Gaming Trend

Jan 30, 2009

Ann Tancio


Hardware Review: Sumo Sultan Bean Bag Chair

Excuse me, there seems to be a Sumo at the door …
Roughly three weeks ago, I received a phone call from home with news that a 2.5 foot cube had arrived unannounced. When I got home and inspected the package I noticed two things immediately: it was a sturdy 50 pounds and it wasn’t a square so much as a ball with eight corners desperately fighting to stay together. In fact, were it not for the 6 nylon straps holding it together, I doubt I would have received a box at all. Being that this wasn’t something I had discussed with my girlfriend, and seeing as I have limited space in the rec room, we were going to decide where it was to go before it was to be opened. It was a tough decision – which of my many butt-holders would have to vacate the premises before I was to open the quivering box that held the Sumo Sultan?


Did I wait for said discussion? Well, funny things happen to unguarded boxes; it went unnoticed that somehow the nylon straps disappeared from the otherwise stable mass. Truly the only thing standing between the Sumo and freedom was glue and an ill-equipped layer of corrugated cardboard. Later that day I went downstairs to discover the cat was out of the bag – well, the bag was out of the box, and the cat was ON the bag. To be clear, the chair was not fully decompressed yet, but it made short work of it’s brown prison and was taking up the advertised 4.5 foot diameter. It wasn’t quite at its purported 3.5 foot height – looking through the 3 step instructions included I had found underneath the remnants of the cardboard box was: open the box, put the cover on, and knead it a little to speed up the decompression. They also recommend that you continue to do so every day for the next week to help it gain it’s full dimensions.


The “beans” come in their own sealed breathable bag and the micro suede cover comes separately. I’m not brave enough to open the bag as Ron had though; I’m contented to know that the beans feel like large chunks of shredded inch-and-a-half of foam rather than beans, and they stick together well. The micro-suede cover hides this even further; I had to unzip the bag to get a proper feel for an individual piece.

Once you have the cover on and it’s fully decompressed, it looks like a gigantic tire with the centre filled in. This means you have one of two starting points – lying down so it forms a natural circular shape and sits lower and a reinforced border. The other way is to position it on it’s side so it is sitting on the “tread” (stick with me on the tire analogy) which provides a better upright experience.

To test the properties of the Sultan, I put it through rigorous hours of gaming, movie watching, sleeping and even running and jumping on it. I’ve compared it to a gaming chair (L shaped rocker, generic and untainted with armrests, speakers and the like), a futon with a new mattress, as well as ye-olde-comfy-assed-chair-from-the-70’s. How did the Sultan hold up to my battery of tests? Let me break it down.

Game playing
This is why you’re here, for gameplay consideration, so I’ll get this out of the way now: the Sumo Sultan is a fantastic gaming chair. The foam compresses only so much, and sitting in it for extended periods beyond your initial contact only seems to compress it a little more. If you stand up to get a drink or take a break, you’ll find that your dent doesn’t go away, but the foam decompresses again. It also puts up with a significant amount of weight (given that I’m a pretty sturdy guy of average height). It fills in on your sides so you truly have it contour to your body. It isn’t quite as dramatic as handprints in memory foam, but it sure feels close.

It easily outclassed the L-shaped game rocker as it keeps you sitting much higher, even lying down. The one other drastic change is that it’s more comfortable. I found that rockers tend to hurt my tailbone as the padding between the frame and the outside is very thin. The 70’s chair beats all things, and even my pets show preference to the Sumo.


Movie/TV Watching
The Sultan offers a natural reclined position on its side, or you can dig yourself in to be in a seated position. I found that the reclined position needs a pillow or you end up straining. Lying on your side is a good alternative, and turning it partially onto it’s tread can also help. One thing worth mentioning is that if you decide to curl up, the edge of the cover actually reinforces the round edge which helps with positioning yourself.

Given its tremendous size, the Sultan does an excellent job of providing seating for two. One of my boys and I watched a movie on it with no fighting for space or adjustments. Since the foam beads hold form well, there was no gravity creeping where two butt-marks become one. My girlfriend and I can comfortably curl up on the Sumo with no problems; the design of the cover and the way the foam reacts under pressure means the side walls are never compromised – basically you don’t “slide off”.

One last thing, beanbag chairs suffer from compression- that is, when there is pressure in one place, there will be no give anywhere else. If you’ve ever sat on a beanbag chair and tried to lean back to rest your head, it’s like putting your head against a pillow packed tight with tiny marbles. With the Sumo Sultan the material still has give so regardless of pressure elsewhere, it can always give a little more.


A three hour movie on a Sumo is like trying to convince a cat to stay awake in a sunbeam. The chair is so comfortable that you need to be sure you’re watching something interesting and aren’t tired. It completely de-stresses you to the point where you feel like you’re not sitting in a chair at all, especially when it’s lying down. I actually hadn’t intended on sleeping at all the first time I tried watching a movie; it just took over my need to sleep.

That’s not to say that the chair induces sleep; no, it was just that I was so tired. I’ve now slept on it several times on purpose; sometimes alone, sometimes with pets. For not being in a bed, this is one of the most comfortable sleeps I can recall. Even the futon doesn’t compare to it, although the futon has better leg-room.

Physical Exertion Test
You know how kids can run across the room and throw themselves on a giant pillow or beanbag chair? If I did that I’d be testing my vaccuum cleaner more than the beanbag chair. I’d need one hell of a shop-vac to clean up the mess the Sumo would make. I would be remiss in my task if I didn’t try it at least once, though, right? Yeah, so I’ve tested it at least a dozen times, and it hasn’t cried out once.

From my cats fighting to my dog digging on the cover, it never complains. It hasn’t shown any signs of wear, and the cover is easy to wash. The cover is sturdy enough to grab and pick it up and throw it into the position you want.


So, how does it feel, on the whole?
The only downsides I experienced were in situations where you may need to use a pillow to prop your head up; if that’s the case you can just re-adjust the chair. Also if you entrench yourself into the chair, you might need a motivated person to try to get your ass out of the chair as it can be difficult to build up the *want* to get up.

If the Sumo is on carpet the microfibre cover can build up a static charge, depending on your clothing and how much friction you introduce. Also, I found that my short-haired cat would leave behind an electric payload of fur that then transfers to the next sitter. To circumvent it, as I’m not about to try to reason with an 18 year old cat, we instead keep a blanket over it which does quite well.

If you are looking at getting a recliner or some expensive gaming rocker for your den, just go with Sumo. This isn’t just the free chair talking either; now that I’ve had a chance to use one my hesitation to pull the trigger on picking up another chair or two when I we redesign the den. In most configurations it keeps you seated high enough that you won’t consider it floor seating, and using standard footstools works tremendously to offer a suitable replacement to an recliner. Once you sit down there is no sinking feeling or heavy compression that replaces comfort with stiffness – and I’m no featherweight.

The Sultan truly is a versatile seat that fills the role of gaming chair – it covers the basics with ease and puts up with cats, dogs and kids without complaint.

-Justin Pauls Reviewer


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