Steelcase Please V2 Task Chair

This review is part of my series of reviews of ergonomic office chairs. People have wildly varying opinions when it comes to chairs, and you should always test a chair for a few days in your own work environment before buying it. (See more advice on how to buy a good chair.) Don’t use my reviews to decide which chair to buy; use them as a starting point for your own testing.

Steelcase Please V2 Aluminium Base in New Black Fabric by Steelcase. Sold out £1,049.00. Interstuhl Task Chair with Mesh Back interstuhl. Leap Chair-V2 Black Leather by Steelcase. The Leap chair by Steelcase has a back that changes shape to support the entire spine. This can reduce the chance of lower back sag and a hunched posture, which may weaken disc walls, stress back ligaments and cause deterioration of the spine.

In my review of the Steelcase Think chair, I wrote that it is a chair that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This goes double for the Steelcase Please, which is a model that is almost absent from online reviews, most likely because it is only available in Europe. This lack of online prominence does not mean that it doesn’t have its ardent fans. I’ve dealt with two salesmen at my local Steelcase dealer – both told me outright that they prefer the Please to all other Steelcase chairs, despite the fact that its current version turned 14 years old this year, and, in theory, should have been superseded by newer offerings like the Leap v2 and Gesture.

If I were to sum up the “unique selling proposition” for the Please, it would be this: Please will support your entire back, even at a very wide angle of recline. As I explained in my chair buying guide, most chairs have a “lumbar gap” that appears when you recline. I understand – you’re a busy person, you don’t want to click through to that article. Let me just copy & paste the drawing that explains how the gap arises:

The backrest, rotating around a point under the seat (red dot), moves away from the seat and the user’s lower back.

The Please is one of the few chairs that are specifically designed to minimize this effect. It achieves this goal with some interesting mechanical design. The backrest is split into two parts – thoracic and lumbar. The lumbar part is attached at a fixed angle to the seatpan, which tilts only a little bit. The thoracic part is attached to the lumbar part. Here’s how it works:

(1) The mounting point (red ring) of the lumbar part of the backrest does not tilt with respect to the seat (ensuring no lumbar gap); (2) the thoracic backrest is attached to the lumbar backrest to ensure a continuous curve; (3) as the thoracic part pulls on the top of the lumbar part, the lumbar part rotates around its mounting point and the bottom of the lumbar part is pushed forward, filling in your lumbar curve

The result is that not only is there no lumbar gap, the lumbar part of the backrest actually pushes into your lumbar spine when you recline. Don’t worry though – the lumbar assembly is mounted on springs and you can adjust its firmness, so it won’t feel like an elbow in your back. Reclining in the Please makes you feel like your entire back is supported, in a way that is equaled only by the Humanscale Liberty. Furthermore, the backrest reclines very far, enabling you to achieve a fully neutral 135° hip angle at maximum recline.

Recline angles on the Steelcase Please: (1) maximum recline; (2) intermediate recline; (3) near-upright position. The grey thing on the armrest that looks like a dead rat is a sock I put there to make the armrests softer. Sorry about that.

The adjustments on the Please are nothing short of spectacular:

  • As expected, you can adjust the resistance of the backrest. As a bonus, you get a little dial which displays the number corresponding to the current resistance setting, similar to a date window on a wristwatch – this is a nice touch that is helpful when sharing a chair with other people. Instead of fiddling with a continuous, unlabeled knob, all you have to do is remember your number.
  • There is a separate knob, with four settings, that controls the firmness of the lumbar part of the backrest. The correct setting will depend on your individual lumbar curve. This is not unheard of in ergonomic chairs, but definitely not common, so kudos to the Please for having this feature.
  • Finally, the entire backrest can be moved up or down. This is something I haven’t seen on any other chair, yet it makes so much sense – people have torsos of different height, so their lumbar curves are located at different heights. Not all chairs have “height-adjustable” lumbar supports, and if they do, these are often just extra pieces of stiff plastic placed on top of the standard curve of the backrest. Here, you are moving the curve of the backrest itself.

