Note: This article was first published on 22 May 2019.
Game of Thrones may have reached its disappointing and less-than-epic conclusion, and the Iron Throne may just be molten steel now, but there's still a throne that could interest you. Secretlab today announced its 2020 series of chairs, a refresh that includes upgraded features and better materials. While the overall look of the chairs remains the same, many of the changes take place under the hood, and trust me when I say that they're not insignificant.
The improvements will first be available to the Omega and Titan series, in addition to the special edition chairs like the Game of Thrones and Dark Knight models. The Throne will be getting some of the updates as well, but the company wants to focus on its more premium offerings first.
Ultimately, the main driving factor behind the 2020 series seems to have been the desire to improve durability and longevity. The Omega 2020 I'm reviewing today comes with upgraded PU leather, or what Secretlab is calling Prime 2.0. One of the complaints about the previous version of PU leather was about how it could start to peel or flake, especially after being exposed to sweat and the damp, sticky, mosquito-infested environs that are the tropics.
According to Secretlab, the new Prime 2.0 PU leather is up to four times more durable than regular PU leather, going purely by metrics such as cycles passed on abrasion tests. The company teamed up with no less than A*STAR to create the new PU leather, so you know there's actually some science behind it. At the end of the day, the company wanted a material that could surpass existing industry standards.
For starters, the issues of sweat and humidity aren't generally accounted for during laboratory testing. To deal with this, Secretlab worked with A*STAR to come up with a series of new and rigorous tests that could simulate real-world conditions. These include immersion in an acidic solution to mimic exposure to perspiration, followed by placement in a humidity chamber set to 70°C and 95% relative humidity. For some perspective, that's pretty close to what we get in Singapore, where the mean annual relative humidity is somewhere around 83.9%, a figure which can increase to up to 100% during prolonged periods of rain. Finally, the leather was put through 200,000 cycles on the Martindale Abrasion Test Machine.
Prime 2.0 PU came through these tests intact, which bodes well for real-world use. Of course, time and user feedback will be the real test, but it should inspire confidence that Secretlab is extending its warranty from 2 to 5 years, if you register under the company's 5-year Extended Warranty Program. The warranty only covers mechanical faults though and not wear-and-tear. (Update: Peeling of the PU leather is now covered under Secretlab's new peel protection guarantee.)
It's easy to talk about testing and abrasion cycles, but the bigger question is probably how the new PU leather feels in person. Fortunately, I still have an Omega 2018 for comparison, and the Prime 2.0 PU leather on the Omega 2020 feels softer and slightly more supple. That aside, there don't appear to be any obvious visual differences. Then there are the small details like stitching and logo embroidery, which are pretty much impeccable. The stitching follows the curves and angles of the chair perfectly, and I think these small details go a long way toward creating an impression of quality.
There is one change that you'll definitely notice though, and that's the new and improved arm rest design. These are still so-called 4D armrests, which means you can move them along the the x-, y-, and z-axis, in addition to swivel adjustments. However, what's changed is the fact that they now sport a full-metal internal mechanism that is far smoother than before. A look underneath also reveals an attractive black chrome plating.
More importantly, the adjustments feel so much more fluid. They're also easier to make, especially with regards to the left-and-right adjustments. You can now almost feel the metal parts rolling smoothly over each other, whereas before you had to sort of grapple with the arm rests to make the same changes. The button to make the front-to-back adjustments is also now flush with the arm rest, and is made of the same black chrome as the rest of the mechanism. You also now have to push this button in order to swivel the arm rest, which should prevent any accidental changes that might have occurred before.
Additionally, the arm rests are topped by a plush PU coating that is really comfortable to rest your elbows on.
As a final touch, there's a "Designed by Secretlab" metal badge fitted to the sides of the arm rests. It's pretty discreet, and I find that it adds a nice bit of character to the chair.
The cold-cure foam is also slightly different from before. Secretlab says it's tweaked it slightly to be more consistent, and the entire thing is cured from a single aluminum mold. This is a subtle change that you probably won't notice since it's not like the previous iteration had super obvious hard and soft spots, but it's nice knowing that even this aspect of the chair was reworked. Personally, I can't really tell the difference when switching between the Omega 2018 and 2020, but suffice to say that the chair is still really comfortable, even after long hours.
Upon closer inspection though, it seemed to me like the side wings that frame the seat feel ever so slightly firmer than they did on the 2018 model (and consequently, more in line with the seat itself), although I may just be imagining things. Someone sitting on the Omega 2020 for the first time might immediately be struck by how firm and dense the foam feels, but I think that's a good thing, since it means better support. And while the foam may be dense, it's not unyielding, so it's still really nice to sit on.
There are also the same recline and multi-tilt mechanisms found on the Omega 2018, so it's quite possible to take a nap in the chair with its 165° of recline.
The memory foam lumbar pillow remains one of my favorite parts of the chair. It feels ever so plush and fits my lower back perfectly, and it's really a big help in terms of strain relief. With the 2020 series however, Secretlab is also extending the memory foam treatment to its head pillows. I haven't exactly been a fan of the previous polyester pillows as I found them too springy and a bit lackluster in terms of supporting your neck.
Well, no more. The new memory foam pillows are glorious, and they happily conform to the shape of your head or neck. One nifty inclusion is the layer of cooling gel on the pillow, which helps dissipate heat more quickly. I can't say precisely how effective this is, since I don't have an equivalent memory foam pillow to compare it with, but the pillow does feel cooler than the lumbar cushion after a while.
The pillow also now comes with an adjustable strap, so you can lengthen the strap and have the pillow sit lower down the chair, great news for midgets like me. I used to unceremoniously cast the pillow aside on the previous models, but I'm now more than happy to keep it on.
Finally, the Omega 2020 is getting XL PU caster wheels by default. The XL PU casters were previously only available on the larger Titan, although you could technically buy them separately and install them yourself. That said, it's nice to see that they're now the standard option on the Omega 2020.
If I had one complaint, it would be that Secretlab hasn't added new colors for its 2020 line. At launch, the Omega 2020 will be available in Stealth, Black, Classic, Amber, Royal, and Ash colorways, in addition to the SoftWeave Fabric versions.
The Secretlab Omega 2020 features impeccable build quality and upgrades grounded in rigorous research and lab testing. The 2020 model is its best chair yet, and Secretlab has quite possibly outdone itself here.
However, the upgrades mean that there's been a slight uptick in price. The Omega 2020 will retail at S$499 directly from Secretlab, while the SoftWeave models will cost S$529. Secretlab may no longer have the undisputed pricing advantage that it had when it first launched, but I think it's worked hard to keep prices reasonable, and the improvements have more than justified the price increases along the way. The S$30 price bump is a small price to pay for the upgrades you're getting, and the Omega 2020 continues to be a very attractive offering, both from a price and features standpoint. Whether you're several hours into a marathon gaming session or crying into your porridge after binging eight seasons of Game of Thrones, this chair's pretty much got your back.