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Flat Functionality

As flat-panel video displays continue to evolve, so too has the need for versatile TV mounts.

As flat-panel video displays continue to evolve, so too has the need for versatile TV mounts.

The demands on the flat-panel mount have increased dramatically in the past few years, stated OmniMount vice president of sales, Alex Robertson. Initially people were just happy to have a flat-panel solution that was universal. Then they wanted a good product that was universal and easy to install, obviously saving them labor time. Those two ideas created the fundamental design criteria we used to conceive our new mount.

These twin design goalsease-of-use and universalityled OmniMounts engineers to create the U3TILT, a feature-laden flat-panel mounting system that complements any environment and saves dealers installation time. The U3s design was so unique that it was named as one of CEDIAs 2004 Products of the Year, a remarkable feat considering the pool of stiff competition.

The U3 is available now via OmniMounts established distribution chain for $249 (suggested retail price). The company maintains three separate divisions for its consumer, commercial and OEM business, but because the U3 is such a far-reaching product, it spreads across all of its markets.
OmniMount was one of the first companies to offer plasma mounts when the video display market started transitioning toward thinner bezels a few years ago, so they have always held their own interpretations of the ideal product. And as with any new product, engineers worked diligently to improve on their own product and their competitors products.

Progress was being made, but OmniMount officials, retailers and dealers still identified a gap in the market for something truly universal. The TV category is so popular and our dealers and retailers requested a real universal piece, Robertson said. They wanted just one SKU that covered the great majority of flat-panel products in stock, because before that it was a nightmare. They had to stock different plates, a process that was ineffectual, and certain mounts would only work with certain TVs. So it just a consolidation of SKU and expansion of features that helped us build the best mount that we could.

The U3 meets this need by supporting plasma displays of virtually every sizefrom 37 to 63 inchesand a maximum weight of 200 pounds. It is 32-inches wide and designed for mounting to 16- through 24-inch on-center wall studs using slotted mounting holes for quick alignment.

The U3 flexibility is enhanced by including sturdy extension rods and extension rails that can tailor the mount to the plasmas size. A 24-inch wide center opening was built in to simplify installation when the J-box hole isnt ideally positioned on the wall, a conundrum all too familiar for custom integrators.

For maximum ease of installation, the U3 comes equipped with a comprehensive hardware package with spacers that allow the installation of flat-panel displays with unusual chassis, curved backs or recessed mounting lands. A proprietary adhesive Fast Installation Guide was designed to catch the dust and debris from drywall drilling and ensure one-step, clean-up-free mounting.

OmniMounts Lift n Lock is another proprietary feature added to expedite installation. Once the mounting rails have been bolted to the back of the plasma display, the TV is simply hung onto the mount rails and the flip-locks moved into place for security. A small padlock can be inserted through the lock holes and dual support rods provide maximum support and positive engagement while offering simple lateral positioning.

Earning the tilt in the products name, TVs, once mounted, can be slid into any viewing angleplus five through minus 15 degreesby loosening and re-tightening the tilt-tensioning levers.

Despite the hefty feature set and unique form-factor, the U3 product gestation was quite short, Robertson noted. From the time we narrowed down the criteria for the design to the time we had a prototype. We put a lot of resources and a lot of effort into this because we really felt that we had something and we also felt that there was a demand for it.

According to Robertson, one of the longest stages of the product development was ensuring that the product in fact was universal. Inevitably, as soon as you think something is universal, you find and exception to that rule, he noted. Actually making it work, from the small plasmas all the way up to the 63-inch plasmas, was the biggest design challenge. The U3s extension rods and rails were added for exactly this purpose, outfitting dealers with the ability to shrink or increase the mount to support plasmas of any size.

Larry Luttrell of ABT Electronics, a Glenview, Illinois-based custom installation firm, has been an OmniMount dealer for the past four years, and installs the U3 for its scalability. We were using Sanus universal flat-tilt mount, which was a great product, but OmniMounts upgraded model offers more possibilities, and the fact that it can go up to a 63-inches is great, Luttrell said.

This is a hot category; we sell 150 mounts of a month. So at CEDIA in September we wanted to see what was new. The U3with its center-J Box and cable managementwas hard to ignore. Its just the right product at the right price.

Margot Douaihy is managing editor of Residential Systems in New York City.