By: Jonathan Kwan
February 2, 2015
Just like the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, there is a difference between being correct, and being merely technically correct. As someone who was born near the very beginning of the nineties, it is fair for me to say I grew up in the nineties. Recently, someone told me they were also born and grew up in the nineties -- except for the fact she was born in November 1999. Can someone born in November 1999 rightfully make this claim? Technically, yes. November 1999 is still in the nineties, and spending about a month "growing up" in that era meets the qualifiers for that statement. In reality, most people will kind of laugh at that idea, because while my friend was, indeed, technically born in that decade, she has no idea what it meant to sing along to I Want It That Way or Baby One More Time after school with your friends (Probably using a CD player, too -- I mean, what is a smartphone?). About a year ago, we have reviewed the SilverStone ARM Two SST-ARM22SC, a substantial and high quality articulating dual monitor arm that commands a price of about $200 at press time. $200 is a pretty good price for what you get, but for those who are on a smaller budget, it is sometimes hard to justify something that may cost more than their actual monitors themselves. To see if we can get away with something for a much lower price, ARCTIC sent along their Z2 Pro dual monitor arm for our review today. Retailing for less than half the price of the SilverStone at the time of writing, both products are technically the same thing -- a monitor arm that holds two monitors. But will they really have the same functionality? Read on to find out!
Our review unit of ARCTIC's Z2 Pro came to us here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada from the company's American offices in California, USA. The package was quite large, and it definitely was not light. Despite its size and weight, however, the people over at USPS and Canada Post handled the entire trip very well; as there was absolutely no evidence of dings and bumps on the brown corrugated shipping box. With everything now safely in our hands, I cracked open the last product to arrive to us here at APH Networks in 2014 for our review today. How time flies -- it is February already.
As always, the ARCTIC Z2 Pro came in retail packaging. The white and blue color scheme is standard for ARCTIC, and creates a consistent image across the brand. The ARCTIC P614 BT my colleague Aaron Lai reviewed in December 2014 is an excellent example of a recent product designed using this template. The company's logo can be seen at the upper right hand corner, while feature highlights can be seen on the opposite side. A photo of the monitor arm itself is prominently displayed underneath the ARCTIC logo, with an expanded view directing attention to the integrated front four-port USB 3.0 hub. The product name and description is located right above the blue strip with ARCTIC's company website address at the bottom. At the back, there are diagrams further explaining the features of the Z2 Pro.
Before we move on, let us take a look at the features and specifications of the ARCTIC Z2 Pro, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
Tilt: +/- 15°
VESA Standard: 75 / 100
Maximum Monitor Weight: 10 kg (22 lbs) per each arm
LCD size: 13" - 27"
*The capacity of the monitor arm also depends on the quality of table. Honeycomb-structured or Sandwich-structured tables with hollow pockets may not be suitable for monitor arms. Examples of NOT recommended tables, using a paper honey comb filling: IKEA MALM Desk, IKEA TORNLIDEN, IKEA ODDVALD, IKEA LINNMON, IKEA LALLE, IKEA TORNLIDEN, and IKEA ADILS Desk
The box opens via a flap at the top. Inside, all its contents are neatly laid out in their respective cardboard boxes and plastic bags, which is pretty convenient. I am also happy to see there are no Styrofoam brackets to deal with. I am no environmentalist, but I just feel kind of bad every time I chuck them in the trash; this is not to mention the squeaks are so nerve racking. Once out of the box, you will find everything you need to get going; this includes the base and corresponding desk clamp accessories, center rod, arm, two VESA mount brackets, AC adapter for the USB 3.0 hub, two long strips of plastic bags for the hardware, and an instruction manual. ARCTIC has done a wonderful job in organizing everything in my opinion. As I have just said, the installation hardware are all in two long strips of plastic bags, with each compartment labeled, which is a big help during the assembly process. The manual is also clear enough to make a relatively setup task even simpler.
