#REVIEW: Secret Lab Titan XL Gaming Chair, One Year Later

Just about exactly a year ago, I ordered a new office chair. Or, at least, it arrived just about exactly a year ago; the actual order was a couple of months before that. My old chair was starting to fail after ten years of daily use, and I figured it was time to upgrade, and given the fact that I was working from home and spending 8 hours in the chair every day, I figured dropping a decent chunk of cash and going for a Secret Lab chair would not be an unreasonable use of my money. I have now sat in this chair for hours, basically every single day, for a year; if I were to estimate 1000 hours of sitting time (keeping in mind 40 hours a week from the end of January through April, mind you) that would probably be a conservative estimate. That picture is without any attempt to make the chair more presentable; looking at it now, I probably could have cleaned off the seat a bit, but you get the idea.

And here’s the review: a year later, the $600 or so I spent on this chair was worth every dime.

Storytime: this post, and I swear this is true, was actually inspired by a dream I had last night, where I, no shit, realized I’d had the chair for about a year and decided to review it again, only to discover that the seams were fraying everywhere and all of the leather was starting to peel and my expensive-ass gaming chair was starting to fall apart. And I was unhappy! I do not want anything I own to fall apart, especially when I haven’t even come close to getting my money out of it yet.

(My dreams really are this boring. Yes. I dreamed about the blog.)

Anyway, you may see on your own where the dream diverged from reality a bit; the biggest way is that there’s no leather on this thing, fake or otherwise, and as near as I can tell if I took a few minutes to clean the cat hair and (ugh) beard dandruff flakes off of it it would effectively be indistinguishable from a brand-new chair. It took me a while to figure out exactly how I wanted to set it up, as every single piece of this chair can be adjusted, but once I got there it’s consistently been the most comfortable desk chair I’ve ever sat in, even if I still am absolutely unable to recline in it like they keep doing in all the ads. There are definitely examples of Expensive Things out there that don’t live up to the hype– as an Apple guy, I would know– but this is not one of them. I’m glad I made the decision to buy it, and I expect to be sitting in it for a long, long time.

The chair again, and a question

I admit it: I’m kind of achy. This chair has so many different ways to tweak it that I’ve spent all day fiddling and changing things, and I haven’t figured out an optimal way to sit in it. Part of this is my desk’s fault; the front of my desk is lipped in such a way that getting my legs underneath my desk while still reaching my keyboard comfortably isn’t exactly impossible, but requires some precise settings from my chair. At any rate, I’m not worried that I’m going to turn on it or anything– I just need to figure out how I want everything set and I’ll be fine.

That said: look at that image. The chair can actually recline back farther than that; I don’t think that guy is at full recline.

Is there anyone out there who thinks they could do that in a desk chair without freaking the fuck out? Because one of my major peeves with desk chairs (and even recliners, sometimes) is Sudden Unexpected Rocking. I react very poorly to unexpectedly feeling like I’m going to fall(*), and leaning backwards that far in a desk chair– or, truly, even close to that far– is simply not possible for me. My wife tried it last night and got maybe to 110 degrees before she decided she’d had enough. But you see these people in the videos about these chairs just leaning all the way back without a care in the world, and I want to have whatever magical ability they have that’s allowing them to do that. Because I seriously can’t.

(*) I have said many times before that I’m not afraid of heights, but I’m afraid of falling. People react like this is contradictory, and it’s not. I don’t care how high off the ground I am so long as my feet are planted securely, but I can and have very recently had serious panic moments from a brief involuntary shift in my center of gravity while sitting in a chair. I have never had a problem in an actual rocking chair, though, something I sit in all the time, and if you can give me some insight into why a desk chair or a recliner might trigger my lizard brain and a rocker doesn’t, I’d genuinely love to hear it.

Chair!

Two months ago, I ordered a new office chair. There was nothing particularly wrong with my old office chair other than the hydraulics were just starting to fail under my exceptional weight and a small tear in the upholstery in the seat that wasn’t worth complaining about. But I spend a lot more time in my office chair lately than I ever have before, what with working from home and all, and the chair was at the least ten years old, since I had it at our house before this one. It’s possible that it’s considerably older than that; I simply don’t remember buying it.

