Review: Gripdaddy Headrest Mount + Arm Mount for iPad
As we've been digging out from the incredible number of iPad accessories that we've been flooded with over the past six months, we've been circling back to a number of items that we didn't get to discuss in the sort of detail we'd have preferred. Gripdaddy's Headrest Mount ($80) and Arm Mount ($90, aka Gripdaddy Arm) in-car iPad mounting accessories were amongst the items we've tested but haven't fully reviewed, so we're covering both here today.
The Headrest Mount and Arm Mount are two similar solutions for turning iPads into backseat video players. Both accessories are black in color, using metal, rubber, and thick translucent acrylic plastic to hold unencased or certain encased iPads on a flat, padded surface with a spring-loaded tension arm, attaching to one headrest with adjustable metal hooks. These hooks turned out to be the very best part of each design—completely stable on the headrests we tried, locking firmly into place with screws, and coming off with only minimal unscrewing.
The Arm Mount version is unique in the iPad accessory market in that it enables an iPad to be suspended between the front seats using a variable-length metal arm attached to the driver’s headrest. A thumbscrew can be tightened or loosened to tweak the arm’s placement and angle, and the aforementioned spring-loaded tension arm generally did a fine job of holding iPads and iPad 2s in place; rubberized pegs provided three points of side support for each tablet, using washers to add enough depth to accommodate even fairly thick cases.
By comparison, the standard Headrest version holds an iPad directly behind either the driver or front passenger headrest. It’s very much like other headrest mounts that have been released for iPads over the past year, but because of the three-peg system and spring-loaded arm enables you to more easily bring an encased iPad directly into your vehicle, mount it, and move along. Here, a hinge lets the user adjust the tilt angle of the screen with a thumbscrew, offering only modest upward angle adjustments and considerable downwards angles, again tightening with a thumbscrew.
While Gripdaddy’s designs generally do what they’re supposed to do after immediate installation, and we appreciated the basic engineering work that went into each of them, neither has the polish we’d prefer to see from accessories of this sort. A rubber pad sticker peeled off on one of the mounts. The pegs are held on by large screws and, over time, came undone on both mounts before falling off; we reattached them, tighter, but the issue was still annoying. Similarly, the spring-loaded arm on the Arm Mount unit somehow lost its spring after a month or so of use, and needed to have a screw tightened to remain viable as an iPad support.
The Arm Mount had a couple of other issues that concerned us, as well. First, the placement of the arm at the bottom of the plastic mount made it difficult to look back into the rear passenger compartment from the front seat. Turning the Arm Mount upside down didn’t provide the sort of stability that the iPads really needed, and as the iPad would occasionally tumble out onto the carpeted car floor below, we began to wonder about the safety factor of the entire apparatus in the event of a crash. Ultimately, the whole peg-and-arm system didn’t seem as efficient or secure of a mounting solution as some of the alternatives we’ve tested.
To Gripdaddy’s credit, both of these mounts are built well enough—apart from the aforementioned popped spring, which disappeared somewhere—that we were able to fully reconstitute them whenever we experienced problems. They work out of the box, and if you’re willing to keep a screwdriver handy, they’ll probably still be working a year or two down the line. But most mounts don’t require ongoing tweaking and maintenance, and it’s pretty obvious that these are first-generation designs, complete with the sort of issues that could and should be resolved in second-generation models. Our sincere hope is that Gripdaddy revises these designs to make them all they can be; they’re a fine start, and with new components, could become quite good.