Expert Mattress Reviews By 25 Year Pro: How I Test, Rate, And Rank The Web’s Best Mattresses

Ever wonder how testing for mattress reviews is done? It’s fairly complex, involving a combination of industry experience, hands on evaluation, familiarity with components like foam, textiles, coil systems, even adhesives and fire barriers- along with equipment used to take precise measurements – to do it accurately and correctly.

Testing for mattress reviews often involves subjective evaluation of comfort and pressure relieving qualities for a given brand.

Testing for mattress reviews involves compiling a variety of key data points to be able to provide an accurate assessment of just how comfortable and supportive a mattress will be in your home.

I spent 25 years as a mattress manufacturer and was also a components expert, routinely testing mattress prototypes using both subjective (comfort testing) as well as objective methods, as well.

I personally use a mixed method of rating and ranking mattresses we test, for a variety of parameters that are important for consumers to consider.

You might be shopping for a mattress to help with back pain, pressure points, or cooling relief for example. Couples, on the other hand, especially those with with bigger bodies, might be looking at a completely different set of variables to choose from.

I developed a ten point testing system to rank a mattress we’d recommend to a broad audience that covers the basics to provide a pretty good overall profile.

Marc’s 10 Data Point Mattress Review And Scoring Method

Here’s a sample grid that shows how I scored The Saatva Classic Mattress, which is a popular online brand. I also sleep at least 1-2 nights on my samples, which are shipped by the manufacturer exactly how an online customer would receive the product.

In the case of this particular brand, a crew of two delivery techs bring the mattress directly to the bedroom and set it up as part of the purchase price. In most cases, though, “bed in a box” options are gently compressed and vacuum packaged, then rolled and placed inside of a manageable box that can be easily be handled by 1-2 people.

One of the most important indicators that influence mattress purchasing choices is degree of firmness vs. softness, which is very difficult to articulate subjectively. There is no real way to objectively test for this, and in my case I rely on the 1-10 rating that many reviewers use.

A rating of 1 for example, would be extremely soft, likely too soft to provide much support, and too immersive to be able to turn comfortably or to change position. Conversely, 10 would be rock hard, like a carpeted floor. A rating of 5 would be considered by most individuals to be medium, or even medium firm, providing adequate pressure relief and support while on your side or back.

Typical case example of how I score and rate a mattress for consideration:

The Saatva Classic Mattress: Review And Report By 25 Year Industry Pro

I reviewed The Saatva Classic Mattress in a simulated bedroom environment with solo sleepers and couples (mattress placed on solid deck surface of platform bed, queen size). All of the ratings were based on averages of the subjects who participated, and data for reviews was also obtained by evaluating actual owner reviews found on different third party review web sites.

Overall Comfort– initial feel, level of immersion, initial body contact experience, choose from Plush Soft, Luxury Firm, and Firm options overall rating for all three 9
Support– spine alignment, pain relief, pressure relief in 30 minutes or less 9
Solo Sleeper– overall impressions with comfort, ease of turning, back and side 8.5
Couple Experience- sink in middle, snuggling rating, motion transfer 9
Edge Support– as experienced by 190lb test subject 10
Sex– as reported by online reviews and voluntary reporting 9
Cooling– using digital probes before test and after 30 minutes in back position 9
Cost Value– 1-10 rating based on the quality and value compared to other brands 9.5
Trial Period, Warranty, And General Customer Service Appeal 10
Shipping And Delivery Experience– ease of delivery, ship time, setup 10

Overall Rating Of The Saatva Classic Mattress: 9.4 Excellent

Considerations: Might be pricier for some.

Explanation Of Testing Parameters

Note: Depending upon the brand, my testing form may alter. For example, a mattress specifically targeted at the bigger body market focuses on characteristics such as support, sinking in the middle, optimized edge support and other characteristics, rather than

1. Overall Comfort

Since The Saatva Classic Mattress is available in three different firmness options, each of the models is going to feel a bit different. The options are Plush Soft, Luxury Firm, and Firm. Based on our firmness scale of 10 offering minimal compression and immersion, and 1 being plush, cradling and very body contouring, I would rank them as follows:

  • Plush Soft: 4.5 out of 10, immersive, easily compressible, sinks significantly at hips and shoulder, but not excessive. Owners reviewing online report that turning and edge support is pretty good (note that all three models have a perimeter foam edge for sitting and transfer support that is the same on all three models). Definitely had what I’d call a “panda’s belly” feel which was nice.
  • Luxury Firm: I’d give it a 6.5 out of 10, this models offers significant resistance when you bury your fist into it, and has about half of the immersion when on your side than the plush soft version. If you want firm but still seek some yielding and give that makes it easier to move and change positions, or if you are a light sleeper, or a couple who tends to gather in the middle of the mattress, this option is a great choice.
  • Firm: A solid 8 out of 10, quite firm, little immersion, though still easy on hips and shoulders because of the pillow top design. If you are a back sleeper, a larger person or couple, or if you have slept on traditional firmer innerspring mattresses before, this is a good option. For couples though, especially if one person prefers a slightly softer option, opt for the Luxury Firm version.

