Diffrient World is Humanscale’s first foray into all-mesh task seating. With an innovative tri-panel mesh backrest that provides custom back and lumbar support and lightweight design, Diffrient World is, like all of Humanscale’s products, simple, beautiful, and functional.
Diffrient World Chair Designer Niels Diffrient wanted to create the most minimal, full-function task chair ever made. With an innovative tri-panel mesh backrest that provides custom back and lumbar support and a lightweight design, Humanscale’s Diffrient World is simple, beautiful and functional. Humanscale Diffrient World Chair OfficeChairsUSA OfficeChairsUSA offers a variety of chairs for sale to match your modern office. Give your work space a stylish upgrade with. Diffrient World Chair by Humanscale. Designed by Niels Diffrient. Diffrient World marks Humanscale’s first foray into all-mesh task seating. Like its mesh-backed forerunner, Liberty, Diffrient World’s tri-panel backrest hugs the body to provide tailor-made lumbar support, while its mesh seat eliminates contact stress under the thighs.
I actually owned this chair for about a year and a half before giving it up. There was a lot to like about it, and I wish it could have worked out, but I kept running into problems that ultimately meant it wasn’t for me. It came down to the simplicity, which proved to be very much a mixed blessing, particularly in terms of the self-adjusting recline mechanism, which relies on user body weight…and, unfortunately, a couple design flaws which kept requiring service visits, or replacement parts.
Still, the chair has a number of great features, particularly for shared seating. It accommodates the user’s body weight by adjusting the recline tension accordingly, meaning it conforms to users of many different sizes, without much need for adjustment. This is great for conference seating, shared workstations and so on, though it can’t offer the perfect Goldilocks adjustment you might prefer in a dedicated office chair suitable for all-day use. But if the not-so-adjustable design happens to work for your particular body type and work setup, it’s definitely worth a look.
The Humanscale Diffrient World Chair, reviewed
The aesthetics on the Diffrient World Chair are second to none, as are its breathability (especially in the meshy designs), its light weight, and minimal use of parts. This is meant to be as simple as an office chair can get, and I think they nailed it in every one of those categories. It’s light, airy, pleasant, and noticeably absent of pressure points, again because of the mesh.
One of the best features is how it can self-adjust to a variety of user sizes, using body weight to set the recline tension, and the multi-panel mesh backrest, which conforms to a variety of back shapes without a problem. Again, you can’t get perfect adjustments, but it’ll work for a wide range of users, and it’s actually the workstation setup that’s going to be more of a concern, as we’ll see in a bit.
This chair makes use of one of the rarest types of recline styles around; the “seat slide” mechanism, whereby the seat itself moves forward along a track as you recline. This happens in conjunction with (but after) an independently-operating backrest swivel mechanism, which doesn’t just recline backward, but simultaneously arches your back, by pressing forward into your lumbar region.
This is a two-stage recline mechanism, the first stage being just the backrest swivel, which works like this:
Once the backrest swivels back as far as it goes, the chair goes into stage two, where the backrest reclines even further (though not jutting any further into the lumbar region), and the seat slides forward on a slightly-angled track:
This mechanism is an excellent combination, better for me than other Humanscale chairs, which have the backrest swivel, but no seat slide. The problem with those is that as the backrest pivots, your shoulders go back, and your lumbar is pressed forward; this puts some forward pressure on your legs, almost like it’s pushing you forward out of your seat. Not so with the Diffrient World Chair. Once the backrest swivel reaches its stopping point, the seat slider begins moving forward, relieving that pressure by simply going with the flow of the forward movement your body is undergoing.
The recline goes back quite a ways, so you can really lounge out in this thing. You’ll still get plenty of lumbar support with the freely-swiveling backrest, which avoids the “lumbar gap” problem typical of simpler, cheaper alternatives.
Now that you’ve seen the diagrams, you can see the pivot point of the backrest, about two-thirds of the way down, where it’s bolted in:
The only other high-end chair I’m aware of that works this way is the Steelcase Leap, which has that same type of seat slider, but an entirely different backrest recline mechanism. It’s a top pick of mine, so definitely give that a look if you want the seat slide, but run into other problems with the Diffrient World Chair.
