Sidenote: A Gaming…Chair Review? My Two Week Impressions of the Secretlab Titan Evo 2022 XL

A couple of weeks ago now, I made the switch from a two year old AKRacing Masters Series Max chair for my daily driver work/play setup to what looked like a great option – the Secretlab Titan Evo 2022 XL.

Two weeks is both pretty good and also not enough to evaluate a chair, so let’s talk through it.

Firstly, on my old chair, I liked the AKRacing chair well enough, such that my wife had a lower-tier model of it. As is tradition with tech and PC things in our household, my old becomes her new, and so with a budget windfall and a desire to upgrade, I placed my gaze on the Titan series from Secretlab.

The biggest thing for me is that I am over the average bucket-seat gaming chair options. The Secretlab has some of that DNA in it, but the chair overall looks better and integrates a lot more fine-grained control than you get with the average bucket seat. For as much as I did like my AKRacing chair, it was still a bucket seat with head and lumbar pillows – more support than a cheap office chair, but the pillows are annoying and often mobile to a point of frustration. It has also gained some volume in the two years that I’ve had it, with some increase in usage noise when tilting or sitting back. Despite these things, it is a great chair and a considerable upgrade for my wife in comfort, so I get to pretend the upgrade for me was altruistic!

So then, why the new Secretlab? Well, I like that they have a nice fabric finish option with their TM(copyright) super special SoftWeave, because I tend to sit shirtless in my office chair a lot (that’s a thing I put online and we all have to live with it now) and the leatherette/PU leather (polyurethane, not stinky lol) finishes are very uncomfortable for that mode of usage. I like that it takes the jankiness out of the pillows of gamer chairs in two ways – by integrating the lumbar support into the chair body with adjustment knobs to lock in a position, and by making a head/neck pillow that is magnetic and snaps tightly to the top with a sufficient adjustment range where the magnets will still stick. The chair is covered in magnets, actually, with magnetic arm rest covers, side-rail covers, and the pillow all attached using them. The chair had a lot of very positive reviews and coverage, and so I decided to pull the trigger and grab it.

The Setup Experience

Getting a chair shipped to you is usually an exercise in frustration, with a setup process that can vary from decent (few screws you are responsible for, easy identification and placement of them) to incredibly frustrating (a bag full of loose hardware, multiple different sized screws, no included tools, diagram instructions from a single bad vantage point or detail drawing). The Secretlab Titan Evo 2022 matched the experience I got from my AKRacing chair with a couple of small upgrades.

First, the chair came in an almost-impressive flat-packed box, with the chair wheel base, seat, and backrest in stacked pieces tight together, and the tools, armrests, head pillow, and screws in their own fancy box. The instructions were a massive glossy poster atop the whole kit, with detailed text and full-color high-definition photography to accompany the directions. The foam sheets made to protect the chair are also made to be laid out to protect your work surface while you build the chair, which is a nice touch.

Secondly, the actual assembly needed only 4 loose screws which were wedged in a sheet of foam in a fancy box, with the other screws (only 4 more on top of that) pre-fastened to the backrest for you to remove and replace once the backrest and seat are ready to snap together.

Effort was made to keep things easy, like making one of the siderails on the backrest have a slide bracket so the seat side could just slide in and hold there while you screwed it together. Unfortunately, this didn’t work super well – the loose side was exceptionally hard to get screwhole alignment on and it took a few different angles and some elbow grease to get things together enough to finish this part. The chair base was very easy to build, with smooth locking casters and the standard hydraulic piston through the middle you put in as a friction-fit, and the actual mechanics controlling that piston only need the 4 screws in the box to tighten down. It took maybe about 30 minutes going slowly, and overall, it wasn’t bad, short of the experience of getting the side rails locked in on the chair back. The instructions were clear and simple enough, and elements of the chair are marked with clear added effort, like the red screw and plastic tab holding the seatback lever in place locked, paper bands hiding controls or handles until the chair reached certain points in assembly, and the numerous magnet warning stickers at multiple points on the chair.

However, the siderail screws were unusually resistant to work for me and some of the steps on the instructions are very remedial (did you know you have to set your chair up with the wheels on the ground before you can sit in it? No way!), which is probably better than the basic diagram drawings that skip details on a lot of older chairs I’ve owned. The tools included were actually nice – there’s a premium-looking hex key and a magnetic bit, Secretlab branded palmable screwdriver with a two-sided bit for Philips head and hex.

Material and Build Quality

The chair is pretty solid and nice overall! The SoftWeave finish is pretty nice, although I will call out one caveat – it is more coarse and rough in spots than you might expect. The seams in particular, like the leg edge, have a little bit of a scratchiness to them out of the box that I was not a fan of. It wears down quickly, but there is definitely a friction there that you wouldn’t feel in a leatherette chair. The armrest padding on the stock armrests (with the magnetic system, you can swap them, and SecretLab sells a pair of gel armrests with more padding for…$90 USD?!) is quite good, both more dense and softer than my old chair’s still-good armrests. The adjustments in all directions on the armrests are locked by buttons, so you can post on the armrests to get up or sit down without hearing the ripping sound effect of moving rests like I often did on my old chair. The armrests are also a point of contention on the build quality – if you aren’t sitting and using them, they are easy to wiggle in a way that makes them sound somewhat insecure, but once your arms are on them, they are sturdy, solid, and quiet.

