Today, we are comparing two of, arguably, the most popular chairs in the world. The Herman Miller Aeron and Steelcase Leap are flagship chairs from the two largest office furniture manufacturers globally. Each chair features a best in class warranty and will ship to your door fully assembled.
While the policies for these two chairs are similar, the actual chairs are much different. Which is best for you will depend on your preference for office seating. Let’s take a closer look at both to see how they compare against each other.
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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
|Leap Chair||Aeron Chair|
|Country or Origin||Mexico||USA|
|Overall Dimensions||24.75” D x 27” W x 38.5” – 43.5” H||27” D x 27” W x 36.5-41” H|
|Seat Height Range||16” – 20.5”||16” – 20.5”|
|Base Dimensions||26.5” Diameter||27” Diameter|
|Seat Dimensions||19.25”W x 15.75”-18.75”D||17”W x 16.75”D|
|Back Dimensions||18”W x 25”H||21.5”W x 22”H|
|Distance Between Arms||12.75 – 20”||17”|
|Arm Height from Seat||7” – 11”||5.5-9.75”|
|Weight Capacity||400 lbs.||350 lbs.|
|Chair Weight||n/a||41 lbs.|
|Shipping Weight||n/a||46 lbs.|
|Shipping Dimensions||n/a||41″ x 28″ x 27″|
Both the Aeron and Leap chairs are priced at the high-end of the office chair category, with Aeron being the more expensive of the two. The Aeron’s base price starts at $920 and depending on the options you select, can exceed $1300. The Aeron configuration that we tested was $1275. The Leap chair starts at $811 and our test model was nicely equipped for just under $1000.
|Add Fixed Arms||N/A||Included|
|Add Height Adjustable Arms||$127.00||$100.00|
|Add Fully Adjustable Arms||$187.00||$160.00|
|Adjustable Lumbar Support||Included||$75.00|
|PostureFit Lumbar Support||N/A||$95.00|
|Tilt Limiter with Seat Angle||N/A||$100.00|
|Hard Floor Casters||$18.00||$50.00|
It’s not really a surprise that two of the most popular chairs in the world come with the best return policies. Each brand is confident in its ability to fit users in their flagship chairs and both offer no hassle return policies. You have a full 30-day window to try each chair. If you don’t like it, simply reach out to Herman Miller or Steelcase and they will arrange for a pick up. It’s important to hold onto your original packaging as returns cannot be made without it. Return shipping cost is covered, so there is zero investment made if you don’t like either chair.
Herman Miller and Steelcase offer two of the best office chair warranties in the industry. With that said, Herman Miller has a slight edge over Steelcase, with fewer exclusions on certain aspects of the chair and some additional services.
The Herman Miller Aeron includes a 12-year warranty, with no exclusions on any of the components of the chair. This includes upholstery, padding, frame, mechanism, casters, etc. This warranty covers 24/7 usage and a 300 lbs. capacity for the size A version of the Aeron. The B and C sizes come with a 350 lbs. capacity. If an Aeron needs service in the field, Herman Miller will either send a technician or cover the cost for service.
Steelcase offers a similar 12-year warranty, with no exclusions on its chair if you stay within the standard grade of upholstery. This warranty covers upholstery, padding, frame, mechanism, casters, etc. Like the Herman Miller Warranty, Steelcase backs their Leap Chair with a 24/7 rating. The difference is that the standard size leap chair is rated up to 400 lbs. and the oversize option up to 500 lbs.
Steelcase has a different approach to its warranty program. Steelcase will repair or replace your chair with a comparable product, at its option and free of charge (for materials and components) for any product, part or component which fails under normal use. If a repair or replacement is not commercially practicable, Steelcase will provide a refund or credit for the affected product.
Shipping & Assembly
The Aeron and Leap are two of the most expensive products on the list. With that price tag comes a set of expectations. While most inexpensive furniture this size requires assembly, Herman Miller and Steelcase have decided against that. Both ship its chairs completely assembled.
Shipping via common carriers, like FedEx or UPS, allows your new chair to be brought right to your door. You can simply cut a hole in the side or top of the box, and you’re able to pull the chair out and start using it. If you’re not into assembly or ordering for multiple people, this is a great way to save time.
