I have been reviewing and testing a few of ARKON's new holder and mount models for a few days now and here are my impressions about them. This set of mounts that I got for reviewing includes some of their brand new designs as well as some of their all-time best sellers.
All of ARKON's products that I received for review are made of a sturdy black plastic and no matter how much beating they took, they did not bend, break or change color. The plastic is thick enough to stand use (and quite some abuse) and vibrations that any vehicle will put under normal driving situations. I have tested them under everyday life conditions (commute and daily driving) and I did a little bit of off-road "shake-up" tests. ARKON is the designer of the Dual-T mount pattern I was just referring to, which is used in all Magellan GPS units and other products from HP, Nokia, GlobalSat and ASUS. Products from other manufacturers can be used with either an adapter plate or a universal mount that has arms that can be pressed to hold any device. ARKON makes plenty of adapter plates to support most brands in the market, a few examples are the TomTom ONE, TomTom ONE XL and TomTom GO 520/720/920/530/730/930, Garmin Nuvi and Garmin Streetpilot series. Garmin uses normally a "ball" adapter where a sphere fits into a receiver and can look in any direction allowing it to move freely. ARKON also manufactures mounts and adapters for these devices as well where the ending of the mount has the "Garmin ball" connector instead of the "Dual-T" connector without the need of an adapter. The products I reviewed had either the "Dual-T" connector or the "Garmin ball" connector. These two types of connectors allow users to connect to all kinds of devices. Even though this set I got for testing was mainly for GPSs I was able to use them for any kind of device. I tried them for GPS units, smartphones, regular cell phones, touch-screen smartphones, PDAs, MP3 players, iPods, etc without any problems at all. There is a "friction dash mount" that is compatible with all windshield mounts from all brands where the windshield mount can be used for keeping your device looking upright. This is a plastic circle in the middle of a heavy enough bean-bag shaped like a U. The opening in the U shaped bean bag allows the windshield mount to be mounted low enough without getting any interference from the bean bag part as it would be with a ring-bean-bag design. Initially, I thought that the friction mount would either be too light or too lose and potentially a hazard on sudden breaks or starts but I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was so wrong and how stable it turned out to be. I did my share of "parking lot tests" going from 40 to 0 mph (65 to 0 km/h) and the same for acceleration. I can attest that the bean bag is heavy enough not to move in any direction. Additionally, the bag comes with an optional adhesive anchor that can be placed to hold the friction mount for more extreme cases. Here in Florida, the heat may potentially make a mess with the adhesive on the dashboard.
I am including here a picture of my car with some of the products installed. These are not all the products I tested, but only a few. Please use this picture as a reference for how much space they would take in your vehicle or if they would be convenient for you. No, don't think that I drove around with all those mounts hanging from my windshield like that!!! I just set them up so that each type tested would be represented in a few pictures.
The 3 mounts that are displayed here represent all the windshield mounts that I tested. They could be divided into 3 different types:
- Two hinges; one multidirectional
- Two hinges on perpendicular axis
- Flexible 14 inch windshield pedestal
All three performed really well, the suction cups seem to be made of silicone which means they will not crack or break with time by being in the sun day after day. The hinges all have a knob to tighten after it is placed in the right location. All windshield mounts come with an Alcohol Prep Pad to clean the glass from any previous smudges and allow the suction cup to work. Setting them up is simply a matter of trial an error. It takes just a few minutes to determine where one is most comfortable placing the windshield mount. In my case, the trick was to place the mount so that when the device was up, it would cover the suction cup and hinges as much as possible. Therefore, minimizing the area of the road that would not be visible. The flexible 14 inch pedestal seemed a bit too long for me, it seemed to bounce up and down quite a bit during gravel road driving and eventually the weight of the device would make it change position. They carry a shorter one (not shown in the picture, but tested) in which I experienced almost no bouncing at all. On the other hand, if you are concerned that your device will be sitting in the sun while you drive, then the 14 inch flexible pedestal would be great for you because it would place the device under the roof in the shade past the read-view mirror.
