Swallowed by the SumoSac bean bag chair


— 10:51 AM on July 2, 2008

I spend most of my time reviewing chipsets, motherboards, hard drives, power supply units, and sound cards—the geeky bits inside a modern PC. Every so often, though, I get the chance to tread well off the beaten path. Such was the case a couple of years ago with Sumo's Omni—a bean bag chair of generous proportions, and perhaps the ultimate cradle for console gamers.

As expansive and comfortable as it was at the time, I couldn't help but wish the Omni were plusher. And now it is, with a new model ditching the swishy nylon of old in favor of sumptuous microsuede. Dubbed the SumoSac, this latest take on the iconic bean bag chair has also succumbed to the obesity epidemic, swelling generously on a high-carb diet of furniture-grade foam. So the SumoSac is bigger and cushier than the original Omni. But is it too much of a good thing?


The bean bag gets bigger, more upscale
Although all too convenient of a pun, I have a soft spot for bean bag chairs—one I probably should have grown out of by now. Bean bags are the sort of furniture most associate with dorm rooms, basements, and recreational drug use, but the SumoSac is a little more grown up. Or rather, it's just grown up enough for those of us who still play video games on a regular basis.


The SumoSac (left) next to its little brother, the Omni (right)
The original Omni was huge compared to old-school bean bags of lava lamp vintage, but it's positively dwarfed by the SumoSac. At full size, the Sac measures roughly six feet wide and three feet tall. It's fat. Orca fat. However, despite measurements that would surely land it on The Biggest Loser, the SumoSac only tips the scales at around 60 pounds.

Size is really what Sumo is all about, and I can't stress enough just how much large the SumoSac really is. While the Omni was just big enough for two to share, the SumoSac can easily accommodate a couple of NFL linemen, and probably a few cheerleaders for good measure.


Of course, the SumoSac doesn't start out nearly that big. Sumo offers free shipping (with FedEx, no less) to North America, and that would be prohibitively expensive with the Sac at its largest. Instead, Sumo ships the Sac compressed. It comes in a nondescript duffle bag that you cut away to reveal what looks like a giant brain. And there are instructions, too, just like you'd get with a piece of Ikea furniture.

Assembling Ikea furniture has always reminded me of playing with Tinkertoys. Priming the SumoSac, however, is real work. One must first remove the plastic bag that seals the Sac off from the outside world. Sumo cautions against opening the Sac itself, but with only a zipper separating me from the contents of the brain, I couldn't resist.


Unlike most bean bag chairs, which rely on various forms of beads for cushioning, the SumoSac is filled with shredded furniture-grade urethane foam. This foam is 100% "1.8 density," which, if you're intimately familiar with furniture stuffing, is apparently a good thing. Sumo says the foam will never decompress over time, as well—an important attribute considering that the Omni I've had for a couple of years has sagged a little.

The SumoSac's shredded guts arrive vacuum-shrunk, so they need to be broken up for the bean bag to begin to take shape. This is done by hand (with the bag closed in order to avoid making a mess), and while it takes a fair bit more effort than twiddling Allen keys, the results are more than worthwhile. Sumo suggests breaking up the foam as much as possible, and then letting the Sac sit for 24 hours so that it can expand, fluffing as necessary.

This expansion is far from energetic, but it's incredibly substantial. After its initial beating, my SumoSac didn't require much additional fluffing, either. Just pop on the included slip case and you're done. That is, of course, if you had the foresight to let the Sac expand exactly where you want it. That key hint is unfortunately missing from the SumoSac's instructions, and it makes all the difference in the world. Once fully expanded, the Sac's colossal size makes it quite difficult to move, especially if you have to negotiate narrow doorways or ascend a flight of stairs.


You essentially have two options when sitting in the SumoSac: you can drape yourself over it, evenly distributing your weight in an attempt to float, or you can give in and allow yourself to become submerged. I prefer to sink deep into the SumoSac, with its microsuede walls rising up around me like a virtual pillow fort. The SumoSac really does feel like a giant pillow, probably because the shredded foam is a great deal softer than any bean bag I've used.

There's more to the SumoSac's comfort than its pillowy softness. The microsuede slip cover feels luxurious compared to the nylon used on the Omni. Microsuede isn't as spill- and stain-resistant, so you'll have to be careful when sharing the SumoSac with that special someone. Fortunately, the slip cover can easily be removed and machine washed.


My 5'11, 180-lb frame barely leaves a dent in the resilient SumoSac
Determined to test the SumoSac's limits, I subjected myself to hours of napping, movies, and console gaming in its womb-like embrace. Oh the sacrifices we make to ensure that products are thoroughly tested for our readers. After a few weeks of heavy use, I can confidently say that the SumoSac is the most comfortable piece of furniture I've ever had the pleasure of sinking into. In fact, for those afflicted by the console phenomenon known as "gamer's lean," I'd even call the SumoSac ergonomic.

The gamer's lean refers to the tendency of console gamers to lean forward while playing, regardless of the size of or proximity to the TV. This position isn't terribly comfortable, since it leaves the back and head completely unsupported, but it's one I instinctively assume when playing from the couch. Not with the SumoSac, however. For one, the SumoSac doesn't really allow you to lean forward at all; it's impossible to just sit on the edge without being completely swallowed up. But that's not a bad thing, because the SumoSac is deep enough to fully support your back and head in a reasonably upright position. Through shooters, driving games, and third-person action titles, I didn't find myself trying to (or even feeling the need to) lean forward once. Better yet, I didn't suffer from the stiff neck and lower back that usually cripple me after marathon gaming sessions.

Lest you think the SumoSac is a perfect gaming throne, I should mention that it's absolutely hopeless if you're trying to use a racing wheel. Sinking in doesn't allow for much arm movement, either, so I imagine Wii games might be a bit of a challenge. And unless you're singing, you can probably forget about Rock Band, too. Otherwise, though, it's fantastic.


Nothing says hipster like a high-end bean bag, posed next to an equally relevant fixie
As you no doubt suspect, the SumoSac isn't cheap. The mutant bean bag sells for $229, which is $100 more than the original Omni. That may seem like a lot to pay for a bag of shredded foam, but it's a plush microsuede bag and really quite a lot of foam. That price includes free shipping to your door, which, considering the SumoSac's eventual size, is really quite convenient, even if some assembly is required. Build quality—what little of it there is given just a few seams and zippers—appears to be excellent, as well.

In the realm of (somewhat) grown-up furniture, the SumoSac really isn't that expensive at all. To put things into perspective, a friend of mine just dropped several thousand dollars on an Italian leather sofa in what I can only hope is a wishful homage to the Cake song of the same name. This sofa no doubt looks better (if you can get past the Miami-Vice-white leather), but the SumoSac is infinitely more comfortable and costs less than a matching foot stool. Much less.

And that's not to say that the SumoSac is entirely without style. You can choose from black, beige, chocolate, red, and old-school TR navy blue options that should fit in with just about any living room decor, provided your living room is large enough. That is, of course, until your significant other tells you that the SumoSac belongs in the basement with all your other supposedly grown-up toys. At least your basement has never been this comfortable.

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