2. Support: 9 out of 10

All three versions of the Saatva Classic Mattress are made with identical components except for modifications in the top layer of pocketed coils. Underneath the pillow top in each version of firmness is a layer of CertiPUR-US®  certified high-density memory foam followed by a few hundred individual 14.5-gauge coils (884 in a queen) and what Saatva calls its ‘active wire’.

Both the memory foam and the “active wire” are responsible for enhancing support and providing pressure relief. Meanwhile, the individual coils work together to contour to your body’s shape and movements, as well as providing breathability and better airflow.

I have lower back issues and during my Saatva Classic Mattress review, found that after about an hour while on my back, that the reason I was experiencing less pain was that the pocketed coil component near the top was pushing back enough to give me support. This probably meant that I wasn’t experiencing muscle fatigue and lactic acid buildup- a typical problem with all foam mattresses.

I’d rate Saatva overall as being one of the most conscientious brands as far as their ability to develop new models that consistently offer superior support. While The Saatva Classic is ideal for anyone seeking an alternative to the high priced big name retail brands in stores, they offer other models, including The Saatva HD Mattress, specifically designed to support larger people, and couples with higher combined weights of 400lbs and more.

A video capture showing hand impression on the pillowtop section of a Saatva Classic Mattress.

Most owners who have done their own in home Saatva Classic Mattress review describe the mattress as highly supportive, restful, and ideal for back sleepers if you choose the firmer 2 options.

Even the Plush Soft owners, however, indicated despite the softer and loftier initial feel up top, the mattress provided lifting and elevating support.

Another topic that we noticed in owner verified reviews was that in the unlikely event of the return of their Saatva Classic Mattress, few if any mentioned negative remarks concerning support, but rather other reasons.

For spine alignment, neck positioning, and leg support, The Saatva Classic Mattress outperformed virtually any other brand of mattress I’ve reviewed, whether sold in retail stores or online. This is due to the use of the continuous coil superstructure at the very bottom of the mattress which is super effective at pushing weight to the side and away from your body.

Combining that feature with the independent pocket coil just above, which control small areas of pressure and movement much like the keys on a piano, the total effect provides for better pressure and pain relief no matter what position you are lying.

If you are a belly sleeper, though, most owner reviews seem to prefer the two firmer options so that you don’t end up “swaybacked” while immersed in the torso area- the plush option is probably not the best fit unless you weigh less than 130-140 pounds. Opt for the medium or firmest versions if you are a belly/side sleeper, otherwise simply use my guidelines based on sleep position preference.

The Saatva Classic Mattress provides what I believe to be the most optimized support qualities in virtually any mattress I’ve reviewed. This means that there was a lot of thought put into not just the ingredients of the mattress, but how it was laid out and designed.

3. Solo Sleeper: 8.5

If you are on the hunt for a really luxurious mattress that you are going to keep a while, and you want to make a mattress investment rather than just a purchase, this mattress should likely be a strong consideration. For the money, at $1,695 in queen, and $2,120 in king, I found that you experience going more discernible comfort and more buoyant support than any luxury innerspring brand you can find online, or even in retail settings.

When you compare popular foam mattresses sold in a “bed in a box” format, you might find brands that sell for right around $600-800, but anything that will deliver worthy comfort and support, and won’t compress or mash down over time might be hard to find.

The worst part is, that as a solo sleeper, you’ll need to either get some help to move to maneuver your pre-compressed mattress, which is going to be wedged inside of a tight box, to get in on your bed frame. My Saatva Classic Mattress review was a lot different that dealing with a conventional bed in a box, because there is no waiting time or having to flop the mattress up and down to help it expand.

A bed in a box mattress can still weigh 80-125 lbs, and if you are by yourself, it’s a lot of work, much more so that in the lovingly edited videos which show couples or two guys manhandling their scrunched up mattress out of the box. The Saatva brand offers a totally upside down concept- even with online shipping.

Saatva does not compress and roll up their mattresses. If you order The Saatva Classic Mattress, it will arrive in exactly the same configuration it was in while it was being handcrafted for your order. Shipping is free and included in the price, as is in home setup.

As part of what the company describes as White Glove setup, every customer also has the option to have their old mattress removed at no charge. Honestly, if you are a solo sleeper, free shipping, setup, and old mattress removal is a real value added proposition.

Say you ordered a “bed in a box” slab of foam kind of mattress, but wanted to hire a setup service to install your mattress and take away your old mattress. The cost could easily top $250, and in some settings, such as New York or San Francisco, we were quoted as much as $500 or more for this service.

4. Couple Experience: 9 out of 10

Keep in mind that we reviewed a queen size Saatva Classic Mattress and also sampled many online reviews as well as conducted our own testing for couples. From a comfort perspective, depending upon which level of firmness you choose, couples responded highly to snuggling and spaced apart sleeping, describing the mattress with comments like “inviting, with no sense of crowding or getting stuck”, and experiencing a comfortable level of immersion without feeling trapped.