If you’re after a chair with high build quality, these chairs are two of the best in the class. The Aeron Chair scored the highest in the category with a 95/100 and the Leap a 90/100. One of the common themes we’ve found between products at this build level is they are built with components specifically made for only themselves. These high-end brands are not pulling mass-produced components off a shelf to manufacturer its chairs. Because of this, we’ve found the level of detail in the components tends to be higher.
Looking first at the Aeron Chair, it is currently manufactured in the USA. Constructed from high-quality steel, molded aluminum and plastic components, it’s well done throughout. When you feel the Aeron’s components, you can tell it’s in a class of its own for the build. There aren’t any loose or poorly fit components, and everything moves smoothly when sitting in the chair. The Aeron is upholstered in the nicest mesh we’ve tested on any chair to date.
The Steelcase Leap chair has a much different feel to it, with the construction made up of a lot of high-quality plastics throughout. Steelcase purposely chose the route of plastics, allowing them to keep their chair lightweight and flexible. Creating a chair that allowed for movement is at the core of the Leap’s design. All the Leap’s plastic components are well done, fitting together nicely and without any loose-fitting components.
Scope of Users
The scope of users score is important for many reasons, especially for those looking to buy a chair sight unseen. Understanding how likely a chair is to fit you properly is one of the most important aspects of proper ergonomics. When we score this category, we use a single chairs ability to fit all users properly. We feel this is especially important for those looking to buy for large offices or shared work areas.
The Aeron Chair scored a 66/100 in this category. Because of the way we score scope of users, Aeron is put at a slight disadvantage. This is mainly because of their approach to using three different sized chairs. While the three chairs allow Herman Miller to fit most of the population, the chairs can’t be easily interchanged between users.
Two areas that would be nice to see improvement: adding seat depth adjustment and increasing the arm adjustment range. Both would change the design of the chair some but would get it closer to the Leap chair in terms of fitting more users with a single chair.
The Leap chair is our second ranked chair for scope of users, falling behind the Steelcase Gesture chair. The Leap does a great job at hitting almost every area of adjustment, with a clear focus on the 5th to 95th percentile of the population.
From the seat height range of 16” to 20.5”, to the wide-ranging armrests, the Leap will fit most people right out of the box. The seat depth adjustment feature is key to fine tuning the adjustment to different body types. Some users will have shorter or longer legs and getting this part right is important to proper ergonomics.
While the standard Leap comes with a 400 lbs. capacity, I wouldn’t recommend that users close to this weight use the standard Leap. It will likely be a bit too narrow to sit comfortably and you’d want to consider the larger version of the Leap.
Seat comfort is one of the most subjective things about a chair, which is something we try our best to explain through all our content. When we score seats, they are based on an average of nine users from our office. With a good mix of ages and body types, we’re able to get a pretty good idea how most would feel about a seat’s overall comfort. Looking at the results from both chairs, they had quite different results. With the Aeron, the experience a love it or hate it, the Leap had a more consistent response.
The Aeron chairs seat is upholstered in the famous Pellicle mesh upholstery, with hard-outer frame construction. The Pellicle mesh has a nice soft feel to it and provides some give when pushed on. Even though there is some give, the seat still has a firm sitting experience. The frame construction also poses an issue, specifically the side bolster construction. These side bolsters can create pressure points on the side of your hips if the seat pan isn’t the right size for your body.
Looking at the scoring for the Aeron chair, it received a 74 out of 100, to put it in the 14th position overall. The results were fairly scattered, with some users scoring as low as 50, and some in the lower 90’s. This type of wide range scoring can pose an issue for users selecting this chair if they’ve never sat in it first. For those concerned, if you purchase the Aeron chair from Herman Miller, they provide a good return policy with free returns.
The Leap chair’s sitting experience is quite a bit different from the Aeron. With a more traditional padded seat, there was more give to the Leaps seat pad. The Leap doesn’t come with an overly thick seat pad, but the quality of the cushion prevents you from bottoming out. The front of the seat pan is also flexible which provides additional give in the seat, reducing the pressure that might otherwise be an issue under your legs.
