Which Gaming Chair Upholstery To Pick? Fabric Makes All The Difference

Picking the right gaming chair from 1000s of chairs out there is not easy (especially if more than half of chairs use PU upholstery).

That’s why I’m reverse-engineering these chairs down to their basic components. You know, just to smash them up and see what they’re made out of.

Today we’ll cover one of the most important gaming chairs parts: the upholstery!

The fabric out of which the upholstery is made out of is the primary contact you (and your skin) will have with a gaming chair. Translation: upholstery matters, it’s actually quite a big deal when it comes to picking gaming chairs.

We’ll look at different characteristics of these fabrics such as durability, breathability, cost, elasticity, environmental-friendliness and maintenance difficulty.

You can see which kind of upholstery is synthetic vs. natural in the table below:

Synthetic Upholstery Natural Fabrics
  • PU Leather
  • PVC Leather
  • Premium PU Leather
  • Mesh
  • Real Leather
  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Suede
  • Velvet

Here a short infographic about gaming chairs upholstery that illustrated which upholstery is the best:

infographic about gaming chair upholstery including pc leather, pvc leather, real leather and mesh

To start off with a bit of summary: More than 70% of gaming chairs you’ve probably already looked at have some sort of synthetic upholstery (PU, PVC). You need to be quite picky when choosing PU leather chairs (I’ll give some tips down below).

The whole point of all these synthetic PU or PVC leather is, of course, to mimic the real leather as closely as possible (and at 10th of the price, obviously).

The best natural upholstery is real leather. I mean, you can’t get a better looking and more durable material than genuine leather. However, as you’ll see, not all top-tier gaming chair use real leather due to the high cost; they opt for improved premium PU leather to lower the costs while still keeping the quality high.

And finally, the really expensive (and best) office chairs for gaming that cost more than $1000 use mesh. You probably guessed why: the cool breathability and sweat-free gaming environment.

To sum it up in my worst-standard-best gaming chair upholstery table:

Worst Standard Best
  • Low-Quality PU Leather
  • Standard PU Leather
  • PVC Leather
  • Premium PU Leather
  • Real Leather
  • Mesh

Let’s pick one upholstery after another. We’ll start with the most widely available one – PU leather.

PU Leather And Premium PU Leather Upholstery (+50% Of All Gaming Chairs)

What would a racing gaming chair be without a PU leather upholstery?

It would be expensive. But it would also have a more durable upholstery that’s a lot less likely to fade.

I’m 100% that everybody who ever checked the type of upholstery on more than 3 gaming chair noted that at least one chair had ‘PU leather’ or something like ‘Premium PU leather’ upholstery in the description.

In short, PU leather is the most widely used gaming chair upholstery. You can get it in any color. For example, female gamers love pink color. You can check some cute pink gaming chairs here and you’ll see that PU leather can be colored even in several pink shades.

If you’re looking at a gaming chair below $200, I bet it’s covered with PU leather. So what is the PU leather anyway, and is it any good?

Ever since the discovery of plastic, people were totally into creating something that would be as good as real leather (especially for chairs, obviously) without that ginormous price tag. The prime achievements are synthetic PU and PVC leather.

PU stands for PolyUrethane, which is essentially a long chain molecule with urethane chain links (all the science nerd can check out more about polyurethane here).

PU leather that is used for gaming chair upholstery is actually a composite of one or more layers of PU with a woven or non-woven textile backing them up.

That ‘one or more layers’ of PU is why you have to be picky with your PU leather gaming chair upholstery. One PU layers equal pretty shitty upholstery that a cat will easily shred to pieces. On the other hand, if you’re wondering what’s the difference between PU leather and premium PU leather, you have a pretty good idea now.

Premium PU leather is comprised of several layers of PU backed up by bi-cast or ground leather.

You have many different kinds of mixtures to make the best PU upholstery. For example, Secretlab is the one company that really managed to create a marvelous premium PU leather (they dubbed it PRIME 2.0 PU leather, even trademarked it) that is scratch-resistant (cool if you have a cat or a dog) and almost as durable as real leather.

Pros And Cons Of PU Leather Gaming Chairs

Here’s the pros and cons of using PU leather as gaming chairs upholstery:

Light material; even lighter than PVC leather.

Not totally unbreathable (like PVC leather); it has some limited breathability.