Because these two mechanisms rely entirely on body weight, either by freely moving (the backrest swivel), or using a weight-sensitive automatic adjustment (the seat slide and the further backrest recline), you won’t be able to adjust either of these mechanisms yourself, and this is where I started running into some problems.
Problems with the recline mechanism
Firstly, because the backrest swivel is not weight sensitive, it’ll simply fall back to its furthest point, basically as soon as you get in the chair and lean back, so you’re pretty much always going to be somewhat reclined. You could lean forward, but that puts pressure on your muscles and back instead. It also leans you further away from the desk, forcing you to scoot the chair forward in order to reach any keyboard or mouse placed on top. This can be a little frustrating, because the further back you lean, the more likely your elbows will fall off the edge of the table, and the edge will create some uncomfortable pressure. Even when scooting the chair forward as far as possible, I would eventually reach a limit, with my stomach shoved right up against the table edge, and my elbows were still kind of falling off. If you’ve got a keyboard tray under the desk, then you won’t run into this problem, but I wouldn’t recommend using this chair with a laptop on the desk, unless you’ve got one of those curvy corner desks, which allow you to scoot in closer. It’s actually quite a comfortable position, but one that works much better if you have either of those setups.
The second recline problem is something I consider a design flaw of the chair, as even after receiving replacement parts or entirely new chairs, I kept running into the same problem: after a few months of use, the backrest would just fall backward all the way to a full recline every time I sat down. And I’m not talking about the swivel portion, but the additional recline stage. Whenever I would sit down in the chair, the backrest would gradually go all the way back, leaving me a lot further away from my desk than I would have liked, in a state of permanent recline. It was literally impossible to sit upright.
Humanscale told me this problem is permanently fixable, but when I saw the inside of the chair, I had a hard time believing it. The seat slides along four rubbery spheres, and the pressure from sitting down in the chair is what sets the tension, by squishing those spheres, thus increasing the friction. But wouldn’t those rubbery spheres just wear down over time, and need constant replacement?
I didn’t get a clear answer here, which was a little frustrating. On the other hand, and for whatever reason I don’t understand, I only ran into this trouble with the black chairs. The white ones I’ve tried simply don’t have this problem, and the chair is very much a “sticky-back” recline style, in that you push against the backrest until you get the angle you want, and it’ll stay there, until you put some more pressure on it to recline even more, or sit up to get it back up straight. This is in contrast to a “rocker” style, which goes smoothly back and forth with little or no resistance. Sticky-back recline mechanisms are better for staying in place, which is helpful for writing, typing, or other fine detail work where you’d want more stability.
Okay, so I know that was a lot of information up front, but it’s the recline mechanism that’s really important here, so let’s move onto the rest.
This chair has only two adjustments; seat height, and seat depth. I found myself preferring to put the seat as far forward as possible, as I’m pretty tall and lanky, but also because the front edge of the seat is a pressure-less “waterfall” edge. This is good, but there’s very little support there, so I preferred extending the seat forward to provide a larger sitting surface.
You can see the button on the bottom along the right side, in grey. That’s for seat height, while seat depth is on the opposite side.
What I’ll say here is that I wish the seat itself were just a bit larger; since it helps to push the seat as far forward as possible, that means your hips will get a little too close to the plastic bar in back, where it curves in a U-shape a little too close to the body (as seen in the photo above). I’d feel some tailbone pressure after sitting in this chair for a while, largely because of how short the seat is from front to back, when you take into consideration how the front feels shorter because of the non-supported edge. Making it just a bit wider would help as well, especially at the bend in the U-shape in the back. But I’m 5’10”, so shorter and slimmer users, especially those who have shorter legs and put the seat further back, won’t run into this issue as much.
Again, because of the inability to adjust the backrest swivel portion of the recline, you’re going to lean back, whether you like it or not. There’s no mechanism to keep the backrest fully upright, so if you like sitting up straight, this isn’t for you. It’s best if you like reclining continuously, and typing at a keyboard under the desk, or if you have a curvy desk which allows elbows on the table more easily.
