When plunged into a sea of gaming chairs, all that most of us first notice is that frantically colored PU leather.

Most of the racing chairs for gaming (more than 70% anyway) are covered by the PU leather upholstery. This is pretty much the industry standard; only the high-end gaming chairs use real leather upholstery and those tend to be much more expensive.

Of course, everybody who wants to get a gaming chair for less than $200 should be wondering if the PU leather upholstery is actually OK enough for gaming. There are several reasons why the choice of gaming chair upholstery matters quite a bit:

  • Upholstery gives the chair a distinctive look.
  • When sitting, our skin will be touching the upholstery (should feel at least OK).
  • Upholstery shouldn’t tear or get stained easily (like your dog clawing at the chair or spilling Mountain Dew all over the upholstery).
  • Should be durable; ie. shouldn’t fade away in the 1st year.

The PU gaming chairs (and PVC leather chairs) are pretty much the only ones that don’t cost more than $500. The choice of PU leather upholstery does help bring down the price.

However, is this synthetic leather really a suitable substitute for real leather? Let’s look at a bit of science behind the synthetic leather.

PU And PVC – Let’s Talk Chemistry

You don’t need to be Walter White to understand the difference between real leather upholstery and synthetic leather.

The real leather comes from cow and PU or PVC leather is made in a laboratory.

This is a bit nerdy but go along with me: PU leather is made out of polyurethane and PVC leather is made out of polyvinyl chloride. Both are long molecules with these synthetic links.

The PU vs. PVC difference when it comes to gaming chairs is that:

  • PVC relies on additives (such as plastificators) for quality.
  • PU relies on multiple layers for quality.

In essence, a gaming chair can have ‘good’ or ‘bad’ PU leather. Having several layers of PU sheets one on top of another (with ground leather in between) makes for a high-quality PU leather.

Here is a quick infographic that illustrates which is the best gaming chair upholstery material:

How To Choose A Gaming Chair With Premium PU Leather?

As we’ve thus far established, multilayer PU leather is quite a decent upholstery. It does come with some great features which makes it a good upholstery for gaming chairs, such as:

  • Does kind of look like real leather.
  • Is stain-resistant.
  • Is tear-resistant (somewhat).
  • Does have some limited breathability.
  • It’s much cheaper than real leather.

However, pretty much every gaming chair description you read will have ‘high-quality PU leather’ or ‘premium PU leather’ in there. But how do you actually know this is the much sought after multilayered PU and not some thin low-quality Chinese made PU leather?

It’s virtually impossible to get this information from the description alone. The best way is to test the gaming chair yourself (these gaming chair guides can help you). But most of the gaming chairs are bought online and you don’t get to try them out before you buy them.

That’s why you should go with the second-best choice: read the user reviews!

If somebody’s using a PU leather gaming chair and you find the gaming chair reviews along the lines of:

  • “This is cheap leather.”
  • “Upholstery faded away in like 2 months.”
  • “It can’t get my Gatorade off this chair, it’s just crappy”

… you should know that’s not a high-quality multilayered PU leather.

Comparison Of Premium PU Leather To Real Leather

PU leather, even the best kind, is no match to real leather at least as far as quality is concerned.

Real leather won’t rip apart easily, the genuine color won’t fade away in a year and you will be able to enjoy a truly rich fabric.

However, when the cost and maintenance are concerned, real leather really needs some extra love.

Love in the sense that you will have to spend an extra couple of $100 just to buy it and you’ll have to look into how to properly maintain genuine leather.

Another great alternative to real leather is mesh. Especially mesh backrests that $1000+ office chair use can be great for gaming chairs because they offer breathability.

If you are a sweater and don’t want to stick to a leather chair when gaming, the mesh backrest a great way to additional ensure airflow to your back.

Verdict: PU Leather (Can Be) Really OK

All in all, the use of PU leather makes sense for cheaper gaming chairs. If you get a decent multilayered PU leather upholstery that won’t tear easily, you’ve already done an amazing job.

Nonetheless, PU leather is just that. It’s OK. If you’re willing to spend more on gaming chair upholstery, you should opt for real leather or office chairs with mesh backrest.

Tom Parillo

Tom Parillo

I am interested in all things technology, especially automation, robotics and tech that helps change how society will live in the future.