Best Single Monitor Arms for Standing Desks
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Finding The Best Single-Display Monitor Arm
At WorkWhileWalking we’ve lab-tested many dozens of monitor arms over the years, of every flavor you can imagine. The reason there are so many monitor arm models out there is because of the tremendous variety of display weights, sizes, and combinations.
We understand it can be a bit daunting to find the right monitor arm for your needs. There’s a reason that monitor arms are the most frequently returned ergonomic accessories, and it starts with the fact that a lot of manufacturers and retailers leave out important details in their advertising. But don’t despair, we’re here to help! Doing a little bit of research up front can save you a lot of frustration down the road.
The content below was developed by our expert review staff to give consumers every bit of information needed to make the right choice in single-display monitor arms from the outset. But you can skip directly to the review abstracts if you want to save time.
To compare all of the most popular monitor arms you can check out our comprehensive round-up of The Best Monitor Arm reviews. However, because there are so many arms in the market today we also broke this down to narrower round-ups just for Dual Monitor Arms, Triple Monitor Arms, Quad Monitor Arms, 5-6 Monitor Arms, and 7-8 Monitor Arms. You are currently reading the round-up for single-monitor arms.
Do You Need A Simple Monitor Mount or an Articulating Monitor Arm?
If you only need to hoist a single display up to a proper ergonomic height, a single-display monitor mount or single-display articulating monitor arm is pretty straightforward to shop for.
But let’s talk for a moment just about the difference between a “monitor mount” and an “ergonomic monitor arm” (a.k.a. “articulating monitor arm”). That’s a bit tricky to understand sometimes because some manufacturers use these two labels interchangeably, when they really shouldn’t. Maybe it doesn’t rise to the level of false advertising, but it definitely confuses consumers. So let’s set the record straight.
A monitor mount is the simplest and least expensive way to go when you’re going to be the only user working on that computer, at a non-adjustable, fixed-height desk. But if multiple people of varying anthropometry share the same desk, or if the desk is an adjustable-height, sit-to-stand type (even when used by just one individual), you’re definitely going to want to opt instead for an articulating monitor arm.
Because our audience is either using an active workstation already, or is in the research phase of planning to adopt a sit-stand desk or treadmill desk, we don’t review non-articulating monitor mounts. Our focus is on the articulating ergonomic monitor arms that are much more popular these days, and future-proof. Yes, they cost more than simple monitor mounts, but they make it easy to move the monitor up or down to the correct height in a matter of seconds.
If a simple single-display monitor mount is what you’re looking for we can set you free here to go shop for one on Amazon; they’ll generally run you $20 to $50.
So let’s get into the nitty gritty on how to find the best single-display monitor arm. For most users, the important shopping criteria for most users will be:
- Does it have the right weight range to accommodate the weight of my monitor?
- Does it have the right height-adjustment range to accommodate my needs both when sitting and standing, given where the VESA mount is located on the back of my display (see our measurement guide below).
- Is the mounting bracket compatible with my desk?
- Can I get it in the color I desire?
- Is it reliable enough, and does it have a decent enough warranty, for the price I’m willing to pay?
Using Multiple Independent Monitor Arms In Concert
You can skip this section if you only have a single display to deal with. It’s worth noting, however, that even if you have two to four monitors, there are scenarios in which using multiple single-display arms might be a better solution for you.
Perhaps the simplest example of this is when you’re adding a second monitor to your workstation but don’t want to throw away that perfectly good single-display arm you already own; you can always just add another single-arm to hold up your second display
If you have heavier or larger monitors that won’t work within the constraints of a multiple-monitor arm, having two, three or even four single-display arms can sometimes meet your needs better.
The primary downside to having multiple screens on multiple independent arms is that you have to adjust each one of them separately whenever you move between sitting and standing. That can be a bit cumbersome if you have to switch and realign them each time, multiple times throughout the day. A secondary downside is that it’s probably a little more expensive to go this way versus buying a multiple-display monitor arm.
Beware Of Monitor Arms That “Arc”
The vast majority of single-display monitor arms have an inherent arcing motion when they’re constrained against a wall behind your desk. That means every time you go to raise your monitor it will shift a little to the left or right, placing them off-center from your keyboard and mouse.
