SecretLab is one of Singapore’s most successful multinational companies in recent years. With sponsorship deals in the largest esports events and collaborations with Fashion and entertainment brands, it is hard to not know about SecretLab chairs.
Well, their crack marketing team, my new WFH tuition job and slick product videos coaxed me into getting a new chair for my room to replace my existing Ikea Leifarne. I mean, just look at how the animations sync with the beat. /
Ever since my purchase in November 2021, I have used the chair almost everyday for studies, Netflix, and writing blogs like this (follow our Instagram if you haven’t). Here’s a rundown of everything from my initial purchase to how the chair held up over the 6 months. Let’s dive in.
- Purchasing Experience
- Delivery and Assembly
- Issues I Faced
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Based on anecdotal experiences from my friends and Reddit in Singapore, I learned that getting a leather chair in our hot and humid climate is a big no-no. Besides the extremely limited breathability, leather generally doesn’t go well with moist air.
Many Singaporeans, including my friend with leather SecretLab chairs, faced issues with peeling, and it wasn’t a pleasant look.
The issue was so widespread that SecretLab had to offer a special Replacement Program in Singapore where users with 2018 series chairs can obtain a replacement of the seat base and backrest for free or at heavily subsidised prices, depending on the state of warranty.
SecretLab even had to retweak their old PRIME™ 2.0 PU Leather leather formula to include more synthetic compounds in order to lessen the peeling. The result was PRIME™ 2.0 PU Leather that is 12x more durable than its predecessor.
But Leather is Leather, and as a person that sweats easily, I decided to get the SoftWeave Plus models. Right off the bat, the colour and design options for the fabric chairs are noticeably much lesser than the leather counterparts. I’m talking 8 variants vs 34 variants.
Another thing I noticed was that the SoftWeave Plus models are S$30 more expensive than the leather ones, barring the collaboration designs that cost a premium of up to S$170.
After doing some research, I pulled the trigger during the Black Friday Week last November and got the S-sized Arctic White SoftWeave Plus chair for S$589 (It costs S$679 now, blame inflation for that). I paid for my chair using Atome which offered a S$50 discount for new users.
For the uninitiated, Atome is a Buy Now Pay Later service that allows consumers to split their purchase into 3 interest-free repayments while offering discounts for doing so. The final amount I paid was S$539 and I waited patiently for my chair.
Delivery and Assembly
I purchased the Chair on a Friday and was pleasantly surprised they offered a next day delivery slot at no extra charge. The chair arrived within my selected time slot in a gigantic box that was much heavier than I expected.
Opening the box revealed the back rest, seat base, armrests, wheelbase among others. Assembly service costs S$29, but it looked simple enough on Youtube videos that I decided to save the money.
SecretLab includes a Tool Kit in every box consisting of an Allen Key, Magnetic Screwdriver Handle and a Reversible Phillips + Hex Screw Bit so we don’t have to dig around our house for the required tools.
The bulk of the box’s weight came from the metallic wheel base that supports the sturdy tilt mechanism. Nonetheless, I got to work assembling the chair by following the huge assembly guide provided in the box.
I appreciate the use of magnets in the head pillow, armrests and side covers (to hide the screws from plain view) that made assembly a piece of cake. The chair smelled like a new car and the experience felt great.
After taking a seat on my completed chair and trying out the tilt mechanism, I noticed a creaking sound on the adaptive backrest everytime I leaned back. I wrote it off as I was told it would go away as the material settles in (more on this later).
Ok, why would you get this chair again besides the flashy designs? There are 4 reasons:The 4-Way adjustable lumbar support system, Sturdy 165° multi-tilt mechanism, Magnetic swappable armrests and pillows, and the new breathable materials.
4-Way Adjustable Lumbar Support System
The main upgrade over the older 2020 series is the lumbar support system. The current iteration offers 2 additional directions (up and down) along with the original in and out, allowing the lattice of hinges to adapt to our spine.
This is a welcome upgrade given the height of the lumbar support and the level of curvature is different for every person’s spine. The way you can adjust the position and level of support is through the adjustment knobs located on the sides of the chair.
The knob on the right controls the curvature of the lumbar support. Turning it downwards increases the curvature of the lattices and provides more support to the spine. Turning it upwards will decrease the curvature of the lattices and lessen the support to the spine.
For me, tuning the curvature to half of its maximum was sufficient and it adequately keeps my posture upright.
