Whether you are using a smartphone or tablet in your cab, one essential piece of gear is the mount. Unfortunately, there is a bewildering array of mounting options out there so making a decision can be tricky.
I was already aware that RAM Mounts had a reputation for quality products, so when they asked if I’d like to test out a few mounts I jumped at the chance.
Bearing a fleeting resemblance to the iconic rebel spaceships of Star Wars, the X-Grip series of mounts features two spring-mounted metal bars in an ‘X’ pattern, that open to grip the sides of you device.
I was impressed with just how tight these arms grip. The rubber tips cushion the device from the metal arms and provide the right amount of resistance to stop the device from slipping out of the mount. When I tried physically pulling the device out of the mount it took a fair bit of force to slide it out.
Despite the tight grip, making an adjustment is easy; just a little pressure on the grip arms gives you enough play to position a device. I also found it very easy to change from portrait to landscape mode when using the slack adjuster.
As much as I like the X-Grip system, it does have a couple of drawbacks. Often, I forgot to pay attention to if my device was mounted straight as it’s very easy to put it in the gripping arms skewed. I found the grip to not be as effective when it wasn’t mounted straight. Also due to the location of the buttons on the side of my phablet, I had to seat it a little higher in the mount than the guide suggested as the proper placement. I still found it to be very secure, but RAM Mounts do warn against using the X-Grip in high vibration areas if you can ensure proper placement.
X-Grips are available in a number of sizes and fit most smartphones, phablets and tablets up to 12”.
I also had a chance to test out the Tab-Tite series of tablet cradles. These provide more support than the X-Grips series without sacrificing ease of use.
Requiring a little assembly, these cradles are built around a spring-loaded tray, to which are added end cups to best fit your device. The beauty of this system is if you ever replace your tablet you don’t have to purchase a new mount. You just have to order new end cups that fit your new device and replace the old ones on the mount.
I got a lot of samples of end cups, most are generic and will work on a variety of tablets and they all these have cutouts to accommodate ports and buttons. They also offer cups that are device so I gave the ones for the iPad mini a try.
One feature that struck me about the iPad Mini specific design was the ability to secure the cable in place so the mount acts liked a powered dock. This was a nice touch that saved me from fumbling around on the floor of my vehicle whenever I had to plug the device in.
The spring-loaded tray provides a good strong hold, but I did find when assembling the mounts that the screws are hard work and take a fair bit of elbow grease to get them screwed down. If you use the right size screwdriver, you should be able to avoid stripping the screw heads like I did.
The adaptable design of the Tab-Tite mount means they can fit a large number of different tablet sizes, including ones with protective cases on.
For those concerned with security, the Tab-Lock mount has an anti-theft locking system. This uses the same interchangeable cups as the Tab-Tite models so it’s also adaptable to many different tablet sizes. This mount is well suited for high vibration usage and features spring-loaded quick release and locking mechanisms.
To use the mount, place the mount in the cradle and press the lever to engage the cups and secure the device. When you need to release your tablet you twist the lock to open it up. If it doesn’t twist it’s locked and you’ll need the key to open it.
Setting up the Tab-Lock was a bit more involved than the Tab-Tite cradle. Not only did I have to attach the cradle cups and mounting base I only had to assemble the top slide portion, position it, measure it, tighten it, readjust it and re-tighten it all before getting a perfect snug fit on the iPad mini. Once that was set I also had to attach a front cover. It was quite a bit of work to set up but once assembled it’s a very solid unit.
When adjusted properly the mount held on to the iPad Mini very securely. To get the full security benefits of this mount though you would also need to order a tamper-proof keyed knob to replace the adjuster on any of the RAM sockets.
The final model I tried from RAM Mounts was a model specific Form-Fit cradle. This model was for the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 and is a cost-effective while still being reliable in a high vibration environment.
Compatible with RAM Mounts other mounting hardware the tablet is placed into the cradle and then snapped into place with the roller. His provides a snug fit while leaving access to all ports and buttons on the tablet.
Although this is the simplest and least expensive mount I received it made from the same durable ABS plastic used in the other mounts and uses the same mounting hardware.
From the bottom up
At the heart of all RAM Mounts products is the patented ball and socket system. The typical set up is to have a secured ball mount base, connected to a double socket arm, which is then connected to another ball socket on the device mount.
At first, the double socket arm threw me for a loop. I noticed the double arm only had one adjustment screw to adjust and pivot the mount. Surely this was a design flaw, it was just going to flop about when I adjusted it.
What I quickly discovered was the double arm socket is designed much like a clothespin. Slackening the adjuster loosens a spring causing one end to retain a grip at one end. This allows for easy adjustment at either end. It’s quite an elegant design that eliminates the need for an extra pair of hands to hold everything in place while you fiddle with adjusting it.
For my testing, I just used a suction cup base as the mount. As the photos show, nothing screams heavy-duty usage quite like sticking it to a desk. While this sucker is virtually unmovable on glass and works great on my desk, windshield mounting is unlikely to be an option in a truck. Thankfully RAM Mounts offers many different mounting bases that should cover every conceivable need.
For life on the road, it’s best to avoid something you picked up at the dollar store or even made at home. Err of the side of higher quality and spend a couple of extra bucks.
A good mount made with high-quality components that stand up to the rigors and constant vibrations of a truck is a must. These are great mounts that are built to work in the toughest environments.
RAM Mounts are constructed from materials like aircraft grade aluminum in bases and socket arms as well as impact-resistant ABS plastics in the device mounts. The mounting balls are made of solid rubber, which help to greatly minimize vibration while driving.
Overall I was very impressed with all of RAM Mounts products, these are highly recommended.