Come on… no knock offs!!! They are not classic, not quality, and are a waste of money.
You might be able to find a vintage one though, but vintage Soft Pad chairs usually are around $1500+ Management chairs if fabric and not mint condition might be in the $500 range.
Similar vibe, you can look for a vintage Knoll Pollock Chair, they are usually under 200. I had one as my home office chair for a number of years. You can find them with just a swivel base side chair style, or a tilt and swivel management style. They come in leather, fabric or vinyl.
I’d recommend craigslist hunting - you can usually find office closeout centers that are clearing out name brand quality chairs for decent prices. Usually you have to show up at a warehouse and pick the least stained one, but often times you can find a $1000+ chair for a couple hundred. Shipping is usually a big PITA and costs too much because of the size. Companies upgrade furniture and go out of business all the time, I took my Humanscale Freedom chair from work after they upgraded the whole office to the “Cheaper” Mirra chair.
I really like the Eames Aluminum group chairs which you can usually find in that $200-300 price range. Super comfortable and the arms get banged up easily, but they’re pretty indestructible otherwise.
Ditto on the Mirra, or the Chadwick. The Chadwick was the follow-up to the Aeron; similar mesh technology at a lower price point. Had mine for eight years so far and its survived two kids jumping on and off.
Eames AL Group (the real version of the knockoff you highlight) find it used, it will still be worth what you buy it for (or more) if you ever choose to get rid of it. Executive back height might be worth considering.
My wife really likes her Setu, often hear people will smaller frames find them very comfortable. Again, should be able to find a used one near your price range.
Your really close to the Sayl range as well, never really a huge fan, but sure plenty of people can way in on that.
If you want something brand new Shortcut is in your price range. I designed it, so it’s got that going for it… LOL but seriously we got A LOT of comfort into a plastic shell. Not the perfect chair for all people by any means, but I preferred it over a lot of “higher end” chairs.
The URL is also to BKM Officeworks, they are a Steelcase dealer in your area, you should be able to go in and testdrive, but ordering online is probably your best bet (individual sales is usually not where dealers excel or even want to play).
The mesh material is great for ventilation. I also like chairs with spring loaded backrest you can release for extra lumbar support.
I am a fan of the Aeron chair with headrest. Some of the IKEA budget range chairs also work great.
My experience is that the adjustable arm-rests make a surprising impact, in a good way, on my comfort when sitting at my desk.
Whenever I have one with fixed arm-rests they either get in the way of my elbow using a mouse, get in the way of my elbow when sketching, or they stop my chair from fitting under the desk, which makes me hunch over to reach my keyboard. I just move them around as needed now, depending on what I’m using my desk for.
If you do get one with fixed rests, then it’s definitely worth looking to see if you can take them off without the chair falling apart as well, just in case they start to annoy you (lesson learnt! ).
I was on this same mission a few years ago and it was tough because it’s hard to find the chairs you want to try out locally. I was trying to chair shop online mostly with a similar budget but the risk of ordering a chair that I didn’t like was a little too high because I didn’t want to waste money shipping them back. It seems like office chairs are either fixed and luck determines if they are comfortable to you or you have to spend a lot to get a chair that can be adjusted so it’s comfortable to the widest user base, which is more of a safe bet.
Though it’s more of a “break the bank” price, I ended up going for the Mirra 2 chair without arms and I’ve been really enjoying it for about 2 years so far.
I’ll throw my 2 cents in to the bucket. I’d look for a used Steelcase Leap v2 chair with fabric instead of leather/vinyl. You should be able to pick up a good condition one from a used office furniture place for $250-$400 depending on condition and options.
I’ve been lucky and never had to “shop” for a chair since I’ve had access to member sales, etc. (I’m a furniture designer with a large manufacturer), but I’d advise getting a chair with adjustments so you can dial in the fit and comfort. Also, find a place where you can go and test in person. I love classic chairs, but some just aren’t that comfortable. Get one that’s ANSI/BIFMA rated, has a good synchro tilt control (not a swivel tilt or assynch ), 2 or 3 way adjustable arms, seat depth adjustment, and a good warranty.
I’ve sat in MANY of our and competitors’ chairs and for me the most comfortable is HON Nucleus. The seat is extremely comfortable (no seat board so it never will sit hard), ANSI/BIFMA rated, 12 year warranty. Not a classic, but a well designed, clean looking chair (no, I didn’t design it ) Depot sells these and looks like there’s a model that’s just over $400 new. Sounds like I’m pitching hard, but I know seating fairly well and it’s a great value on a seriously comfortable professional chair.
Allsteel’s Acuity chair is super cool, too, and you might be able to find one used for around your budget.