Once adjusted properly, the Please is probably the most anatomically correct chair you can buy. I said “the most anatomically correct”, not “the most comfortable”, because the Please is not a “comfy” chair. While the seatpan is perfectly normal, the foam padding used in the backrest is quite firm. If you’re used to a soft chair, the Please will feel a little like an ergonomically designed wooden plank. You know it’s probably good for your back, but it doesn’t give you the visceral feeling of indulgent comfort that you get when you sit down in a well-cushioned chair like the Leap or Amia.

Is this firmness a problem? I don’t think so. In fact, if you are bothered by it when you first try the chair, I would like to urge you to see past it. Firmness is something that people get used to rather quickly (as evidenced by the millions of people sitting on Herman Miller chairs – har har har), so first impressions can be misleading here. A friend of mine initially complained about the Please’s hard backrest, but after extended testing he got used to it, and ended up buying the chair.

The foam on the Please may be a bit hard, but the tilt limiter is what takes the cake. It has zero shock absorption, so hitting a tilt limit feels like that time when you rode your bike into a concrete wall. It is easily the most unpleasant tilt limiter that I have ever experienced. I cannot believe Steelcase did not see the need to put some kind of spring in there. Fortunately, I never felt the need to use the tilt limiter, as the Please has a “sticky” backrest, which tends to stay wherever you put it.

Speaking of which, the backrest on the Please is similar to that on other Steelcase chairs like the Amia or Gesture. For a detailed discussion of sticky backrests, read my chair buying guide – here, I’ll just note that a sticky backrest makes it easy to choose your desired recline angle – all you have to do is push against the backrest (or take your weight off it) – and stay in it (because there is static friction that keeps the backrest in the current position). On the flip side, because the backrest resists small movements, there is no way to rock in the chair.

Like the backrests on the Amia and Gesture, the one on the Please achieves a nice balance between how stable it is and how easy it is to change positions, unlike the Leap’s, which feels sluggish in comparison. Things aren’t so good when it comes to micromovements – not only is the mechanism sticky, the backrest lacks the flexibility that would permit even limited rocking (for an example, see the Leap clip in my FAQ).

The fact that the backrest is not springy doesn’t mean that it’s rigid. Although the backrest is made up of stiff plastic panels with padding on top, the thoracic part of the backrest is mounted elastically (there is a rubber joint and two flexible plastic hinges). It changes orientation in two directions – for instance, when you turn your torso left or right, it turns with you.

The thermal performance of the Please is pretty standard for a foam chair – in side-by-side comparisons, I could not detect a difference in thermal comfort between the Please and the Leap. It’s not ideal for working in temperatures exceeding 25 °C, but not as dramatically bad as the Gesture.

There is an exposed piece of the frame to which the lumbar backrest is attached – if you keep your keyboard very close to your body (practically above your lap), it is possible to bump against the frame with your elbow. It also depends on the height of your armrests versus the height of the lumbar backrest. If repeated, this sort of minor trauma can produce cumulative, irreversible damage to your ulnar nerve. I take this issue quite seriously and paid a lot of attention to it in various keyboard-heavy and mouse-heavy scenarios. In my particular setup, it wasn’t a real problem, but I definitely recommend watching out for this issue when you test the Please. (You can also attach something soft in that area to prevent the problem.)

Armrests

As I publish this review, it is already somewhat out of date – Steelcase has just updated the Please with new “4-D” armrests, which follow the outstanding design used on their other chairs like the Leap, Amia and Think. The model I tested had basic, “plastic” armrests with no left–right adjustment, and my experience with them was generally bad. First, they are uncomfortably hard (which is a potential health issue). Second, I was unable to comfortably type with my forearms on them (due to the poor adjustability). Third, they tilt together with the lumbar part of the backrest, making them somewhat difficult to use in a reclined position. The one good thing about them is that they retract quite a long way, so you can sit very close to your desk if you wish. On the whole, I found them barely usable.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test the new armrests because a display unit with 4-D armrests is not available at my local Steelcase dealership – so, for example, I can’t tell if they are any softer than the plastic ones. However, going by the video I linked above, I can tell they certainly have enough adjustability to let you rest your forearms on them while typing. On the negative side, they do not stay level as you recline, just like the old plastic ones. They are also, like the type I tested, shorter and narrower than those on other Steelcase chairs. In other words, although they’re still not Leap-quality, I’m sure I could live with them.

