Today I am going to compare two of the highest end mesh office chairs currently available, the Herman Miller Aeron and the Humanscale Diffrient Smart. Bringing in more than 20 different popular chairs gave us a great opportunity to compare and rank them. It provides valuable insight, but a large list often doesn’t go into enough depth to completely compare the two models you may be interested in. This head to head comparison is designed to do just that. I am going to go over each aspect of these two chair models so that you know how they differ and why one model may be a better fit for your needs.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
– Return Policy and Warranty
– Shipping and Assembly
– Build Quality
– Scope of Users
– Seat Comfort
– Back Support
– Armrest Comfort
– Ergonomic Adjustments
– Upholstery Options
– Bottom Line
The first major difference between these two chair models is the chair sizes themselves. The Diffrient Smart is available in a standard size and a Plus model. The Plus model increases the weight limit of the chair from 300 to 400 lbs. It also increases the size of the seat. The Diffrient Smart Plus comes with a $400 upcharge.
The Aeron is available in three different size options: A, B & C. They are basically small, medium & large. Each size is the same price.
The chair models that we ordered for testing are the standard Diffrient Smart and the size B Aeron. The specs for these models are listed in the chart below.
|Diffrient Smart||Aeron (size B)|
|Country or Origin||USA||USA|
|Overall Dimensions||26.5”W x 26.5”D x 40-44.5”H||27” x 27” x 36.5-41”|
|Seat Height Range||16” – 20.5”||16” – 20.5”|
|Base Dimensions||26” Diameter||27” Diameter|
|Seat Dimensions||19.25”W x 16.25”-18.75”D||17”W x 16.75”D|
|Back Dimensions||18.5”W x 24”H||21.5”W x 22”H|
|Distance Between Arms||17- 20.5”||17”|
|Arm Height from Seat||2.75-7.25”||5.5-9.75”|
|Weight Capacity||300 lbs.||350 lbs.|
|Chair Weight||34 lbs.||41 lbs.|
|Shipping Weight||45 lbs.||46 lbs.|
|Shipping Dimensions||24.5” x 27.5” x 29.5”||41″ x 28″ x 27″|
The price on both of these chairs is going to vary greatly depending on the options you choose. They both have some options you can add but they also have upholstery and finish options that alter the price.
The Aeron has a handful of mesh and finish options, along with the features you can add below. The price can range from $920-1565.
The Diffrient Smart has an even wider price range because it has a much broader upholstery selection. If you go with all of the upgrades listed below and then choose a genuine leather seat upholstery, the price will be upwards of $2,100.
|Add Fixed Arms||$100.00||Included|
|Add Height Adjustable Arms||$170.00||$100.00|
|Add Fully Adjustable Arms||$210.00||$160.00|
|Adjustable Lumbar Support||N/A||$75.00|
|PostureFit Lumbar Support||N/A||$95.00|
|Tilt Limiter with Seat Angle||N/A||$100.00|
|Hard Floor Casters||No upcharge||$50.00|
Both Herman Miller and Humanscale sell directly through their own websites and through a network of authorized dealers. Herman Miller will accept returns on the Aeron within the first 30 days for a full refund. They will cover the return shipping costs and the original packaging is not always required to make a return.
Humanscale does not accept returns. This means that any sales through their website are final. There are some Humanscale dealers that do accept returns, even though Humanscale does not. You will need to check the specific dealer’s return policy to see how it applies to Humanscale products.
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Herman Miller and Humanscale both offer two of the best office chair warranties in the industry. Humanscale has the edge in total years covered, but Herman Miller has the advantage in not excluding any portions of their chair.
The Aeron has a 12 year warranty with no parts of the chair being excluded. It is covered for 24/7 usage and people weighing up to 350 lbs. Herman Miller will perform on-site repairs if you are located within close proximity to a dealer.
The Diffrient Smart has a 15 year warranty with the exception of the arm pads, upholstery and foam, which are covered for five years. The arm pads, upholstery and foam are covered for eight hours a day and 40 hours a week. The rest of the chair is covered for 24/7 usage. The warranty covers people weighing up to 300 lbs., unless you go with the Smart Plus options, which have a 400 lbs. weight capacity. Humanscale will also send technicians for on-site repairs if you are close to an authorized dealer location.
