RAM Motorola Q Dashboard Mount
If you use your PDA or phone for GPS, one of the problems you encounter is placing the device where it's easy to see and use. Besides the low-tech method of putting the device on the passenger seat, there are a variety of mounting solutions. These typically consist of the following methods:
Windshield — You attach the mount to the car's windshield using a suction cup. It makes the device easy to see, but suction cups can come loose, dumping your precious device, and windshield mounts are illegal in some states.
This method seems to be the most common.
Vent — You attach the mount between slats in your vent. The device is almost as easy to see as a windshield mount (you do have to look down a bit), but has the disadvantage of blocking air flow and can be difficult to remove, making it difficult to move to another car.
This method seems to be very common, too.
Dashboard (weighted) — You attach the device to a heavy base that sits on your dashboard. This provides visibility as good as a windshield mount, but you need space on your dashboard for the base.
Dashboard (sticky) — You attach the device to a base attached to your dashboard with sticky tape. This provides visibility as good as a windshield mount and doesn't require as much space as a weighted system, but the mount isn't easily movable to another car and the tape can leave marks on your dashboard.
Cup holder — You attach the device to an arm anchored in your car's cup holder. This provides the worst visibility because you have to look down (unless the arm is very long) and you can't use the cup holder for beverages.
Floor/seat — You attach the device to an arm anchored to your car's floor or seat. This provides the same poor visibility as cup holder mounts (maybe worse) and also isn't very portable.
In-dash — You mount the device either in the dashboard or in a mount located in the dashboard. This provides aboout the same visibility as vent mounts and, because it can require custom installation, also isn't very portable.
Because dashboard mounts have visibility as good as windshield mounts and won't lose suction and drop your device, I was really looking forward to trying the RAM mount. How did it perform? Find out below!
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This review is of the RAM Mounts weighted dashboard mount. The testing was done using my Motorola Q9m in my 1999 Mustang.
Features of the mount include:
- A weighted base that sits on the dashboard
- A "universal" PDA holder
- A swivel arm connecting the base to the holder
Setup consists of assembling the mount and installing it in your car. I'll cover each of those in the next two sections.
As shown in the picture below, the mount ships as three main pieces:
- The weighted base
- The swivel arm
- The phone holder
Contents of the Box
There are also two sets of screws (one with nuts) and not one, not two, but three promotional brochures for other mounting products.
The biggest (and heaviest) part is the weighted base. It's rubber-coated lead and slightly flexible. According to a RAM Mounts representative, it is intended to flex to conform to your dashboard.
Top of the Weighted Base
Bottom of the Weighted Base
The next part is the swivel arm, used to connect the base to the holder.
The arm itself consists of three main parts as the photo below shows.
Swivel Arm Parts
The final major part is the universal holder. It has ratcheting arms that you push together to hold your device, and a button on the left side to release the arms.
Front of the Universal Holder
Back of the Universal Holder
Noticably lacking was any kind of documentation such as assembly instructions. You might think that any idiot can figure out how to attach three pieces together, and, while I did it, it's not quite as straightforward as you'd think.
To assemble the mount, I decided to attach the arm to the base first, and then attach the universal holder to the arm. That's where the first problem arose.
The swivel arm has two mounting plates — a circular one with seven holes, and a diamond-shaped one with two holes. You'll also notice that the universal holder has four holes on the back, and there are four black screws that come with the holder, so I figured that the circular plate attached to the holder — and I was in fact able to align the plate so the holes lined up. However, the arm seemed to be at the wrong angle like that, so I thought something was wrong.
I then looked at the weighted base, and saw that it also has four holes. I realized that probably made more sense, so I decided to attach the circular plate to the base. That's where I ran into another issue.
The second issue was that the circular plate had seven holes, so it took a little work to figure out how to align the plate on the base. Once I had done that, yet another issue cropped up.
