8 things to know before buying a monitor arm

Most people recommend buying a monitor arm if you want to set up an ergonomic computer. And yes, monitor arms are great additions to any office. That’s because it allows you to customize your displays as you see fit, preventing eye strain and other postural aches and pains.

However, installing a monitor arm is not as easy as it seems. Here are eight things to consider before purchasing one.

1. Is your monitor VESA compatible?

Most monitor arms use VESA’s Flat Display Mounting Interface (FDMI) standard to ensure they fit most screens. However, not all screens are VESA compatible. So if you are planning to buy a mount or arm for the monitor you have or want to buy, make sure it is compatible with the VESA standard.

Some screens, such as the 55-inch Samsung Odyssey Ark, do not have a VESA mount. So if that’s the case, you’ll need to buy an ugly monitor mount that will hold your screen up around the edges. If you don’t want to see your monitor that way or if your screen is too curved for this solution, you’re stuck with your screen’s supplied stand.

2. Can a monitor arm reliably support the weight of your monitor?

One more thing to check with the monitor arm versus your screen is the weight. Monitor arms are only suitable for a specific weight, which varies between model and manufacturer. While LED screens today are lighter than the CRT screens of yesteryear, monitors of 27 inches or larger are generally on the heavy side.

So, before mounting an expensive display on a cheap monitor arm, make sure it can support the nominal weight of the monitor. Otherwise, you risk damaging your screen when the arm breaks or falls over, as it will not be able to support the weight it carries.

3. Are your cables long enough to reach around the monitor arm?

Aside from ergonomics, another reason people use monitor arms is a clean desk. So when they finally install a monitor arm, they run their monitor’s power and interconnect cables through the arm’s cable channels. Or, if the arm doesn’t have a channel, they use a sleeve that secures and hides the cables.

However, when you do, you add extra distance between your computer and monitor. So unless your computer is placed close to your monitor, you should invest in a longer cable than the one in your monitor’s box.

If you use a fixed monitor arm with clamp mount, you need little space between your desk and the wall behind it. However, fixed position arms defeat the purpose of monitor arms because your screen is tethered to a fixed position and you have to adapt to it rather than the other way around.

However, if you have a fully articulating monitor arm and want to push the arm away from you, you’ll need space behind the desk to place the arm behind the screen – between two and six inches. If you work in a tight space, you have less room to move.

5. Can your table accommodate a monitor arm?

Most monitor arms are clamp or grommet mounted. That means your desk needs to be sturdy enough to support the weight of the monitor, monitor arm, and other accessories you place on top of your monitor (such as a webcam).

So if you’re using a flimsy and inexpensive desk you bought at a flea market, you’ll want to check if you put all that pressure in a smaller area, and it won’t break. In addition, some desks with nice edges will not work unless they are equipped with a grommet and your monitor arm comes with a grommet.

6. Is the surface of your desk strong enough to withstand the pressure of the arms?

While most hardwood desks can withstand the weight of monitor arm setups, you should do so if the surface is not damaged by the monitor arm. Since these mounts are usually relatively heavy, clamp them firmly to your desk.

However, when you do this, you are applying pressure over a relatively small area. That means it can leave a mark in the long run. Monitor arms can even damage the surface of your table when you install it. So, to protect the finish of your desk, use some paper or cardboard cut on the footprint of your monitor arm.

7. Will your multi-monitor setup fit your monitor arms?

Monitor arms are especially useful if you have multiple monitors. With these brackets you can place your monitors quite close to each other, especially if you have a lot of other stuff on your table. However, most multi-monitor arms have a maximum size that they can accommodate.

So if you’re planning to buy three 34-inch ultrawide monitors, make sure the monitor arms you buy will fit. If the arms of the bracket are too short, you will either end up with a poorly positioned monitor system or you will not be able to use the monitor arms at all.

8. How often will you adjust your monitors?

You might think you’re good to go when you’ve done your homework and measured everything from your desk to your office space, the weight and size of the monitor, plus the number of displays you plan to install.

However, you should also consider one last thing, especially if you have more than one display. Monitor arms are notoriously difficult to set up perfectly. While you can easily adjust a single screen on a monitor arm because you only move it relative to your position, it’s more difficult when you need to adjust a monitor relative to you and the monitor next to it.

You may find yourself adjusting one monitor consistently because it looks skewed from your main screen. Once you’ve found your perfect spot, it’s hard to get your monitors aligned again if you want to change positions. And if your colleague accidentally bumps into one of your screens, re-adjust it to avoid the unsightly gap or skew in relation to the other screen.

In addition, if you use monitors from different brands, you should calibrate the colors of your monitors to promote consistency. This is difficult and almost impossible to perfect unless you have an excellent color calibrator for your monitor.

Monitor arms must be set up correctly

If you want an ergonomic desk, you have to spend effort and resources to get it. And even if you hire a professional to set up your monitor arms for you, you’ll still need to work with them to make sure they position your monitor perfectly for you. After all, we all have different body types, so the perfect monitor placement for one person can be terrible for another.

Nevertheless, monitor arms are a good investment because they can help you avoid future physical problems. Keeping a healthy posture at work will not only help you feel less stressed, but it will also reduce body aches and pains, even after a long day at your computer.

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