Humanscale has been a leader in ergonomic office seating for decades. Their entrance into the all mesh category came in 2009 when they introduced the Diffrient World, designed by Neils Diffrient. This is a chair that followed the same design principles as the previous Humanscale office chairs. It is simple, sustainable and has an attractive design.
Does it perform as well as its predecessors though? The Freedom and Diffrient Smart tested well for our list of the best office chairs, so we expected a lot from the Diffrient World when we brought it in. This review will cover our whole experience with the chair. I will go through everything from the shipping process to the customizable options to the build quality.
I have personally spent several weeks in the Diffrient World for around 8-10 hours a day, so I have a lot of firsthand experience with this chair. I will share our comfort rankings for the World, which takes into account the opinions of everyone in our office. By the end of the review, you should have all the knowledge you need to decide if this is the right chair for you.
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The Diffrient World is made by Humanscale. Humanscale was started by Robert King in 1983. What started as a company that was primarily focused on anti-glare screens has turned into one of the leading ergonomic office furniture manufacturers in the world. Humanscale really focuses on high-end design with highly functional and easy-to-use products. Their product offering now spans from office chairs to monitor arms to computer chairs and numerous other accessories to improve your ergonomic workstation.
The Diffrient World was designed by Neils Diffrient. Neils Diffrient was an industrial furniture designer. He is a pioneer in the world of office ergonomics. He served as an adjunct professor of design for UCLA and is responsible for designing a number of iconic chairs including the Humanscale Freedom, Liberty, Diffrient Smart and the Knoll Diffrient chair.
Humanscale Diffrient World Mesh Chair Links
– Specs / Features / Pricing
– Return Policy and Warranty
– Shipping and Assembly
– Build Quality
– Scope of Users
– Seat Comfort
– Back Support
– Armrest Comfort
– Ergonomics Adjustments
– Upholstery Options
– Wheel/Caster Options
– What I Like
– What I Don’t Like
– Bottom Line
Country of Origin
Made in USA
Overall Dimensions: 26”W x 26”D x 35.625” – 40.75”H
Seat Height: 16.5”-20.75”
Weight Capacity: 300 lbs.
Seat Dimensions: 20.2”W x 15.7″ – 18.25″D
Back Dimensions: 16”W x 22.5”H
Distance Between Arms: 17- 20.5”
Arm Height from Seat: 2.75-7.25”
Base Dimensions: 26” Diameter
Chair Weight: 28 lbs.
Shipping Box Dimensions: 24.5” x 27.5” x 29.5”
Shipping Box Weight: 39 lbs.
Weight sensitive, self-locking recline mechanism
Tri-Panel Mesh Technology
Pneumatic seat height adjustment
Seat depth adjustment
3-way adjustable arms
2020 Configured Price
$899.00 + Free Shipping
The Diffrient World is a higher priced chair but it is actually the lowest priced ergonomic task chair from Humanscale. The chair can be purchased in the most basic version for $869 and can be fully loaded with all available adjustments for only $30 more.
The remaining customization applies to things like the mesh pattern and color, finish options and cylinder sizes. There are several different options to choose from and selecting all of the most expensive options will push the price of your Diffrient World over $1,200.
You can buy the Diffrient World from Humanscale directly or from an authorized dealer. Humanscale does not accept returns on the Diffrient World. This means that you cannot return the chair when you purchase it directly through them. There are also Humanscale dealers that will follow their lead and do not allow returns on the Diffrient World.
If you are concerned about the return policy, then I would contact the dealer you are planning on buying from and get the details. As an example, at BTOD.com, we allow returns on the quickship configuration of the chair but we do not allow returns on chairs that are customized.
Humanscale has a nice warranty, so the Diffrient World received an 85/100 for this category. The World is warranted for 15 years. This applies to people weighing up to 300 lbs. and is valid for 24/7 applications. Something that really makes Humanscale’s warranty stand out is that they will send a technician to perform on-site repairs when necessary.
One downside with the Humanscale warranty is that the foam, fabric and arm pads are only covered for 5 years and for standard 40 hour work weeks. This is a pretty big exclusion and is the reason why Humanscale’s warranty score is not quite as high as Steelcase or Herman Miller.
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The Diffrient World will ship FedEx or UPS ground. The box is fairly large but it is lighter than most office chairs. The box is about 40 lbs. and has some handles cut into the sides. I found the box to be pretty easy to move on my own but it always helps to have a second person available.