The third issue was that there were eight silver screws with the base — four longer ones and four shorter ones — and no instructions on which ones to use. Through trial and error I determined that the longer ones worked best (although the shorter ones seemed to work somewhat, too).
To attach the arm to the base, you put the included nuts in the recessed areas on the bottom of the base, then screw the plate to the base from the top. It's not too difficult, although I wasn't quite sure at first which side of the nut was supposed to face up. The nuts have a plastic piece inside, and I believe the plastic part faces down (relative to the base bottom facing down).
Weighted Base with Nuts
Here's what the assembly looked like after attaching the arm to the base.
Swivel Arm Attached to the Weighted Base
Now it was time to attach the universal holder to the arm, and I ran into another minor problem. As mentioned, the holder has four screw holes and the diamond-shaped plate has two. I figured that gave me the flexiblity of mounting the plate in the higher or lower holes to adjust the height of the mount a bit. Wrong! The plate mounts diagonally to the holder. It's easy enough to discover that, and it makes for a more stable attachment, but instructions would have made this clear from the start.
When it came time to attach the plate to the holder, I found it awkward to insert the screws because the arm got in the way. I looked at the arm and saw that the diamond-shaped plate was just attached to a ball joint in the arm, so I loosened the knob on the arm and found that I could remove the ball from the arm. Once I did that, attaching the diamond-shaped plate to the universal holder was easy. The next photo shows that assembly.
Swivel Arm Ball Attached to the Universal Holder
After I had tightened the two screws down, I put the ball back into the arm and tightened the knob. Here's what the final assembly looked like.
Side View of Assembled Mount
Front View of Assembled Mount
Top View of Assembled Mount
Installing the mount in my Mustang was fairly simple. I had to find a position on the dashboard for it and then adjust the arm and mount to provide a good viewing angle. To adjust the arm, you loosen the knob and move the arm and holder to the angles you want. This can be a bit tricky because both ends can be loose at the same time. I suggest adjusting the arm position relative to the base first, tightening the knob a little to hold the arm still, then adjusting the holder and tightening the knob fully.
As this is not a powered mount, there are no connections to make or cables to run.
The following pictures show the mount in my Mustang.
Wide Angle Holding the Q9m
If you're curious, from left to right, you see:
- my iPAQ hx2795 running CoPilot Live 6 in an OnCourse powered mount,
- my GlobalTop Heads-Up GPS receiver/speedometer/compass,
- my Garmin Mobile 10 GPS receiver,
- my Motorola Q9m in the RAM weighted dashboard mount
- and my Whistler radar detector
Why do I have two GPS receivers? Because I can, of course. Dueling GPS is fun (and it's interesting to see if they offer the same routes).
Close-Up with the Q9m
Side Angle with the Q9m
Reverse Angle with the Q9m
Using the mount is fairly straightforward. You have the ratcheting arms open to their widest position, put your device in, then squeeze the arms together until your device is held securely. Make sure you use enough pressure to hold the device, though; one time I didn't and my Q9m fell out while I was driving.
When you want to take your device out, push the button on the left side of the holder and the ratcheting arms will pop apart. I suggest holding your device when you do this so it doesn't fall out.
There are two issues I had with the holder. The first is minor — the arms cover the scroll wheel and back button on the right side of the Q9m. One day driving home from work, I did notice that my navigation program (Garmin Mobile XT) seemed to lose routing and returned to the main menu a few times. It didn't strike me at first, but I now wonder if I had closed the holder's arms a bit too tightly and the Back button was getting pressed occasionally. It didn't happen after that one day, though, so I can't be sure.
In fairness, this is a universal holder meant to work with a large number of devices, so it's not surprising that it's not optimal for any particular device. Also, you'll probably be using the Q's front OK button and directional pad anyway.
The second issue could be bigger, but it's hard to tell after my brief usage. My experience with these universal mounts has been that the ratcheting mechanism eventually wears out. I've had several mounts like this (by different manufacturers), and all of them failed like this. When that happens, you'll push the arms closed, but they'll pop open (at least partially) and your device won't be held securely. At least you can replace the holder separately from the rest of the mount; with a powered mount, replacements would probably be more expensive.
