybrid 1 is hardly the only chair that gives you a peek into its inner workings, its gear is extra exposed and seems at risk of giving you a nasty pinch if you’re not careful. I didn’t stick my finger in there to see, obviously, but a big, greasy gear isn’t a good look on a $500 gaming chair anyway.

The armrests are well done and comfortable. They offer three dimensions of movement, one less “D” than the usual we see on premium gaming chairs (most big name chairs offer 4D armrests these days). You’re able to adjust them up, down, forward, back, and tilt them side to side. If you want to adjust the width, you’ll have to flip the chair over and loosen the bolts holding them in place.

On the surface, the chair looks well-made and is comfortable overall. It uses a steel frame to withstand years of heavy use, and the foam is just thick and firm enough to be comfortable without feeling like it will soften and let you feel the frame over time. The aluminum wheel base is also a nice touch, so larger users won’t have to worry about it shearing under pressure.

The design of the lumbar support is simple but critically flawed. Its contoured pad extends the width of the mesh and can be adjusted up and down to match your back. A large dial allows you to extend it in and out to provide the level of support you prefer.

The problem is that the support attaches onto the bracket with a thin and brittle piece of plastic. When I built the chair, I noticed it was off-kilter. Touching it, it shifted like it wasn’t attached to anything at all. I was surprised to find that I could pull it right out. Doing so revealed a bracket that appears to be missing its middle. I found tiny shards of plastic in the bottom of the box that seemed to match the jagged edges of the plastic, though nothing large enough to complete a rectangular frame or make those pieces whole.

Like anyone, sometimes journalists have bad luck and receive something that has been mistreated in transit. Things break, the company usually offers a replacement that represents what normal consumers should expect to receive. Except, in this case the packaging was entirely fine. When I reached out to Cooler Master and they sent a replacement backrest, it too arrived completely fine. Except, its lumbar support was broken in exactly the same way. There were no pieces of plastic in the second box.

That both were broken in exactly the same way made me second guess myself. Could this be the way the chairs are supposed to be? But if this were intentional design, it’s not much better. When every competitor’s solution feels solid and intentionally built, to have yours be wobbly, rattly, and able to pull out like a loose tooth is just bad.

For the purposes of this review, I was able to fit it back into place. Under pressure from the rear knob and my own back, it worked as intended, though with a bit more wiggle and rattle when I got up. But anyone purchasing this chair new should be rightfully concerned about what they’ll receive and how long it will last.

Cooler Master Hybrid 1 – Assembly

Assembling the Hybrid 1 was more difficult than I expected it to be. Gaming chairs tend to follow the same pattern, and this one was no different. You begin by inserting the casters into the wheelbase and adding the gas piston. Then, you attach the backrest to the seat, flip the chair over, and attach the arms and tilt base. Finally, you insert the piston into the base, flip the chair over, attach the plastic covers for the backrest brackets. Cooler Master even gives you the two drivers you need to complete the process.

The problem is with those plastic covers. They were an absolute nightmare to attach. The cutout on the backrest was far too tight. Once they’re in place, I had to force them downward while trying to also drive a screw into the center, blind to if I was even close to the hole it was supposed to go into. Even when it seemed like they were in place, they were too high. I finally grabbed a cordless drill and forced them down while driving until it caught.

These pieces, small and cosmetic though they may be, took nearly twenty minutes to attach… only to find out that the backrest was broken and would need to be removed and put back on all over again. My frustration as a reviewer is one thing. Had I paid $500 for this chair, I would have been upset. Had I paid that, gone through that process, and then found out the backrest was broken, I would have been fuming.

It’s also worth noting that the Hybrid 1 offers exactly none of the conveniences that other premium gaming chairs offer. There are no special brackets to help with backrest alignment. There are no magnets for the covers. The fasteners aren’t threaded into place ahead of time, so you’ll be bouncing back and forth between the manual and the chair like you’re building a bookshelf from IKEA. It felt like building a $500 gaming chair from 2018, not 2023.

Cooler Master Hybrid 1 – Performance

If you can get past the design and assembly woes, the Hybrid 1 manages to be comfortable. Even with the broken bits, the adjustable lumbar still worked well enough. It provided adequate support that could still move in and out, if with a bit more wiggle and noise.

Sitting in the chair was a trial of adjustments the first few days. The lumbar has several inches of room to move up and down and can extend an impressive amount for more or less support. I was able to tweak it to a comfortable position in everything from a forward typing posture to slouching with my feet up and a controller in my hands.

The headrest also comes in clutch here. Cooler Master’s solution is much better than the average strap-on pillow. It’s wider, firmer, and is contoured to better cradle the neck and head. I’m 5’ 8” and was able to find a comfortable position for it no matter how I chose to sit. However, my 5’4” wife couldn’t, so your mileage may vary.

I also appreciated the soft foam used in the arm rests. Too often, gaming chairs leave my elbows sore (pro-tip: memory foam armrest covers are cheap and plentiful). But the Hybrid 1 didn’t leave me aching after leaning too hard one way or the other. The lack of width adjustment did make them a bit more awkward to use with a controller, but adjusting angle and depth helped make up for that inconvenience.

As a writer and PC gamer, I spend a lot of time in my office chair and pay the price of bad support with my back. After multiple eight hour days, I can say that the Hybrid 1 didn’t leave me aching. But the poor design of the lumbar just isn’t acceptable. If it was better constructed, it would be better than most gaming chairs. But right now, it’s more expensive than others that, sure, may not be as breathable or may rely on a pillow for their support, but don’t base critical components on thin pieces or brittle plastic.

It’s also only alright compared to most ergonomic gaming chairs. The Cougar Argo is close in price, but its reactive lumbar is more effective at providing nuanced support. The Secretlab Titan Evo 2022 is about on par, and the Herman Miller Vantum is leagues better and offers seat depth adjustment, but at nearly twice the price, you would expect more bells and whistles.