Herman Miller Embody vs Herman Miller Aeron

Posted by mitch on September 29, 2011

A few months ago, I bought a Herman Miller Embody chair. I’ve had the chair for about 10 weeks now and sat in it for about 5 of those weeks.

Cosmetically, I love the Embody. I love the colors, the texture of the “Balance” fabric, the shape. Functionally, it’s easier to lean back in the Embody than the Aeron, the seat pan depth is adjustable (great if your legs (thighs) are long), and the arm width is adjustable in a way that is far superior to the Aeron. However, the back support of the Embody is just strange and I can’t seem to get used to it. The lower back area has no padded support–it’s like sitting up against a plastic booth at a fast food joint. I also haven’t been able to get the back support to fit the shape of my back very well.

My complaint about the Aeron is that the front of the seat pan rises up a little too much. This is a common complaint from many folks and my solution was to sit with my heels on the casters, thus bracing my body to the chair and elevating my thighs a bit more to relieve the pressure from the seat pan. I always felt a bit strange doing this, but the Aeron supports my back very well and made it worthwhile.

The big advantage the Aeron has over the Embody is the thermal coolness. The mesh of the Aeron is wider gauge than that of the Embody, so the Aeron breathes more. Literally, the Aeron is a very cool chair to sit in. The Embody Balance mesh is breathable like the Aeron, but the mesh is finer and doesn’t breathe as much. There were some days in August that I noticed the heat trapped in the chair.

The Embody doesn’t fit my body as well as the Aeron (or I don’t have it adjusted properly). I plan to keep using the Embody and see if I can get the back adjustment right, but if I can’t pull that off shortly, I’m going to sell it. I don’t regret buying the chair–there’s just no way to know if a chair will fit you without using it for a while. No amount of in-store demo or using it for just one week can reveal the longer term issues. Don’t read this post and be scared off from trying the Embody yourself–your body is probably different from mine. The Embody is a high quality piece of engineering, as is the Aeron.

Update 15-Nov-2011: I spent a few weeks not sitting in the Embody and switched back to the Aeron. Then I sat in the Embody for one day. The sad conclusion is that I am selling the Embody. I absolutely love the arm rests and the seat pan and the look of the Embody, but the Embody doesn’t fit my back properly. I plan to try the Steelcase Leap WorkLounge next… Don’t let this post discourage you from trying or buying the Embody, though. If it fits your body, you will absolutely love it. And who can say whether a chair fits without sitting in it for extended periods?

More pictures here.

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