The seat back is very good, with the integrated adjustable lumbar support being the single best thing about this chair. I’ve been a big sufferer of back pain in recent years and having a proper lumbar support is the thing I most wanted, and the chair delivers there exceptionally well. You can adjust the vertical position as well as the extrusion on it to fit a wide array of back sizes and shapes, and the backrest uses a narrowed sidewall around the lumbar support to force your back into it, which works very well without being uncomfortable. The padding on the backrest is thick and dense, so it doesn’t compress very much which is my preference – it feels soft and comfortable but also doesn’t let you smush it down like a lot of chairs do. The head pillow is actually extremely good, to my surprise – the magnets are very strong and it has not shifted a millimeter even when I tried to push the pillow out of position by doing a neck bridge at it, yet it is also pretty easy to remove by hand if you need it out.

The seat itself is firm and dense padding with a good amount of compression, and the SoftWeave fabric has breathability, which is nice compared to leather chairs that often end up collecting sweat and body oil from not having any air circulation around your contact area with the seat. The height adjustments have a pretty low range, with the top of the chair still being pretty short, but their materials suggest this is due to research into proper seating angles and how your legs should be positioned relative to the chair and the ground. I’m not sure how accurate that kind of data is, given the wide array of potential body types in the same height, but so far it hasn’t been a problem and has been very comfortable with my feet in full, flat-footed contact with the ground.

My only other issues is that even the XL leans back very fast, to the point that my first couple of times sitting in it I felt like I was going to fall backwards, and that still sort of happens even with the tension knob fully tightened. It has a tilt-lock that locks it into a single tilted position, but I wish it worked to establish a maximum tilt instead. Lastly, the seat reclining lever is pretty solid on the release, but the re-latching back into lock feels very squishy and was hard to tell if I was safe to recline, which is not the kind of thrill I want in my daily life! It has remained secure, but it doesn’t quite have the satisfying click-lock into place I would hope for.

In about two weeks, I’ve fallen asleep in it about 10 times, which I think is a big endorsement because I don’t fall asleep in office chairs easily.

The SecretLab Touch

SecretLab is a very odd and serious company that does the whole “patented technology!” thing with their stuff. They boast about their design and how special it is, and while it is different in many ways from a standard bucket set gamer chair, it is still kind of that same aesthetic – it hasn’t really reinvented the wheel, so calm down SL. There are elements of their “luxury” aesthetic and presentation I really like – the unboxing experience was unusually easy and clear, the large assembly directions were nice as were touches like the foam sheets, and the chair itself looks really nice, with a clean, understated color palette and a lot of premium-looking touches like the base being black-painted metal with folded edges and a sharp shape, the logo engraved into the base and the removable armrests, and the embroidered logos on the chair. However, it also has this really dumb NFC tag built into the back so you can confirm the chair’s authenticity (has anyone ever actually checked it? I haven’t) and the branding is somewhere between performance car parts and enthusiast PC gaming.

The downside is the pricing. The chair itself is nearly $600 USD baseline for the Titan Evo 2022 XL version I got, and the minimum customization choice of armrest type can add $90 right off the bat if you get the gel rests. They also love hitting the value-adds on the way to your finished order, like special SoftWeave cleaning wipes ($25 a package), leatherette cleaning wipes that have both a normal and Attack on Titan version (also $25 a package, yikes) and they also just sell a squishy toy made like their head pillows. I do almost wish I had gotten the squishy toy (seriously, the pillow material quality is superb) but at the prices being asked for the base package, there was no chance in hell I was getting clapped for another $100 on my way out the (virtual) door. If you opt for their licensed and co-branded chairs (they have Warcraft ones, Harry Potter ones, Game of Thrones, Minecraft, and more) you can expect to add at least $100 more just for that! They also do that bullshit internet sales tactic where every time you go to the site there’s a “special sale” going on of some sort, making the chair look like a better deal by selling it for $570 but telling you it normally costs $600, that kind of thing.

At the end of the day, it’s a chair. I’m not going to become a deep-rooted SecretLab fan or anything, but they make a lot of effort to try and sell the chair as more than just a place to rest your ass. Some of it hits right (visually I love my chair and it is more upscale and mature than the brighter colors and race-stripes of gaming chairs I’ve had before), but then you put an NFC tag too close to my buttcheek and it kind of sticks out weirdly for it.

Overall

I can’t say that the chair is an amazing fit for anyone because it will vary for all based on body type, size, and proportions, but I have been pretty impressed. One thing I will say is that moving to the Titan Evo as a single line (before they had the Titan and smaller chairs under a different design) is that you can get 3 variants of the chair for different size and weight ranges, which means you can get the same basic experience just better tailored to you personally. This is a very nice shift from my experience with AKRacing, where both my wife and I had our own chairs from them but her smaller chair was a very different and worse design.

What I will say is that of the chairs I’ve owned, it was probably the quickest one to get to full comfort for me, the overall comfort of the chair is very high, and it feels like it will last me for years of heavy use. I spend a lot of time at my PC for project work and for gaming, and so this chair is the most-used seat in the house for me, so all of that matters a lot for me. The cost was high and the extras and attempts to pull some more cash are not things I was fond of, but this does, so far, feel like a “you get what you pay for” scenario. It wasn’t much more than my old chair was in the first place and it feels like it will stand up to my usage better even just based on early impressions compared to the old one.

In short – I view my office chair as an investment and so far, this one seems to be paying off in comfort and support, so that is a win, although the price is a bit eye-watering. Worth a look if you’re trying to find a new chair, in my opinion.

One thought on “Sidenote: A Gaming…Chair Review? My Two Week Impressions of the Secretlab Titan Evo 2022 XL

  1. Have had one for about 6 months now, love it. I had a far more expensive office chair before it, and while that one was nice as well, the SL still feels comfortable after a full day at the home office and beyond.

    Matched it with the SL desk, and the two together make a nice setup of matching trim/style.

    Like

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