Primary Rating:
4.0
Primary Rating:
4.0
Bang For Buck:
4.5
Bang For Buck:
4.5
Therapeutic Value:
3
Therapeutic Value:
3.2
Overall Massage Quality:
3.6
Overall Massage Quality:
3.6
Customization Options:
3.5
Customization Options:
3.5
Ease Of Use:
4.7
Ease Of Use:
4.7
Brand Reliability*:
4.7
Brand Reliability*:
4.7
Summary:
A surprisingly good basic fixed-frame massage chair
Summary:
A very slightly better fixed-frame massage chair than the N500, with a delightful calf and foot massage.
Recommended for:
Provisionally recommended for anyone on a budget under 6’ tall
Recommended for:
Provisionally recommended for anyone on a budget, under 6’ tall.
Primary Rating:
4.0
Bang For Buck:
4.5
Therapeutic Value:
3
Overall Massage Quality:
3.6
Customization Options:
3.5
Ease Of Use:
4.7
Brand Reliability*:
4.7
Summary:
A surprisingly good basic fixed-frame massage chair
Recommended for:
Provisionally recommended for anyone on a budget under 6’ tall
Primary Rating:
4.0
Bang For Buck:
4.5
Therapeutic Value:
3.2
Overall Massage Quality:
3.6
Customization Options:
3.5
Ease Of Use:
4.7
Brand Reliability*:
4.7
Summary:
A very slightly better fixed-frame massage chair than the N500, with a delightful calf and foot massage.
Recommended for:
Provisionally recommended for anyone on a budget, under 6’ tall.

*Brand Reliability is a measure of the strength and longevity of the brand, which by extension, is a measure of the level of support you can expect.

Are you on a budget and looking for a cost-effective massage chair to help ease the pain in your aching back, legs, and feet? If so, you’re going to be both interested and pleased by what you read in this review.

Before we get into the exact reasons why we should probably say a few words about Ootori because it’s quite likely that you’ve never heard of the brand before. They’ve only been in the business since 2013, but they’ve made quite a name for themselves, offering quality massage chairs direct from their manufacturer in China, at reasonable prices.

The design team is based in Japan, and they hold their overseas manufacturer to the highest standards of quality, which is surprisingly close to the quality you find in massage chairs manufactured in Japan or in the West. The company offers an impressive 3-year warranty on all the chairs they sell. Massage chairs by Ootori are pretty solid.

If you’re intrigued to know more and to find out how, precisely, either of the Ootori Nova N500 or N503 can help you, read on. In the sections that follow, we’ll tell you everything these closely related models get right, and we won’t pull any punches in discussing their shortcomings, so you’ll have all the information you need to decide if one of these two is the massage chair you’ve been looking for. If that sounds good to you, let’s jump right in and see what these two models have to offer!

An Overview of the Ootori N500 and N503 Massage Chairs

Before we start talking about particular features on offer, we need to say a few words about massage chairs in general. Back in the day when the first massage chairs were produced, they were “fixed frame,” which is to say that the bits that did the actual massaging didn’t move, but rather, were fixed in their positions on the frame of the chair.

Later on, some very clever design folks worked out how to create massage rollers that moved along a track, which led to the development of the S-track, which quickly became the industry standard. After all, massage rollers that could move simply delivered a superior massage experience.

An illustration on the 8 point massage rollers of the Ootori Nova N500 and N503 Massage Chairs and a human sitting on the chair

Other clever designers also worked out how to extend the massage track so that it ran under the seat, allowing the rollers to massage from your shoulders to the backs of your thighs, which we call an L-Track. S-Tracks are still highly popular, but the mighty L-track is inexorably overtaking them because it’s more useful and, again, simply provides a better massage experience and something closer to a full-body massage. 

