The gamification of all manner of consumer product knows no bounds. When the time comes to replace my toothbrush, I almost expect an enthusiast option with racing stripes, a remote app, turbo mode and, of course, RGB lighting.
We jest, as gamer-orientated gear can have merit when done right. There are numerous examples of recommended gaming products spread across multiple categories, but chairs? That's a question-mark we've yet to tackle, and it is an area that needs exploring as our conversations with both manufacturers and retailers suggest that gaming chairs are selling in plentiful numbers.
Diving in at the deep end, we've had the opportunity to spend some quality time with the Vertagear PL4500, which seems as good a place as any to start. The firm, founded as recently as 2015, is a self-proclaimed leader in gaming chairs, and the price tag alone is an indication of Vertagear's positioning in the enthusiast market. At the time of writing, the PL4500 fetches £320 at UK retail, and that's for the chair as a standalone product. Choose to add RGB upgrades - more on that later - and pricing can soar to around the £800 mark. Yowzers.
Expectations are high, and though I don't consider myself a chair expert, I do spend an inordinate amount of time sat in front of a desk, so I've naturally been looking forward to experiencing a princely seat. First impressions are favourable, as the PL4500 arrives well packaged and is reasonably easy to assemble. The aluminium-alloy base feels well constructed, as do the Penta RS1 casters, and the 'slide-in' backrest nicely slots into place before fastening.
A single person should be able to complete assembly in 15 minutes or so - all the requisite tools are provided - and when up and running the chair does manage to convey a premium look and feel. We quite like the green accents on our review sample, but other colour choices include blue, purple, red and white.
Coffee and Comfort
Outside of colour, there are plenty of marketing claims to pore over. The 'Ultra Premium High Resilience' foam within the seat, for example, is said to withstand up to 4lbs per cubic foot, making it less likely to lose its shape after prolonged use. Then there's faux-leather fabric embroidered with 'antibacterial' silver thread, and the padding on the central section, dubbed 'Hygenn X,' is lined with a patented coffee-infused fibre intended to "limit odour and increase breathability." Testing such claims is easier said than done, but I have been craving a cup of Nescafe, so maybe it's working subliminally.
The pertinent specifications, we feel, revolve around the PL4500's generous ergonomics. Height adjustment is enabled by an industrial-grade, class-four gas lift, the backrest can be adjusted to an angle between 80º and 140º, and there's even a crank handle to adapt tilt tension to your liking. The 3D armrests also boast plenty of versatility (up/down, front/back and swivel), and the chair's height and build quality is enough to host a user standing up to 6ft 6in tall and weighing up to 260lbs. Detailed dimensions, should you need them, are available here.
Vertagear is ticking most of the relevant boxes on the spec sheet, but the proof is in the sitting, and as a tall, slim individual, I've found it difficult to adjust to the PL4500. The first and most pressing concern is that the internal foam cushions are much too firm for my liking. It is a hard seat, and after an hour or so sat down, I develop a tingling sensation in the derrière that, while not entirely unpleasant, doesn't occur when I switch to my considerably cheaper faux leather chair from Argos.
An inability to get comfortable is a major drawback and there are other niggles, too. The provided lumbar support cushion ought to work well, but it lacks any straps to hold it in place, and inevitably needs to be repositioned each time you sit down. If we're nitpicking, the forward/back adjustment on the armrests could also be more rigid - they slide forward unintentionally each time I use them as a support to stand up - and on an Ikea Kolon floor protector, the PL4500 casters aren't quite grippy enough, giving the chair a tendency to slide about.
Despite these criticisms, I've not yet reverted to my Argos chair as there are elements to the Vertagear I quite enjoy, and I'm hoping the overly stiff cushions will soften with time. The tall backrest is very nice and works well with the supplied neck cushion, I like being able to customise the tilt tension, and from an entirely subjective point of view, it's a nice-looking bit of kit. What's very much debatable, however, is the optional RGB lighting, which we've found to be little more than a nuisance.