The chair is well packaged. The parts are protected with plastic bags and cardboard inserts to help hold them in place. We have had 4 different Humanscale chairs delivered. They have all had great packaging and arrived in perfect condition.
The Diffrient World arrives almost completely assembled. It arrives in 2 sections. The bottom section is the wheels, base and cylinder. The top section is the backrest, seat and arms. You simply need to place the top section onto the bottom section and you are ready to go. Since the chair is so light, it is pretty easy to do this on your own.
We gave the Diffrient World a score of 83/100, which is a top-end score. The chair is made in the USA and almost the entire chair is composed of high-end, injection molded plastic. This produces a really light chair design while also being strong and durable.
The chair was designed to be a really nice looking chair. It has nice lines and a clean design. There are a lot of different color and finish options to choose from. It can be placed in a variety of environments, from high-end conference rooms to tasking applications to an executive office.
All of the components are good quality and they fit together seamlessly. I am also a fan of the mesh used. It is really flexible but does not sag. It is not quite as nice as the mesh on the Aeron but I would say it is only a slight step down in quality. Overall, this is a very well built chair. One complaint I do have with the build on this chair is that it can be a bit noisy. The plastic can creak and make noises when you move.
Scope of Users
The Diffrient World only received a 64 for scope of users but we have found this to be a pretty average score. Scope of users evaluates how much of the population a chair will fit. It is difficult to design a chair to fit the vast majority of people.
There are some things the Diffrient World does well. It has a great seat height range and the seat depth adjustment is crucial for fitting a wider range of people. The 300 pound weight rating is a bit higher than the 250 pound standard rating and the 3-way adjustable arms allow the chair to fit a broader range of people.
The downsides are the arm height range and the seat width. The seat width is pretty standard but the pronounced frame will give you less space than a similarly designed chair with a padded seat, like the Diffrient Smart. The arm height range is on the low-end, which could pose a problem for tall people.
Seat comfort is a subjective category, so we used everyone in our office to come up with a well rounded score. Everyone scored the comfort from 1-100 and then we took the average. The Diffrient World received an 81/100. This is a really nice score. It places it at #6 for seat comfort but more importantly, it is the most comfortable mesh seat we have tested, by a significant margin.
There are a couple things that our office really liked about the seat on the Diffrient World. The first is the elasticity of the mesh. The mesh stretches more so than any other mesh seat we have tested. Instead of a firm sitting experience, like all the other mesh seats we have tested, the seat on the World is actually soft and springy.
Another big advantage the World has over other mesh seats is that it does not have a hard front edge. When you stretch mesh over a seat frame, you will inevitably have hard edges. This is true for the sides of the World but not the front. Removing a hard front seat edge removes one of the biggest complaints with mesh seats.
While the seat tested well, it was not perfect. The removal of the front part of the seat frame was a great idea but the side frames may still pose a problem for some people. It is not comfortable to feel the frame. Another thing that we noticed, after using the chair for many hours, is that sometimes you can feel the seat frame underneath the mesh. I found this to be the case if I sat down in the chair too hard or bounced up and down in the seat.
A truly lightweight chair, Diffrient World replaces the standard cushion seat with a low-abrasion, non-stretch mesh. To maximize comfort, Diffrient eliminated the front edge of the chair, solving a perennial problem of hard edges placing pressure on the knees and contact stress behind the thighs. This allows for long-term comfort and total support for every sitter.
Like the seat comfort category, the World also tested well for back support. This is another category where we take the average score from everyone in our office. The World received an 82, which is currently tied for 3rd with the Steelcase Leap. This is a very impressive score.
The Diffrient World does not have an adjustable lumbar support system and still scored high. This is not a surprise to me. The 2 chairs with a higher score, Eurotech Vera and Herman Miller Cosm, are both mesh back chairs that do not have adjustable lumbar support. As long as you have good mesh and the right type of curve, you can have a comfortable backrest. This is what Humanscale did with the World.
The backrest features the same Form Sensing Mesh Technology, with Tri-Panel design, as the Diffrient Smart. This mesh is designed in a way to really conform to whoever is using the chair. The mesh hugs you. It feels supportive, while still being breathable.
Another cool feature on the World’s backrest is that it can pivot slightly and independently from the recline motion. This allows the backrest to move small amounts based on the shape and posture of the person using the chair. This is an added layer that allows the back to conform to you.