Of course, all of the above is only relevant if you use armrests. Many people don’t.

Headrest

You can order the Steelcase Please with a middling headrest. It sits quite a long distance behind your head, and has no back–front adjustability. In a reclined position, it is possible to rest your head on it if you tilt your head way back (although I found it uncomfortable), but if you want to keep your eyes on the screen, you will need a pillow, and a thick one at that. Paradoxically, the fact that the headrest is located so far from the back of your head makes it better than the one on the Leap. They’re both equally unadjustable, but the one on the Please at least doesn’t get in the way when you’re sitting upright.

I did find the headrest, such as it is, useful when relaxing after work – watching movies or listening to music. I would put a pillow on top of it, so that I could keep my gaze on the monitor. While the position was initially very comfortable (in fact, it made me want to fall asleep), I could never maintain it for very long – after 20-30 minutes, I would typically get some sort of pain in my neck. Perhaps this problem could be eliminated with the right pillow size. All in all, if I were buying a Please, I’d get one with the headrest (which is something I would never say about the Leap). By the way, the headrest can be removed without difficulty – the operation leaves two empty mounting holes in the backrest.

The design-conscious among you should note that the headrest only comes in black (that includes both the plastic and the fabric), which is unfortunate if you plan on getting the better-looking white frame.

The Tom Test

Let’s see how well the Please did on my checklist:

  • Easy changing between at least two positions (near-upright and reclined): Pass. The sticky backrest makes it super-easy to adopt any position you like without fiddling with anything.
  • Open hip angle in the reclined position: Pass. Very large maximum recline angle.
  • Lumbar support: Pass. With the ability to adjust both the height and the firmness, the Please is the chair to beat when it comes to lumbar support.
  • Backrest should adapt to your back: Pass. The two-part, elastically mounted backrest does the job.
  • Seatpan must not be too long: Pass.
  • Micromovements: Fail. You don’t even get the micro-rocking of the Leap/Gesture/Amia.
  • Armrests (if you care about them): Should be fine if you get the newest “4-D” ones, but I haven’t tested them, so I’ll hold my judgment.
  • Annoyances: Nothing serious. The tilt limiter is brutally hard, but you don’t really have to use it. The foam padding on the backrest is unusually hard – you can get used to it, but it will never be comfy.

Final words

The Steelcase Please is probably the most anatomically correct chair you can buy. Once you adjust it, it will fit you like a glove and it will maintain this anatomical fit across the entire range of recline. And – I should add – the range of recline is huge. Yeah, in case you can’t tell – I really like that backrest. Acronis true image 2020 installer. The only real problem with it is the lack of rockability.

Task

Other than that, the Please is a chair without significant flaws. In fact, after my testing campaign in which I tested more than ten high-end chairs, the Please came out on top of my list, tied with the Leap. They’re both well-fitting chairs, but the Please has a smoother backrest mechanism that encourages position changes, a less annoying headrest, and a backrest that supports you fully even when you’re reclined. The Leap, on the other hand, has better armrests, supports micromovements to an extent, and is softer. It’s a heck of a choice, and in the end my decision was more or less a coin toss.

I should also mention that the price of the Please is quite reasonable – it’s over €100 cheaper than a comparable Leap model. If you’re a European looking for a good computer chair, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check out the Steelcase Please. If you’re in North America, please accept my sympathies – you’re missing out on a great chair!

This review is part of my series of reviews of ergonomic office chairs. People have wildly varying opinions when it comes to chairs, and you should always test a chair for a few days in your own work environment before buying it. (See more advice on how to buy a good chair.) Don’t use my reviews to decide which chair to buy; use them as a starting point for your own testing.

After test-driving the Herman Miller Embody and the Steelcase Gesture, I felt a bit down. I had just tried out two top-of-the-line models from the two most renowned high-end chair manufacturers and neither was good enough. Would I ever find a suitable chair for myself? As it happened, my next candidate, the Steelcase Think, restored my faith in ergonomic chairs.