The knob on the left controls the height of the lumbar support. Turning it downwards lowers the position of the lattices and turning it upwards does the opposite. If you are a taller person, chances are that the position of the lattices need to be higher.
I am quite impressed with the ability to adjust the lumbar just the way I want it. There is no fixed shape or height, and anyone you share this chair with is able to tune the lumbar to mould to their body. This is a feature not many chairs offer.
Unfortunately though, the creaking noises made when leaning back chipped away at some of the confidence I had for this system.
Sturdy 165° Multi-tilt Mechanism
Like many chairs, the Titan Evo 2022 series provides a recline mechanism for you to lean back and relax between work. There are two lever handles below the seat base: The one on the right adjusts the height, and the one on the left toggles the tilt lock.
The tilt lock lever when flipped up locks the angle at which the seat base is elevated at, and prevents any further adjustments. This is great for people who are occasionally looking at screens above their eye level.
If you are worried that the tilt of the chair is too sensitive, fret not as the tilt tension can be tuned using the adjustment knob located at the bottom of the mechanism.
Apart from the tilt mechanism, the chair also offers up to 165° of recline, allowing you to lie almost completely flat on the chair. This is done by engaging the recline lever located on the right of the seat base.
Thanks to the chair weighing at a hefty 33.5kg, I never once felt like I was going to fall off while it’s fully reclined with the tilt lock disengaged. I can totally see myself taking short naps in between the day in this comfortable position, so props to SecretLab for that.
As mentioned earlier, the Evo 2022 series leans heavily on the use of magnets, especially in the head pillow and armrests. In older versions, the head pillow was fixed in position using straps that go around the top portion of the chair, with little height adjustment options. The armrests were also not swappable.
The newer head pillow attaches itself magnetically on the top portion of the chair. You can place the pillow at different heights, provided you are placing it in the magnetic region. I found the adjustment range to be somewhat sufficient, though I wished there was more leeway for the pillow to be placed lower.
The threading on the Pillow started to fray after 2 to 3 months, which was quite disappointing given the price I paid for this chair. For context, I usually keep the backs and the side of my hair short, so my short and spiky hair is probably the culprit for this.
No, this is not covered in the warranty, so if I want to get a brand new pillow, it would cost me S$89. I’m not sure why SecretLab would want to sew their logo on such a high contact region. The pillow also cannot be cleaned by throwing it into the washing machine, so dry cleaning is the only way to maintain it.
Magnetic Swappable Armrests
Next, the clicky buttons around the armrests allow for adjustments in all 3 axises: Engaging the outer buttons brings the armrest up or down, holding down the first inner button while moving the armrests brings it in or out, and the second inner button allows the armrest to move from side to side.
The swappable armrests allow for replacements and upgrades over the existing PU foam ones. Currently, the only upgrade that can be found in the SecretLab Store is Secretlab Technogel Premium Armrest Top.
This widely used material in hospitals and industries is apparently cool to the touch and helps disperse heat for thermoregulation. And it costs a hefty S$99, great. Why didn’t this Technogel material come with the S$589 chair? For more profit of course.
The PU armrest that came with the chair sustained some scratches and discolouration over the course of 6 months. No matter how hard I tried to remove or alleviate these damages, they just wouldn’t budge.
The act of removing the armrests wears down on the inner side since the magnets are strong. Accidental bumps don’t usually knock the armrests off, but there are some occasions where my elbow unintentionally dislodges the armrests.
Both of these situations lead to the accumulation of scratches and peels on the inner side of the arm rest. It’s just not a good look.
The armrests also don’t feel particularly rigid since there is some movement even with the slightest of strength. It’s hard to put it in words, so here’s a quick video to demonstrate it.
Thanks to the iPhone 13 Pro’s Macro Mode, I was able to capture a close up shot of the SoftWeave Plus knitting. I noticed that the threads were spaced apart quite sufficiently to allow better ventilation.
True enough, I rarely sweat when I’m sitting on my chair even when the Air Conditioner is not on. Less sweat on the material means less discolouration and better longevity, so all’s good for SoftWeave Plus material’s build quality.
Issues I Faced
Remember when I said that there was a creaking noise when I leaned back on the lumbar support system, or when the threads on the pillows started fraying after a few months? Those weren’t the only teething problems that affected my experience with this chair, so let’s go into the others in greater detail.