Shipping & Assembly
The shipping process is very similar for both chairs. Each chair arrives via ground carrier in a large box that weighs just under 50 lbs. The main difference in the way the chairs arrive is that the Aeron arrives fully assembled, while the Diffrient Smart arrives in two main parts.
The Aeron is ready to go out of the box. You just need to roll it out and it can be used. The Diffrient Smart arrives with the base, casters and cylinder pre-installed, along with the seat, back and arms pre-installed. You just need to connect the two parts. It is not completely assembled like the Aeron, but it only takes a couple seconds to place the top section on the lower portion.
Humanscale and Herman Miller both make high-end chairs. These are currently two of the most highly ranked chairs for build quality in our best list for 2019. The Aeron currently holds the top spot with a 95/100 and the Diffrient Smart is #6 with an 83/100.
Both chairs feature clean designs and have a modern feel. Both are highly sought after options for high design environments. The parts fit together very nicely on both chairs, so you don’t get any awkward wiggling or rattling between parts, like you see on lower quality products.
The Aeron edged out the Diffrient Smart in this category because the chair feels a bit more solid, featuring higher end components. The Diffrient Smart is made up of a lot of high quality injection molded plastic, which is better than most chairs out there. But it isn’t quite as nice as the Aeron. The Aeron also has a more complex mechanism than the technology found on the Diffrient Smart. Overall, you are getting a really solid build with either chair, but we feel the Aeron has the advantage here.
Scope of Users
For the scope of user’s category, we are focusing on how much of the population the chair can fit. Basically, what size person will the chair work for? Both manufacturers took different approaches to their chair sizes.
Herman Miller chose to go with three different sizes for the Aeron. Their size B is meant to fit most people. Then they have a size A to cover petite people and a size C for larger people. With all three size options, Herman Miller has covered 99% of the population. The drawback to this system is that it can be a bit more difficult to order chairs for multiple people that are different sizes or chairs that will be shared by multiple people.
Humanscale took a more traditional approach to their chair design. They designed the Diffrient Smart to fit the 95th percentile in one chair size. They then opted to make a larger version for big and tall people, which is the Diffrient Smart Plus. While Humanscale was shooting for the 95th percentile with the Diffrient Smart, it may come up a bit short of that. We found the maximum armrest height of 7.25” to be a bit too short for people around 6’2” and over.
Seat comfort is one of the most subjective things we look at when comparing office chairs. Not everyone likes the same style of seat. Some people like firm while others like soft. We decided to involve our entire office in ranking the seat comfort of the chairs to get the most well-rounded score we could for something this subjective. The Diffrient Smart ended up with a score of 80/100, while the Aeron came in at 73/100.
The Diffrient Smart has a much safer seat design, while the Aeron’s is more polarizing. What I mean by that is the Diffrient Smart has a more basic seat design. It is large with rounded outer edges. It has 2” of high quality padding so it provides good support while not being overly padded. It has a slight contour and a flexible seat pan to move with you while you work. The design is safe because it will work for a lot of different people, which is why it tested so well in our office.
The Aeron is much different. The seat is designed with pronounced side bolstered that help to cradle you into a comfortable position. But these can also be a problem if your legs or hips are up against them because they can be uncomfortable. The mesh is soft and flexible, but it is a firm sitting experience. We found that people in our office either really like the Aeron’s seat or they really dislike it. As an example, the highest score someone gave it was 95/100, while the lowest someone gave it was a 50/100.
These chairs both feature mesh backs but they went about their designs very differently. Each scored well in our office testing with the Aeron at a 78/100 and the Diffrient Smart at 80/100. These are both top five scores. It should be noted that we opted for the PostureFit SL lumbar support on the Aeron, while the Diffrient Smart does not have any lumbar customization options.
The Diffrient Smart’s backrest features a really large natural curve that is meant to support the curve in your back. The mesh is made from three different panels, which gives the backrest a better ability to conform to the particular user. The mesh on the Diffrient Smart is soft to the touch and has not been abrasive to our clothing.
The Aeron’s back is made from one panel of mesh, but it features a flared design at the top of the backrest to make it wider for your shoulders. The Aeron has a pronounced frame that you can sometimes feel on the backrest. This is not something that I noticed while using the Diffrient Smart.