To start, you will need to put the base assembly together. Depending on how you install it, the mechanism consists of two of more components. The common denominator is desktop portion of the base, which features ARCTIC's logo at the top, along with four powered USB 3.0 ports. There is one port on the every exposed side; which includes the left, right, front, and even the top -- an interesting design choice in my opinion. The power and USB lead out cables are routed through the back, which connects to an included AC adapter and your computer, respectively. The ARCTIC Z2 Pro can be attached to your desk either on the edge or through a hole. Since there are no holes on the desktop surface I plan to install this monitor arm on, I went with the classic edge installation, in which you can see in our photo above.
The ARCTIC Z2 Pro can accommodate desks up to 90mm thick, so you are pretty well covered for anything ranging from glass to thick wooden tables. Out of the box, the lower metal bracket assumes your desk is greater than 60mm. Since my desk is quite a bit thinner than that, I had to remove two hex screws, move the lower metal bracket up a notch, and re-attach the hex screws to accommodate this change. With that completed, I tightened the attachment knob with my hands, and the deed was done. I found the metal assembly to be very well made, and once installed, it is very secure. I am also pleased with the fact its wall clearance along the edge is minimal, so if your table is placed against the wall like me, you will need to increase the gap marginally, if none at all.
After installing the clamp, the center pole can be screwed into base. According to ARCTIC, the entire setup measures in at 80cm width, 51m height, and 51cm depth, but this will obviously change slightly depending on what your adjustment is. It weighs only 4.55kg with no monitors installed.
Although the Z2 Pro does not feature sophisticated articulating arms like other setups I have used in the past, ARCTIC's simple approach is actually quite smart in the context that it is very simple. Sure, it does not offer as much flexibility in on-the-fly all axis adjustments as products like the SilverStone ARM Two SST-ARM22SC after everything is already set up on your desk, but for those who do not plan to adjust their display position on a daily basis, the Z2 Pro is much easier to put together (Not to mention it is also a lot cheaper to manufacture). Another downside to this is you will not be able to adjust the height of each monitor independently.
To set the height, simply loosen the screws on the center ring, and slide it up or down. Once the desired height is found, tighten the screws again. Next, drop the actual arm -- which ARCTIC refers to as the "adapter bracket assembly" -- through the top of the pole, and rotate the plastic handle to tighten. The arm itself is composed of three major segments for each monitor, as you can see in our photo above. Intuitively, you can see it can provide quite a bit of freedom in all directions other than the height, which we have configured earlier.
Here is a shot at the back of the ARCTIC Z2 Pro with a monitor installed. If you are putting the whole thing together yourself, this will not be an issue at all. For those who have installed their own monitor arms, this is a big plus, considering a lot of manufacturers selling these products on the market today expect it to be a two person operation. To start, attach the VESA plates to the back of your displays. The ARCTIC Z2 Pro supports VESA MIS-D 100 and MIS-D 75 specification; which, in layman terms, this simply means hole pitch of 100mm by 100 mm and 75mm by 75 mm, respectively. Next, align the bracket at the top of the plate to the corresponding element on the arm assembly. Your LCD display will hang in there -- literally -- by itself, where you can then focus on securing it by two screws at the bottom. I think this small touch makes the assembly experience that much better, especially for those who have bigger and heavier monitors.
Once on the mount, the monitor can be swiveled 180 degrees. The part that makes its 360 degree rotation and 15 degree tilt possible is a ball joint at the end of the arm, which you can see in our photo above. If the ball is too lose, your monitor will not stay in position. To alleviate this issue, the tightness of the corresponding ring around the ball joint can be adjusted by three screws. Traditionally, on articulating arms, this is done by a spring mechanism, in which its torque can be adjusted to the weight of the monitor. Again, the ARCTIC Z2 Pro's design is a lot simpler, and costs less to make, but will make on-the-fly adjustments harder. However, if you plan to use your monitors mostly in a fixed position, this should not be an issue at all.
