A superior monitor arm?
March 1, 2021 4:42 PM   Subscribe

Is there a monitor arm that like... moves better than others? The reviews I'm reading are all about stability and whatnot and they honestly all seem roughly the same as long as you don't have a super heavy monitor. I can't find reviews that really address how nicely they move, so I'm wondering if there are any that have a motion that's better or smoother than others? I'm willing to throw a reasonable amount of money at this.

Because I adjust how I sit a lot (and I have an adjustable height desk that I move up and down a lot as a result). I move my monitor around a lot - Up, down, forward, backward, tilting, etc, many times a day. And the cheap arm I got from Amazon is fine, but not perfect. Here are the things that bug me, in order of importance.

1. It doesn't move like... as smoothly as I would like. You have to waggle it in to place, it's hard to get it in exactly the place I want it both forward and backward and up and down (it's far from impossible, but it's extra fiddling that I just don't want to do so many times a day). You have to sort of move it in to move it up and down, etc.

2. The weight adjustment screw thingies loosen over time. So every 3-4 weeks I have to re-tighten them because otherwise my monitor won't stay pointing forwards.

3. The only way to move it is to grab the sides of my monitor. My monitor is great in a lot of ways, but the buttons for controlling monitor settings run up the side of the monitor, so every time I grab it I accidentally press buttons.

4. It seems sort of... shaky? I have a normalish, not especially heavy monitor, but when I move it the monitor shakes around a lot.

Are there any monitor arms that just like... work better? Move smoothly and easily and exactly into place? Or are they all basically the same as far as issue #1 goes and the differences are in them being extra secure (and presumably the screws wouldn't loosen on a better quality one but that alone is not worth $$$)
posted by brainmouse to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don’t know of a good review source for this feature. Very generally, though, look for arms that are heavier. For example, the Amazon Basics arm weighs twice as much as yours and can hold twice as much monitor, and it can smoothly adjust the height with relatively light force on the bottom of the screen. It’s also more stable due to the weight. I kind of regret supporting Amazon Basics brands so it’s just a handy example.
posted by michaelh at 6:12 PM on March 1, 2021

The search term you need is "heavy-duty monitor arm", which basically is something with better gas cylinders.

And for what it's worth, Ergotron has a "monitor handle kit" that adds a handle so you can move the monitor with just one hand instead of two. HOWEVER, it's really for their own arms, not for anybody else's arms... And their arms are quite a bit more expensive.
posted by kschang at 8:24 PM on March 1, 2021

The Ergotron LX series are the go-to quality monitor arms. I have the sit-stand version, and it has none of these problems. It moves smoothly and stays where you let go. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth it.

Amazon Basics either cloned or rebadged the basic LX model, and at one point you could get that for effectively half price - but it looks like the price is similar to the Ergotron branded version now.
posted by automatronic at 9:38 PM on March 1, 2021

Seconding the Ergotron ones.
posted by number9dream at 5:27 AM on March 2, 2021

The wirecutter's article on monitor arms does claim they tested this: "Smoothness of motion: We preferred monitor arms that were firm enough to stay put while we worked but could reposition easily and didn’t require too much force."

I got a wall-mounted variation on the Ergotron arm they recommend, I'm happy with it, and it moves smoothly, *but* I hardly ever move it in practice, so I can't speak to what it's like if you're moving it daily. My desk has a little wobble to it, and the wall-mounted arm isolates my monitor from that. But installation did require finding studs and drilling holes in the wall.
posted by bfields at 6:48 AM on March 2, 2021

The Humanscale M10 (and its predecessor, which I have) is great. Moves easily, stays put, isn't ugly, and the integrated cable management is nice. Highly recommended. I got mine used on eBay.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:31 AM on March 2, 2021

Response by poster: Hmm, perhaps I didn't explain what I meant by moves better, cuz I've been watching YouTube videos of ergotron and they all look like they have the same problem as the cheap one: the nature of where the hinges is that you can't just move it where you want directly from point A to point B. e.g. to move it away from you you have to sort of point it to the left and push it diagonal so the back swings away before you can move it back into place, and it becomes hard to sort of align all 3 axes in space.
posted by brainmouse at 8:24 AM on March 2, 2021

I feel like I can mostly just push mine where I want to. Maybe I'm adjusting it through less of a range or using it less at the extremes of its range. If you're using it for both standing and sitting I can see how that might demand a wider range of adjustment. Ergotron I know publishes pretty detailed measurements of the various pieces, I'm not sure if other brands do. That might help compare?
posted by bfields at 7:56 AM on March 4, 2021

the nature of where the hinges is that you can't just move it where you want directly from point A to point B. e.g. to move it away from you you have to sort of point it to the left and push it diagonal so the back swings away before you can move it back into place

OK, I see the issue you mean now. It isn't really a question of construction quality but rather how you lay out the installation - how long the arm segments are comes into it, but it's mostly a question of where you put the fixed pole or wall mount bracket relative to the area you want to move the screen around in.

I think a lot of people will assume you want to put the fixed pole / wall mount immediately behind where you want the monitor (e.g. on the centreline of your desk), but that's actually a really poor choice, because it means you can only push so far back before the "elbow" joint folds tight or the monitor collides with the pole. You also have issues moving side to side, because to get from one position to another you need to pull the monitor forward to let the arm re-fold toward one side or the other of the desk.

If you instead mount the fixed pivot point off to one side of the workspace, then the arm doesn't ever need to re-fold like that, and you can push the monitor back and forward or side to side freely. You may, however, need some free space behind the desk for the arm to swing into when you push the monitor right back. If your desk is up against a wall, you might need to actually put the pivot pole on one of the side edges, rather than the back, to make this work right.
posted by automatronic at 10:03 AM on March 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

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