One difference between these chairs is that the mesh backrest on the Different Smart allows you to sink into the backrest, whereas you sit on top of the mesh more on the Aeron. Another difference in the back support is that the Diffrient Smart has no adjustability, while the Aeron has an adjustable lumbar support system. This does not necessarily mean that it is going to be more supportive for everyone, but it is a nice option for those of you that like to fine tune your chair.
Armrest comfort is the final category that we scored by polling our whole office. This is another subjective category because people like different arm styles and arm adjustments. The arms on these chairs were only separated by five points but the Aeron edged out the Diffrient Smart with a score of 81/100 to 76/100. We chose to go with the most adjustable arm options available for both chairs, which were 3 dimensional arms.
The Aeron’s arms have height adjustment, depth adjustment and they can pivot. The ranges of the adjustments are going to be larger than the Diffrient Smart. The arm pads are also quite a bit different. The pad is an all one piece. It is thick but squishy. The pads are very comfortable and were well liked in our office.
The Diffrient Smart’s arms have height adjustment, depth adjustment and width adjustment. The arm pads feature an outer shell and then a separate pad inside. They are soft but not as soft as the arms on the Aeron. The arm pads are also a bit smaller than the Aeron’s arm pads.
The ergonomic adjustments category is probably the area that the Aeron and Diffrient Smart differ the most. The Diffrient Smart was designed with a “mechanism-free” recline system. This system has no manual adjustments. You simply sit in the chair and your weight will dictate how easy it is to recline. The recline is also different than most office chairs. Instead of keeping you in a similar position as you recline, the back of the seat raises. This is meant to put you at a more open hip and leg angle as you recline.
The Aeron feels more like a knee-tilt or synchro tilt mechanism. It has a recline that keeps you in a similar position throughout the entire motion. The Aeron has a couple mechanism choices. The basic mechanism will have the recline function with tension adjustment. This allows you to control how easy it is to recline. The upgraded mechanism is called tilt limiter with seat angle adjustment. This option will give you tension adjustment, three lockable positions and a forward seat tilt option. These options will give you more adjustability than what is available on the Diffrient Smart.
One key adjustment that the Diffrient Smart does have, that the Aeron does not, is seat depth adjustment. This is an important adjustment to make sure the seat is at the proper distance behind your knees. One more difference between the two chairs is that the Aeron arms pivot but don’t have width adjustment. The Diffrient Smart’s arms have width adjustment but don’t pivot. Pivot arms are often more useful for typing positions, while width adjustment is more useful for accommodating different body types.
There is a big difference in the upholstery options between the Aeron and Diffrient Smart. The Aeron is available in a more limited color selection. The Aeron is also all mesh, so the entire chair will be the same upholstery. The Aeron features 8Z Pellicle mesh, which is available in three different colors. It is a high quality, commercial grade mesh that has been tested to exceed 200,000 double rubs. It is some of the softest mesh we have seen in our office.
The Diffrient Smart has a mesh back, but the seat can be a variety of different materials ranging from vinyl to fabric to leather. The mesh is also a good quality product and has been tested to exceed 150,000 double rubs. Humanscale gives you 23 different mesh back options to choose from and another 57 choices for the seat.
The Aeron’s colors will work for almost any office décor but those of you that want chairs that really pop will probably want to look for a unique color combination on the Diffrient Smart.
While these chairs both features mesh back designs from industry leading manufacturers, they are very different. Everything from their design to functionality is unique. The Aeron is the better option for people that like to have more adjustability to fine tune the chair to their exact preferences. It will also be the preferred choice for people that like a more traditional recline function. People in management type positions or home office applications, where you are not always tasking, may prefer the Aeron.
The Diffrient Smart’s recline function and overall design is more task oriented than executive or management. This is a chair that has a seat comfort and back comfort advantage over the Aeron, based on our inter-office testing. This is also the better option for people that are looking to create a unique color combination. The Diffrient Smart allows for a wide variety of upholstery and color options. Both chairs are nice products and could potentially be a good fit for your needs. It really just depends on what is most important to you.
Additional Office Chair Resources
- Eurotech Vera Mesh Office Chair (Review / Rating / Pricing)
- Steelcase Gesture Ergonomic Desk Chair (Review / Rating / Pricing)
- Humanscale Diffrient Smart Chair (Review / Rating / Pricing)
- 5 Reasons Ergonomic Chairs Will Improve Your Back Pain
- 6 Common Problems With Mesh Office Chairs
- 9 Most Common Problems With The Raynor Ergohuman Chair