I can’t say the arms are spectacular here. The standard armrest has no adjustments at all, and although you can upgrade to adjustable armrests, they will only adjust along a diagonal track. This moves them up, and forward just a bit. It’s okay, but mostly just for people sitting back, leaning an arm on either armrest like a king, and that’s about it. You won’t be able to move them closer to your body, or swivel them to an angle, which is a common feature of many competitors in this price range. This makes it difficult to use the armrests for any kind of typing, for example. A keyboard tray under the desk will help, as you’ll get your elbow on the armrest, and your wrist on the keyboard tray, but a swivel mechanism would allow more contact for greater comfort.
I will say that I like how the armrests are fixed into the base of the chair, instead of the backrest or seat; this means the armrests won’t move around, no matter how you recline. Chairs with moving armrests tend to follow the tilt angle of the seat or backrest, depending on which component they’re connected to, meaning those armrests would rise upward as you recline, and hit a desk or a keyboard tray from underneath, but this simply isn’t a problem here.
Since the recline mechanism isn’t just a recline (thanks to the backrest swivel stage), you don’t fall back, away from the armrests, nearly as much as you would in other chairs that have just a recline mechanism, but non-moving armrests. The Diffrient Chair does a decent job keeping your pretty close to the armrests, except when you’re really lounging far back.
By the way, the adjustable armrests will adjust downward from what you see in the photo; those fixed armrests are essentially at the highest point that the adjustable ones can get to. They’re at a good height to go under a desk when you scoot forward.
One last problem, although one I didn’t run into, was how the armrests can break. When users stand up out of the chair, many of them have a tendency to push down against the armrests to stand up, and snapped-off arms are a common complaint for this reason, given how they’re connected in the back, rather than directly beneath the armrests. Just be careful with that, and you’ll be fine.
The lumbar support here is second to none, in my opinion, especially if you prefer aggressive support. Though not adjustable, the swiveling backrest falls backward at the shoulders, while pushing forward into the lower back, giving you really great lumbar support throughout the day. Since the backrest is made entirely of mesh, there’s also no pressure at all, and breathability is great, too. Even at its furthest recline point (and I mean recline, not just swivel), it doesn’t run into the “lumbar gap” problem that cheaper chairs sometimes do, providing support no matter how far back you recline.
Again, it’s aggressive support, pushing forward quite a bit into the lower back. The swivel mechanism will rotate to accommodate whatever angle is appropriate, but since it’s freely moving, getting it to stop moving requires swiveling to the furthest point back, when the lumbar is at its furthest forward, which is why it’ll work better for people who like it in that position, with aggressive lumbar support.
You can see how it curves away towards the bottom, avoiding any lower body contact with the plastic frame surrounding the mesh panels. There’s simply no pressure point to be found, whether at the lower back, or anywhere else. It’s definitely one of the highlights, offering perfect conformity.
As mentioned, this chair has the equivalent of a waterfall edge, to reduce the pressure against the underside of your legs, near the knees. It’s not very supportive, which is why I preferred to adjust the seat as far forward as it would go, but the pressure is practically nonexistent, so there isn’t much reason to fear the problem of blood flow getting cut off because of a stiff seat edge.
You can kind of see the bar that goes from one side to the other, positioned down and back, where you won’t feel it at all. Very clever.
By the way, I would avoid the cushioned seat options of this chair. I tried one of those, but it’s not really a “cushion.” It’s just a thin layer of foam over the mesh, meaning it’s not really going to feel more supportive. I had originally expected it would make the seat feel a bit more stable, rather than sagging down in the middle, but it didn’t change this at all. It just used a higher-friction fabric, making it more difficult to scoot around in the chair for minor adjustments. Stick with the mesh.
The chair has no forward tilt mechanism, and the seat itself is angled just a bit to give you a little recline as you’re sitting, rather than being perfectly flat. The good news is that because the mesh is malleable, leaning forward is fairly easy, as the seat will adapt to the minor changes without much trouble––and again, with the no-pressure front edge, you won’t feel discomfort from a stiff edge.
