I Sing of Monitor Arms…

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to de-clutter my home office. My IKEA Galant desk is quite large; and yet, I never seem to have enough space to get my work done. In fact, full disclosure: I’m writing this blog post on my kitchen table. So if I wanted to get back to my office to get work done, I was going to have to move things around.

The first big change was getting rid of my behemoth Mac Pro tower. In fact, I’ve put it on eBay (auction closing this Wednesday, Jan. 11), so that’s one space hog eliminated. But there’s a compulsion that emerges when you clear off desk space: you want to clear off even more!

Arm Yourself

One of the most effective ways to free up space on your desk is to lift your computer monitor off and suspend it over your desk, or off to the side, via a monitor arm. These mount to the back of the monitor and typically clamp to the edge of the desk, leaving the rest of the surface wide open. I had a great flexible arm from Siig that I wanted to use with my 27″ Apple LED Cinema Display from 2010. The Siig arm specs said it supports monitors up to 27″; so, perfect, right?

Not quite.

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Siig’s Articulating Monitor Desk Mount – 13″ to 27″ (Source: Siig.com)

Mounting Difficulties

The first obvious issue is that Apple continues to march to its own drummer. In this case, their monitors do not support the mounting standard from the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). VESA mounts use four screws in a square or rectangular formation. For example, the Siig arm is designed to fit 75mm and 100mm square patterns. If you check the back of your flatscreen PC monitor, you may spot those four holes on the back. The Apple LED Cinema Display does not have those holes. But I wasn’t yet so desperate that I was reaching for my drill, thankfully.

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VESA mounting holes on the back of a monitor. (Source: multi-monitors.com)

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Apple’s LED Cinema Display, sans VESA holes. (Source: CNet.com, click photo for their 2010 review of this monitor.)

Anticipating users’ desires to mount their monitors to arms and other VESA mounts, Apple manufactured a VESA Mount Adapter Kit.  The first difficulty (of what would turn out to be many) came in finding this kit new at retail. After scouring the web for Apple part number MD179ZM/A, I finally found a reputable retailer who had it in stock: PCConnection.com.

So once I had the kit, I was able to remove the built-in stand from my display (no small feat, per Apple’s instructions) and attach the VESA mount. Here’s a video from YouTuber Geoff Tripoli, showing the installation:

From there, I attached my Siig arm and set it up on my desk. And that’s when the monitor—and my spirits—sank.

While Siig’s arm does indeed claim support for displays up to 27″ (measured diagonally), what I didn’t account for was its weight limit: up to 22 lbs. The LED Cinema Display weighs in at 23.5 lbs; and while that’s not a huge difference, it was certainly enough to tip the screen forward, rendering it unusable for my purposes.

I was in too deep at this point to give up; I had desk space to reclaim, dammit! So I did some digging, and I found a VESA monitor arm that specifically boasted support for the heavy Apple Cinema Displays: Ergotech’s Freedom Arm™ line.

I made sure this time to read the fine print: the basic Freedom Arm™ only supports displays weighing up to 17.8 lbs., a dealbreaker. But they have two other arms that can handle up to 30.8 lbs: the Freedom Arm™ HD, and the Freedom Arm™ iMac® 2007-2011. Knowing that the LED Cinema Display is structurally identical to the iMac from that era, I selected the latter arm and prepared to make my purchase. But then I took a second look.

Specifically, I read their instructions (always a good idea before making a tech purchase, whenever you can).  The way the Freedom Arm™ iMac® 2007-2011 is designed, the arm attaches directly to the back of the display, eliminating the need for the Apple VESA Mount Adapter Kit. While I applaud their ingenuity and generosity—saving customers the cost and hassle of buying that extra part!—I decided not to get that model, and here’s why:

  1. After a fair bit of hunting, I now owned the VESA Mount Adapter Kit; and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of returning it.
  2. If I decided to change out arms (or perhaps use a wall mount) in the future, I was going to need Apple’s VESA kit after all; and it’s only getting harder to find over time.
  3. If I were to replace the Apple LED Cinema Display with a different screen, owning an arm custom-designed for just that one model wouldn’t be very forward-thinking. I try to make my upgrades as “future-proof” as possible.

Luckily, Ergotech makes a standard VESA arm for heavier displays: The Freedom Arm™ HD. I ordered this one, and notwithstanding some frustrations with FedEx trying to deliver on New Year’s Eve, I got it in a relatively timely manner from Amazon (click the link below to order):

Ergotech Freedom Arm HD (FDM-HD-S01) 

Once again, I attached the arm to my VESA-enabled LED Cinema Display. This time, I’m happy to say, nothing drooped. The arm supports the weight like a champ.

Here’s a video review from the YouTubers at NOBA TECH:

I was very pleased with the look and feel of the arm, and thrilled with the liberated desk space. But all was not quite perfect, yet.

An Arm with an Achilles Heel

The Freedom Arm™ HD is a very tightly built mechanism. I have no worries about the joints slipping or drooping. However, this tightness has a drawback. With normal vibration on the desk (say, for example, typing or mousing), the suspended monitor now jiggles to a distracting degree. Indeed, this phenomenon comes up in an Amazon review:

They do tend to jiggle a tiny bit when I type on my desktop, but I think that’s something unavoidable with an arm as long as this.

I was experiencing more than a “tiny bit” of jiggle. I called Ergotech customer service, and spoke with a gracious, patient representative, “Meg.” She was surprised to hear about the jiggling, as my call was the first she had ever heard about that happening. Her advice was to mount the arm to a different desk. And I’m inclined to agree.

My current desk, an IKEA Galant table from about 2003, is of particleboard construction. It’s sagging in the middle, and attaching a VESA arm may just be too much for it to handle at this point. I have therefore begun the quest to replace the desk with one that can support the arm with minimal (or nonexistent) screen jiggle; sturdy, all-wood construction; and a fixed or adjustable height that can allow me to work while standing. After all, “sitting is the new smoking!”

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An IKEA Galant desk used to the utmost. (Source: Redditor dave2kdotorg, click photo for his post.)

Conclusion?

I’ll post the conclusion of this saga as soon as I’ve found the best desk to meet my needs (so it may not be as soon as next week). In the meantime, I’ve removed the Ergotech arm and VESA Mount Adapter Kit from my LED Cinema Display; I’ve restored the display to its original stand (another surprisingly arduous process); and I’m making do with the sagging Galant desk. And on the floor of my office, is a brand-new, shiny arm.

And I swear, it’s giving me the finger. ■

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2 thoughts on “I Sing of Monitor Arms…

  1. Pingback: Amazon’s Got This Delivery Thing Locked | The At Home With Technology Blog

  2. Pingback: LG’s new 5K Monitor Draws Sideways Looks | The At Home With Technology Blog

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