Technology Showcase: Flatpanel Mounts
Jul 13, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney
Once considered mere accessories, new mounts put flatpanels in their place.
The mounts for flatpanel displays have become indispensable assets in maximizing the return on investment of LCD or plasma screens. Rapidly evolving from an afterthought accessory to an essential component, the mount itself has become an integral component in the overall delivery of entertainment and information.
It all has to do with form factor as display technology shrinks into two-dimensional elegance compared to the TV screens of yore. Think Laurel and Hardy. An old CRT of Oliver Hardy's bulk could stand on its own base without concern for tipping over. On the other hand, modern ultraslim flatpanel displays are as thin as Stan Laurel, but when they fall down, it is nowhere near as funny.
But today's flatpanel mounting systems don't simply hold a screen upright. In response to the varying needs of the environments into which flatpanel displays are being installed, designers have been able to give these mounts the ability to disappear into a wall recess or extend out into a viewing room. Many can be automatically positioned for the preference of individual viewers and instructed to retract themselves into standby positions when their services are no longer required. Some even enable flatpanel screens to serve as teleprompters in corporate boardrooms and houses of worship. In addition, many users appreciate the portability that a cart-mounted display can provide.
The mounts themselves serve multiple duties, holding playback units such as VCRs or DVD players and, increasingly, devices to receive streaming input. Most importantly, they are being designed to conceal the necessary wiring to this mini production island. That means the cable-management scheme built into the mount can influence the look of the installation. Most flatpanel supports benefit from standard mounting-hole patterns compliant with Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) specifications. Bill Lempesis, executive director of VESA, says the organization plans to reconfirm a committee before the end of this year to consider some of the new size and weight requirements made necessary by the ever-expanding glass panels being made available.
Although overall sales figures for flatpanel mounting systems are not available—in part because of the difficulty in differentiating between professional and consumer models—TFC Info, a worldwide leader in AV market research, released a major report in May titled Flat Screen Display Mount Study 2009. You can purchase the full report at www.tfcinfo.com, but the company was good enough to allow me to excerpt from it for this article.
The 335-page report claims that Da-Lite, OmniMount, and Peerless are the most recognized display mount brands overall, but brand loyalty did not seem to be a major factor in mount purchases. As a result, more than half of the respondents stated that the mount decision was, or will be, made at the same time as the flatscreen display decision.
The top five product attributes turn out to be compatibility with the flatscreen, strength/sturdiness, ease of installation, ease of use, and VESA compliance. Of the capabilities of the mounts themselves, 86 percent of respondents wanted the ability to tilt up/down, 69 percent wanted swivel or pivot movement, and 26 percent were looking for portrait/landscape image rotation. An articulating arm was either "extremely" or "very" important to 39 percent of the respondents, and the premium they were willing to pay for it averaged $138.
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