The Think is something of an overlooked model in Steelcase’s lineup. In fact, I wasn’t even supposed to try it out. The salesman who gave me a demonstration of Steelcase chairs didn’t even consider it worthy enough to show it to me, and I had never seen it mentioned on the Internet, so I wasn’t even aware of its existence. The only reason the Think ended up in my apartment was that, on a later visit to the Steelcase dealership, I noticed one of the employees sitting on it, and requested a quick test. Apart from the stylish design (which I admit was what caught my eye in the first place), I noticed it had a unique recline mechanism, a mesh backrest, and highly adjustable armrests. It definitely deserved an extended look.

The Think is – in my humble opinion – the best-looking chair made by Steelcase. Its striking lines make more conventional models like the Leap or even the Gesture look positively mundane. I think it could even give the gorgeous Herman Miller Embody a run for its money.

The backrest on the Think is unique. It has a coarse mesh supported on a flexible, plastic “ladder” that presumably is there to prevent you from “falling in”. There is also a built-in, non-optional lumbar support – a plastic-and-metal bar that you can slide up or down. Here’s a clip showing how the backrest responds:

For complicated reasons, I actually test-drove the Think twice, with a 6-month break in between. On my first test, I found the backrest comfortable enough, as did one of my friends (who ended up buying the Think and is happy with it). However, another friend immediately rejected the Think, complaining that the plastic strings in the back dug into his upper back. On my second test – for reasons I cannot fully account for – I started feeling the same hardness that my other friend had noticed. After several hours, my shoulder blades got a bit sore from the continuous pressure. I had to place a thin layer of white foam (the type LCD displays come in) between the 3D mesh and the topmost string, which solved the problem for me (and made the chair look slightly less good). After about two weeks, I removed the foam and never looked back. I suppose my back just got used to the small discomfort.

Apart from that brief episode, the Think’s backrest was pretty comfortable for me, although it is, of course, a highly subjective thing. I will say this, however: if you’re looking for comfort, you would do better to pick a chair with a padded backrest or one made of a soft mesh (i.e. not like the Herman Miller Aeron or Mirra).

The backrest on my test model was the default, “3D-Knit” version. You can also order a backrest that’s covered in fabric – which might temper the hardness of the plastic ladder, but doesn’t look as good as the 3D-knit version (I think Steelcase knows this – in their marketing materials they only show the mesh backrest), and provides less airflow (though not dramatically so – the fabric is quite thin). I think I would recommend the mesh version (with the foam mod, if necessary).

Speaking of airflow, the chief advantage of a mesh backrest is coolness, and the Steelcase Think does not disappoint. On hot summer days, with the temperature in my room exceeding 27 °C, the Think was 25% cooler to sit on than the Steelcase Amia. Wait a second, what does “25% cooler” even mean? Glad you asked. That’s a totally subjective figure which is supposed to represent how hot I felt after sitting for a period of time (between 30 and 45 minutes) on the Think versus how I felt on the Amia in the same conditions. Yes, I know it’s pseudoscience, but I did many rounds of tests, and I stand by my figure. I’m comparing the Think with the Amia because I happened to have those two chairs in my apartment at the same time. For reference, the Amia’s thermal performance is a bit better than that of the Steelcase Leap or Please. All of these are chairs with padded backrests.

The vital service of supporting your lumbar spine is provided by a movable plastic-and-steel bar. The problem is that the bar is almost as flexible as the plastic “rungs”, and I didn’t feel much of a difference regardless of where I placed it. This lack of firmness is the reason why lumbar support is not the Think’s forte. It is perhaps a little better than the Amia, but can’t hold a candle to the likes of Leap, Please, Gesture or Embody. For my uses, it’s acceptable, but if you intend on spending a lot of time working in the upright position, and you don’t have a habit of maintaining a good lumbar curve, I would look elsewhere.

The unique backrest is attached to a unique reclining system. The Think is equipped with a weight mechanism. With most chairs, you get a knob that lets you choose how strongly the backrest pushes you forward. The optimum position of the knob depends on your body mass (heavier users need more resistance, or else they will drop all the way back) and your preferred recline angle. With a counterweight system, the backrest is connected to the seat, so that a heavier user will automatically get a more resistant backrest. The most obvious advantage is that the chair doesn’t have to be adjusted for each user, making it great for environments in which the same chair is used by different people. (This review, however, won’t be concerned with that scenario.)

