When it comes to gaming chairs, the majority of them are upholstered in leather of some sort (bonded, PU, Genuine etc). However, recently, mesh has also started to creep up to become an option, as seen in the DXRacer’s AIR Chair for example. This begs the question, when it comes to mesh vs leather, is there a compelling reason to pick one material over the other in a gaming chair?
In this article we’ll take a practical look at the pros and cons of each upholstery to help you make a more informed decision.
The Pros of Leather Gaming Chairs
There’s a reason why until recently, leather was the only upholstery applied to a gaming chair.
Gaming chairs are modeled closely after the seat found inside high end performance cars. Apart from curvaceous lines and side bolsters that hug the driver, the upholstery used in these seats has always been leather, often genuine leather. As such, gaming chairs have as a result always opted for leather as its cover as well to resemble a racing car seat as much as possible.
There are quite a few advantages of leather as an upholstery for gaming (or office) chairs:
- Easy to Clean: Most gaming chairs use PU (synthetic) leather these days, which is very easy to clean due to the plastic surface. Spilled some food or drinks on the seat? Just grab a towel and give it a quick wipe. This makes the leather on gaming chairs very kid and teenager friendly.
- Plush Sitting Experience: Unlike mesh gaming chairs, leather ones are always padded inside, creating a plush sitting experience that is arguably more comfortable versus mesh for your bottom and back after a while.
- Glamorous Aesthetics: When it comes to imprinting designs onto PU leather, the sky’s the limit. This means you’re a lot more likely to find your favorite gaming chair stylistically in a leather gaming chair compared to mesh. Secretlab’s gaming chairs for example come with some of the most creative, jaw dropping exteriors thanks to its use of leather upholstery.
- Budget Friendly: Unless we’re talking about genuine leather, bonded and PU leather are both extremely cheap to manufacture. This is directly reflected in the cost of leather gaming chairs, with some costing less than $100 as a result.
- Eco Friendly: These days, many PU leather upholsteries are 100% synthetic, meaning they contain no animal products (hence no animal testing). Be sure to check with the manufacturer in question however when in doubt.
The Pros of Mesh Gaming Chairs
Not to cower in defeat, let’s take a look at mesh gaming chairs now, and why you may want to consider this upholstery instead in your next gaming chair.
- Supriorer Breathability: This is hands down the biggest advantage mesh brings to the table – improved breathability. I didn’t appreciate the difference mesh makes until recently when I moved back to Asia. Under some 37 degree temperatures, sitting in a PU leather chair quickly became unbearable as every part of my body started sticking to the chair. On a mesh gaming chair however (DXRacer AIR), I was literally as cool as a cucumber.
- Easier to Keep Clean: With all the pockets of air, mesh as an upholstery is the easiest to keep clean. Small food crumbs, dust, and particles such as dead skin usually end up on the floor with mesh upholstery and not tucked away somewhere in the crevasse of a leather seat for example. From a hygiene standpoint then, mesh is generally superior to all other materials.
- Easier to Maintain Good Posture: With its well defined contours, mesh gaming chairs make it easier to maintain proper sitting posture compared to their leather counterparts. They are not bound by race-car design language found in leather chairs such as “silly” external pillows and restrictive seats with side bolsters. Instead, mesh gaming chairs are much more likely to resemble ergonomic office chairs, usually with an adjustable headrest, waterfall seat, and dedicated lumbar support. As such, if chair ergonomics is your top priority, you’re more likely to find what you’re looking for in a mesh gaming chair.
Cons of Leather Gaming Chairs
While leather has a lot going for it, the following are some disadvantages you should keep in mind:
- Not Breathable: I already mentioned this when talking about mesh, but one disadvantage of PU leather gaming chairs is the lack of breathability. This is due to the plastic synthetic material that isn’t porous at all. If you tend to sweat easily or live in a hot climate, this is a disadvantage that could be hard to ignore, as our editor Michelle found out when she reviewed the Autofull gaming chair.
- Non Hypoallergenic – PU leather is also usually non hypoallergenic, meaning if you have sensitive skin or allergies, you might experience a negative reaction by coming into contact with the synthetic material. This is exacerbated by the fact that some PU leather upholstery is treated with harsh chemicals that leave a nasty fume, especially during the first few days or weeks after assembling the chair.
- Wears and Punctures Easily– Each PU leather upholstery is different, but in general, the cheaper ones will start to wear after a couple of years, including color fades and even puncturing. This is especially prevalent in low cost gaming chairs. On higher end gaming chairs such as Secretlab, the PU leather material can be almost as durable as genuine leather.
Cons of Mesh Gaming Chairs
Mesh gaming chairs also come with their own drawbacks however, the biggest ones being:
- Can feel scratchy: This is a very common complaint with mesh as an upholstery. Depending on the material used to weave the mesh, it can feel scratchy against naked skin. This is something I noticed on the DXRacer AIR for example. However, on the Neuechair, the mesh material was a lot more refined. So again, it depends on the exact material used to create the mesh structure.
- Mesh seat may start to sag overtime – Another potential issue with mesh is the likelihood of the seat slowly sagging over time as the mesh structure starts to expand and weaken. Once that happens, it can be difficult to replace a damaged mesh seat on your own. The problem is much more likely to occur on cheaper mesh chairs. In our experience with the Quantum pro 9000, we didn’t notice any sagging even after 12 months.
- Limited in style – Let’s face it, one of the reasons you’re getting a gaming chair is probably for the flashy style and eye-catching color scheme. The right aesthetics can really elevate the overall decor of your gaming station setup. Well, with mesh gaming chairs, you’re going to be severely limited in this respect. The DXRacer AIR aside, most mesh gaming chairs currently on the market look like any regular office chair. The upholstery is usually colored in black or white, and the frame and base are mono colored as well. So exciting!
Mesh vs Leather Gaming Chairs, Which Should You Choose?
Having compared the two materials in depth, ultimately, I think leather gaming chairs at the moment are generally a better option for most people. It comes down to the abundance of choices, budget friendly price points, and overall ease of maintenance that PU leather brings.
The two main scenarios where I would opt for a mesh gaming chair is when I need excellent breathability or ergonomics. Mesh gaming chairs can offer superior back and neck support by way of a dedicated neck rest and lumbar support, something leather gaming chairs usually make do with a couple of external pillows.