I asked a RAM Mounts representative about this and was told that all RAM Mounts products have lifetime warranties. He said that you could just send them a picture of the item and they'd replace it, so that mitigates things if the holder ever has this problem.
All in all, the mount worked well for me. I tried some quick acceleration, braking and turning and both the mount and the Q9m stayed in place (with that one exception noted above, which was probably user error). I was quite satisfied with its performance.
As mentioned above, this was one of the weakest points of the product. There was no documentation included describing how to assemble the mount. I would strongly urge RAM to include at least a one-page sheet showing how the pieces fit together.
There was also no documentation on how to position or use the mount. For example, it would be useful to describe how to use the ratcheting arms of the holder and, more importantly, how to release them.
To be fair, I had assumed that the lack of assembly documentation was because the various parts were sold in different combinations, so producing instructions for each of the combinations would be prohibitive. A RAM Mounts representative confirmed that. My suggestion in that case would be to provide sheets for each combination of two components. For this mount, that would mean a sheet showing how to attach the swivel arm to the base and another showing how to attach the swivel arm to the universal holder.
I found out about this mount by visting the RAM Mounts Web site and searching for cell phone mounts. I found the weighted dashboard mount for the original Motorola Q and figured it would work with my Q9m. That was on March 1.
Unfortunately, that no longer seems possible. RAM seems to have redesigned their site and the page that I found no longer exists. In fact, searching for "Motorola Q dashboard mount" returns a huge list of products, but none on the first three pages showed the Q or included the weighted base. Searching for "weighted base" did return the base in the list of results, but not the combination necessary for the Q mount.
If the site had been like this when I first went there, I never would have found this mount, and I wonder if they'll lose sales because of that. I understand that keeping up with the number of cell phones can be difficult, but if people can't find mounts for their phones easily, they might give up.
However, because I kept the packing list, I can tell you what parts you need. They are:
- RAP-279U — the RAM rubber coated weighted dash base
- RAM-B-138U — the RAM mount arm
- RAM-HOL-UN2U — the medium black mobile phone holder
At the time I wrote this, the three pieces cost $88.19 (not including any shipping or tax). That seems a bit pricy to me, especially for a non-powered mount; I think $40 or $50 would be more reasonable. I've seen similar weighted bases (just the base, not the arm and holder) at Best Buy for about $40, which includes retail markup. I didn't buy those because they didn't have a way to hold my phone and because I thought they were too expensive.
However, as I was writing this review, a contact at RAM told me that the weighted base, because it contained lead, could not be sold in Europe due to Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) issues. This meant that RAM was not going to be produce it any longer, so stock may be limited. RAM is looking into a replacement, but nothing was available at the time of this writing.
There were a few minor problems with the weighted dashboard mount.
There were no assembly instructions. While it wasn't too difficult to figure out, the assembly process would have gone faster with instructions.
There were no instructions on using the universal holder. A small sheet on how to close and release the ratcheting arms would probably be helpful to people who haven't used this kind of holder before.
The universal holder's arms cover the right side buttons on the Motorola Q9m. The right arm may have occasionally pressed the side Back button, moving me from the map screen of my navigation program to the main menu.
The univeral holder's ratcheting arm mechanism may eventually break, resulting in your device not being held securely. RAM Mounts' lifetime warranty will definitely help if that ever happens. As the mechanism hasn't failed on me yet, it didn't affect my rating.
The only one of those that I'd call significant is the last one, but the lifetime warranty reduces the impact of that.
The mount works well and does what it's supposed to do — hold your device on your car's dashboard without sliding off. What more do you want?
Rating the mount on the typical five-star scale, I give it 4.5 stars. If they add assembly and usage instructions and lower the price to the $40-$50 range, I'd give it 5 stars.
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