Can be colored to any flashy red, blue, green, whatever color to create racing gaming chair upholstery.

Quickly adjust to your body temperature.

More ‘green’ than PVC; because it decays faster (great for environment, bad for durability).

Premium PU leather can be really terrific if they’ve got all those PU layers back up by real leather.

Not naturally heat resistant.

Performs poorly when exposed to heat and humidity (like, you know, that famous gamer sweat).

Can easilly brittle and flake.

But again the main thing about synthetic materials is that they are like 10 times cheaper than real leather gaming chair upholstery.

Truly the whole point of using PU leather is to decrease costs of real leather (cause, you know, an animal hide is expensive) while trying to capture the qualities of real leather.

PU leather gaming chair examples: AutoFull and Merax.

PVC Leather Upholstery (About 10% Of Gaming Chairs Use It)

When comparing PU vs. PVC leather you can say that PVC is just a more durable, customizable and flame resistant synthetic leather that will kill off our planet quicker.

PVC stands for PolyVinyl Chloride; we call it PVC or just vinyl. Chemically, this is a long chair molecule with long sequences of the vinyl group with chloride (again, chemical nerds can check out more about polyvinyl chloride here).

This is because of the ultimate customizable plastic. Remember those hard music vinyl plates? And those fragile plastic bags in Wallmart? Yeah, they’ve basically out of the same material, as are some of the gaming chair upholsteries as well.

What makes different types of PVC are the fillers and additives to the PVC resin. For example, just by adding different kinds and amounts of plasticizers, you can change the softness and texture of the PVC – you can make it as hard as vinyl music plates, or as thin as Wallmark plastic bags.

When it comes to PVC upholstery for gaming chairs, it’s absolutely essential for the company who makes the upholstery to really nail down their fillers and additives recipe. When done correctly, the PVC upholstery will be more durable and elastic than PU leather; and it will even be fire-resistant.

How To Know PVC Leather Is Any Good?

However, the problem with the PVC leather as an upholstery material on gaming chairs is that you can’t really know if that specific PVC mixture is great or not. For example, the best red and black gaming chair in covered with PVC leather upholstery. There are two ways how to evaluate PVC upholstery:

  1. Sit on the chair yourself and see how the PVC fabric feels.
  2. Check the reviews of people who sat on such chairs. Added bonus: If you own a PVC gaming chair for more than 1 year, they can give some good info about material durability.

PVC leather is not biodegradable; which is really bad for the environment but that also means that it doesn’t fade or scratch as easily as PU leather.

One important point is that PVC leather can be better than standard PU leather; however, premium PU leather is usually better than most of the PVC leather mixtures.

Examples of great gaming chairs with PVC leather are Vertagear gaming chairs (Vertagear is a notable brand that uses PVC) and Cougar and GT Thrones chairs (you can find them on the lists of the best gaming chairs here).

Real Leather Gaming Chair Upholstery (The Holy Grail Of All Chair Design)

The real leather was, is and will remain the best natural upholstery material not only for gaming chairs but for all chairs in general.

It just gives away that noble and classy aesthetics of genuine leather. You’ll hardly see a CEO, lawyer or even the President of the United States to sit on anything but a real leather executive chair.

But how used is the real leather for gaming chairs?

Quite useful, actually. The gaming chair upholstery has to endure an increased amount of wear and tear. Why?

Well, simply because we gamers are something crazy and will go for 12h gaming session that includes cursing, intense sweating and sometimes even rapid movement of our whole body.

The PU leather, for example, performs poorly when sweat and heat are involved. It will easily tear and the colors will face; revealing that the ‘fake’ leather is really, you know, fake.

Real Leather Is Superior Upholstery Material

With the real leather, you don’t have to worry about that happening. The color of the genuine leather will not fade away and even dog scratching real leather will only make a small dent in the upholstery.

There is no way you’ll be able to tear apart real leather with your gamer movements (no matter how rapid or intense they are).

The look of real leather is pristine and natural. Below is an example of the best real leather gaming chair – noblechairs ICON – and you can see how finely the logo embroidery is (the PU leather can’t possibly match this):

close look at the genuine leather gaming chair upholstery
Look at real leather upholstery. Both durable and noble-looking, real leather is the highest quality upholstery for gaming chairs. The chair on the photo: noblechairs ICON (best real leather gaming chair).

