Humanscale M2.1 Monitor Arm Review
- First Look
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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.
|MSRP / List Price
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Polished aluminum with white trim
The arm itself is steel and aluminum construction. The counterbalance mechanism is a metal spring coil.
Height Adjustment Range (“stroke”): 10.4″
|Number of Monitors Supported
|Where to buy
Buy on Smart Furniture
|Ease of Assembly
|Quality and Aesthetics
|Suitability for Treadmill Desking
|Style, style, style. All Humanscale monitor arms look great in an office space going for elegant interior design.
|There are definitely far better monitor arms out there for the kind of money that Humanscale charges. For this particular monitor arm, the main knocks are the low dynamic height range (not ideal for taller users) and very low weight capacity. Modern-day large format panoramic monitors can weight literally three times more than this arm can lift.
A Refresh on a Classic
Humanscale has updated their original M2 and M8 monitor arms to these new “.1” models, the M2.1 we review here and the M8.1 we review separately. For the most part these functional performance specs on the “.1” arms seem to have been reduced, and installation hassles with the older models have been significantly improved upon, while prices remain quite high relative to the competition. To be fair, monitor mounts are highly competitive these days, with Amazon alone listing more than 2,000 models. But before you go off attempting to sift the good from the bad out of those thousands, particularly if you’re looking for a good arm for use with a sit-stand desk or treadmill desk, be sure to read our comprehensive round-up of lab-tested monitor arm reviews.
The M2.1 Monitor Arm Reboot
The M2.1 monitor arm from Humanscale was designed and developed by the company’s in-house design studio. True to their design style, the posh and polished M2 arm takes quite a pretty picture. However, our team isn’t blinded by glitz: We’ve carefully scrutinized the M8.1 in our testing labs, and compared it to all the other popular monitor mounts for standing desk and treadmill desk applications.
In the active office furniture industry, Humanscale is the resident aesthete. Two of their previous entrants, the Float Table and the Quickstand Desktop Riser, both sport attractive designs that underscore their minimalist philosophy: Humanscale makes products that are simple and clean, from the Float Table’s unobtrusive height adjustment lever to the Quickstand’s embedded cable management.
The M2.1 seems to follow a similar aesthetic principle. Its steel and aluminum construction results in a white-chrome luster that’ll feel familiar to the iPhone crowd. In stark contrast to the plastic-laden Ergotron arms, the M2.1 is visually less obtrusive, especially in the articulating joints connecting the two arm segments, where the M2.1 boasts a much slimmer profile.
Looking at the M2.1 monitor arm spec sheet, we didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. A 10.4″ height adjustment range and 15.5-pound lift capacity all fall within normal expectations for low-end monitor arms. Designed primarily for fixed-height desk users, not standing desk users, the M2.1’s top-end range may not work well for taller users, however. Look to their M8.1 and M10 models for a better fit.
The company has been around for decades, and in that time the company has made a name for itself producing beautifully designed, durable equipment for the modern office. Their products have won numerous design awards and have even been featured in Museum of Modern Art in New York City. You’re most likely to spot their products in high-priced law firms and other organizations that invest a lot in interior design.
Special Features Found on Humanscale Arms
The fine touches abound with the M2.1, M8.1 and M10 monitor arms. For example, all the monitor mounts include flexible rubber channels to easily hide, protect, and manage your cables.
Humanscale boasts of its “Compensator Mechanism and Self-Lubricating Precision Bearings” as a unique innovation, which sounds very fancy—that marketing copywriter who came up with that name for a simple spring coil counterbalance mechanism deserves a big bonus for that one—but all it really means is that the Humanscale arms employ older, but highly durable and reliable metal springs in their mechanisms. And the M8.1 indeed has a 15-year warranty with the entry-level M2.1 and the high-capacity M10 only carry 10-year warranties. But most newer arms use quieter, smoother gas piston counterbalance mechanisms. Learn about the differences in our primer on The Difference between Gas Piston and Metal Spring Counterbalance Mechanisms in Monitor Arms.
A built-in “Counterbalance Indicator” provides the ability to counterbalance the monitor weight before monitor installation to reduce expensive computer set-up costs, and that’s important because the kinds of customers who invest in Humanscale monitor arms are usually paying professional furniture installers buy the hour to assemble them, typically at a cost of around $100-200 per arm. While this feature sounds great, you can find the same counterbalance indicator function on better, less expensive mounts like the iMovR Tempo monitor arm, which comes almost completely pre-assembled and that anyone can install in a matter of minutes.
Humanscale’s “Smart Stop” allows the user to customize the rotation range of the arm, preventing damage to the wall behind your desk or having the back of your monitors run into the back of a co-worker’s monitors. Humanscale claims this is a unique, patent-pending feature but the same functionality can found on other better, less-expensive mounts like all of iMovR’s TopView monitor arms.
Another feature that Humanscale claims to be patent-pending is the new Quick Release Joints that “instantly snap together for a secure and robust fit, simplifying installation.” While we haven’t seen exactly this on other monitor arms we’re not sure yet whether it really adds any value over competing designs. It is good to see that the new “.1” models are far easier to install than their M2 and M8 predecessors, but again, other monitor arm manufacturers like Ergotron have never needed such “innovations” to make their mounts easy for any user to assemble without a professional installer’s help.
Humanscale also offers more accessories for their monitor arms than most vendors do, for example a “wire hanger” for resting your headset on—for $85. You can literally find headset hooks for under $2 on Amazon, but we had to mention it.
Lastly, Humanscale offers optional bases—the M/Connect 2 and M/Power integrated docking station—to conveniently bring power and data directly to the user. This is an alternative to grommet-mount, edge-mount and other power management modules that are far more popular on standing desks these days, but at prices ranging from $390 to $869 just for this low-power docking station you’d have to have money seriously burning a hole in your pocket. We will be reviewing these “integrated docks” separately as part of our new series of power management options for standing desk users.
Sexy and smart, but with a super premium price tag to go with it. The M2.1 monitor arm series, while lower in performance than its M2 predecessor is still a looker. It’s the go-to product line for high-end office spaces that invest millions in their interior design, marble floors and birdseye maple walls, but in terms of ease of installation and various performance metrics we evaluate carefully for standing desk and treadmill desk applications, you can get a lot more for your money with other popular options on the market. And the height range limitation on the M2.1 compel us to direct you to their M8.1 and M10 models for taller users. See our comprehensive round-up of all our lab-tested monitor arm reviews for comparison.