Usually, the biggest weakness of weight-based systems is that they only take into account one of the two variables that determine the backrest’s resistance (your body weight) – and not the other (your preferred recline angle). As a result, you’re locked into whatever the chair’s designers decided to be the “optimum angle” (for an example, see the Humanscale Liberty review). The Steelcase Think eliminates this weakness by giving you a four-stop dial to modify the weight-based recline angle:

  1. Upright (tilt limiter) – 111° hip angle
  2. Mid-stop (tilt limiter) – 117° hip angle
  3. Near-upright (“boosted” setting) – 115° hip angle
  4. Maximum recline (standard weight-based setting) – 123° hip angle

Here are photos showing positions 1, 3 and 4:

I did not include a photo of position 2 (mid-stop) because it is almost indistinguishable from the “boosted” setting. The only difference is that with the boosted setting, you can recline to the max if you push hard enough, while the mid-stop setting has a hard limit. I’m not sure why anyone would prefer a hard limit to a gentle, bouncy limit.

The recline mechanism is of the “smooth” type – you can tilt the backrest back and forth around some “neutral” position, but you cannot recline too far back because the force exerted by the backrest on your back will eventually go up. In fact, the resistance on the Think increases quite steeply. Whereas most other “smooth” chairs are pushovers that will let you easily tilt the backrest back by a large distance, the Think fights back and will quickly ramp up the opposing force. It does not feel like a rocking chair – it’s a more crisp, high-energy sensation, like bouncing against something. The Think is, in fact, the most “bouncy” chair that I’ve tested. Viscerally, I found it quite satisfying, and I think this kind of springy, limited rocking is a good match for an office chair, as rocking over a large distance would probably make it more difficult to type and use the mouse.

I am quite convinced that the combination of a smooth backrest and the four-stop position dial is a near-perfect system. This is for two reasons:

  • You can instantly switch from a “typing” (near-upright) position to a “casual browsing” (reclined) position, and back again (because the two positions are pre-set, you don’t have to fiddle with a continuous knob every time). This encourages frequent position changes.
  • You keep the ability to rock, whether you’re near-upright (position 3) or reclined (position 4). This is not the case when you use a standard tilt lock or tilt limiter. Rocking is fun and probably good for your health.

You might think that the pre-set recline angles – as opposed to “infinite”, continuous resistance adjustment – limit your freedom to set the recline angle “just right”. However, in my testing (and I had the chair for several weeks), I never once wished for an extra preset. In fact, adding intermediate stops would ruin the main advantage of the chair, as more clicks would be required to go from a near-upright to a reclined positions.

It would seem that all the chess pieces are in place for a resounding victory – finally a chair that lets you easily switch back and forth between a near-upright and reclined positions, with one click (of a knob), without sacrificing “rockability” – a feat that is out of reach for Steelcase’s “sticky backrests” (Leap, Gesture, Amia, Please – which have very little rockability) and for the “smooth backrests” like the Herman Miller Embody (which have no rockability when the tilt limiter is engaged).

Unfortunately, the Think squanders some of its advantage because of mechanical details. Although the resistance dial on the Think is thankfully pretty easy to access, you have to perform some gymnastics in order to switch from one mode to another. You cannot simply turn the knob – you have to lean forward before that. If you neglect that first step, the knob will (1) not turn at all, or (2) it will turn but the mode won’t change (the click sound will be subtly different). The second failure type is particularly user-unfriendly because it doesn’t give you sufficient feedback that you did something “wrong” and can have you wondering why the new mode feels the same as the old mode. (In some cases, you can turn the knob and then lean forward to “activate” the change, but this works only for some position changes and it’s probably best to just use the more universal sequence in all situations.)

I also have to mention that, after a few weeks of using the chair, the mechanism degraded to the point that it became completely impossible to switch from mode 3 to mode 4, no matter what I did with the backrest. The only way I could get it to work is by turning the knob very rapidly from mode 1 to mode 4. This is a clear mechanical issue that would be covered by warranty – I’m not sure if it’s a manufacuring defect with my demo unit or a manifestation of some design flaw. The issue is not shown in the video below because it cropped up after I recorded it.