The chairs we’re talking about in this review are fixed frames, which may come as a surprise. Fixed frame chairs still exist, mostly to cater to the budget segment of the market, but honestly, it’s a dated and dying industry, which is why all the major massage chair manufacturers have moved away from it. These days, the market for fixed-frame massage chairs is dominated by small off-brands few people have ever heard of. 

The Ootori Nova N500 Massage Chair with labels of its dimensions
Ootori Nova N500 Massage Chair
The Ootori Nova N503 Massage Chair with lables of its dimensions
Ootori Nova N503 Massage Chair

That’s why it’s so surprising to see a respected brand like Ootori plunging into the space, and to their credit, they’ve done a superb job breathing new life into aging technology.

Both the Ootori Nova N500 and the N503 are quite similar overall. They do feature different styling though, with the slightly more expensive 503 featuring a quilted pattern on its headrest and on the outer edges of the seatback, which provides a slightly more comfortable seating experience.

Here are a few basic stats of both models. As you can see, they are identical down the line. That’s not surprising since they are based on the same frame. Again, the major difference to talk about at this point is stylistic/aesthetic.

 
 
Primary Rating:
4.0
Primary Rating:
4.0
Overall Dimensions:
43.30” (71.65” Reclined) x 31.3” x 44.88”
Overall Dimensions:
43.30” (71.65” Reclined) x 31.3” x 44.88”
Chair Weight:
118.6 pounds
Chair Weight:
118.6 pounds
Airbags:
38
Airbags:
38
Max. Supported Weight:
242.5 pounds
Max. Supported Weight:
242.5 pounds
No. of Massage Heads:
8
No. of Massage Heads:
8
Zone Massage:
Neck, Shoulders, Backrest, Hands, Buttocks, Thigh, Calf and Foot
Zone Massage:
Neck, Shoulders, Backrest, Hands, Buttocks, Thigh, Calf and Foot
Primary Rating:
4.0
Overall Dimensions:
43.30” (71.65” Reclined) x 31.3” x 44.88”
Chair Weight:
118.6 pounds
Airbags:
38
Max. Supported Weight:
242.5 pounds
No. of Massage Heads:
8
Zone Massage:
Neck, Shoulders, Backrest, Hands, Buttocks, Thigh, Calf and Foot
Primary Rating:
4.0
Overall Dimensions:
43.30” (71.65” Reclined) x 31.3” x 44.88”
Chair Weight:
118.6 pounds
Airbags:
38
Max. Supported Weight:
242.5 pounds
No. of Massage Heads:
8
Zone Massage:
Neck, Shoulders, Backrest, Hands, Buttocks, Thigh, Calf and Foot

The Ootori Nova N503 is offered in two colors: Black or burgundy, while the N500 is offered in a trio of colors: Black, Burgundy, or Grey.

Fixed Frame Massage Heads, Paired With a Few Basic Options

As we mentioned above, these chairs are fixed frames, so in place of rollers, they’ve got stationary massage heads that roll and rotate in place to render the massage function. Both models have eight heads in all.

In the Ootori N500, the massage heads are capable of performing basic kneading, tapping, or knocking. They can also perform a reasonably good approximation of the Shiatsu massage technique, although this is somewhat limited by the lack of mobility of the massage heads.

In the N503, you get the same basic options, but this chair uses slightly more advanced heads that are a bit more flexible. We shy away from using the term ‘mobile’ here because they still simply move in place, but the heads in the N503 have a bit more range of in-place motion, which delivers a slightly better basic massage experience, although the parameters are the same (kneading, tapping, knocking, and basic Shiatsu).

The Ootori N500 Massage Chair with labels of its parts
Ootori N500 Massage Chair
The Ootori N503 Massage Chair with labels of its parts
Ootori N503 Massage Chair

Note that in both cases, you’re able to control the speed and intensity of the rollers via the remote. There are three different speeds and three different intensity levels. That’s not as many as we’ve seen on other models, but it’s certainly not bad, and it does give you a bit of flexibility when custom-creating your massage experience.