To avoid this, you’ll need to either move your desk at least 8” away from the wall to allow the elbow of the arm to stick straight back, or you’ll need to upgrade to one of the rare monitor arms that can move perfectly vertically with no arcing. Of course you can always settle for just moving your keyboard and mouse over a half step every time you shift from sitting to standing, if you don’t have a keyboard tray, office treadmill or any other accessory forcing your center position to be fixed.
Because of the arcing issue, if you plan to use multiple single-display arms in concert, you will definitely need to have at least 8” of clearance behind your desk if it is adjustable-height, or if multiple users share the same desk. The only alternative when you do have a wall behind your desk would be to go with an electric monitor arm that can move all the displays straight up and down together with just a tap on the paddle.
Monitor Arms Are Absolutely Essential, And Here’s Why:
If you’re already convinced you need a monitor arm you can skip to the next section. If not, read on to learn why this really isn’t an optional accessory for anyone who spends significant time at a computer each day. Especially if you work at a sit-to-stand desk.
Working with a monitor that’s positioned too low while standing can cause users to slouch forward, cascading into neck, shoulder and back pain, and a host of other problems in the long run. In the vast majority of cases of poor ergonomic setups, people are found to be craning their necks forward and glancing downward, most often to look at a laptop display. You can read about the occurrence of poor monitor setups in this study by the University of Cincinnati Ergonomics Department. This is why external displays mounted to articulating, ergonomic monitor arms are essential for all standing desk users.
The biomechanics are pretty easy to understand. For every inch that your 12 lb head is leaning forward or backward to look at the screen, your neck muscles need to support an extra 10 lbs of weight. So craning down to look at a laptop screen with your head tilted forward 2 inches means your neck muscles are being recruited to support 32 lbs of weight—often for hours on end.
When it comes to standing desk ergonomics the problem is exacerbated by something even many certified ergonomics were never trained to identify or correct. To understand this clearly, just compare side-view x-ray images of the human skeleton when someone changes position from sitting to standing. Because our spines bend 90º at the bottom when we’re seated, our spines stretch out when we stand, making the relative distance between the keyboard and the appropriate monitor height (to avoid neck strain) greater. The taller the individual the bigger this height difference becomes.
Long-term, so-called computer hunch posture can lead to an array of painful maladies that can reduce quality of life, send someone into years of chiropractic treatments, physical therapy, medications, and even surgeries, so this is not something to be dismissive about—whether we’re talking about your own body or your co-workers’. Even in a seated posture, prolonged forward-leaning to view a laptop screen can lead to all of the chronic issues you see in this illustration.
The least expensive and first go-to solution is to add an external display and install it on an ergonomic monitor arm, which is the focus of this article. (The other two key weapons in this battle are ergonomic keyboard trays and ergonomic chairs. For standing desk users there’s a fourth, the all-too-critical anti-fatigue standing mat.)
Narrowing Down The Many Choices In Single-Display Monitor Arms
It may seem daunting. After all, there are literally thousands of single-screen monitor arm models on the market—over 1,000 models on Amazon alone! Nearly one million monitor mounts are sold each year in the US—it’s a gigantic market with a gigantic range of options.
In the broader category of ergonomic accessories, monitor arms are the most likely items to get returned for refund or replacement, usually because consumers didn’t check the specs and their own equipment sufficiently before placing the order, or the seller didn’t take enough care in disclosing the specs and limitations of their product. Between all the different monitor styles out there, variations in standing desk designs and variations in users’ anthropometry, it can be tricky to buy the right arm(s) to fit all three of those criteria.
This is one example where you might want to buy directly from a reputable online ergonomics dealer or manufacturer rather than on a marketplace where no expertise is proffered in selecting the right one for you. It is also one of those categories in which user reviews, even verified ones, cannot be relied upon—not just because of the propensity for fake reviews on sites like Amazon, but the fact that everyone’s computer equipment and anthropometry is completely different. What worked for one user may not work well at all for you.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Selecting a Monitor Arm
A little due diligence upfront to narrow down your choices will go a long way toward eliminating the frustration many users run into when the monitor mount they ordered doesn’t work with their display(s). We’re here to help! This primer will help you figure out your own criteria for what kind of display mount you’ll need, and our review abstracts below will lead you to our lab-tested reviews of the most popular arms on the market today. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Get all the specs on your monitor(s)
These are actually easy to do with a simple Google search, or you can look up the specs on the manufacturer’s website. You’ll want to get the height and width (less critical if using single-monitor arms) of each monitor along with its weight. Do not be confused by the diagonal width, which is sometimes still used by computer display marketers, and is still the standard for TV sets. Especially if you’re going to mount multiple displays on an arm, you need to know whether it can handle the height and width of your monitors; the diagonal dimension does not factor at all into compatibility.
