Review: Aeron Headrests Compared – Engineered Now H3 vs. H4 vs. Atlas

 

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H3 on left, H4 in center, Atlas on right

When I realized how much time I spend sitting at my desk, I decided I wanted to invest in a really comfortable and ergonomic setup. After comparing many options, I ended up with an Aeron Chair. The Aeron is great, but to really make it shine you might need to get some accessories.

First step: Get yourself a nice custom headrest to avoid neck strain and make it comfortable to recline. There is no official Herman Miller Aeron headrest, but there are a few good options for third-party headrests. In this review I’ll compare the “Engineered Now H3” ($149.95 on Amazon), the “Engineered Now H4” ($179.95 on Amazon) and the Atlas Headrest ($149.99 on Amazon).

Summary

Of the three headrests I tried, the Atlas was far and away my favorite, for the following reasons:

  • Highly adjustable to accommodate tall people
  • Very solid installation
  • No unwanted movement or noises
  • Smooth pillow very comfortable against head and neck
  • Perfectly matches the metal finish of the Aeron
  • Superior design for working with headphones
  • Priced lower than the H4, even though quality and design are superior

If you’re happy to take my word for it, head over to Amazon and pick up the Atlas Headrest now. For a deeper dive, check out this video review I made and/or keep reading:

1. Features and Appearance

Engineered Now H3 + H4: B-/B

These headrests both feature height, depth and tilt adjustment. Unfortunately, adjusting the depth positioning of the headrest also requires reducing the height. This may not be a problem if you’re on the short side, but if you’re tall like me, it’s a real drawback. This is a bigger problem on the H3 than the H4, since the H4 is larger overall, giving you more flexibility. These headrests feature a “locking” lever that promises to provide “strong support,” but in actual use the lock isn’t strong enough to prevent movement.

When it comes to appearance, the H3 + H4 do not perfectly match the Aeron in three ways. First, the color of the metal is *not* identical. My “graphite” H3 + H4 both appeared slightly darker than my brand new “graphite” Aeron. Second, screws are hidden under plastic caps and in recessed sockets, while the Aeron itself is covered in exposed screws. Third, the mesh headrest weave is not as dense and it is obvious upon a closer look.

While you may be tempted to have mesh to “match,” the mesh on the Engineered Now headrest does not actually match the Aeron.

Aeron mesh on left; H3 mesh on right.

The Atlas: A-

The Atlas headrest, meanwhile, outperforms the Engineered Now headrests on both features and appearance.

Most notably, the Atlas has a plush and comfortable pillow, which makes a lot more sense against bare skin or hair. The EN headrests are prone to catch hair or scuff headphones, but you won’t have those problems with the Atlas.

In addition, it has easy height, depth and tilt adjustments, and all are entirely independent and reliable (more on that later). That means for me as a tall user, putting the headrest in the tallest setting I still have complete range of motion to adjust the separate depth and tilt adjustments.

When it comes to appearance, the headrest “graphite” metal color matches 100% perfectly. I also appreciate having the exposed screws, which match the many exposed screws on the Aeron. The Atlas headrest is thoughtfully and appropriately different and looks just right on the Aeron to my eyes.

The color of the graphite is a perfect match. Even the screws look similar.

2. Installation

Engineered Now H3 + H4: A-

All three headrests are quite simple to install, relying on a clamp that slides on the Aeron from the thin section to the wide. The H3 + H4 rely on a recessed hex screw to secure in place, which is a little bit harder than the exposed screw on the Atlas.

The recessed screw for EN installation is a little tougher, but all three are surprisingly easy to install and feel very solidly attached once on.

The Atlas: A

Installing the Atlas is just a touch easier than installing the EN H3 and H4, aided by easier access to the exposed screw you need to tighten to secure the headrest in place.