There are a few different arm options to choose from. You can get fixed arms, adjustable arms or 4D arms. The fixed arms have no adjustments. The adjustable arms give you height adjustment. The 4D arms give you arm width and depth adjustment, on top of the height adjustment. We opted for the 4D arms.
Armrests are the final category that we used our entire office to test for comfort. Our office gave the World’s arms an average score of 71/100. This score is right in the middle of the pack. To be honest, I found this score to be a bit surprising. I thought they would score better because I really like the arms on the World.
The pads are on the smaller side, which is the main contributing factor to the mediocre score. They are on the softer side for arms we have tested and they have a tough outer skin to help prevent early wear and tear.
The 3-way adjustments help to accommodate a number of different positions but the short height adjustment range was a problem for one person in our office. There were also a couple people that would have liked a pivot adjustment on the arms to move them into the above average category.
The Diffrient World did not test very well in our ergonomic adjustments category but it was designed to only have a few adjustments. Humanscale has found that most people only use a couple adjustments on their chair and the rest go ignored. They wanted a chair with minimal adjustments and then gave it a weight sensitive, mechanism free recline.
The chair only has seat height, seat depth and whatever adjustable arm package you choose. The adjustments we look for, that are missing, include back height adjustment, arm pivot, tension adjustment, tilt lock and adjustable lumbar support.
Instead of having tension adjustments and locking positions, the Diffrient World features a mechanism free recline system that works based on the weight of the person in the chair. The chair allows you to work in any of the positions within the recline range and the chair will adjust to hold your position.
The weight sensitive system is designed very well. I found that it worked nicely for me in fully upright, slightly reclined and fully reclined positions. I didn’t need to exert any extra energy to hold the back in place.
The recline motion on the Diffrient World is a bit different than most ergonomic chairs. Instead of tilting the seat back with you when the back is reclined, the back of the seat comes up, keeping your hips at a more open angle when you recline. This is a nice position for tasking but it isn’t always the best for kicking back to relax.
The range is pretty limited compared to most chairs, including the other Humanscale chairs we have tested. The gif above is showing the full range. If you really like this chair but would like to lean back a bit more, look into the Diffrient Smart.
There are 2 different wheel options available on the Diffrient World. The first is standard hard casters. These casters are 3” in diameter and are designed to be used on carpet. The second wheel option is soft casters. These wheels are designed with a soft outer layer that makes them best suited for hard floor surfaces.
Humanscale has some nice wheels on the Diffrient World. They are both functional and attractive. Most casters are really basic and usually go unnoticed. The wheels on the World are actually nice looking. They are larger than most casters and they roll really nicely.
One big advantage the Diffrient World has over almost every other mesh office chair is its color selection. The seat is available in 5 different mesh patterns and a total of 23 different colors to choose from.
The seat provides even more options. There are 3 mesh patterns and then 5 other types of upholstery that can be chosen. Overall there are 64 different seat colors to choose from.
This type of selection makes the World a really attractive mesh chair for designers. You can go in so many different directions with the same chair.
One thing to keep in mind is that mesh can be abrasive to your clothing. This is with all mesh seats we have tested. Our white mesh on the Diffrient World shows this more so than any other seat we have tested. I almost always wear blue jeans that have soft material. After about a month of consistent use, I began to see that the front of the mesh seat was turning blue.
My clothes are not wearing out but it doesn’t have that clean white look anymore. I think this could have been prevented if I didn’t wear this style of jeans. I also wouldn’t have noticed if I went with a dark mesh color.
There are 3 different frame finish options: black, white and gray. Going with the black option will make every part on the chair black. The grey option will also make all the parts grey. When you choose white, the majority will be white but the arm caps and outsides of the wheels will be grey.
You also have a couple base finish options. The first is a standard base, which will match the color of your frame. The second option is a polished aluminum base. Both options are good quality products. The polished aluminum doesn’t match as well as the standard base but it gives the chair a more upscale look.
There are several different cylinders to choose from. The standard cylinder is called a Standard 5” but it has a 4.25” adjustment range. It goes from 16.5”-20.75”. This is the most common cylinder and will fit most people.
The next cylinder option is for people that are about 5’4” and under. The Low 3.75” cylinder has an adjustment range of 3”, from 14.875”-17.875”.