Last, the quality control problem
Well…the plastic breaks. In every replacement version of the chair I received, it would crack in exactly the same place, in exactly the same shape, every time. Four times in a row, within a week or so of using the chair. And I’m only 150 pounds. If I’m breaking the chair, then the chair is wrong. I kept telling Humanscale it was happening over and over, but it was the first they’d heard about it. I think they’re just not noticing.
It happened in back, on the vertical posts that hold up the backrest:
Oddly enough, the white chairs simply didn’t have this problem. Even in retail stores, the black ones were broken, and the white ones were not. I expect the plastic simply has a different composition, but that’s as much as I can say about that, as I didn’t own the white version. But I did own four black ones, all of which broke identically, along with the local retailer’s black model, which also had the identical problem. Humanscale has a warranty, but I’d really like to see them fix the production process to avoid this in the first place.
Conclusion on the Humanscale Diffrient World Chair
Though it sounds like I’m pretty down on this chair, I’m really not. It does quite a few things extremely well, particularly the recline mechanism, combining that swiveling backrest with the seat slide feature, which allows for great lumbar support, while avoiding that forward-pressing problem typical of chairs that use a backrest swivel, but don’t have a seat slide. The all-mesh design means it has great breathability, and conforms to the body extremely well. The “sticky-back” design allows for set-and-forget backrest angle adjustment, so you’ll stay in the same place until you push against the chair to readjust the angle (although that’s not the case for the backrest swivel, as that’s an independent, and freely-moving mechanism). The self-adjusting tilt recline mechanism is great for shared use, and I absolutely love the aesthetic and functional simplicity.
Humanscale Diffrient World Office Chair White
That said, the troubles I kept running into were too much of a challenge to accept. The self-adjusting mechanism eventually wore outEclipse ide enterprise edition. (in a few months, consistently, with each replacement) and although Humanscale mentioned they can fix it, I just didn’t expect this to be a permanent solution. The recurring issue of broken parts was also quite frustrating, and although I could have lived with it if it was just a crack (the Great Pyramid of Giza has a crack that’s been there for thousands of years, by the way), I couldn’t deal with the constant falling backward of the worn-out recline mechanism. I also would have preferred using this with a keyboard tray, as the always-reclined backrest swivel meant I couldn’t get my elbows fully up on the desk to where I wanted them to be for laptop use. If you’ve got a keyboard tray, or a curvy desk, this’ll help out a lot.
So it can definitely work for plenty of users out there; probably users under 5’10”, who won’t run into the seat depth problem I did, and users who like having a keyboard tray for typing, and prefer the always-just-a-bit-reclined angle that takes shape pretty much the instant you sit down, thanks to the backrest swivel. It’s not a super-adjustable, Goldilocks-perfect type of chair, but for users of that specific type, as well as shared seating, I like it a lot. Just give Humanscale a call if you run into cracked parts, and faulty recline tension. The warranty will take care of it, but again, they should solve those issues in the first place.
If you decide it’s for you, you can pick it up on Amazon. You can find custom color options and other variants at stores like The Human Solution, and retail stores like Room and Board, where I took the above photos.
When shopping for a high-end office chair, Humanscale is definitely a name you’re going to come across. The award-winning brand features a handful of chairs that are beloved by their customers. When looking for the right chair for you, it’s important to know how to differentiate models and how each model can affect your seating experience. In this blog, we’ll help you understand the difference between the four most popular Humanscale office chairs and how to find the best chair for you.
All four of the chairs we are talking about in this blog will come almost fully assembled, needing only to have the top half of the chair connected to the bottom half of the chair. When looking at the warranty, you’re going to get 15 years of coverage for users up to 300 lbs. This will qualify for 24/7 usage, but there are some exceptions to that because the foam, fabric, and arm caps will be limited to only five years of coverage (without the 24/7 rating). Unfortunately, the foam, fabric, and arm caps are the components most likely to fail in a five-year period and they will not qualify for the 24/7 rating.