The Leap chair scored the highest out of all the chairs we tested at 85 out of 100. The scores were also more consistent for the Leap, with the lowest score being a 75. It even received three scores over 90. Based on the results from our office, the Leap would be a safer bet for most people to find a comfortable seat without trying it first. Like Herman Miller, Steelcase provides a good return policy with free returns.
The back support and comfort score are much like the seat, being subjective to each user’s own opinion. Because of this, we scored the backrest the same as the seat, with the average score from nine users in our office. The backrest support for both chairs was much closer than the seat scores, with both falling in the top five overall.
The Aeron chair is upholstered in the same Pellicle mesh as the seat. The shape of the backrest provides a natural curve for lumbar support and the mesh offered nice support. The Aeron we tested included the Posture-Fit SL lumbar support system. This is the most advanced lumbar support upgrade available on the Aeron chair. This vertical lumbar support system is depth adjustable, allowing you to increase or decrease the amount of support on your spine.
The Leap chairs backrest experience is much like the seat, with a focus on the user’s ability to move while seated. This movement in the Leap is the foundation for the LiveBack Technology. There are two separate adjustments for the Leap’s lumbar support system: a lower tension adjustment and a lumbar position adjustment. Both functions operate well and allow you to fine tune the support you receive while seated in the chair.
The armrest score is the last that we use an average of nine user’s experiences for a final score. Each user looks at two areas when scoring arms. The first is the overall fit of the arms. Are they able to find a comfortable position with the armrests on the test chair? The second is on the comfort of the actual arm pads, scoring how comfortable the arms were for their elbows and forearms. The Aeron chair scored an 81/100 and the Leap chair score an 83 /100. Both chairs are currently ranked in the top three overall for armrest comfort.
The Aeron chair’s armrests on our test chair were three dimensional, offering pivot, height and depth adjustments. Aeron also offers stationary arms and height adjustable arms. The Aeron’s arms are attached to the backrest of the chair. This provides good arm and shoulder support if you like to recline in your chair since the arms move in unison with the backrest. The Aeron’s arm pads arm nice and squishy, so if you have a preference to this type of arm pad, you’ll likely prefer the Aeron.
The Leap’s arms on our test chair are the fully adjustable four-dimension arm pads, including width, depth, height and pivot adjustments. Steelcase also offers two other arm options: a height adjustable option and a no arm option. The wide range of adjustment on the Leap chair arms was nice and likely the reason they scored higher than the Aeron. While the pads weren’t quite as soft as the Aeron, they still offered good comfort and were not hard like other chairs we’ve tested.
There are a lot of ways to design an ergonomic chair and these two chairs were prime examples of that. Both chairs are ergonomic chairs, but the Leap chair is considerably more adjustable than the Aeron. The scores reflected this, with the Leap scoring 90/100 and the Aeron only 61/100.
While the Aeron chair is an ergonomic chair, it’s not a widely adjustable ergonomic chair. It is available with 3D arms, seat height and forward seat tilt adjustment. There is also the option to add two different lumbar support systems. It’s missing three important features though: arm width, seat depth and back height adjustment. Each are important if you’re looking to fine tune your chairs fit to your body.
The Leap chair is quite the opposite, with all the available ergonomic adjustments you’d expect on a $1000 chair, except for back height adjustment. Seat height and depth adjustment, adjustable lumbar and 4D arms are all available on the Leap chair. Because of this, there is a good chance you’ll be able to fine tune the Leap to fit your body better than the Aeron.
The Aeron is currently available in one mesh material type, with two color options. The graphite and mineral mesh colors are both standard for the Aeron. The Steelcase Leap is quite the opposite, with 80 fabric upholstery options and six leather options to choose from. If you’re in a hurry to receive your new chair, some of the Leap upholstery options will require additional lead time to ship.
Both the Aeron and Leap are iconic ergonomic chairs and are at the top of most lists you’ll find for best office chairs. Which is the best for you will depend on your preference for things like upholstery type, ergonomic adjustments and budget. The Aeron is the reason mesh chairs have become so popular and if it’s in your budget, likely to be the best you can buy. If you’re looking for a more traditional ergonomic chair, the Leap puts a modern spin on it with a more active sit. If you can afford either chair, you’re guaranteed to get the best warranties in the business and a return policy that doesn’t put your wallet at risk if you don’t like either chair.
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