The next cylinder is for people about 6’2” and over. It is called the Tall cylinder and has a 5” adjustment range from 17.625”-22.625”.
There are also a couple specialty cylinder options. The 3” Return to Height cylinder will have an adjustment range of 2.625” going from 17.125”-19.75”. The unique thing about this cylinder is that it returns to its tallest height after you get up from the chair.
The final cylinder option is called the High 8” cylinder, which also comes with a footring. This cylinder will have an adjustment range of 7.5” going from 20.75”-28.25”.
Humanscale has always focused on sustainability and having a small impact on the environment. Their chairs are designed with as little material as possible. Their designs are modular, making it easy to replace parts to extend the life of the chair instead of having to replace the entire product.
Diffrient World chair has received a few certifications for its materials and indoor air quality, including: GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality, GREENGUARD Gold and level® 2 certified. The chair is also made from recyclable parts and it is shipped in recyclable packaging.
For those of you that are really passionate about the environment, you may want to consider the Diffrient Smart Ocean. It is very similar to the World, but with a padded seat instead of a mesh seat. The most important part is that the chair is composed from fishing nets taken from oceans.
What Do I Like?
Good Build Quality
When you buy a Humanscale product you are paying a premium because the product is high quality. The Diffrient World was designed by an accomplished designer and is made with good quality materials. The chair functions nicely and is one of the most attractive mesh office chairs available.
The seat on the Diffrient World is not like most mesh office chairs. While the other mesh seats we have tested are firm, the World is not. It sits much softer than most mesh chairs. This is a nice option for people that want a mesh office chair but do not like the firm seats on chairs like the Aeron or Ergohuman.
Good Back Support
The back on the World chair tested well in our office. This is not a surprise because the Liberty, Diffrient Smart and Freedom also did well. Humanscale does a great job of pairing a nice mesh system with the perfect curve in the backrest. The backrest is comfortable without having to deal with any adjustments.
When investing in a high priced chair, it is important that it comes with a solid warranty. With Humanscale, you get that. 15 years with 5 years on fabric and foam is just below the best warranties in the business, so you are getting good coverage.
Ships Almost Fully Assembled
Not having to put together your new chair is quite a perk. Some chairs can take 30 minutes or more to assemble. It always makes me happy when we get a new chair and it doesn’t require me to invest time into installation.
What Don’t I Like?
Lack of Adjustments
The biggest downside for most people is probably going to be the lack of adjustments. One attraction to ergonomic chairs is how adjustable they are. The Diffrient World goes against this logic, which could be a turn off for people that like to fine-tune their chair.
Arm Height Range May be Problem for Tall People
The arm height range is short compared to the other chair we have brought in for testing. This is a concern for people over that 6’2” mark because they may not be able to go high enough.
Sides of Seat Frame Can Be Uncomfortable
While the seat tested well in our comfort test, the side of the seat frame may still be a problem for some people. It does limit your side to side movement and people with wider body types may find the frame to be a nuisance.
With an overall score of 79/100, the Diffrient World is currently a top 10 scoring office chair, of the chairs we have had a chance to test. It is certainly not perfect for everyone. Some people want to be able to lock their chair or control the tension. If you are that person, then this isn’t the right chair for you. This also may not be the best choice for big and tall people because of the sides of the seat frame and short arm height range.
Even though it is not the best choice for everyone, it is my favorite all mesh office chair. It is currently in my rotation of office chairs I use. I am rotating between the Nightingale CXO, Herman Miller Embody and Humanscale Diffrient World. The Diffrient World has a nice build, a solid warranty and shows up basically fully assembled.
The Diffrient World is also the most comfortable all mesh chair we have tested. It is the only all mesh chair that has received a top-end seat comfort score. It also has good back support and the 3-way arms help to give the chair some adjustability that the mechanism free design lacks. The huge color selection is also attractive to those of you that want something out of the box. If you are looking for a high-end, all mesh office chair, then I would definitely recommend the Diffrient World as a chair to consider.
Additional Office Chair Resources
- 5 Best Ergonomic Office Chairs For Back Support
- 7 Best Big and Tall Office Chairs For 2019
- 21 Best Office Chairs For 2019 (Reviews / Pricing)
- Humanscale Freedom Headrest Ergonomic Chair Review
- Herman Miller Aeron vs. Herman Miller Embody: Which is best?
- Herman Miller Aeron Mesh Office Chair (Review / Rating / Pricing)