Office chairs have been both the bane of my life and the saviour of my spine. In my office work days, in a criminally underfunded NHS department, the geriatric office chair I was assigned left me with frequent backache and tight muscles in my shoulders from hunching. The Boulies EP400, however, would have been a joy to use; it’s heavy on the ergonomics with almost every element being adjustable.
I got the EP400 in for testing over several weeks, and shared use of it with my partner over the testing period to see how it functions with different-height users (I’m 5’4 and he is 6’3), and whether it can compete with the best office chairs for back pain out there.
Boulies EP400: Key specifications
|Adjustable backrest angle (95°, 113°, 125°, 135°)
|Row 1 - Cell 0
|Row 2 - Cell 0
|Built-in dynamic lumbar support
|Row 3 - Cell 0
|Seat depth adjustment
|Row 4 - Cell 0
|Hydraulic gas lift (Class 4)
|Row 5 - Cell 0
|Adjustable head support
|Row 6 - Cell 0
|2 years limited warranty
The Boulies EP400 came packaged in a large box and ideally should be built in the room you want to keep it in as it’s pretty heavy when fully constructed. The pieces were separately wrapped in plastic with the instructions on top and the nuts, bolts and Allen key were conveniently packaged together. Putting the chair together was a relatively straightforward job (although I am known for my love of building flatpack furniture); there are a couple of tricky moments where I could have done with an assistant but I built it in about 25 minutes.
The assembly hardware was pretty solid — the bolts were all engraved with their type, which was a thoughtful touch, and there were spares provided for that inevitable ‘bounces-off-into-the-corner-never-to-be-seen-again’ moment. The L-shaped Allen key provided good torque but it was a little tricky to get into some of the tighter corners because of its length.
The only confusing moment during assembly was that one of the photos in the manual is reversed (or there is a version with the levers on the other side) which gave me a minute’s pause while I figured out if it was going together correctly, but otherwise the directions were clear and easy to follow and the holes for the bolts were a tight, solid fit, so they felt like they’d last. And they’d better; the bolts for the head and the spinal supports are then concealed behind a snap-in non-removable plastic cover, so if they come undone you’ll need to do some damage to the chair to screw them back in again.
Design and features
The Boulies EP400 is designed to look sleek and modern, and for the most part it achieves its brief. The model I received was in a light grey with a grey mesh fabric. The fabric I like functionally, as mesh is great for when the weather heats up, but the pattern is a little off-putting to my eyes.
My main concern with the grey of the chair is how it will stand up to several years of UV, as grey plastic does have a tendency to yellow after a while. Given that offices aren’t always havens of natural light, however, it’ll probably be quite a long time before yellowing is an issue.
Essentially, it’s unlikely to win any major design awards, but it’s sleek for an office chair.
An element of the Boulies EP400 that I've not really encountered before is the leg hammock, which swings out of the base to support your legs when you lean back. It’s a neat idea but I’m not sure how well it’ll stand up to regular use; there’s a lot of flex in the hammock piece and it’s in the perfect location to put your feet on rather than rest your legs, which adds pressure it’s not designed for.
The adaptability of the Boulies EP400’s armrests could also be their downfall; they move a lot, and as there is no way to lock them into one position they constantly shift as you use the chair. As they move forwards and backwards as well as about 30 degrees left and right, they presumably were designed to provide constant support whatever position you use them in but in practice they’re never in quite the right place.
User experience and comfort
As a woman of 5’4, which is the UK’s average female height, the Boulies EP400 is not designed for me, which is disappointing: their recommended height range is 5’7-6’3. While my feet are mostly on the floor on the lowest setting, having a chair that is too high puts strain on the lower back that completely negates the value of decent lumbar support. While many average-height-and-below office workers compensate with foot rests, the fact is that most office chairs are designed to be too high for more than one half of the world’s population.
The Boulies EP400 does have multiple adaptable elements. The seat depth, seat height, arm height and arm position are all easily altered, as is the neck support and seat angle. It takes a little while to get used to the lumbar support, which is deep, but it does provide good support in different positions. Unfortunately as mentioned above the arms do shift around as you use them (they offer three different rotations but there isn’t a lever to lock rotation). They’re also hard plastic rather than padded, making them a bit less comfortable to rest on. The castors are solid and easy to move, and the aluminium base is very sturdy.
Should I buy the Boulies EP400?
You don’t buy office chairs that often and given that a bad one can really mess up your back, it’s worth investing in a decent one. The Boulies EP400 is a decent price for a decent chair; at £289/$359, it’s a solid, affordable choice that should last. I’d recommend the black model for longevity unless the light grey is a key style element for your office, but either way it feels like a chair that will stand the test of time. The hammock’s longevity remains to be seen but it’s an interesting element that makes an otherwise relatively ordinary chair stand out from the crowd. If you’re looking to check out more options within a similar price bracket, we’ve compared a wide range of office chairs for you to find the right one for you.
The Boulies EP400 is a good investment for users who like strong lumbar support and adjustability but won’t suit buyers who are shorter than 5’4 or are particular about their armrests. While the grey plastic looks solid rather than cheap, the black finish is probably easier to maintain in the long run. We were also interested by the leg hammock but time will tell how sturdy it actually is.