3. Adjustments

Engineered Now H3 + H4: D

Adjusting the H3 + H4 is a pain. To access the tensioning screws you need to pop off these janky plastic caps, and it’s really easy to damage them in the process. Once you’ve got the caps off, for some odd reason two screws must be adjusted with a phillips screwdriver (preferably a wide phillips because it’s easy to strip those screws) and the third must be adjusted with an alan key. I have no idea why they wouldn’t just use the same type of screw, but it’s just one more step to slow you down. Once you’ve got the screws all tightened, I’m afraid to say the mechanism can’t get tight enough. I would much prefer all these adjustments to get tight enough that they would not be easily movable by hand.

The plastic caps are silly. Difficult to get off, easy to damage, and they look and feel tacky and cheap… Why use a cap? The Aeron is covered with exposed screws.

The Atlas: A-

The Atlas Headrest provides simple, logical, strong adjustments for height and depth. You can easily access the screws (all philipps) and all appear to be of very high quality with little or no risk of stripping. There are no silly plastic caps to lose or damage. Most importantly, the adjustment screws are capable of providing a tighter and stronger overall level of resistance, inspiring greater confidence in the support provided by the headrest.

The Atlas includes a solid set of four screws to tighten the depth adjustment. The depth adjustment gets the most direct force from leaning back, so it makes sense to have extra tightening power.

4. Performance

Engineered Now H3: D

The H3 headrest moves much too easily even on the tightest settings. That means even after tightening the headrest, when you actually lean against it, it’s likely to shift and slide out of position. Not only is it not providing the support intended, it’s also noisy and creaky when it moves. This appears to be a big problem for tall people such as myself who can put more leverage on the mechanism. In addition, the mesh weave can catch hairs and is generally not as comfortable as the pillow on the Atlas.

Even after tightening the H3 to maximum tightness, I felt like it could shift and move pretty easily. It did not feel like reliable support.

Engineered Now H4: B-

The H4 supports a greater range of possible positions, and this does in fact help accommodate taller users. In addition, the mechanism resists torquing movement more effectively, but in everyday use it still would shift sometimes when I didn’t want it to. You’re also stuck with the hair-gobbling mesh.

The H4 is workable for taller users, but I still don’t like how it can move and I prefer the feeling of a smooth pillow against my hair and skin.

The Atlas: A

The Atlas provides plenty of height and depth options for tall users. Most importantly, the mechanism is rock solid and makes no noise. The design features a locked vertical column rather than a lever you can torque with your head, which makes it much more stable. As mentioned, the pillow headrest is very comfortable and nicely cradles your head at the top of the neck.

The Atlas felt best at the top of my neck — a little lower than the EN. The curve nicely cradles my head and the pillow feels great! Plenty of extra depth adjustment if I wanted it, too.

5. Headphone Test

Engineered Now H3: D-

The H3 is completely unusable with large headphones. The design features a deep curve that causes the outer edges to push the headphones into the back of your ears or off entirely. In addition, the headphones are in constant constant with an abrasive plastic mesh that’s constantly making noise, and might even scuff the headphones over time.

Put on some music, lean back and… scratch, pop! The headphones slide forward into your ears and you hear scratching sounds as the plastic rubs against your nice headphones. Total deal-breaker.

Engineered Now H4: C

The H4 headrest is flatter and less curved than the H3, but unfortunately the H4 still bumps larger headphones and has the same problems with noise and scuffing.

The Atlas: B+

The Atlas also has a little curve to it, but the shape leaves more room for headphones because the headrest seems meant to sit lower on your head. In addition, the pillow and fabric finish on the headrest means you don’t have to worry about noise or scuffing.

Conclusion

After using all three headrests for more than a day I can confidently say the Atlas Headrest is my favorite. I’ve owned my Atlas for over a year now and it’s just as comfortable, silent, and strong as always, and I feel no worries leaning back with very nice headphones.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and you found my review and video helpful, head over to Amazon following my link. If you do I’ll get a tiny commission and this will encourage me to keep posting in-depth, objective product reviews and videos.

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