Ergotech 320 Series Monitor Arm Review
Ergotech's new series of adjustable monitor arms offers a wide range of adjustability and capabilities, including dual monitor attachment, at a low price. But its near-dangerous levels of instability, due to a poorly-designed desk edge clamp, makes it impossible for us to recommend it, even as a budget alternative.
The monitor arm arrives pre-assembled, with and the tension adjustment for making sure your monitor stays where you want it is straightforward and easier than other arms we've seen. Some components feature a nice paint job, and the price is fantastic.
Components are bulky, and some parts are poorly machined. The clamp that attaches to the desk edge does a poor job of keeping the monitor arm secured, and risks detaching from your desk with potentially tragic consequences.
The ‘Arms’ Are a Monitor Arm’s Best Feature
Monitor arms are a quintessential part of any ergonomic workstation. You can read about the benefits of proper monitor heights here, but it boils down to this: Setting your monitor at the proper height will protect your neck and shoulders from work strain, and keep you more productive and more comfortable throughout the day. Sounds pretty simple, sure, but with literally hundreds of models available in the marketplace, how do you choose the best monitor arm for your workstation?
In general, the best arms are highly adjustable in height range, horizontal extension, and depth from the user, to ensure optimal viewing position for monitors of any size and orientation (portrait or landscape). While plenty of monitor mounts allow you to raise your screen to height, without the horizontal extension and depth adjustments it would be difficult to achieve ideal ergonomics at your workstation.
Ergotech, the manufacturer behind the electrically-adjustable One-Touch line of desktop risers that we recently reviewed, also offers a variety of monitor arms. Their three main monitor arm series are the creatively named 100, 200, and 320 arms. Of the three, their 320 series offers the most adjustability. The 320 arms consist of articulating arm segments secured onto a 14″-tall central mounting pole. There are three sub-models to choose from. The C011 ($62.99) is the simplest, with a single articulating segment. The C012 ($89.99) has a second, horizontally-adjustable segment (similar to Ergotron’s LX line of monitor arms). In this review we’re evaluating the third model, the C024 ($139.99), which adds a second arm for dual monitor configurations.
Ease of Assembly, With a Caveat
We were pleasantly surprised after receiving our new monitor arm. Not only did it arrive well-packaged, it was also largely pre-assembled: The arm segments were already attached to each other, straight out of the box. Monitor arms aren’t often an ordeal to put together, but the less time you spend installing, the sooner you can start working. The dual arms are both attached to a central joint, which in turn secures onto the mounting pole. This entire assembly then attaches to your desktop using either a grommet mount or a desk edge clamp. Fitting the dual arm joint onto the mounting pole was easy enough, but we encountered a snag while setting the height of the joint, literally. The machine screws for attaching a small collar to the mounting pole (used to help set the position of the arms along the pole’s height) were machined from poor quality metal and warped easily as we loosened and tightened them, creating small jags that could break the skin of your hands or fingers. Monitor arm assembly can take some work, but it should never be a bloody affair.
A Husky Monitor Arm
The 320 cuts an impressive figure on the desk. Despite its lightweight frame, its arm segments are wide and bulky. While Ergotron’s arm segments are a slim 1.5″ wide, the 320’s arms are more than double that. It does make up for its girth with smaller joints linking the two segments, but users would be hard-pressed not to notice its size. The aluminum arms are an attractively speckled, glossy kind of gray that, unlike the polished components of other monitor arms, don’t collect finger prints. However, this sophisticated aesthetic is marred by the 320’s plastic casing, which surrounds the top arm segment. The plastic casing looked and felt cheap, and the adhesive keeping its two halves together appeared to already be degrading. We noticed the two halves of the plastic casing on one arm was already starting to come apart, exposing an unsightly seam. Aesthetic considerations aside, the 320 arm looks and feels solid, and Ergotech’s 5-year warranty of the arm affirms this idea.
At the beginning of our testing, the joints between the two arm segments were too tight and difficult to reposition. Over time, these links became easier to move as we used them more. After that, it was pretty smooth sailing, though the right arm remained easier to reposition than the left. The 320 series offers a wide range of adjustability: The two models that feature two arm segments have a 23″ reach and can support monitors up to 30″ wide and weighing up to 25 lbs. While monitor height can easily be adjusted with the articulating arm segments, you can shift the height range up or down, relative to your desk top, by adjusting the position of the arms’ central joint along the mounting pole: The assembly attaches around the mounting pole with a clamp that you can loosen or tighten with an adjustable handle bolt. This handle bolt is a good inclusion, but it could have been executed better. While it gets the job done, the handle has a loose fit around the bolt it is tightening or loosening which reduces its efficiency since it can often “slip” when you pull or push the handle. A factor in the arm’s favor is that, unlike Ergotron’s Dual LX, the 320’s 14″ mounting pole gives the arm the ability to satisfy the height requirements needed by taller standing desk users and treadmill desk users alike.
The 320 offers some measure of cable management, which we found especially useful given that we were using two monitors. A plastic ring clips onto the mounting pole where you can bundle your monitor cords. Recessed compartments underneath each arm also let you stow cables out of the way. It’s not a full cable management solution—you’ll still see some of the cable sticking out—but it’s enough to keep the space around your monitors uncluttered.
Some “Tension” Tension
While adjusting your monitor’s position is an easy enough task, adjusting the tension of the 320’s different components is a little more involved. Changing the tension of the arm, as well as the tightness of the monitor mounting plate’s tilt and pan hinges requires three different hex keys. Remembering where you left the 320’s assembly tools the next time you swap monitors may be an unnecessary annoyance. One saving grace for the 320’s height adjustment tension is that its tensioning bolt is within easy reach on top of the arm (not hidden inside it like on the Ergotron LX arms) and Ergotech had the foresight to indicate on the arm which direction to turn the key for more or less tension.
The 320 series utilizes a spring lift system. For a detailed comparison between spring lift and gas lift monitor arms, click here.
A Weak Foundation
While the sticky joints, numerous adjustment tools, and inconsistent design aesthetic are less than ideal, they don’t render the arm unusable. Unfortunately, the 320’s lackluster desk clamp, meant to secure the mounting pole to your tabletop, does. The base of the mounting pole is small and v-shaped, which does not provide much contact area between the top of the desk clamp and the surface of your desk.
Furthermore, the clamp’s under-desk bracket and screw are much too long and exhibit a great deal of flex. The result is a clamp doesn’t securely affix the arm onto either a 3/4″- or 1-and-1/8″-thick desktop. This makes the 320 monitor arm less stable than the gold-standard Ergotron LX, to the point that simply moving the monitors forward and back easily nudges the clamp out of place. If you’re not careful the entire arm, your monitor included, could take a tumble and shuffle off its mortal coil. Mounting the arm through a grommet hole would arguably resolve this issue, though only an insignificant minority of users are likely to have the right sized grommet hole in the right place in order to mount it so.
We had high hopes for the 320 monitor arms—they offered great adjustability and weight capacity, at a lower price point than other arms. But the debacle of a clamp goes far beyond simple ‘annoyance’ and into the realm of ‘DANGER’, making it impossible for us to recommend it for typical users. We can only give a qualified recommendation for budget buyers with a mechanical inclination, who might be building their own desk and don’t have a problem with drilling out a grommet hole in the right spot on their desk. The 320 series boasts alluringly low price tags, but in this case you get what you pay for. Do yourself and your monitors a favor; buy a quality monitor arm, like the Ergotron LX, that won’t waltz off your desk.