Sep 10, 2010

Ann Tancio

The Sumo Sway Couple


About two years ago, I was charged with a rather unusual review for gamedev, the Sumo Urban Lounge Gear, which is a set of high quality beanbag chairs intended for gaming and lounging and other activities that one would typically do in front of the TV. Well, it is two years later and the Sumo guys wanted me to check out another chair for them.

So I figured I would give the new chair a look as well as give a little testimony as to how well the originals have fared two years later.

Durability Two Years Later

Actually I am proud to attest that after two years of the original Sumo Otto and Omni getting punched, kicked, and flopped-into a couple-hundred times, they look about as good as the day they arrived. They managed to avoid any tears or permanent stains despite being treated like. . .like beanbag chairs for two years. And that says a lot, given that two human years is a long time in teen-friendly-furniture years. After all, this is not a $2000 sofa that is intended to be passed down to the grandkids in 40 years. This is a big floppy bag of plastic beads that is intended to be punched into a comfy shape and then pressed into service propping up an XBox-hypnotized teen for a couple of hours.


Figure 1: My six year-old on the Sumo Omni (two years ago)

The Sumo Sway

Sumo’s latest piece is the “Sway”, which is a much more substantial piece. The Omni arrived in a reasonably small box, achieved by sucking all the air out of the unit and wrapping it tightly in plastic. The Sway Couple arrived in a gigantic heavy box about the size of a dryer. After wrestling the giant box into the living room and then peeling the box out from around the chair, we were presented with something WAY more furniture-like than the Omni.


Figure 2: Publicity shot of the Sumo Sway Couple

The Sway is quite a different piece from the Omni. The Omni is a big square beanbag chair that seems to migrate around the room and in and out of the closet as needed. At least it does with our 8 year-old. If she wants to watch a video on her computer, it will be dragged into her room. If the neighborhood kids are tired of standing while playing Wii games, it will be dragged into the living room to become the communal furniture for one or more lazy kids.

The Sway Couple does not migrate. For one, it is too wide to fit through a standard door. Second, it weighs quite a lot and is not easily moved, although it is a circle if viewed from above and can be turned on its side and rolled. In other words, this thing is not “alternative” or “temporary” furniture. This thing IS furniture. Just like you would not buy a La-Z-Boy with the intention of dragging it to the center of the room whenever you wanted to play a game, the Sumo Sway really wants a permanent place to stay.


Figure 3: Publicity shot of the Sumo Sway Single


The Sumo Sway is the finest example of “the chair you cannot leave” that I have ever seen. Ever sit in one of those overstuffed couches that you cannot leave because (A) it is really comfortable and (B) you are sitting at an angle such that you cannot easily change your equilibrium and stand up? Well, the Sumo Sway is even WORSE. This thing is a plush gravity-well.


The Sway is available in microsuede and corduroy. I ordered the corduroy version, as I recalled wearing lots of Sears-brand trousers made out of that stuff as a kid and very rarely being able to wear them out. The fabric is quite tough and breathes very well so it does not get uncomfortable after a long time. Note that both the microsuede and corduroy are absorbent fabrics (microsuede is a man-made fabric with a suede-like finish, not actual leather), so it is not as stain-proof as the woven plastic ones. While one of those Lysol wet-wipes would get just about any dirt or pen marks off the Omni and Otto, you will have a problem if you dump a soda on the Sway. The cover is not removable, so you could not just peel it and toss the cover in the wash. Some mild carpet cleaner would take care of minor stains, but you might be looking at a steam cleaner if you managed to dump a cup of chocolate milk on the thing.

As I mentioned before, the Sway is very heavy for what is, at its heart, a beanbag chair. That is because it is packed very tightly with small foam rubber chunks rather than styrofoam beads. It does not deform much at all when you sit. I am sure it will, like an old sofa cushion, soften up after months or years of ownership, but as I received it it was every bit as substantial as the other furniture in my living room, only without an underlying wood structure.

If you look at the picture, you can see that it is not just a shapeless blob. There is a large horizontal “crease” running down the middle. This is sewn to a fabric panel inside the chair that extends through the unit and is attached at the bottom. Hence the chair actually has two chambers in it that give it its chair shape. And it will not be losing that shape. Again, this is not a “punch it into any shape you want” chair like the Omni.


Figure 4: The same kid as the first picture, two years older and enjoying the Sway.
It has become her favorite “grab the netbook and watch cartoons” furniture.

As a result of the fabric and construction, the Sumo Sway is a lot quieter than conventional beanbag chairs. The stiff vinyl coupled with the plastic stuffing rendered the Omni and Otto fairly “rustly” until you were fully settled in. The Sway, due to its construction, does not make a sound.

It is also good for naps, as much of the family can attest.


While it looks similar, the Sumo Sway is quite a bit different from the Sumo chairs I reviewed two years ago. It is much larger and heavier and more substantial than your standard beanbag chair. It is really more like a conventional lounge chair, only with its stuffing and fabric holding its shape rather than an internal “skeleton”.

Mind you, I am now in my 40’s and have a house full of conventional furniture, but if I was back in my college or young-single days, I would have been the envy of the apartment complex with this thing.

The price is between $250 and $300 depending if you want the single or double and what fabric you want. That’s expensive compared to a standard beanbag chair, but is pretty reasonable compared to a recliner, which is really more this chair’s class. Between the two chairs, you should probably stick with the Sway Couple, as the chair is quite a bit larger without being much more expensive.

Just make sure you have the space.

If your taste in furnishings runs toward the casual and you have the space and the laptop /XBox, then get the Sumo Sway. Heck, expense it as office furniture for your new office, as it will be undoubtedly be cheaper than an office chair and a desk.

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