The return policy for these chairs doesn’t quite stack up against its competitors like Steelcase and Herman Miller. Humanscale chairs are actually not returnable at all! They consider all of their chairs to be homemade, so once it arrives at your door, you’re not going to be able to return. This makes it important to know exactly what you want so you’re happy with your purchase.
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Diffrient World Starting Price: $899.00 + Free Shipping Shop at BTOD.com >>
Read The Full Diffrient World Mesh Chair Review >>
The Diffrient World features a concept that you will see on most Humanscale office chairs and that is a minimalistic design. Humanscale really focuses on keeping their chairs aesthetically pleasing while utilizing the minimalistic functionality. The Diffrient World is a very clean, nice looking office chair that will fit into most work environments. This chair is different from other brands because it features what Humanscale refers to as the Mechanism Free Recline. Without a mechanism, this chair reclines based on the user’s weight in a unique way. Unfortunately, with this type of style, the chair has a lot of plastic and lightweight design, it tends to be fairly noisy when you move around in it and you won’t be able to customize it to your specific settings. Typically, office chairs feature standard rocking with synchro-tilt or knee-tilt mechanisms, so if you’re looking for something along those lines, the Diffrient World may not be the chair for you. While this chair is extremely minimalistic, it does come with seat height and seat depth adjustment.
This is the only Humanscale office chair that is available with a mesh seat design. The mesh option is soft, stretchy, and comfortable, and may be one of the most flexible mesh seats we’ve seen in our office. On the downside to that, some people said they could feel the plastic below the seat because of how flexible this seat is. Something that people really liked about this seat is the mesh front edge, versus typical office chairs having a plastic edge. A potential problem with this seat, if you are too large for it, is that you may run up along the plastic sides, which may be a very uncomfortable sitting experience. Because of this, this chair is probably best suited for average to slim to petite users because of the stretch mesh and the seat frame. Overall, this is the smallest Humanscale on this list, so if you’re a larger individual, you may be more comfortable in a different chair.
The backrest was all around liked by those in the office who tested this chair. It features an all-mesh backrest with a tri-panel system, which really allows the mesh to conform to the shape of the person using the chair. Another thing that helps it conform to users is the pivoting function that allows the back to pivot back and forth, conforming specifically to the user in the chair. This isn’t a backrest that features an adjustable lumbar support system, but the pivoting function paired with the flexible mesh did make it one of the more comfortable backrests for testers in our office.
Lastly, the Diffrient World offers multiple options for armrest packages. You can go armless, standard arms, or fully adjustable when selecting which package you would like. If you’re going to add arms to the chair, we’d recommend going the fully adjustable route because you’re going to get height adjustment as well as maneuverable arm caps, allowing you pivot in all directions. The pads on the arms are fairly comfortable, but not quite as comfortable as competing chairs from Herman Miller or other large brands.
Diffrient Smart Starting Price: $1,119.00 + Free Shipping Shop at BTOD.com >>
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The Diffrient Smart follows the same minimalistic approach as the Diffrient World chair, so you’ll find a lot of lightweight plastic and l materials on the chair. This is another chair with limited functionality as you only seat height and depth adjustments paired with the mechanism-free recline motion. It’s equipped with the tri-panel backrest design with pivoting motion and a nice natural curve supplying back support like the Diffrient World.
The armrests are almost identical in terms of feel and function to the World chair as well. With that being said, we highly recommend upgrading to the fully adjustable arm package, giving you height, width, and depth adjustments.
The two major differences between this chair the Diffrient World are the way the chair looks and the seat design. When looking at the backrest and armrests of this chair, you’ll see some aesthetic differences from the Diffrient World. The Diffrient Smart went away from all mesh design, and instead incorporated a padded seat. This seat has about 2 inches of foam padded over a flexible plastic seat pan. This gives you a much different seating experience that is much larger and more flexible, making this chair much more suited for average to larger sized individuals as compared to the World chair. Not only is this chair bigger, but it has more room in the seat because of the design.
Liberty Starting Price: $1,069.00 + Free Shipping Shop at BTOD.com >>
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The Humanscale Liberty is one of the pioneer chairs when it comes to minimalistic design in the high-end office chair industry. The Liberty paved the way for chairs like the Diffrient World and Diffrient Smart. This chair shares a lot of similarities to these chairs when it comes to minimalism, material, and functionality. You’ll find a lot of plastic on this chair, which is very lightweight, easy to use, and ecofriendly.
