PanaVise 15504 PortaGrip car mount keeps a fierce grip on phones

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May 2, 2013 10:27 AM PDT / Updated: May 2, 2013 10:51 AM PDT

The PanaVise 15504 PortaGrip holds smartphones to windshields with a strong grip. Josh Miller/CNET

Standing out as the 800-pound gorilla among smartphone mounts for cars, the PanaVise 15504 PortaGrip feels like it's been spending evenings and weekends at the gym. The thick pieces of this mount look like they could support a whole car, let alone a smartphone. The screws and hinges move as if manufactured to military spec.

I had no fears that this mount would fall apart while cradling my precious smartphone.

This suction cup mount, designed to stick to a car's windshield while keeping a smartphone visible to the driver, has multiple pivot points on its arm and uses a ratcheting clamp to hold smartphones in place.

However, it lacks any sort of power pass-through, USB ports, or channels to run a phone-charging cable down to a car's 12-volt power point.

Suction with a twist
The sucker end uses a twist switch to increase suction, rather than a lever like many other windshield mounts. Placing the suction cup against the windshield of a car, I twisted the switch and the suction locked it in place. In fact, it became so strongly locked that as I pulled on it to test its hold, the entire car rocked on its suspension.

I like this suction mechanism, as it feels solid and locks well, and PanaVise includes helpful engravings in the plastic showing the lock and unlock positions of the switch.

A 3.5-inch plastic arm comes off the suction cup mechanism, featuring hinges at each end with screws to lock the position. It takes a little effort to move the hinges, but I like that the smartphone's position can be adjusted not only at the clamp end, but also at the end near the windshield.

Twist these tabs to increase suction on the windshield. Josh Miller/CNET

The clamp hooks up to the other hinge end of the plastic arm on a ball joint, which also features a locking screw to fix its position. The ball joint swivels in all directions by 45 degrees. That means the PanaVise 15504 PortaGrip gives three points of adjustment, although two of those are linear.

The clamp end, the part that grips a smartphone, slides on and off the suction cup mount and has a soft backing, so as not to mar any smartphone placed in its care. The short, or bottom end of the clamp, has two little feet that swivel so they can be pushed out of the way.

Two spring-loaded ratcheting arms do the job of holding a smartphone in place.

At the press of a button, the arms pop out, opening up to a 3.75-inch width. That means it will easily hold a Samsung Galaxy S4, and even smaller tablets. After placing a smartphone between the clamp arms of the PanaVise 15504 PortaGrip, push them together and they ratchet closed, holding the smartphone firmly in place.

One-handed operation
With the PanaVise 15504 PortaGrip suction-cupped to a windshield, I found I could operate the clamp with one hand, simultaneously holding my phone against its soft backing and squeezing the clamp arms together. Pushing the button to pop open the arms, I quickly learned to keep a grip on the phone, lest it fall out and hide under the car's seat.

With the arms firmly closed, the phone was not going anywhere. As I drove over disgruntled asphalt, the bumps did not dislodge the phone in the slightest.

The mount can swivel to a horizontal position, but the clamp hold does not seem to support a phone as well. Josh Miller/CNET

I tried positioning the clamp arms just loosely enough that I could slide the phone in and out of its embrace, making for easier placement and removal, but the reduced hold allowed the phone to be jostled more, to the point where it looked like it would fall out while I was driving, never a good thing.

Given the design of the clamp arms, the PanaVise 15504 PortaGrip is intended to hold a phone in a vertical position. The ball joint allows it to be swiveled to horizontal, and tabs on the clamp arm can be moved to grip the phone closer to its center, but the narrowness of those tabs made for a questionable horizontal hold.

Leave it in the car
The PanaVise 15504 PortaGrip would be a good smartphone-mount choice for people comfortable leaving it on their car's windshield. Its sheer bulk and strong suction cup make it a pain to continually remove and reattach.

The strength of this mount is definitely a virtue, especially if you're frequently traveling over rough roads. Its multiple hinge points make it easily adjustable, although its relatively short arm might put it too far from the driver in some cars.

And given its strength, it might serve as an emergency tow hitch.

The clamp end features spring-loaded arms that grip a smartphone. Josh Miller/CNET

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PanaVise 15504 PortaGrip smartphone mount

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About The Author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.