Defective Lumbar System
1 day after I received and assembled the chair, I received an email from SecretLab titled “A note on excessive sound – Secretlab TITAN Evo”. The email highlighted issues with 2 of their new features that were supposed to improve the overall experience in the first place.
Since I didn’t own a NEO Hybrid Leatherette chair, I only had to read the first point. It stated that there might be sounds produced when the lumbar system is flexed and that breaking into it will help remove the sound. For those curious about what the sound is like, here’s a recording.
After 2 weeks of using the chair and adjusting the lumbar system according to what they said, the noise unfortunately persisted. I had to get a replacement, so I replied to the email. This would be the start of my unsatisfactory experience with the customer service team.
I provided the pertinent details and a video proof of the issue on 20 December and got a reply on the 21st saying a replacement backrest would be sent to me. Upon asking for more updates on 5 January, something peculiar happened: My email was blocked, claiming that “The response from the remote server was: 550 5.7.1 Delivery not authorised”.
To make sure it wasn’t a bug, I sent the same email three more times, only to be met with the same message. My best bet is that the customer service agent closed my ticket by accident, preventing me from replying further. I couldn’t get in touch with any of my existing agents, so I went to the SecretLab live chat to resend everything for a new ticket to be created.
6 Days later on 11 January, Calista reached out apologising for the lack of updates and promised they have scheduled a shipment sometime in February.
I patiently waited for February to come and asked for updates every 2 weeks. By the time my backrest arrived, it was 28 February. So they technically kept to their promise. The earliest service date offered to me however was a week later on 7 March.
On 7 March, the service agent came over and replaced my backrest in 15 minutes and the creaking sound no longer manifested.
It took 2.5 months for a faulty backrest to be replaced. I had to endure hearing those creaking sounds my first 3 months of owning the chair. For a company of this size, it is utterly disappointing.
Discolouration of Seat Base
Remember I got the chair in the Arctic White colour? It is probably a mistake to get a light coloured chair. After 3 months of owning the chair, I noticed some yellow discolouration on the seat base under direct light. I checked in with Customer Service and this is what they said:
I followed their advice, getting both their expensive Fabric Cleaner (S$39) and a foam based cleaner, ScotchGard (S$25) to try and remove the stains. When both cleaners failed to solve the issue, I replied to the email chain only to be asked to replace the seat base at my own cost (S$118).
Sure, these incidents are not covered by warranty, but having these stains persist just after 3 months of usage and getting the customer to foot the cleaning and replacement costs, it just doesn’t sit right.
For context, I never sit on my chair bare skinned, sweating, or after exercising. The “transfer of colour from darker fabrics” is par for the course and is disappointing that even SecretLab’s own cleaners are unable to get rid of it. If you are looking for a colour for your SecretLab chair, steer away from the Arctic White.
So where does this bring us? Is the SecretLab Titan Evo 2022 worth the price? Well, if not for the inadequate after sales experience, I would lean towards a “maybe”.
If you are someone who cares about fine-tuning the ergonomics of your chair to exactly how you like it, there are little chairs out there that offer this. The ability to adjust the lumbar support in 4 directions, ability to tune the armrests to match your shoulder and arm length and the presence of a tilt tension adjustment knob are quite impressive.
Like all items with unique selling points, the company behind it has free reign over the pricing since there is likely no exact same product that offers these features. As a result, we have gotten consistent price increases from S$589 in November, to S$659 in May.
Yes, the price I paid online in November is a discounted price, but if you notice, SecretLab chairs are always “discounted” by a factor of S$20 regularly, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the “UP” price is intentionally marked up.
The act of continuing to sell Evo 2022 Chairs with defective backrests they already know about is really iffy. Instead of replacing the whole batch of problematic chairs or putting a note on their product page acknowledging this issue, they continued quietly selling these products as if nothing happened. There really needs to be an improvement in the quality checks.
The onus is therefore on the customer to file a replacement request, and wait an unspecified amount of time for it to arrive. Sending the note about the potential defect just 1 day after the delivery and assembly of the chair just rubs it in further.
But if all these don’t really matter to you and all you want is a highly customisable and comfortable chair, and have the cash to splash, the Evo 2022 Chair is for you. But if your budget is limited and the features don’t apply much to you, look elsewhere for cheaper options.
Derrick (Yip Hern) founded Tech Composition to provide valuable insights into the tech and finance world. He loves to scour the web for the best deals and embark on software projects during his free time, a typical geek, right?