Focal Mobis Upright Seat Review
Another winner from Focal. Investing in a Mobis stool is an easy way to get up on your feet without risking the aches and pains of a standing workday. While it takes some time to get used to a new way of working, the leaning position encouraged by the Mobis is ergonomic and relatively intuitive. Accessibility, combined with portability and a slick, modern aesthetic, make the Mobis the ideal entry-level seat for an upright office.
Focal's newest product has proven to be both comfortable and easy to use. The Mobis chair is a great way to get workers up on their feet without the experiencing the discomfort of a standing workday. A well-designed saddle seat cushions without being excessively plush, while a carrying handle and lightweight make the Mobis an ideal portable office seat.
Newbie-friendly though the Mobis is, there's still a learning curve to the leaning workday. Some users may feel a little unstable at first, but that goes for just about any leaning stool or "active chair". Like other leaning chairs. it can be uncomfortable for your legs after a while.
New Kid on the Block
We’ve been waiting on the Mobis for months now. Focal’s been dangling, we’ve been drooling – and then we finally got one in for testing. The prototype arrived, we set it up, and got to sitting. Right away we noticed some similarities in terms of form and function, not just to Focal’s previous leaning seats, but also to the Muvman, a long-time leader of the active chair category.
Seriously, take a look:
You’ll notice a few things in common visually. Check out the handles, the angled central cylinders, and the weighted bases for a start. It’s more than a skin-deep resemblance – both the Mobis and the Muvman are small-footprint leaning stools with wide ranges of height-adjustment and tilting bases. Sound a little jumbled? We’ll break it down, give you a practical review of the category, then go into the differences between Mobis and Muvman.
All About Leaning
Exercise balls, kneeling chairs, and now leaning stools. Yep, alternate office seating trends tend to come and go in waves, and leaning stools are undeniably the next big one. Aeris – the company behind the Muvman – actually helped kick the category off with the Swopper, an old-school active stool that helped pave the way for products like the Varier, the Kore, and the Wobble Stool. They changed the game again with the Muvman, the first widely-used leaning chair. Focal Upright is relatively new to the scene, but they’ve already produced some great products such as the Locus and Mogo leaning chairs.
So, what is a leaning chair? Short answer, it’s a chair that places a worker in a sitting/standing hybrid position we refer to as “leaning”. Instead of sitting on a leaning chair, a user settles onto it while remaining on their feet. This largely upright posture keeps weight on the feet, which helps keep a body active. But, since the seat takes some weight, you also won’t feel the results of a full day spent standing (general consensus: too much standing hurts). Leaning takes some getting used to, but we’ve found it to be a comfortable position, and an easy one to work from.
The Mobis is designed to be both ergonomic and user-friendly. A slight (5°) forward tilt to the Mobis’ central cylinder helps establish the “tripod” formation common to leaning chairs, with a user’s feet forming two points, and the angled seat providing the third. Ten inches of height adjustment make it possible to vary position while using a Mobis. Drop the seat down, and you’ll find yourself closer to sitting; raise it up, and you’ll be in a vertical, leaning posture.
Unlike other leaning chairs, the Mobis comes with a relatively narrow range of “wiggle”. A stiff joint in the base of the Mobis affords some tilt – 5° to either side, and 7° forward (plus a natural 5° incline) – but not nearly as much as Focal’s ultra-bendy Locus seat. It’s still possible to make small fidgeting motions on a Mobis, and without the gut-check that occasionally comes with doing so on a more widely-adjustable chair. Some users might miss the flexibility of other options, but we suspect that most are going to appreciate the relative stability of the Mobis.
User-friendly to the last, Mobis chairs are also highly portable. That cutout to the rear of the seat pan isn’t some strange coccyx-accommodating feature, it’s a handle. A relatively trim weight of 15.6 lbs makes relocating a Mobis much easier than shifting a full-size chair. We found the feature especially handy, and often found ourselves hauling a Mobis over to a coworker’s desk for a quick leaning meeting.
A small base-plate also allowed us to plunk the Mobis down just about anywhere we wanted to. We can’t recommend it as a treadmill-topper as we do the Mogo, but it’s a fine choice for anyone looking to squeeze a chair in next to their walking treadmill. They also make a fine seat in a conference room environment. Upright meetings are a growing trend, and devices like the Mobis ensure that everyone walks away with comfortable feet.
You Come at the King…
So that’s all well and good, but there’s an elephant in the room we need to address. Sort of an elephant anyway, more of a chair. Alright, not an elephant, but it does come in gray – let’s talk about the Muvman.
All those features we listed earlier? They’re great, but they could just as easily apply to the Muvman. The two chairs follow extremely similar blueprints, and very good ones at that. But so far, all we’ve really discovered is that leaning chairs are a smart investment. It’s time to get down to brass tacks and talk about which leaning chair is the smarter investment.
Price is among the most notable differences between the two. Mobis stools run an average of around $50 less than Muvmans. Not only that, but they’re likely to last a little bit longer. Instead of the spring strut used in the Muvman, Focal chose to use a dense “hockey puck” of flexible material to give the Mobis its bend. The result is a simpler mechanism, and likely a more durable one. Mobises come with a solid five-year guarantee from Focal, while Muvmans are protected for three years.
The seats of the two are also clearly different. Leaning chairs need to have a seat that can accommodate a leaning user – obvious, but trickier than you might think. A leaning user doesn’t settle in on top of a chair. Instead, he places the bulk of his weight on the front half of the seat and angles himself against it. This position naturally places the leading edge of the seat pan against the back of a leaner’s upper thighs. Fail to compensate for the pressure this exerts and the results can be…unpleasant. Fortunately, both Focal and Aeris solved this problem, but took different steps to do it. Muvmans come with a simple, rounded cushion top. An extra-pliable leading edge – the “flexzone” – lets a user perch against the seat without cutting into the thighs. The Mobis, on the other hand, comes with one of Focal’s trademark tractor seats. A downward angled seat pan and two channels for a user’s thighs encourage an open-hipped, spread-legged stance – awkward to describe, but ergonomically sound. Choosing between the two is largely a matter of taste, though it’s worth mentioning that heavier users may find the wide seat pan of the Mobis more comfortable.
One thing we miss about the Locus is its angled, cushioned foot mat. It keeps your feet in a neutral position perpendicular to your legs while you’re in a leaning position. Without the mat you’re liable to develop aches in the Tibialis muscles in front of your shin, because your feet are extending at an odd angle to meet the floor. In that sense the Mobis – and the Muvman, for that matter – are less comfortable for longer sitting durations.
Hard to say. The Muvman has been around for years, while the Mobis is a relative newborn. We don’t think that this Focal brainchild is going to completely supplant a product as slick as the Muvman, but it stacks up favorably in terms of price, durability, and functionality. Usurper? Maybe. Worthy competitor? Definitely.