Cheap vs. Expensive: Mesh Office Chairs

The Herman Miller Aeron and the Staples Hyken are two of the most popular mesh chairs, but they live on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to price. A fully loaded Aeron will cost a little over $1,600 while the Hyken retails for just $200. This begs the question of whether the Aeron truly provides the value to justify the price or are you better off going with the cheaper option even if it might not last as long or be quite as comfortable. In this post, we will be comparing these two chairs and letting you know whether you should upgrade to the Aeron or save your money.

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The Hyken comes with a 7-year warranty on the entire chair, which is great for the price. You will be able to get replacement parts if anything does go wrong although you will have to do the repairs yourself. This is truly an amazing warranty that you just don’t see in less expensive chairs.

On the other hand, Herman Miller does have the best warranty in the industry. It covers the chair for 12 years. As an added bonus, if you live near a Herman Miller dealer location, they will actually send a technician to your location to fix the chair. This is a really high end warranty, which you should expect with a $1,600 chair.


The Aeron comes in three different sizes labeled A, B, and C. The B size will fit most of the population and is most similar to the Hyken. At 5’9” and 180 lbs, both the Hyken and the Aeron B fit me well and provide a good height range that should accommodate most people. Personally, I would prefer that the seat on both chairs was a little more narrow, as far as overall sizing, both chairs should fit comfortably with the Aeron providing additional sizing options.

Build Quality

When it comes to build quality, there are some major differences between these chairs. At first glance, the Hyken looks like a lower quality chair. The two-tone plastic components, low end mesh, and hard arm pads give it the overall feel of a less expensive product. Granted, Staples is trying to keep the price down with this chair, so it isn’t fair to expect the same high-end components.

Pushing down on Staples Hyken Mesh
Pushing down on Staples Hyken Mesh

The Aeron is one of the most aesthetically pleasing looking chairs. Everything about the chair has been designed to look and be high end, hence the price and the reason why it is featured in the Museum of Modern Art. It is very modern looking with clean lines and high quality plastic components made from custom molds. The Aeron is a top tier chair and one area where you will really notice the quality is in the mesh. The mesh is one of the highest-quality on the market and sets the Aeron apart from the Hyken.

Pushing Down on Herman Miller Aeron Mesh


The Hyken offers the basic height adjustment, three tilt lock positions, and a synchro-tilt recline mechanism for better ergonomics. The recline motion is impressively smooth and probably one of the main reasons why the chair is so popular. You can use the tension control to adjust how easy or difficult it is to recline and the arms come with height adjustment, but the range isn’t great. The chair is missing a seat depth adjustment, but the Aeron also lacks this feature.

The seat back comes with a lumbar support that can be raised or lowered about an inch. Unfortunately, the support is difficult to adjust and you will probably have to use both hands to move it into place. In addition, the lumbar feels a little flimsy and doesn’t actually provide a ton of support.

Finally, the headrest comes with a two-way adjustment. You can adjust the height and pivot the headrest into place. This helps to make sure that you can place the headrest directly into the curve of your neck. I’m not usually a fan of mesh headrests, but this one is actually surprisingly comfortable. In fact, the headrest is one of the biggest advantages the Hyken has over the Aeron, which doesn’t have a headrest. You can purchase an aftermarket headrest for the Aeron and that will end up costing you about $150.

Headrest on the Hyken
Headrest on the Hyken

With the Aeron, you get a few more adjustments. Of course, it comes with a height adjustment and the range means that the chair will fit about 95% of the population. The Aeron also comes with a tilt limiter, which means that you are locking the chair within a certain range and not a static position as with the Hyken. This is a better option in terms of ergonomics, because it still allows for movement in the chair.

Another rare feature that comes with the Aeron is the forward tilt position, which is good for intense tasking. It isn’t something that everyone will use, but it is a nice feature to have.

