I run multiple computers, a Ubuntu Linux box for most of my work and research, and a separate Win XP PC for those apps that have to have Windows. Yes, I know about VBox and Crossover and Wine, but sometimes it’s just more convenient. Now, the approved way to move between computers is a Keyboard-Video-Mouse (KVM) switch. I’ve not had much luck with KVM switches, they rarely last more than a year or so, and the latest one has a tendency to lock up linux so bad that I have to do a power cycle to get my mouse and keyboard back. The solution I’ve hit on is to use the KVM switch as a simple monitor switcher, and plug a separate keyboard and mouse into the PC. This, of course, means I have to keep sticking them out of the way and pulling them back out whenever I want to use the machine. Enter the keyboard arm.
After a whole quarter of pulling and putting, with intimations that I’ll be teaching the same class using the same software, I broke down and ordered a swivel arm for the keyboard. The one I chose was the Ergotron Lx Wallmount – surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of others out there (which may explain part of the price). It came today, and I thought I’d build a review as I went along, maybe posting a copy of it to Amazon, whence I bought it.
Packaging was simple, but interesting. The densely packed OEM box was inside a much bigger Amazon box, along with a large crumple of packing paper. The Amazon box was lighter than it looked. The Ergotron box, heavier. Maybe because the advertised weight of the system is 16.7 lbs, while the shipping weight is reported as 16 lbs. Go figure.
Inside the box that was in the box, the arm components (shelf, humerus and ulna (or biceps and triceps), and the wall mount) were well packed and well protected. One also gets two bags of smaller parts, and a six page, nine language instruction sheet, mostly pictures. The pictures are clear, which is good, because the text isn’t particularly useful. It isn’t unintelligible, just extremely terse, and limited to things that are hard to draw, like the fact that they recommend an installation that can hold up to 4x the weight of their system. They are serious — the screws they give you are two 10x80mm concrete screws that look like they’d anchor the tiedown hook for the Hindenberg.
Of course, the mountings have to be strong, because the arm itself is solid. Beat your way out of a crowd of zombies-solid. And heavy. I doubt that 0.7lb of that 16lb is packing material.
Installation was simple. Line up the wall mount holes. Drill. Screw. Assemble. Since it’s a “wall-mount” setup, they want you to put it into two inches of concrete wall, or into the thick part of a 2×4 stud. I was mounting mine on a computer desk, so I drilled two 1/4″ holes through the particle board and bolted it on using a 1 1/2″ long bolt, with a washer, lock washer, and hex nut on the inside. If this causes any durability problems, I’ll report back.
Assembly was equally simple: drop the humerus onto the wall mount shoulder, drop the ulna onto the humerus, screw on the palm (keyboard tray). That last part was the trickiest. The keyboard tray is heavy, the screws are small, and the arm wants to move away when you approach it with a screwdriver. Getting the first screw in is really a two person job.
They give you stickons to keep the keyboard from wandering around and to help route the cables up the arm. Right now I’m letting them hang off the back, but I can see why you’d want to restrain them.
The tray itself is sized for a standard keyboard. My big old ergonomic aircraft-carrier style keyboard hangs over a bit on the sides, and an inch or so in the front. The action is very smooth, both horizontally and vertically, and the tray stays where you put it. I have mounted it at the near edge of the computer table, and it articulates enough to put the keyboard in front of me, squared up to the monitor. There is an extension on either end that will hold the mousepad. It’s smallish (7×7) and it only sticks out on one side at a time. No using one side for the mouse and the other for your coffee cup.
So far, I only have three complaints. First, the mouse tray slides too easily, so if you push on it when moving the arm it wants to dump the mouse. This is evidently a feature, not a bug, because they give you a wall-mounted holster where you can put the mouse before you stow the keyboard for landing. Second, there’s a surprising amount of play in the joints, so that in certain configurations, deploying the mouse pad causes the tray to tilt in that direction — over an inch. The mouse won’t slide off, but marbles won’t stay on. There is also some shake in the arm when you type, which is to be expected, given that you don’t have three point bracing. Finally, the primary vertical wrist control (flapping your hand) is tightened via a recessed hex nut. They give you a wrench to reach it with, Unfortunately, the angle is off just enough that the end of the hex wrench can’t fit into the socket unless you move it to an extreme up position. The wrist is positioned well enough and is tight enough to not be an issue, but if it was an issue, fixing it might be a problem.
I’m giving it four stars.
I have published a five-month update.