It’s also a good idea, especially with some of the very large monitors available on the market today, to check that the VESA mount is compatible with the one on the monitor arm you’re considering. If not, you might need to do something special to accommodate it, like removing the stand or adding a VESA adapter (iMacs are classic in this regard). 99% of monitor arms these days can handle a 75mm or 100mm VESA style. If you have a truly gigantic monitor with a 200mm VESA pattern, you’ll probably need to use an adapter plate, but chances are it’ll be too heavy for mounting to a conventional mechanical monitor arm in that case (you’ll likely need to move up to a heavy duty electric monitor arm).
Another consideration with heavy monitor setups is the compatibility with the materials of the tabletop itself. With weaker materials on low quality desktops there is a danger of warping and weakening the wood, possibly cracking it completely after repeated bumps and shakes over time. To help prevent that, you could install a heavy-duty reinforcement plate that will help stabilize the connection of the monitor arms to the desktop. iMovR makes a quality steel reinforcement plate for mounting heavy duty monitor arms that will do exactly that.
Step 2: 99.99% of ergonomic monitor arms use a VESA mount
The VESA mount you’ll find on most ergonomic display mounts is a square plate with four holes spaced 75mm from each other and another four holes spaced 100mm from each other. There are some oddball ones out there with 50mm, 90mm and even 200mm hole patterns, but in all likelihood with today’s popular LCD monitors, you’re going to use the 75mm pattern for smaller displays and 100mm for larger displays. So make sure you know which hole patterns are drilled into the back of your monitor(s) and that the arm you select will have a VESA plate that is compatible.
A couple of important details to note:
For iMac computers, you will need to purchase a VESA adapter bracket, either from Apple or from one of the many alternative options on Amazon. We recommend getting one that allows you to remove the built-in stand as this is extra weight that you don’t want to saddle the monitor arm with, and is also a much more elegant solution. While the stand looks permanently attached, it actually removes pretty easily. Check here for more information about mounting your iMac on a monitor arm.
- Cheaper arms are slightly difficult to install without the help of someone to hold up the display while you drive four screws into the VESA plate. Premium arms come with a simple quick connect adapter that you first attach to the back of the LCD display while it’s lying flat on a desk, in 30 seconds. Then the entire monitor “slips over” the VESA plate. This $1 part makes a huge difference in installation ease. Just note that there are a few LCD models that have a recessed square in the back of the display that the VESA plate sets into; in that case, you won’t be able to use the quick connect adaptor—just toss the plastic piece and get a friend to hold up your monitor while you screw it onto the VESA plate old school. As a caveat to all of this, if you’re looking to absolutely maximize rigidity in your monitor arm system (e.g. for treadmill desk users) toss the quick-connect adapter and bold your monitor directly to the VESA plate.
Step 3: Determine the Required Dynamic Height Adjustment Range of Your Monitor Arm
There’s a simple equation you can use to determine whether or not a given monitor arm will work for you, or whether you’re too tall for it. You’ll need to know the following:
A—the maximum height of your monitor arm
B—half the height of your monitor—because the mounting plate is generally located in the center of the monitor, half of the monitor will stick up higher than the plate. (Note a lot of the newer monitors on the market do NOT have the VESA mounting holes in the center, so be sure to measure your specific monitor.
C—your eye height at the zero-degree sight line (i.e. the distance from the floor to your eyes while standing looking straight ahead)
D—the height of your standing desk while you are standing
If A+B ≥ C-D, then you can use the monitor arm without having to crane your neck down or strain your optic nerve. (Note: while not ideal, even if you exceed this limit by a couple of inches you might be ok—and you’ll certainly be better off with a monitor arm than without one—just try and make sure your application windows are always high up within the display area.)