Both chairs also offer four pre-programmed massage functions. One of these is an airbag massage (full body), and the others are slight variations on a theme that don’t really feel that much different. So, in practice, you’ve got two good pre-programmed massage options to choose from.

That could be better, but it was about what we were expecting, given the modest price that both of these chairs are being offered for. The good news is, the presence of any pre-programmed massage options at all means one-touch convenience, so you can start enjoying the chair from the moment you get it set up, which is a plus.

No 3D Body Scan

On a fixed-frame massage chair, there’s no gain to installing body scanning technology since the heads can’t move around on the frame anyway. Both of these chairs dispense with the feature, which helps to lower the cost of the chair.

Zero-Gravity Seating

Both models offer three different Zero-G seating positions, which are phenomenal and have genuine therapeutic value.

An illustration on the three Zero-G seating positions of the Ootori Nova N503 Massage Chair
Ootori Nova N503 Massage Chair

Zero-G also serves to improve the overall quality of the massage you get from any chair that offers the feature. While it’s true that neither of these chairs can compete head-to-head with a chair that features rollers moving on a track, the presence of three different Zero-G seating options means that you get a better experience here than you do with just about any other fixed-frame chair on the market today.

Kudos to Ootori for taking what steps they could to improve things on that front, and for providing a feature with genuine therapeutic value!

A Surprisingly Good Air Massage

Both chairs feature airbags strategically placed throughout, but the Ootori N503 offers slightly more in that regard, and as such, it delivers a slightly superior air massage. Both chairs allow you to modify the massage you get from the airbags via three levels of intensity, which we love.

This is another thing that sets these chairs apart from most of the other fixed-frame models you’ll find for sale these days. Most of them don’t offer an airbag-based massage at all, and where you do find it present, it’s not very good. Here, we’d rate both models’ airbag massage to be equal to, if not better than the massage offered by the heads, which is fantastic.

Position of the airbags in the Ootori N503 Massage Chair
Ootori N503 Massage Chair
An illustration on the seat vibration feature of the Ootori Nova N500 Massage Chair
Ootori Nova N500 Massage Chair

Lumbar Heat Offered, But…

Both models also offer lumbar heat, which is fabulous because any time heat is offered, it enhances the overall massage experience, and it is another therapeutic feature. Unfortunately, the heat on both models comes up a little short. It doesn’t tend to get very hot, and worse, there’s no way to control or adjust the temperature. At best, it offers a slight warming sensation. While that still adds value to the massage, we were a little underwhelmed by the implementation of the feature on these chairs.

No Body Stretch Offered

We weren’t surprised, but neither of these chairs offers any type of body stretching. We understand the reason the feature was cut, but given the number of airbags, it would be easy to add on some future model upgrades, and we hope the company opts to go this route. It would add another powerful therapeutic feature to the chair and make it much more useful.

A Much Better Calf & Foot Massage Than You Might Expect

In our view, this is the single biggest reason to consider buying either of these models. Between the airbags that render the calf massage and the well-designed foot rollers that deliver a massage to the bottoms of your feet, these models offer an absolutely superb calf and foot massage.

An illustration on the calf massage airbags and foot rollers of the Ootori Nova N500 Massage Chair

It should be noted that the Ootori Nova N503 massage chair is superior in this regard. If you have a job that sees you on your feet for several hours each day and you come home at night with aching feet, the N503 is probably the model you want, but honestly, both chairs punch well above their weight class in this regard. Ootori did a truly outstanding job here.

A Massage Timer, Too!

Both models also offer a basic massage timer, allowing you to customize the duration of your massage in five-minute increments. You can select a quick five-minute massage, a ten-minute massage, or a fifteen-minute massage.

While we love the fact that a timer was included, we don’t really understand the company’s decision to limit the massage duration to a paltry fifteen minutes on these models. Other chairs the company sells utilize a timer that allows massage routines to run for up to 30 minutes. We don’t see anything in the specs that would lead us to believe these chairs aren’t up for that.

