Flat-panel LCD TVs and plasma TVs are designed for hanging on a wall. But while just about every flat-panel TV ships with a stand so that it can be placed on a piece of furniture (such as a cabinet or credenza), if you do want to hang your TV you must choose and buy your own wall mount.
Fortunately, finding the right TV wall mount is not as much of a challenge as some might assume -- though that hasn't always been the case. Early on, TV manufacturers used their own mounting schemes so that you could only use specific wall mounts with specific flat-panel TVs. That's largely -- though not completely -- a thing of the past. Instead, most makers now produce sets that use the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) flat-display mounting interface (FDMI), or more simply, a VESA mount. However, to allow for ever-larger screen sizes and variations in the back panels of different TVs from different makers, the VESA standard does allow for a fairly wide range of configurations, including different hole spacings and hole depths. The spacing and hole-depth information for your specific TV should be available in the owner's manual.
Many popular TV wall mounts are universal; that is, they can accommodate any VESA-compliant hole pattern and ship with an assortment of mounting screws to accommodate different hole depths. Others, however, will only work with certain sets. Most TV mount makers include a mount finder on their site that will identify which mounts will be compatible with your specific TV.
Though flat-panel TVs might be wonderfully thin, that doesn't mean they are not heavy -- and that's especially true of plasma sets and larger LCD TVs. When selecting your TV mount, it is important to look at the size range it can accommodate and the maximum weight it will support and stay within those specifications.
Several styles of TV mounts are available. The most basic and least expensive is a flat mount. As its name implies, it holds the set flat against the wall, offering the lowest-profile installation. Its chief drawback is that since the mount cannot pan or tilt, installation and seating flexibility is fairly limited. For example, in a typical viewing setup you will need to mount the TV fairly low on a wall to stay within optimal viewing angles and see the best picture quality; that's a particularly important consideration with many LCD sets, especially the thinnest ones with LED backlights. That's why a tilting mount is a better choice for most situations. The ability to tilt means you can place the set higher on the wall but still see the best possible picture from, for example, a couch or chair. Tilting a set can also help fight off glare from lights or windows in some room setups.
You can also opt for an articulating or full-motion mount. Those mounts place the TV on an arm that can be pulled out from the wall, and that can tilt down or up and be panned left or right. Articulating mounts can accommodate multiple seating positions, and may be the only way to handle room setups where it's impossible to sit squarely in front of a TV mounted to an opposite wall.
Experts only review TV wall mounts on occasion, but we see lots of feedback from owners. Those reviews tell us that while some lemons certainly exist, most TV wall mounts are reasonably easy to install and do their job with a minimum of muss and fuss. User-written reports also reveal that while it's possible to spend hundreds of dollars on a TV wall mount, lots of very good wall mounts can be found for less than $100, and sometimes for much less.
One example is the Cheetah Mounts APTMM2B (*Est. $30), a tilt mount that can accommodate flat-screen TVs with screen sizes of 32 to 65 inches and that weigh no more than 160 pounds. Professional reviews for the APTMM2B are hard to come by, though TopTenReviews.com weighs in with a mixed report. However, there are over 1,100 user reviews (at last look) posted at Amazon.com. While not everyone is completely satisfied -- some reporting missing or mismatched parts or confusing instructions -- the vast majority seem perfectly happy, adding up to an overall rating of 4.3 stars out of 5. Most owners of the APTMM2B admit that the mount might not be the sturdiest around, but add that it's more than sturdy enough to handle most TVs.
On the other hand, if you want something a little more high-end than a $30 mount to hold your $2,000 TV, the Sanus Systems VMPL50A-B1 (*Est. $65) tilt mount costs only a bit more and gets pretty good feedback, including a nicely detailed report at HomeTheaterReview.com. Andrew Robinson says that build quality is "solid and robust," and that installation is easy enough that just about anyone can tackle it. User reviews are not nearly as numerous as for the Cheetah mount mentioned above, but what's available thus far is very impressive. The Sanus Systems VMPL50A-B1 can hold screens from 32 inches to 70 inches; though weight is limited to 150 pounds or less, that's still more than any modern flat-panel HDTV in this size range weighs.
If your budget and needs are more basic, or you just want a fixed mount that will let your TV hug the wall as tightly as possible, a low-profile flat mount might be just the ticket. Though more expensive flat mounts are available, we saw some good user feedback for the sub-$20 VideoSecu MP248B (*Est. $17) for sets up to 46 inches, and the slightly more expensive VideoSecu MP268B (*Est. $25) for larger sets (up to 55 inches). Most say that both of these flat mounts are simple to install -- something that's made a touch easier by including a built-in bubble level in the mount. Some add that the mount doesn't seem to be the sturdiest; however, all say that as long as you respect its rated weight limits (100 pounds for either mount) it will do its job of holding the TV securely to the wall.
Among articulating mounts, we saw some praise for the Atdec Telehook TH-3270-UFM (*Est. $200), though also some concerns regarding value. For example, Tom Andry at Audioholics.com calls it a "tough sell" for home use, though he adds that if bought at typical street prices, the value proposition improves somewhat. In terms of performance, there's no doubt that the TH-3270-UFM is a top choice. Adrienne Maxwell at HomeTheaterReview.com agrees that it is well built and easy to install and use.
If your budget is smaller, user reviews point to the Cheetah Mounts APDAM2B (*Est. $75) as a good alternative. Judging by reports, it's harder to install than the Atdec Telehook TH-3270-UFM and its motion is not as smooth, but the APDAM2B is still very functional and a much better value.
The majority of available feedback on the Cheetah Mounts APDAM2B is at Amazon.com, but there's lots of it and most reviews are very complimentary. The mount can accommodate flat-panel TVs of up to 65 inches and 165 pounds. The set is supported by two articulating arms that allow 180 degrees of side-to-side motion and 15 degrees of up-and-down tilt. The arms can pull out to 20 inches away from the wall and collapse down to 4.5 inches.
Most sites and publications that review TVs also cover TV wall mounts, at least occasionally. However, we found the best selection of current reviews at HomeTheaterReview.com and Audioholics.com. Users also frequently report on TV wall mounts. Amazon.com has the best selection of those, but the reviews at BestBuy.com are also helpful.