This formula works for standing desk converters as well; you’d just have to use the height of your converter for D. Most X-lift and Z-lift standing desk converters add about 6″, so you’ll want to look for a “short pole” monitor arm specifically designed for use with converters (example). These smaller arms are also lighter, which is important given the limited weight capacity of these non-electric desk converters.
Step 4: Determining the Arm Extension Reach and Arm Retraction Depth
This is one of the most commonly neglected specs that users find out too late that they should have checked out in advance. The arm extension reach is the maximum distance the monitor can be moved toward the user, or aside when wanting to show a co-worker or client your screen. If you collaborate a lot with others, or sometimes share a display with a deskmate to your right or left, this is an important spec to consider.
If you plan to use your monitor arm on a corner desk or L-desk and mount it near the “corner” then it is also a very important spec. While some corner desks have a chamfered back edge so that monitor arms with a normal extension reach can be used, if your L-desk doesn’t have this feature you’ll want to find an arm that’ll allow your monitor to reach forward far enough so that your focal depth is correct. Typically this is approximately the length of your arm reaching out to the top of the screen. But it could be greater if your display is particularly large.
Arm retraction is a measure of how far forward of the back edge of your desk your monitors will sit when pushed all the way back. On most arms, this is about 4″ – 5″ assuming an edge-clamped mounting. However, some dual monitor arms with crossbars can be as much as 8.5″ off the back edge. If your desktop is a capacious 36″-deep that might be perfect, and it may still be workable on a standard 30″-deep standing desk if your monitors aren’t super-large or you have a keyboard tray that lets you stand back an extra foot or so from the desk, but you would never want to use this kind of arm on a “compact” 24″-deep desk.
Of course, the other workaround for depth-of-field is to mount the arm in a custom-drilled grommet hole instead of using the edge clamp. Premium monitor arms from Ergotron, iMovR (check out our roundup of all the iMovR monitor arms) and others always include hardware for both in the box, but be careful when ordering cheap monitor arms to check that they are grommet-mount, edge-clamp mount or contain both sets of hardware. Also make sure they are “articulating,” and not just fixed-height arms that won’t do you any good on a sit-to-stand workstation. Speaking of grommets, check out our article on grommet holes, with everything you need to know about the different ways to use them to enhance your workstation, what to look for in your grommet holes, and where to find the desks with the best ones.
Step 5: Putting It All Together
With your parameters in hand, it’s just a matter of narrowing the options.
- Make sure the weight capacity of the arm is greater than the weight of the monitor itself. If you’re going to be removing a stand as part of adding the display to a VESA clamp then you can subtract the weight of the stand. If you have two or more monitors, then make sure the combined weight of the displays is still within the performance specs of the arm.
- Check that the top of the dynamic height adjustment range of the arm is high enough for your monitor (Step 4 above).
- If mounting two or more arms on a single mount, make sure the width of each monitor is within the specified range the arm was designed for.
- Check that arm extension and arm retraction specs will work well with your desktop depth and usage profile.
- Check all the special considerations below to see if any of these situations apply to you.
- If you can, confirm your decision with an expert, like one of our ergonomic experts at WorkWhileWalking (reach us on live chat, bottom right corner of your screen).
- See our primer on the difference between air cylinder and compression spring counterbalance mechanisms in monitor arms to decide whether this is an important criterion for you. While gas-piston arms are definitely smoother and easier to move, low-quality ones can lose their lift capacity prematurely and start to sag. Look for ones with 10-15 year warranties. As a general rule of thumb, in fact, we would steer consumers away from any commodity monitor mount that comes with less than 10 years of coverage. With a stand-up desk, these arms will get a workout several times a day, go for quality.
- A distinct disadvantage of most monitor arm designs, because they were fundamentally created decades ago for users who would only sit at a fixed-height desk, is that there is an arcing motion to their counterbalance mechanisms. This means that even though you can set the edge clamp so that the monitors are centered on your desktop, as soon as you change position between sitting and standing the center will likely shift a couple of inches left or right. This is an annoying consequence of yesteryear designs that we have vociferously complained about to all the major monitor arm manufacturers for the past decade, to little avail. At WorkWhileWalking we’re hypersensitive to this issue because office treadmills are hard to move, and making the user crane their necks left or right a couple of inches kind of sucks. The workaround? Buy a larger display and move your working application windows to the center as much as possible.