The Liberty features the same kind of tri-flex back design as the Diffrient World and Smart but the backrest is a bit taller. This makes this chair best for those who are taller or prefer a higher backrest.
The seat on this chair is also very similar to the Smart chair. It features a thin layer of padding on a flexible seat pan, providing you with a lot more room to work with while you’re seated. Similarly, to the Smart chair, it does provide support for long hours, but it will be on the firm side.
Diffrient World Office Chairs In Black
One of the biggest differences this chair has to the Smart chair is the armrest design. The Liberty doesn’t have any armrest upgrades available except for height adjustment. You can’t add depth or pivot adjustments to the arm caps, which may be the biggest downside to this chair. We almost go as far as not recommending this chair If you spend a lot of time tasking while seated because of the limitation the arms have on this specific chair. The areas where this chair excels in are conference rooms or meeting rooms because it is one of the best-looking chairs on the market and you won’t need a lot of adjustments for this type of setting.
Freedom Starting Price: $1,049.00 + Free Shipping Shop at BTOD.com >>
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The Freedom is Humanscale’s flagship chair that differs greatly from not only any chair on this list, but any chair on the market. This may be the first chair ever designed with a weight-sensitive mechanism. It functions quite differently than similar mechanisms used by Herman Miller in a way that puts you in one position and holds you there. Competitors using a weight-sensitive mechanism tend to have a rocking motion, while the Freedom finds a position and holds you there. With that being said, this chair is great for those who remain static and ergonomic while seated versus those who move around a lot.
The reason for this weight sensitive method is because of the minimalistic approach by Humanscale that you can see on the other chairs on this list. On this chair you don’t have to deal with tension knobs or levers and can just move the backrest to the position you’d like, and it will hold you there.
Humanscale decided to use a synchronous armrest design, meaning the armrests move in tandem together, making it very easy to adjust. However, this makes it so the armrests are incapable of being moved at differing heights, sacrificing the ability to have your arms at differing heights. There is an optional upgrade package where you can get width adjustments on the arms, but the range is fairly small with this upgrade, making the arms wider but not necessarily more narrow. One of the main problems with this chair is that the arms are fairly wide set, making it suitable for average to larger sized individuals.
The pads themselves on the arms are very soft, squishy, and comfortable like the other chairs on this list. A positive about the arms on the Freedom is that they are a little bit larger, giving you a little more room to deal with and making the most comfortable arm pads on this list.
The seat on this chair is very similar to what you get on the Liberty chair. It features a nice wide seat design with no hard edges and a flexible plastic seat pan covered in around 2 inches of high-end foam. We consider this to be an overall well-rounded seat that is supportive to sit in. If you prefer it, a nice addition you can add to this seat is a comfortable gel-padding.
The Freedom features a back that is very different than the other chairs on this list. This backrest is padded with about the same amount of foam that we see in the seat giving you nice cushion and getting away from the mesh design. It’s the only backrest from Humanscale that is equipped with height adjustment and features a natural curve that conforms to your back. It also incorporates the pivot function that you see on the other chairs, allowing the backrest to tilt a little bit to conform to whoever is sitting in the chair.
Different World Office Chair
Lastly, this chair has an optional headrest addition. This is the only Humanscale chair with this option. If you opt in, the headrest comes with height adjustment and a curve, similar to the lumbar curve, which really allows you to put it in the curve of your neck for optimal support. It also has nice padding, similar to the backrest, to keep you comfortable while leaning against it. The backrest and headrest combination do function much differently than any other similar combination we’ve used. They don’t move at the same angle; the headrest stays in a more fixed position as you move the backrest, keeping your eye level at the same position throughout the entire recline, allowing you to keep your eyes forward and tasking no matter how far you move back or forward. This is great for ergonomics and tasking, but not necessarily great for relaxing and kicking back. Depending on you’re using your chair will dictate whether or not the headrest will be a good fit for you.