Dash and AC Vent Mounts
The dash mounts I tested were completely different from each other. In fact, the only thing they had in common was that they are mounted on the dash board and that they used the connectors that I mentioned earlier. The first one is fairly typical and it can be attached by using the adhesive layer underneath or the screws provided with the mount. I did not want to drill any holes or use the adhesive tape to hold it in place so I just placed it there for display only. I also did not test it because it is one of the most common types of dash mount. The second one is the friction style mount with a regular windshield mount holding a smartphone in place. Please note that regardless of the weight of the BlackJack II, the mount did not fall or bend in any direction, working exactly as described in ARKON's setup instructions. Finally the third one is an AC Vent mount that holds the smartphone in place. One thing to note of all AC Vent mounts is that normally, when the AC is set just at the right temperature and the dew point is just right; there will be a noticeable amount of humidity on the mount. This is a fairly common issue in Florida and other southern states. Of course the manufacturers have no apparent way to deal with these issue here, and it is obviously not their fault at all.
Two Think-Out-Of-The-Box Mounts
The guys at ARKON don't just make your typical AC Vent and windshield suction cup mounts and holders... you know how vehicle cup holders are used for holding cups and lighter sockets are used for powering devices? Well, the design team at ARKON decided that since they also just happen to be indentations in your vehicle, then they can also be used for holding more devices giving you more options when choosing which one you are going to buy.
Their lighter socket pedestal is about the same length than the short flexible pedestal I mentioned earlier (the one that does not bounce). In the picture I am showing one that is powered. It takes the power source from the lighter socket and has its own, since it is using the socket itself to just mount a device. There are also a few models that are not powered at all, but they would use up the one socket available with a holder that would not take advantage of the power source.
The cup holder mount comes with a thumb wheel adjustment dial that lets you tighten the holder to the exact diameter of you vehicle's cup holder. The cup holders are not placed in a particularly convenient location for a device you may have to look at while driving (it forces your line of sight down and out from the road). However, if all you are doing is just placing a phone that can be controlled with a Bluetooth headset, or you are using a GPS that will give you spoken instructions; then you can certainly concentrate on the road and not even have to worry about looking at the device.
Do You Have a Bike?
There is even a bicycle handlebar holder that you can use. It grips the handlebar just as any other accessory that you can add to your bike's handlebar. It offers a snug fit on most standard size handle bars. I have not tested it, but it also has a Dual-T mount pattern to hold either a device or a universal device holder. In this case I would have to leave it to the user to test since I am not sure how much the vibration would affect the actual device itself. The suspension system and shock absorbers in a bike are so much more basic that I think that most shocks and vibration would be transferred to the device itself. As I see it here, it is a double edged sword, if the holder does not work as it should and it gets too lose during regular use, then you run the risk of dropping the device. On the other hand, if it works as it should, then too much vibration may be transmitted to the device... I am not sure I would use this holder, but If you are willing to try (or if you have already tried it) please post a reply to this article.
The Universal Device Holder
The universal device holder is another part that attaches to every one of these mounts. If your device does not have the Dual-T connector or a Garmin ball connector, then you can use either an adapter or a universal holder. I really started with mixed feelings about this holder. Before I installed, it seemed to make creaky sounds, the release action on the left side seemed too sudden; the springs inside the release mechanism seem to be too tight, maybe. The first impression was that it was a cheap product. It certainly gave a bad first impression... but boy, when I installed it and it fit so tight in place with the rest of the holders, it certainly changed my mind. The sounds it makes are still a bit too creaky for me, but the foam sides hold the devices really tight without pressing any buttons. No matter how much vibration my car goes through it still keeps a good grip on the device and doesn't let it go. I really like it.
I am really happy to have tested holders and mounts from a company that has the variety of products that ARKON does. Their products performed extremely well under many different circumstances and some extreme tests. Having said that, for the average user that does not go off road, avoids most potholes on the road and drives mostly around town, these mounts would last a long, long time.