I’ve reviewed hundred of foam mattresses that are the typical variety of “bed in a box” style where couples find it difficult to find a mattress where this a tradeoff between settling on too firm an option to keep from collapsing in the middle.

That’s why the “good old reliable” innerspring concept has stood the test of time and mattress engineers at Saatva realized that you cannot roll up and mash down certain kinds of coil systems without damaging them, something I’ve found to be true also.

For couples who prefer a much firmer sleep surface, the Firm option is certainly going to belly up to the bar. I’ve built custom mattresses for people who claim that they have never been able to find a mattress firm enough to accommodate them, particularly when they are plus sized people.

And while Saatva’s HD Mattress is specifically designed for this market, the Saatva Classic Mattress offers a slightly less rigid option-but still firmer than almost any other hybrid I’ve reviewed tested after 25 years in the business.

Why the 8 out of 10 then? If anything, for most couples the softer, more plush model is likely going to be way too soft, as it is fairly immersive and not a good option. The Luxury Firm and Firm versions totally make up the difference, though and are ideal even when couples are snuggled up in the middle.

5. Edge Support: 10 out of 10

Singlehandedly the best edge support over all that I’ve seen for any mattress, regardless of type, including hybrid and all foam mattresses. Saatva uses a high density foam “rail” that wraps the entire perimeter of the mattress to provide excellent support for sitting and getting in and out of bed.

The rigid foam rail built into the side of the Saatva Classic Mattress provides support when sitting or transferring, and it also prevents deterioration and mashing of the pillow top and pocketed coil edge.

The continuous coil unit does not have sit directly at the edge of the mattress either, and the foam rail contains it to prevent damage to the outer fabric.

It is unlikely that you will find this feature in any rolled and compressed bed in a box option because mashing and compression could easily damage this component.

People with disabilities should also consider this mattress as a viable option. You can also check out my Best Mattress For People With Disabilities page for enhanced information. It’s one of few options that include free shipping, setup service, and removal of existing bedding, and Saatva also offers a full line of products like sheets, mattress protectors, adjustable bases, and other top of the bed products.

6. Sex And Intimacy: 9 out of 10

Actually, 7 out of 10 is not bed for an intimacy rating, as people who consider this an important option when mattress shopping re pretty picky. Generally, more bouncy surfaces like Natural Latex Mattresses are preferred as are mattresses with better immersive qualities, allowing for better “grip” on bodies, as sliding around on a mattress during intimacy is generally a negative factor.

For cuddling in the middle, all three versions of The Saatva Classic Mattress are pretty decent, though and unless this consideration is super important, I’d still consider it. Some reviewers have mentioned that if they prefer a firmer mattress for intimacy, they opt for the Luxury Firm or Firm options.

7. Cooling

We found that the Saatva Classic Mattress offer noteworthy benefits when it comes to dampening motion transfer, a common complaint from couples, especially when there are light sleepers and restless sleepers in the mix.

The pilowtop section, which has quilted form an and organic outer fabric covering, has a lot of motion dampening ability. Generally mattresses made with smooth-top coverings, where the fabric is not quilted and is very thin, will transfer motion directly to the surface.

Many people want a mattress with a lot of bounce and spring action to it, as it is much easier to turn on surfaces that are highly responsive. For excellent motion dampening, though, pillowtop mattress are hard to beat. When you combine a pillow top mattress with an innerspring support system you create the perfect storm of subtle bounciness without the jiggle factor that keeps light sleepers awake.

8. Cost vs. Value Delivered: 9.5 out of 10

If you’ve read anything online at all about Saatva Mattresses, you already know that is considered a luxury online brand. You can’t buy them in retail stores, though the company makes it extremely easy to order a mattress online, have it shipped and set up in your home, and offers an outstanding, 365 day no questions asked trial period.

When you consider the cost, and factor in the concierge level delivery and the complimentary setup service you receive, I find the value of The Saatva Classic Mattress to be extremely high. Also, with a lifetime warranty that covers workmanship and defects (including depressions, rutting, and upholstery), online reviews by actual owners reflect confidence and trust in the brand.

9. Trial Period, Warranty, Customer Service 10 out of 10

Trustpilot review screen grab on April 13, 2023

One advantage I liked about Saatva’s delivery and setup service was their use of 15 strategically located factories which increases efficiency and speeds up delivery time.

The turnaround time of 9-21 days to receive your mattress is acceptable considering each mattress is made to order and not rolled and compressed, collecting dust in a dusty warehouse.

The customer service experience on the back end was also something I thought was pretty good. Excellent chat and phone support, and very responsive if you need tracking or delivery support, too.

They keep a staff of “sleep guides” available by phone as well that can help you with questions or preference decisions.

10. Shipping And Delivery Experience 10 out of 10

Shipping and delivery is typically reliable with most online mattress companies, but with enhanced services, the ability to coordinate production and scheduling in home setup services takes some effort. I did it for years with my own online mattress companies.

Even more difficult is handling COI’s (certificates of insurance) often required by co-ops, apartment buildings, and condos before a delivery can be made. Saatva will handle that for you provided you send them a copy of the building COI prior to delivery date, a really nice feature that takes the consumer out of the loop.