And I’m grown, y’all, and I make grown-up money, so I decided if I was going to buy a new desk chair, and if I wanted it to last another ten years I was going to pay for the chair I wanted and not worry about it.

Enter Secret Labs. And today, this box showed up:

God, I need to dust my damn bookshelves and clean the carpet. Jesus. I swear I don’t live in filth, it just looks like it.

Anyway.

That box probably weighed fifty pounds holy shit. I thought “Nah, it couldn’t have been that much” and looked up the specs? The chair weighs eighty pounds. It’s rated for users up to 390 pounds, so I can get as fat as I want. The FedEx dude actually hiked the thing up onto one shoulder to get it to the house and then volunteered to put it inside for me (I saw him coming and opened the door, since I thought I’d have to sign for it) and holy shit am I glad he did because it would have been a damn struggle for me to get inside.

This is what I saw when I opened the box:

So, okay … don’t touch the backrest recline lever. I got you. Don’t need to be told twice. I don’t know why I’m not supposed to touch the backrest recline lever, but I’m not gonna argue with my brand-new chair.

I make fun of unboxing videos, but I should have made an unboxing video. I’ve never seen anything packaged like this. You’ve seen how hardware gets packaged in furniture before. This is the hardware in my chair:

That’s a plastic branded sleeve around custom-cut foam, and we’ll get to the screwdriver in a bit. But back to that lever I’m not supposed to touch. The very top thing in the box was the chair back, and after removing that I was greeted with this sight:

Ok, dawg, I got you. Don’t touch the backrest recline lever. I took the seat out of the box and took the plastic wrap off of it:

That lever I’m not supposed to touch is underneath this cardboard strap which is glued shut and tightly wrapped around the seat, making it impossible to actually touch the lever.

I put the casters on the legs and attached the back to the seat. This was strongly suggested to be a two-person job but I really didn’t have any trouble with it. Then I took a deep breath and very carefully took off the cardboard strap around the Lever of No Touchy-Touchy. And saw this:

It is so important that this lever not be touched that 1) the box tells you not to touch the lever; 2) the plastic wrap around the seat tells you not to touch the lever; 3) there is a cardboard strap under the plastic wrap that also protects the lever, and then the lever is secured in place by a frightening red screw.

Back to that box of accessories. That screwdriver in there? The screwdriver that is not only custom-made and branded with the SecretLabs logo but is magnetic so that the single screw bit in there satisfyingly snaps into place when you attach it?

That screwdriver’s sole purpose is to remove the red screw.

I am hoping and praying that this thing fits standard screw bits, because if it does I’m keeping it forever.

It served its purpose:

The Lever of Doom is there so that you can recline the seat back, which I’m actually not going to do all that often. It reclines to damn near flat, which seems … maybe not advisable, given how centers of gravity work? I dunno. They seem to think it’s okay to sleep in this chair but I don’t see myself doing it that often.

You guys may remember that I used to sell furniture for a living. Furniture, as you know, is frequently made of wood, and is made, one way or another, far away from the place where we sell it, which is also kinda far from your house. So packaging of furniture is kind of a big deal, and a frequent gripe of furniture salesmen is that if these companies spent $5 more per box on packaging, they’d save thousands of dollars a year on damages. We had pieces that were packaged so poorly that I’d warn people we’d probably have to order them two or three times to get one with no damage, just because of bumps during travel. It’s not the furniture’s fault! It’s the shitty packaging.

This is the inside of the box after I took everything out. I could have drop-kicked this box down a flight of stairs and there would not have been the slightest damage to the contents.

This is not showing the several other foam blocks and sheets of foam that were scattered around my living room by this point. There was a piece of foam in there that was specifically cut to set the chair on while putting it together. It was in the instructions to do that.

Anyway, I finished putting it together:

And here it is in the office:

And a back view, just because:

Gotta love new toys.