When it comes to the recline, the Aeron is in a class of its own. The recline motion is extremely smooth and gives the feel of being in a rocking chair. It is really easy to move in the chair and perfect for those who like to be rocking and moving throughout the day. The recline is my favorite aspect of the Aeron, especially when compared to the Hyken.

The arm rests on the Aeron come with three different adjustments that all have good range. You can adjust the height, depth, and pivot the arms, which also serves as a type of width adjustment. The arms are some of the best you will find on the market.

The lumbar support on the Aeron is much different than the Hyken. With the Hyken, it is more of a horizontal support while the Aeron is more vertical and covers a much larger motion of the back. Because of this design, it doesn’t the lumbar support doesn’t come with height adjustments, but you can adjust the tension to really dial in the support according to your preferences. Overall, I think this provides better coverage and support. If the height adjustment option is important to you, you can choose that feature with your chair.

Adjusting Lumbar on Herman Miller Aeron
Adjusting Lumbar on Herman Miller Aeron


When we look at comfort, we focus on the seat, back and armrests because those are the areas where your body will have the most contact with the chair. Right off the bat, the Aeron is a huge upgrade in all three of those areas.

With the armrests, we’ve already discussed the lack of range and adjustability features on the Hyken. In contrast, the Aeron offers excellent range along with plenty of adjustment options. This provides a big improvement in comfort because the arms are able to accommodate many more positions and the actual padding in the Aeron armrests is more generous. The Hyken arms aren’t hard plastic, but they don’t provide the same amount of give as the Aeron. The Aeron pads also have nice rounded corners for even more comfort.

Armpads on Hyken and Aeron
Armpads on Hyken (left) and Aeron (right)

The seat design on both chairs is similar. They both have a hard plastic edge, which is part of the reason I typically don’t like mesh seats. However, I did find the Aeron seat more comfortable.

An interesting fact is that the Hyken seat is actually a copy of the original classic Aeron seat design. This iteration of the seat includes a foam insert at the front edge of the seat which is supposed to protect your legs from the hard plastic. However, this creates a crease in the seat that means you are actually sitting lower than the front of the seat. While that might not sound like a big deal, it is extremely uncomfortable on the legs and made my legs feel numb after about an hour of use. That is a real dealbreaker for me because it makes it impractical to even use the chair.

Front edge on seat pan for Hyken (left) and Aeron (right)
Front edge on seat pan for Hyken (left) and Aeron (right)

Fortunately, Herman Miller has moved away from that classic design in the remastered version. This newer seat design has removed the foam insert and incorporated more of a pitch design that avoids creating that uncomfortable crease. At the same time, your legs won’t come into contact with the bar at the front of the seat. Overall, this creates a much more comfortable chair seat.

We have also already touched on the differences between the seat backs. Again, the Aeron offers a lot more lumbar support. In fact, if you opt for an Aeron without any lumbar support, your back will still be better supported than with the Hyken. The Aeron seat also features a nice natural curve and soft mesh that allows you to sink into the chair. In contrast, the Hyken mesh is coarse to the touch.

Value Proposition

It should come as no surprise that the Aeron comes out on top in every category, but what is the actual value proposition of each chair? Afterall, you could purchase eight Hykens for the price of one Aeron. Even taking that into account, I still think that the Aeron makes a better investment. This is a chair that comes with a lot of longevity. At the very least, you are guaranteed 12 years by the warranty, but we have seen these chairs last much longer than that out in the field. Realistically, you can expect this chair to last 15-20 years. Despite the fact that the Hyken comes with a 7-year warranty, it is probably good for about three years. If you do the math, that does put the Hyken on top, but even if you save money by buying a new Hyken for $200 every few years, you won’t get to sit in a chair that offers the comfort, recline, and ergonomics as the Aeron.

Bottomline, while the Aeron certainly comes with a higher price tag, you are getting more bang for your buck. However, if you don’t have the budget for a new, fully loaded Aeron, the Hyken is a good option.

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