In a recent article I mentioned I’m mounting a budget 32-inch LCD display in my sons’ bedroom. They’re only 7-months-old and their viewing habits tend heavily toward Handy Manny and The Imagination Movers, so a larger 1080p model wasn’t really a priority. Given the low cost of the display itself, it was tough to justify spending all that much on a mount to hang it. At the same time, though, I figured I would see what you get with your average big-box store mount vs. something dirt-cheap from an online retailer.
Monoprice Ultra-Slim Tilt Mount 5915 - $14.96 + SH
I’ve been buying inexpensive A/V accessories from Monoprice for several years with very few issues, so they were my first stop in shopping for a cheap mount. I settled on a $15 model claiming to be “Ultra-Slim” with a basic tilt mechanism. It’s a rail-based system with wall-plate capable of holding displays from 23” - 37” up to 165 pounds, both of which easily cover my display. While not a flush mount, it provides a narrow 1.81” offset from wall to TV. When it arrived, I was surprised to find packaging pretty enough to sit on the shelf of any big-box store. Usually, this kind of Internet mail-order item comes in an nondescript brown box. As I opened the packaging I was greeted with a single half-sheet of mounting directions, a bag of mixed mounting hardware, and the mount pieces themselves.
The mount itself feels fairly robust, made of powder-coated steel with smooth edges. The tilt mechanism is a simple pivot of the top hanging hooks and offers roughly 10 degrees of tilt. While the main build quality of the mount feels adequate, there are some minor nitpicks I noticed right away. The supplied bubble level, mounted right in the middle of the wall plate, had guide lines roughly twice as wide as the bubble itself, making the level nearly impossible to make good use of. Also, all of the mounting hardware was tossed into a single clear plastic bag, while most products sold with this type of hardware these days have hardware segregated into individual labeled packaging. The hardware included lag bolts, plastic drywall anchors, fine thread mounting bolts, and teflon spacers.
In practice, there was nothing unusual about or tricky about hanging the mount. Since I’d already lost faith in the included bubble level, I ended up using a free level app on my iPod touch (since I’d have to walk all the way down to the garage to get my torpedo level). I caught one stud with the included lag bolts, and used Moen SmartMounts for the other side, along with their included hardware. Cable pass-through holes lined right up with where I planned on placing an Arlington TV Box to provide power and video cabling. Mounting the rails to the TV took a bit of trial-and-error to find the appropriate length hardware, but the single-bag hardware organization only added a couple of minutes to the process. After adjusting the tilt of the hanging hooks to somewhere in the middle of their range (no guide markers), I was able to lift the display directly on to the wall plate with ease.
Regardless of a handful of minor nitpicks, the $15 Monoprice mount proved to be everything I needed it to be. I would have preferred a more accurate bubble level and more robust drywall anchors be included, but both were easily overcome by my iPhone and an inexpensive third-party anchor system.
Monster SmartView Tilt Mount FS-M300-MT - $110 + Tax
When I decided to compare a low-price mount to something more common, I decided the comparison should include what your average consumer might walk out of a big-box retailer with along side their new shinny LCD display. I hoofed it up to my local Fry’s Electronics and, after a short comparison, left with the Monster SmartView Tilt Mount for $110 + tax. It’s comparable in size and general design (plate + rails) as the Monoprice mount, but silver in color with a slightly different tilt mechanism. Weight capacity is listed at 100 pounds and mounted depth is 2.2” off-the-wall. The Monster mount does best the Monoprice mount in tilt angle, capable of an impressive 20 degree downward tilt. This is mainly thanks to its lower pivot-point. The Monster mount also allows for easy vertical movement of the display, up to 3”, without re-mounting.
The Monster mount’s hardware package was similar to that of the Monoprice, including lag bolts, plastic anchors, and an assortment of fine-thread bolts. The arrangement, however, was a much more user-friendly method with each hardware type presorted and packaged individually. Mounting the rails to the display was straightforward, with the appropriate hardware present in the kit. Directions were more detailed, with a four-page packet included, though roughly half of those pages were warnings and legal jargon.
With a larger wall plate, the Monster mount did offer more clearance for possible wire management placement concerns. There was no included level, either mounted or packed in, so there is some expectation of what tools a homeowner might have on-hand. I used the same arrangement for mounting the wall-plate, catching one stud with lag bolts and the Moen SecureMount toggles for the other. Hanging the display, though, was much more difficult due to hanging hooks being present at both top and bottom to accommodate the vertical height adjustments. This is in contrast to the single set of hanging hooks with set screws at the bottom of the Monoprice mount.
While both mounts were sturdy and well built, I did find the Monoprice mount a bit easier to hang without the aid of a second set of hands. That said, the included bubble-level and its wide tolerance range could easily lead to a skewed mount and an unhappy consumer. There was also a bit more play in the connection points of the Monoprice mount, but nothing that was present once the entire system came together and tightened down.
Had I paid more for my display at a big-box retailer, and walked out with the Monster mount along with it, I would not feel that I’d overpaid. However, knowing just what I can get for just $15 from a trusted online retailer, it’s hard to recommend anyone pay an order of magnitude more for a basic mount. Other than the issue with the level and possibly the packaging of the hardware, I could easily see this Monoprice mount selling for the same $100 price point under a different brand name at a retail store.
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Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.