With the work-at-home changes that many people have undergone this past year, it’s no wonder that comfortable and durable office chairs are seeing a rise. The bucket-seat design of gaming chairs in particular is seeing quite the boom. Enter the COUGAR Explore S gaming chair, a new mid-sized offering from a company that’s known for their gaming gear. But in such a highly competitive market, does the Explore S bring enough to the table - or desk - to be worthy of your backside? Here’s our review of the COUGAR Explore S gaming chair.
- Current Price: $224.90 (Newegg)
- Size: Mid
- Diamond Check Pattern Design: Yes
- Surface: Perforated Premium PVC Leather (orange) with Carbon Fiber Texture (black)
- High-Density Mold Shaping Foam: Yes
- 5-Star Base Material: Steel
- Advanced Tilt Mechanism: Yes, Continuous 155º Reclining
- Armrest Directions: 3D
- Wheel Size: 3”
- Weight Limit: 120 kg (264 lbs.)
- Total Dimension: 24.8” x 28.74” x 52.36”Product Weight: 49.60 lbs.
For most furniture - and even most packages I order online - the care with which they are packaged and delivered are a major influencer in my first impression of something. Unfortunately, the box that the COUGAR Explore S came in was pretty badly beaten up and had some major holes in the side from where parts of the chair had punctured out. I inspected all of the parts of the chair and to my relief, there were no signs of damage to any of the components. The packaging inside was sparser than I had anticipated, but they performed their job amicably, and not a scratch was found.
The box was fairly large but despite that, the Explore S only had a few pieces for assembly: the seat, the back, the metal base, and the wheels. All in all, this was the least convoluted chair assembly that I’ve ever had to do. I was impressed that so many components were already pre-assembled or were installed as placeholders for ease of assembly. For example, the armrests came pre-installed to the base of the seat so I didn’t have to worry about those. Likewise, many of the screws were already set in-place for where I needed to attach them.
This was nice because I didn’t have to worry about losing any screws from the packaging - they were right on the chair itself - and I don’t have to try and compare which screw is which and get lost. This did mean that I had that extra little step to first unscrew them out before I could attach parts like the tilt control seat mechanism to the bottom of the seat. Once that was done, I simply snapped the large 3” caster wheels into the steel wheelbase, positioned the gas cylinder, and set the seat on top. The back screwed onto the seat via 2 screws on each side and was covered with plastic pieces to both hide the metal and prevent it from catching onto things. All in all this was one of the quickest and easiest assemblies for any piece of furniture, but definitely for a new gaming chair.
Right off the bat, the COUGAR Explore S is visually striking and was a noticeable improvement over my other two racing-style office chairs. The diamond pattern on the seat and backing are accented by the orange threading which matches the orange sides around the seat and lumbar regions of the chair. It's also perforated to increase airflow and prevent both the leather seats and you from overheating. The PVC leather has a nice soft feeling to it that almost made me think it was the thinner PU leather at first. PVC leather is usually tougher and more durable since it’s made of multiple layers as opposed to PU leather which is generally thinner and more porous to give it a more authentic leather feeling. For an office chair, PVC leather is definitely preferred since it won’t retain stains and will last a lot longer.
Aesthetically, the Explore S looks more at home in a gaming environment than an office and has a side-profile that really sets it apart, especially against my other office chairs. The backside of the chair curves out more which gives it both a more premium look as well as seems to hide some of the bulkiness of the chair itself. For only being a mid-size chair that can support up to 264 lbs., it’s much larger than either of my other gaming chairs. The stitching around the headrest is squared out, which seems to allow more padding in the actual head area and better hides the metal frame inside. My other chairs are rounded around these areas, and you can clearly feel the frame underneath its curves.
The Explore S is very comfortable to sit in initially and the padding in the seat and back are firm without feeling too hard or painful. There’s plenty of cushioning in the seats, but I could feel the frame of the seat against my thighs along the side, where the seat curves up towards the armrests. It’s not enough to feel painful, but they definitely let me know that they were there. The Explore S is really nice to lean back in, and I found myself struggling to maintain a healthy posture while sitting up. Part of the reason is that the seat is set at an angle and curves down towards the back. I originally thought this was due to improper assembly but turns out is just the design. Unfortunately, this does play havoc when trying to maintain an ergonomic posture but is fantastic for slouched gaming sessions
There’s also a padded bump in the seat towards the front which, I imagine, is to help keep the legs separated for a more grounded stance on the ground. What it actually does is helps to push your legs into the previously mentioned frame on the sides. I may be a bit big weighing in at 220 lbs. - but the Explore S has a limit of 264 lbs. If anything, I should feel great sitting in the Explore S. Instead, I only feel cramped. When I’m not worried about my back or my posture, the Explore S seems almost perfectly calibrated for lounging in. But trying to do a day’s work while at home in it? I had to take multiple stretch breaks to relieve my backside.
