The $399 Boulies Master chair looks more “functional” than “fun,” but don’t be deceived by its lack of gamer aesthetic. This is a chair that can game and work in equal comfort. We don’t need extreme angles and bright colors to show our gaming prowess or skills with a spreadsheet.
On the face of it, the Boulies Master is more a work from home purchase, in this (post?) covid era where many of us need an office in our homes. The Boulies Master design language is a hybrid of office and gaming chair (heavy on the office), offering a scalloped seat and multiple adjustments to fine-tune posture and comfort. My question is: Can this sub $400 chair provide comfort and support for the gamer and the worker? To find out, the company shipped me a review unit and I assembled it in my new home office, a place where I write, game and make for 12 hours a day.
|Upholstery||Water repellent fabric or Ultraflex PU|
|Total Height (with base)||4 feet 4 inches (131 cm)|
|Floor to Seat Height||17.7 - 20 inches (45 - 51 cm)|
|Armrest Adjustments||5.1 inches (13 cm)|
|Recline||90 degrees (fully flat)|
|Backrest Length||31.5 inches (80 cm)|
|Backrest Width (Shoulder Level)||22.4 inches (57 cm)|
|Seating Area Width (Point of Contact)||15.7 inches (40 cm)|
|Seating Area Width (total)||20 inches (51 cm)|
|Seating Area Depth||19.3 inches (49 cm)|
|Armrest Width||3.8 inches (9.8 cm)|
|Armrest Height (from floor)||63 - 76 cm|
|Max Recommended Weight||135 kg|
|Warranty||Two years limited|
|MSRP / Price at Time of Review||$399 / £339|
|Release Date||Available Now|
Overall, assembly took just 50 minutes with the help of the simple assembly guide. There were illustrated steps and detailed instructions for each step. So why did it take so long to build? Well, it was more user error than design. First, my new office is a box room. It has a lovely south-facing window and I have plenty of space, but it was not designed for chair-assembly gymnastics.
Secondly, I lost a dark-colored spacer on my dark-colored carpet, under a dark desk. Everything that I needed came in the rather large box, a box that had adequate protection (which is good given it arrived with a chunk gouged in one side of it). Happily, the parts arrived safely, with only a squished box containing the main tilt mechanism showing any signs of mishandling. The upholstered seat and backrest were wrapped in plastic and had no marks or scuffs.
Back to assembly and the choice of M8 machine screws is a good compromise between heavy-duty fixings and tool use. The M8-sized machine screws are used throughout the build and have enough meat on them to feel strong. It also means that I didn’t have to hunt for a bunch of hex wrenches. That said, the included tools are adequate, but being a tool snob I elected to bust out a set of Wera hex wrenches and screwdrivers. At the end of the assembly process, I had a few spare parts left over, intentionally. These parts – an M8 machine screw and two spacers – will come in handy should a repair be needed down the line. Or they will if I don’t drop them behind something dark between now and then.
Design and Construction
I chose the ash gray water-repellent fabric option for two reasons. One, it matches my office decor, and two I prefer fabric over polyurethane synthetic leather because it feels warmer and more comfortable. Overall, the steel frame construction is great. This feels like a solid piece of furniture, unlike some chairs that I have purchased previously. The armrests are solid, with a little play but no annoying squeaks or rattles. The fabric covering the seat and backrest is well-stitched and supportive. The fabric claims to be water repellent, and as yet I haven’t managed to spill any liquids on the chair. The claimed hydrophobic effect will reduce over time, though. How long it lasts depends on how often it’s used.
The seat is a little firmer than I would’ve liked, but in the week that I have been testing, it has not bothered me too much. The aluminum five-star foot base is sturdy and robust. It hasn’t scratched any of my other furniture, nor has it been scratched. The five PU casters roll well on carpet and an IKEA floor protector. They do look a little cheap compared to the rest of the chair, though. All of the materials used are easy to clean with a damp cloth. No chemicals are required. The dark accents on the backrest and seat will be magnets for dust, so a light wipe-down every once in a while should keep them looking good. Pet owners take note, though: The fabric will grab every stray piece of fur.