All the mode-switching gymnastics are made easier by the fact that it is quite easy to lean forward on the Think due to its “bounciness”. The optimal technique is to first lean back, compressing the spring in the recline mechanism, and then have the spring push you forward with little effort from your abdominal muscles (and without bending your lumbar spine too much).

Chairs

At great expense, I made a video so that y’all could see exactly how the recline mechanism on the Think works:

The biggest problem with the backrest (and the chair as a whole) is that it doesn’t recline far enough. The maximum hip angle is only around 123° – even less than the Steelcase Amia and Herman Miller Embody. When using the chair, I often wished that I could give my lumbar spine a bit more rest.

Another pretty serious issue is that the lumbar support keeps sliding down, especially if you use the fully reclined position a lot. During my tests, I had to readjust it a few times a day. This is a surprisingly common problem – I’ve experienced it, to some degree, on every Steelcase chair fitted with a height-adjustable lumbar. Fortunately, on the Think, the issue is easy to fix by sticking two appropriately sized pieces of plastic or hard cardboard into the slot in the side of the frame, below the tabs which are used to move the support. It worked perfectly for me – no more sliding down lumbar support.

The lumbar support on my Think would keep sliding down, especially if I switched positions a lot. (Actual photo before and after 2 hours of use.)

The armrests on the Steelcase Think v2 are one of the best in the industry:

  • They stay level as you recline, enabling you to keep using them in all positions.
  • You can adjust them inward in order to support your forearms as you touch-type.
  • You can retract them quite far, enabling you to move close to your desk – you don’t have to stretch your arms out to reach the keyboard.
  • You can pull them down if you want them out of the way.
  • The armrest caps have the right amount of friction to allow you to slide your forearms on them as you move the mouse.

There are minor differences between the armrests on the Think and the excellent armrests on the Leap and Amia. The Think’s armrests have a bit less left/right adjustability (though still enough to comfortably rest your forearms on them as you use the keyboard) and the caps are less soft (though by no means hard). If I had to criticize the armrests on the Think, it would be on that last point – though, in truth, they never caused me any discomfort when using the chair. I only noticed the difference later, after I had the chance to try out the Steelcase Leap.

The Tom Test

How does the Think fare on my checklist? Let’s have a look:

  • Easy changing between at least two positions (near-upright and reclined): I’m not sure. The reclined position is not very reclined. You can go from the near-upright position to the reclined position with a single click of a dial, but you have to lean forward first.
  • Open hip angle in the reclined position: I’m not sure. The backrest doesn’t recline enough.
  • Lumbar support: Pass. It’s decent, but not firm enough, and keeps sliding down unless you mod the chair.
  • Backrest should adapt to your back: Pass. It conforms to your back better than most chairs, but the plastic supports can dig into your shoulder blades.
  • Seatpan must not be too long: Pass.
  • Micromovements: Pass. The best “rockability” among office chairs, in every position.
  • Armrests (if you care about them): Pass. Exceptional adjustability, no real shortcomings.
  • Annoyances: Lumbar support keeps sliding down. Mechanical glitches when switching positions.

Final words

Steelcase Please V2 Task Chair Manual

The second edition of the Steelcase Think is an interesting chair that I feel does not get the attention it deserves. After testing about 10 high-end chairs, I was seriously considering buying a Think because of its good airflow (suitable for hot summers), and the unique reclining system that enables rocking in every position and – on the whole – easy switching between positions (despite some mechanical niggles). I am also partial to good armrests, and the Think’s are almost perfect. Finally, at $840 or €670 (incl. VAT), the Think is priced more reasonably than other high-end chairs.

Steelcase Please V2 Task Chair Parts

On the negative side, the Think doesn’t recline far enough to give your lumbar spine a satisfactory rest break. The lumbar support is not firm enough and if you like to work sitting upright, there is a danger that you will round your lower back and the chair won’t stop you. Because of these shortcomings, I would only recommend the Think to a subset of users – people who work in a (semi-)reclined position or are trained to maintain the correct lumbar curve.