- While many arm manufacturers seeking to catch the new wave of millions of standing desk buyers have increased the height of their poles, they haven’t done anything to address this arcing motion. So you may find that you need to compromise the position of the edge clamp to get to a middling of the center position.
- Unless you have room behind your desk. If not blocked by a wall or the backside of a co-worker’s desk, you can solve this problem by sticking the elbow of your monitor arm straight back. Then the arms motion will be straight up and down with no arcing.
- New electric monitor arms coming out in 2021 generally move straight up and down, eliminating this problem completely.
- Make sure the edge clamp can handle the thickness of your desk and can work around any metal components under the desktop, such as crossbars and other frame members that might get in the way. A classic example is Vari standing desk converters that have a metal frame member not far from the back edge of the work surface that prevent all but specially-made Vari monitor arms to be installed.
- Treadmill desk users will want to shy away from arms that are too shaky and stick with ones that either have stiff joints or have hex key adjustments for tightening them. On any two-legged desk, it is unavoidable to have some oscillation induced into the desk by the user’s swaying walking motions, and you’ll want to minimize the amplification of those oscillations in your displays as transmitted through the monitor arms.
- Understand that with most desktops the position of the edge clamp is essential to hone in on before really tightening down in place. We’ve seen a lot of desktops after years of having an edge-mounted monitor arm attached in the same spot, and there’s often a slight depression in the wood or laminate from where it used to be, or worse, discoloration in the desktop from the protective rubber pad that comes with most monitor arms (ironically to protect the desktop from indentations). Note that neither the monitor arm manufacturer’s or desk manufacturer’s warranty is likely to cover any damage of this nature.
Best Single Monitor Arms for Standing Desks
The entire patented mechanism of the Ergotron Trace is highly unique, making it sort of the Bang & Olufsen of monitor arms—pricey, but extremely cool mechanically and aesthetically. And it’s still less expensive than most Humanscale arms that interior designers love to specify. The clever patented design gets around the main disadvantage of most monitor arms, the arcing motion of their counterbalance systems. The Trace also has a more stable, steady movement because it doesn’t have the elbow joints that most monitor arms do. Where conventional arms can require you to put your shoulders into an awkward set of movements just to share your screens with a coworker and move them back, collaborating is now finger-touch easy. It also dampens vibrations well, making it a great choice for standing desk and treadmill desk users that often struggle with the shakiness of a massive desktop sitting atop two lifting columns with an inherent amount of deflection (i.e. shakiness).
We love it when a monitor arm sports significant differentiation that sets it apart from the sea of competition, and the iMovR Compass Single Monitor Arm definitely fits that description with its exceptional maximum height reach of 28”. And it isn’t just for tall applications, it’s also great for wide applications. Meaning the ability to take dual monitors each up to a whopping 48” in width and 20 lbs in weight. In fact, it has the broadest vertical and horizontal reach capability of any mechanical monitor arm we’ve ever lab tested (only some very pricey, specialized electric monitor lifts surpass it). But the Compass’ other secret weapon is its modern styling, which is sure to give premium-priced design leader Humanscale a serious run for the money.
iMovR’s TopView Max Monitor Arm stands out from the crowd of mechanically-counterbalanced monitor mounts thanks to an incredible 42-lb weight capacity. Smooth and silent adjustment, sleek looks, quality componentry, and a 15-year warranty only add to the appeal. If you have a chunky ultra-wide monitor, all-in-one PC or iMac, this is the monitor arm for you.
iMovR’s Tempo Monitor Arm is available in three configurations—this review focuses on the Heavy-Duty Single Arm version. (There is also a Light Duty Single Arm and a Tempo Dual Monitor Arm that we’ve reviewed separately). Smooth and silent adjustment, sleek looks, quality componentry, and a weight gauge for the adjustable counterbalance put this arm at the top of the crowded field of manually adjustable monitor arms. With a 30-lb capacity means it can handle most modern displays. A 15-year warranty is best-in-class for gas cylinder-based monitor arms.
iMovR’s Tempo Monitor Arm is available in three configurations—this review focuses on the Light single arm version. Smooth and silent adjustment, sleek looks, quality componentry, and a weight gauge for the adjustable counterbalance put this arm at the top of the crowded field of monitor arms. 15-year warranty is best-in-class for gas cylinder-based monitor arms.