Sadly, if you want a massage longer than fifteen minutes, you’ll need to select the option you want again after your first fifteen-minute massage ends. We find it to be an unnecessary and slightly annoying step, but kudos that there’s a timer present; we just wish it had been implemented better.

No Fun Extras on Offer

Another slight disappointment we’d like to mention here in our Ootori N503 and Ootori N500 review is that neither of these models comes with Bluetooth speakers or a USB charging port. That’s not the end of the world, and again, we understand the reason these kinds of things were left off.

The Ootori N503 Massage Chair and its remote control

Clearly, the company’s goal was to create a massage chair with as many actual massage features built-in as possible while keeping the cost as low as they could. Given that, all the extras and finishing touches had to get tossed aside. Even so, we do miss them and feel that their inclusion would add additional value to the chairs.

Very Easy to Use and Master

Since there aren’t a ton of features, massage techniques, or pre-programmed options on offer, the remote is simply designed and is rather intuitive. It’s significantly less complicated than the remote you use to operate your television, and as such, the learning curve is very slight.

It will probably only take about ten minutes of fiddling around with the controls to master the chair’s use, but honestly, thanks to a few pre-programmed massage options, you don’t even have to do that right away. Just have a seat, pick one of the pre-programmed options and enjoy.

Some Assembly Required

Many of the company’s high-end models come fully assembled. If you decide you want either of these, your chair will arrive in pieces in a couple of large boxes. You’ll need to unpack and put it together before you can actually use it.

Fortunately, there aren’t many pieces to contend with, and the assembly process won’t take longer than ten minutes or so. Even better, the company does offer White Glove service. So, if you don’t want to be bothered by all that, you can just pay a little extra, and they’ll take care of the details for you.

Pros & Cons of the Ootori Nova N500 and N503 Massage Chair

Overall, we were grudgingly impressed by these chairs. They’re not going to be for everyone, and we honestly feel that almost any potential buyer would be better served by saving their money for a few months, spending a little extra and getting a massage chair with quad rollers moving along an S- or L-Track.

An illustration on the hand massage of the Ootori Nova N500 Massage Chair
Ootori Nova N500 Massage Chair
Carbon fibre heating of the Ootori Nova N503 Massage Chair
Ootori Nova N503 Massage Chair

Having said that, if you’re pinched for cash and have an immediate need for a solution like this, these chairs (both models) do a surprisingly good job at rendering a basic massage. No, it’s not as good as a massage you’d get from a chair with moving rollers. But if you take advantage of the modest heat and Zero-G seating functions before beginning your massage, you really will get a good deal of enjoyment and legitimate therapeutic value from the chair.

As we said earlier, though, far and away the best feature on either of these models is the expertly-implemented calf and foot massage, which is better here than you’ll find on a lot of other massage chairs costing 3-5 times more money. That’s impressive, and if your primary issue is your aching feet and legs, either of these models becomes extremely attractive.

So, in summary, the things you’ll like best about either of these models include:

  • The very modest price tag.
  • Decent basic massage is offered by stationary massage heads.
  • A surprisingly good airbag-based massage.
  • Three (!) Zero-G seating options.
  • And an out-of-this-world calf and foot massage. On the whole, we think the strong points outweigh the weak points, but your mileage may vary.

On the flip side, the major limitations of the chairs are:

  • No rollers and no massage track limit the value of the roller-based massage you get.
  • Few massage options.
  • Weak heat.
  • And a massage timer that is of limited value.

On the whole, we think the strong points outweigh the weak points, but your mileage may vary.

Ootori Nova N500 and N503 Review Conclusion

We can’t say we strongly recommend either of the Ootori Nova N500 or N503, but they’re certainly not without value. As we said earlier, your best bet will be to save your money and get a more robust chair that offers more features, but for some people in very specific situations, these are pretty good options and will serve you well enough. Consider them provisionally recommended.


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