Everybody loves real leather but, and this needs to be said, even top-grain genuine leather has one important drawback: Lack of breathability. If you’re a gamer who sweats a lot, you’ll have difficulties with any kind of leather upholstery.

The solution is the mesh upholstery that office chairs (that can be used for gaming) have. But let us first summarize the pros and cons of using real leather upholstery:

The best not only gaming chair but any chair upholstery money can buy.

Extremely durable; will serve you well for 10+ years.

Rich and noble look.

Will be able to handle any gamer’s movements.

Expensive (obviously).

Lacks breathability.

Mesh Upholstery – Secret To Extreme Breathability Of Office Chairs

The executive office chairs use real leather upholstery; they look classically classy and give you an aura of authority.

But, think about it, do you really need a gaming chair with a classic look and all that authority? Because it does come at a cost, financial obviously, but the real leather also costs you some very valuable airflow.

That’s why office task chairs usually use mesh upholstery; that’s the one will small holes that allow the air to flow through.

There are many different kind of mesh backrests. These include cotton mesh fabric, 3D Microknit, Jersey Mesh, Reply Air Mesh and hundreds of others. However, the main advantage of all of them is the same – superior breathability to any (synthetic or real) leather upholstery. 

The obvious question when thinking about choosing a superb gaming chair upholstery is this:

Why should I spend 100s of extra dollars for real leather that make for a sweat gaming chair, and don’t opt for cheaper mesh?

Well, because while the mesh may be cheaper, it is also attached to the most expensive gaming chairs you can phantom.

For example, the iconic Herman Miller Aeron, the incredible office chair some gamers use for gaming, costs almost $1,400. The chairs with mesh upholstery are all about synchronized tilt ergonomics; that makes them the best chairs for you back but the worst for your wallet.

The most affordable of top-tier mesh gaming chairs is the SIDIZ T80 (costs about $1,000):

sidit t80 is a gaming chair with synchronized tilt mechanism and other advanced features
SIDIZ T80 is the only top-tier gaming chair with the incredible synchronized tilt technology and sweat-proof back mesh for breathability.

Again, these top-tier gaming chairs and office chairs are not so expensive because of the mesh upholstery; it’s the (quite incredible, actually) synchronized tilt technology.

If you are a sweaty gamer and you stick to your gaming chair all the time but don’t want to bankrupt yourself over a gaming chair, there is a futuristic-looking UOMAX gaming chair you should look into.

UOMAX is the first in the line of the new age of racing gaming chairs; its design is sleek, it has mesh backrest and is altogether light but strong. The secret to these new designs is a smart choice of materials such as mesh instead of PU leather, and nylon.

The UOMAX is also the only gaming chair with mesh backrest that costs less than $200:

gaming chair with LED lights by nokaxus with a sleek modern futuristic design
The design of UOMAX gaming chair with mesh backrest is already so 2020 and ahead of the curve.

Every with the UOMAX, however, you’ll notice that some parts like the seat and headrest are covered by PU leather.

Which Upholstery Is The Best?

When you’re looking at gaming chair upholstery and want to choose the best one, you really have to ask how much you are prepared to spend for premium upholstery and what you’re actually looking for.

Of course, the first choice is real leather because it’s both durable and has a great look. However, if you don’t want to spend too much money on upholstery or are sick of sticking to your gaming chair, even real leather might not be the best upholstery for you.

If you feel that you need some extra breathability, the mesh backrest is a perfect choice. But it can cost quite a bit if you don’t opt for UOMAX chair.

More than half of the gamers will usually end up with a PU leather gaming chair. There is almost no avoiding PU leather – just be really sure you’re picky about it because these are high-quality PU leather as well as low-quality PU leather and the chair description might not differentiate between the two. It just states “Upholstery: PU Leather”.

Make sure that PU leather you choose is multilayered one and has good reviews.

If somebody’s using a PU leather gaming chair and you find the gaming chair reviews along the lines of:

  • “This is cheap leather.”
  • “Upholstery faded away in like 2 months.”
  • “It can’t get my Gatorade off this chair, it’s just crappy”

… you should know that’s not a high-quality multilayered PU leather.

If you’re used to gaming in a hot and sweaty room, you should choose PVC leather instead. PVC leather handles high temperature and wet environment much better.

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