Our top value pick for use with standing desk converters (X-lift and Z-lift types, specifically), as long as your monitor weighs 17.6 lbs or less. Uncommonly robust features and high quality construction for a monitor arm in this price range, with a 10-year warranty and commercial office furniture grade ratings to match. Note that the “short pole” design, while making this the ideal arm for use with desktop converters, also means it may be too short for taller individuals to use on a full-fledged standing desk or treadmill desk.
Ergotron makes a darn good monitor arm. The company delivers on promises of quality, range of motion, durability, and just about everything else. Rave customer reviews back these claims. The LX is an excellent choice for standing desk and treadmill desk users, but we strongly recommend upgrading to the Tall Pole (13″) version for proper ergonomics if you’re not using it on a fixed-height desk.
The king of Ergotron’s desk mount monitor arm line, the LX Sit-Stand possesses a wide adjustment range and capacity to give standing desk and treadmill desk users more options to customize the active workstation of their dreams. It’s brawny 30 lbs maximum lift capacity, however, has not kept up with the much larger and heavier monitors being sold today, so check your specs.
It boils down to one thing with Humanscale arms, because they are PRICEY. What you’re buying is elegant design that will impress office visitors, just like that $30,000 conference table in the glass-walled conference room everyone sees when they step out of the elevators on your firm’s floor. Functionality-wise these are far from the best-for-the-money but no one tops Humanscale’s glitzy looks. All-in-all you can get better arms for less money that look 90% as nice these days, since other monitor arm manufacturers have all been gunning for Humanscale for many years now.
Humanscale is known for its leadership in industrial design. With form over function these monitor arms may be the prettiest of the bunch, but they generally lack in functionality and ergonomic performance specs. They’re also some of the least rigid arms we’ve ever tested, making them less than ideal for use on 2-legged standing desks (much less treadmill desks) where any vibration in the desk will be significantly amplified by the monitor arm. In the case of the M2.1 its 15.5 lbs maximum lift capability means most monitors sold today wouldn’t be mountable. But if you have a lighter-weight monitor and really love the styling it’s hard to go wrong with this brand if it’s in your budget range.
Discontinued Monitor Arms
At WorkWhileWalking we’ve been lab testing and writing reviews of ergonomic office furniture and accessories for over a decade. In that time, we have seen many of the products we reviewed fall by the wayside. This is inevitable due to the cycle of continuous improvement, with new models supplanting their predecessors. Of course in some cases products weren’t as competitive as they needed to be, or their manufacturers ran into financial challenges (which very much accelerated as a result of the post-pandemic economy).
For whatever reason, these products now fall into the discontinued category, but we will still keep their reviews published and available to read. Whether you want to know more about the desk, monitor arm, etc. that you bought years ago, need more info because someone is selling one second hand, or just want to compare current offerings with what was available in the past, these reviews will remain here for your reference.
The Fully Jax single-display, light-duty monitor arm is another of the many monitor arm options out there that you can use to add some ergonomic utility to your standing desk. It has some decent specs, being able to support a monitor up to 19.8 lbs and rotate 360-degrees. While it has a mechanical spring operation that is strong and long-lasting, that design also can feel a bit jerky and loud in its movements. On the other hand, this design also keeps it cheaper. It also has a height range a few inches shorter than the best competition that can limit its use for some taller users.
Completing Your Ergonomic Workstation
Acquiring the best standing desk for your decor, budget and performance requirements is Step One. But making it a true ergonomic workstation involves adding the appropriate accessories you’ll need to keep your body in a correct posture, and have a neat and tidy setup. Check out our comprehensive guides to monitor arms, keyboard trays, anti-fatigue mats, ergonomic seats, cable management kits, power management modules, foot rests and under-desk treadmills for both expert advice and lab-tested product reviews of options in each of these categories.