Admittedly, it also took me a bit longer in getting properly adjusted and finding the right settings for the seat height and pillow positionings. The lumbar pillow stays about midway up along the back for me. The back lumbar pillow is comfortable, but I did find that I had to manually readjust it often. I had to move the headrest pillow entirely from where it was strapped around the open holes in the back and reposition it around the top of the headrest instead. So far after a week of use, the elastic bands around both pillows seem to be holding up well, but these types of bands do have a habit of losing their elasticity over time through normal wear and tear.
I do have a bit of an issue with the back of the chair though. The stylistic holes in the back shoulder area of the chair are encased in plastic, presumably so that the lumbar pillow’s straps don’t rub against the leather material. Unfortunately, these plastic coverings protrude a little bit too much and if I am leaning back in the chair, they are angled uncomfortably into the outside of my shoulder blades. It’s not an issue for the majority of use, but if you have a larger frame - like I do apparently - then the positioning of these plastic pieces are a literal pain.
Second, the armrests are both entirely too short and too far forward for me to utilize in any capacity. The 3D armrests have three degrees of mobility: sliding forwards and backward, twisting from side to side in place, and moving up and down. Unfortunately, these are not the 4D armrests that are on other COUGAR chairs that can also swivel the entire arm of the armrest around the seat. While sitting at my desk and trying to adjust the Explore S to fit ergonomically, the armrests couldn’t even reach my elbows. Unfortunately, in no way was I able to position the armrests into being usable. This may not be an issue for those with smaller frames, but at 5’ 11” I feel like the armrests should be able to lift higher so that I could actually support my elbows on them. (Ed. Note: Another writer on our team with a 5’8” build also tested the chair and didn’t experience this issue).
For those who can utilize them, however, the armrests are relatively nice to lean on. The cushioning has a surprising amount of give which isn’t immediately apparent from just pressing down on it with your fingers which initially feels like hard plastic. In my attempts to conduct extensive elbow testing, I did not find a position that pinched a nerve or became uncomfortable after extended periods of time. The foam material covers the entire top of the armrest and there aren’t any jagged, hard parts to the corners or around the edges.
The most impressive aspect of the Explore S to me are the large caster wheels. The extra-large 3” wheels easily glide along any surface - even carpet. These are the same wheels that come on COUGAR’s Armor Titan Pro, which is their largest chair offering. My office is entirely carpeted, and the Explore S is undoubtedly the smoothest ride I’ve had in any of my chairs. For short to medium pile carpet, the Explore S should be able to navigate smoothly.
The COUGAR Explore S looks like a dream. It’s stylish, with a beautiful mostly-black design and orange accent. The PVC leather is soft to the touch, and the perforated seat and back allow for more airflow than other gaming chairs. The large wheels roll around smoothly, completely uninhibited by carpet. It’s feature-complete, with 3D armrests and can recline up to 155 degrees. It’s everything that a gamer could want in a racing chair. Unfortunately, it’s just uncomfortable.
I constantly have to readjust the lumbar pillow, and my posture has worsened over the week that I’ve been using it. I have frequently had to stop working and stretch out my back. I really wanted to like the Explore S, but its design is antithetical to having an ergonomic setup. It doesn’t help that the armrests are entirely unusable. The only benefit of the doubt that I can provide it is that maybe the Explore S would be more comfortable, and more usable, for a shorter person. I’m within the specs provided, but it feels the most cramped I’ve ever felt in an office chair. If you’re looking for a new addition to your work-from-home setup or if you’re a streamer looking for a new eye-catching chair, I probably wouldn’t recommend the COUGAR Explore S gaming chair if you can afford to save up a bit more. At the current pricing of $269.99 -- $224.90 at Newegg as of this writing -- it's not a bad buy.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.