The chair can support a person between 165 and 190 cm (5 feet, 5 inches to 6 feet, 2 inches) in height and up to 135 kg (298 pounds). I’m 177 cm (5 feet 10 inches ) tall and 114 kg (251 pounds), so I am near the top end of the specification. I can say that I have never felt uneasy on the chair. Some chairs can feel a little fragile, as if the massive weight of a human being is balanced on a pin head. This is not the case with the Boulies Master. The chair weighs in at around 24 kg (just under 53 pounds) and the all-steel frame and aluminum base are the largest part of the mass. This makes for a solid chair.
Adjusting the chair to meet my needs is possible via a plethora of handles and knobs. Sitting down in the chair, I can reach to the right and find a handle to raise and lower the seat. Take your weight off the chair and lift the handle to raise the seat. Sit down and the seat lowers. On the right side of the backrest is a lumbar support knob. Dial this up and it pushes support into the small of my back. This is useful, as I have sciatica from an ill-judged sofa move in 2006.
Also on the right side is a handle to unlock the backrest, letting me lean back and relax. Moving to my left, another handle is used to lock / unlock the tilt mechanism. I can use this to gently alter the seat angle, giving me the option to move my center of gravity for better comfort. The armrests can be raised and lowered by pressing a paddle under the cushioned rest. The same armrests can also be rotated inward and outward to provide better support. Another button on the inside of each armrest will bring the rests in about two Inches, offering the wide space that I need for my body, yet remaing narrow enough to rest my elbows on them. During the build process, you can set the maximum width of the armrests by sliding the M8 machine screws along a rail.
Comfort and Adjustments
So, is the Boulies Master comfortable? In a word, yes. Sure the seat is a little firm, but my back has not been in pain. The many adjustments possible mean that I can align myself to my monitor and keep my head straight on, supported by the included neck pillow. I don’t ache anywhere near as much as I did when sitting in my old chair all day. I generally sit straight on to my screen, with the armrests level to the top of the desk, and a slight tilt back to shift my center of gravity. The chair coped well with my mass. The only adjustment not provided by the chair is a foot rest that I prefer to keep me from leaning toward the screen.
The armrests are firm, with a slight bit of give, but they aren’t there to cradle your elbows. They’re more of a solid platform to keep you working in comfort. I chose to extend the armrests to the maximum width as I like a little space between my body and the rests (unlike my last transatlantic flight). While there wouldn’t be space for me to sit cross-legged or tuck a leg under me (not that I can achieve such gymnastics), a smaller person would have the space. My wife also tested the chair and found that she had to lower the height, reduce the lumbar support and bring the arms in a little to achieve the best comfort. She was also happy with the color as it complemented the office decor.
For $274 (£290 is the UK price) this is a great chair. Arguably the most important aspect of an office / gaming chair is, do you want to sit in it? And after assembling and testing it, I was drawn back to the Boulies Master, never feeling truly uncomfortable even after several hours of sitting. Sure, I had a few hours of tinkering on day one, but other than that the chair supported my frame and I never felt like I was balancing on a the head of a pin.
The neck support is welcome, but wearing a hoodie did force me to sit unnaturally forward. So I either stop wearing hoodies or remove the neck support. The backrest is also comfortable. The seat isn’t hard to tweak to meet my needs and I can glide around my office with ease. When I consider that my previous chair was £200 from Amazon, spending the £90 extra makes a big difference. The Boulies Master is a reliable workhorse. It gets the job done and provides support and comfort. It doesn’t scream “GAMER,” but I would happily play my Steam library sitting in this chair. In fact, I think I will.
A good chair lets you move around a little, so chairs with bolstering meant to keep you in place has no place at a desk. Such bolstering makes sense in a race car, but there you need support to stay in place in front of the wheel and even the most exciting game doesn't inflict g-forces on you.
It may be that you can find a gaming chair which feels comfortable, but in the long run not being able to alter how you sit for hours is not healthy. So don't fall for the fad. Get a good office chair instead and note that good doesn't equal expensive, the expensive ones may be slightly better but mostly it is longevity and design that make them costly.
Also, while we are at it. A desk that lets you raise it up to standing height is a good thing also, it allows you to not sit all the time - there is a reason such desks are becoming the standard in offices (and it is very easy to get at the computer under the desk if needed).