The ARCTIC Z2 Pro can accommodate LCD monitors up to 22 pounds each, and recommends a maximum screen size of 27". The minimum screen size is 13", but even if it was 2003 right now, it will still be hard to find something that small, haha. Each arm segment has an integrated cable management system that allows you to run everything through the center, and are enclosed by two plastic clips -- one on each side -- to make setup as easy as possible. The clips are easy to remove, making cable routing a pretty painless job. However, there is not a whole lot of room to run things along, so if you have anything more than a display, power, and USB cable, you will find yourself looking for more. For this particular setup, this is all I got, and I am sure it will work for majority of the users out there. However, if you have a more sophisticated setup like my main computer located in another room, which has an HDMI cable from my set top box, along with two DisplayPort monitors in daisy chain, then you may need to zip tie those extra cables outside instead. All plastic clip located on the pole allows you to consolidate everything to run via the back of your desk to wherever its final destination may be.
Overall, the ARCTIC Z2 Pro's build quality is very good. It is made out of aluminum alloy, making it strong and lightweight. The simplicity of the design makes it clear why the price is so much lower than other dual monitor arms in the market today, but this does not, in any way, imply the Z2 Pro itself is poorly manufactured. The assembly quality is very commendable to say the least, and I have no complaints, especially considering it is priced less than $100 at press time.
The finished product is shown in my photo above. I actually only have one monitor mounted on my ARCTIC Z2 Pro right now, which you can see in the previous photo, as well as the photo above. Adding a second monitor is the same procedure as installing the first monitor, so I did not bother demonstrating, haha. Overall, thanks to the simple hardware and clear installation instructions, I found the assembly process to be very straightforward. In fact, the entire procedure took no more than fifteen minutes, which was considerably faster than the SilverStone ARM Two I have set up last year. After tightening the screws, carefully routing the cables, and sliding my desk back in place, I was very pleased with the end results. The predominantly black and silver ARCTIC Z2 Pro fits into any home or office space aesthetically. Functionally, my monitors can be placed at eye level, and as with all monitor arms, it can be angled in aggressively for an easier view, and leaves a lot of room on my desk for an extremely clean setup. Some of the equipment you can spot in the photo above include my old Panasonic Viera 32" LCD HDTV, Samsung 2053BW 20" LCD monitor, Kanto YU2 speakers, Func KB-460 (Cherry MX Blue) keyboard, Logitech G500 mouse, Func sUrface 1030 Archetype MBA Custom mousepad, the original XTracPads Ripper XXL, and of course, the ARCTIC Z2 Pro itself.
To answer the question proposed in the beginning of this review, no, the ARCTIC Z2 Pro does not have the exact same functionality as the SilverStone ARM Two SST-ARM22SC. And why should this be a bad thing? Rather than making this dual monitor arm live in the shadow of another product, I think it is much fairer to shine light on the Z2 Pro based on merits of its own. For less than $100 at press time, this is one of the most competitively priced dual monitor arm in the market today. But just because it is competitively priced, do not get into the impression that it is cheaply made. In fact, its aluminum construction is surprisingly well built; the reason why it costs less than other products is because it is mechanically much simpler. You will not get fancy articulating arms that allows total tool-free adjustment flexibility at all times, and you will miss out on independent monitor height adjustment, but if you are planning to use your screens in fairly standard positions, then this will not matter much. At the end of the day, you will still get independent tilt, rotation, and swivel adjustments. Furthermore, its mechanical simplicity contributes to a very simple assembly process; this in conjunction with a good instruction sheet makes the whole procedure quite painless. I also like the fact displays can be mounted on the Z2 Pro without the help of a second person. With a reasonably good cable management system, and a built-in four port USB 3.0 hub, there is quite a bit to like about ARCTIC's dual monitor arm. The Z2 Pro may not fit the needs of all people, nor is it perfect in design. But for the price, it will indeed meet the needs of many, and it sure is within the reach of most people.
ARCTIC provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.2/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The ARCTIC Z2 Pro is a well-built, easy to assemble, and mechanically simple dual monitor arm for less than $100 at press time.
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