How to Choose a Flat Panel TV Wall Mount
Choosing a flat panel TV wall mount can be a difficult decision because there are many different sizes, brands, and types of mounts. Choosing the wrong mount can cause you hours of frustration as you try to get it to work properly or just end up returning it and starting over. This guide breaks down the three most common types of mounts, full-motion/articulating, tilting, and low-profile, and then provides a few tips on what to look for in a good wall mount.
Full-Motion / Articulating
Full-motion wall mounts give you the ability to pull your TV out from the wall and swivel it any direction. They can also tilt up or down, and push back flat against the wall when you want. Full-motion mounts are great for corner installations. They also worked well for mounting a TV in old cabinets that were made for a deep CRT television. The mount can attach to the back of the cabinet and the arm will bring the TV flush to the front, making it look like the TV is floating. These mounts are typically more expensive and slightly more difficult to install than tilting or low-profile options. Some dual arm full-motion mounts can pull out from the wall up to 30” or more, while the less expensive single arm options typically come out about 10”. we recommend about a 20+” arm for corner installations of large TVs. Keep in mind that you will need longer cords with a full-motion mount. We recommend a minimum of 8’, but 12’ is optimal in most situations. You will likely use up about 4’ of cable by routing it in such a way that the mount can move without pinching cables. Another consideration is that even when pushed flat against the wall the TV will not be as close to the wall as with a tilting or low-profile mount.
Bottom Line: Great for corners, cabinets, recessed locations, and other situations where the TV needs to pull out and swivel. They are harder to install, more expensive, and require longer cords.
A low-profile mount is used when you want the TV as close to the wall as possible. They do not tilt or swivel at all, but are typically the least expensive of any type of mount. Unfortunately, in some cases the TV is so close to the wall that you cannot get the cables to plug in. If the cable connections are on the back of the TV, facing the wall, you will need 90 degree adapters and will have to use spacers to bring the TV out from the wall. If the connections are on the side of the TV you are in better shape, but sometimes the cords can push the bottom of the TV out, making the TV tilt slightly upwards. Unless you need your TV as close to the wall as possible, we tend to recommend tilting wall mounts over low-profile designs. An alternative option would be to utilize a full-motion mount within a recessed cavity which will provide the cleanest look because the TV can be flush with the wall.
Bottom Line: Least expensive wall mount option. Easier to install than full-motion. Mounts TV closer to the wall than full-motion or tilting, on a flat wall. Cables might make the TV tilt up.
A tilting wall mount is the right choice for most installations. It mounts very close to the wall; many tilting wall mounts are actually considered “low-profile tilting”. These mounts can typically handle more weight than a full-motion design and provide for easier installation. The TV does not actually move up or down on the wall, just tilts up or down and it cannot be pulled out from the wall. This is a great choice if the TV the being mounted above eye level.
Bottom Line: The best choice for most installations. Allows for the TV to tilt up or down. Less expensive than full-motion mounts, but more pricey than low-profile. Easier to install than full-motion.
Choosing the Proper Size Wall Mount
Wall mounts are typically based off of the VESA standard and can support multiple sizes of TVs. Essentially, the VESA standard dictates how far apart mounting holes should be on the back of a TV. Because of this standard you can look at the manual of your TV and see what the bolt pattern is, and then find a wall mount that is compatible. Most wall mounts list on the side of the box what bolt patterns they work with. This method takes out the guess work of wondering if a mount will work for a certain TV. Also check the weight that the mount supports and ensure the weight of the TV is within that range. By looking at weight and bolt pattern specifications you can determine what wall mount will fit your TV.
What Makes One Mount Better Than Another Mount?
As you shop for a wall mount you might notice that prices vary significantly between different brands and styles. It has been our experience that less expensive wall mounts tend to lack useful features that many more expensive mounts include. With that said, we have installed many inexpensive mounts successfully. Here are a few things to look for:
- Level Adjustment - Some mounts will allow you to adjust the level of the TV after it’s on the wall. This is particularly useful when trying to level a TV with a fireplace mantle.
- Locking Mechanism - Many commercial mounts have a spot for a lock to keep the TV from being stolen.
- Precision Height Adjustment - Once the TV is mounted on the wall it can be adjusted up or down about an inch, this is useful when trying to mount a TV in a recessed area.
- Hardware – Cheaper mounts tend to come with fewer bolts and lower grade lag bolts. Lag bolt holds the mount on the wall and low grade bolts can break while tightening them down.
- Movability - Can you manipulate the TV easily once it's mounted? If you have to loosen screws to make adjustments as opposed to simply using your hand to tilt, pan, and/or extend your television you might desire something more ergonomic.
Ultimately, as long as the wall mount you purchase is rated to handle your TV you shouldn’t worry about the TV falling off the wall. All of the extra features we talked about are great to have, but not always necessary. The real trick is knowing how to install the TV so it is secure and looks good. There are a lot of specialty mounts not covered in this article. The best place to find detailed information is on the manufacturer's website. If you take a look at some of the major manufacturers like Peerless, Sanus, Chief, and Omnimount you should be able to find a solution that fits your needs.