Hang a tablet from your windshield (if you dare) with Bracketron's universal mount

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/ Updated: 8 March 2014 1:12 am GMT

There are plenty of good reasons to want to have access to a tablet in the car (navigation first springs to mind), but I can't figure out why you'd want to block half of your car's windshield by hanging a massive 7- to 10-inch display to the forward glass. Still, the tried-and-true suction cup on glass is the easiest and most reversible way to hold your tech in place when stopping, going, and rounding bends, so when evaluating the Bracketron Universal Tablet Windshield Mount I focused on how well the cradle did its job, rather than how absurd a job it was.

The windshield mount arrives in two parts: the cradle and the mounting arm. The adjustable arm terminates on one end with a lever-activated silicon suction cup that I found did a great job of gripping the glass in my test cars.

The suction cup holds the mount firm, but the telescoping section it connects to felt a bit loose. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Moving up the arm is a telescoping section that extends and collapses. A collar slides back to allow adjustment and forward to lock this section at its desired length. The next bit is a hinge-type joint that allows about 180 degrees of articulation and locks into place with friction by tightening an integrated knob. At first, it seemed that this hinge joint would only settle into 90-degree increments, but I was able to get more fine adjustment with patience.

The final bit of articulation on the mounting arm is a ball-in-socket joint that allows 360 degrees of rotation and a few degrees of tilt in all directions. This joint locks into place by twisting a locking ring around its socket.

The ball joint and the hinged joint that precedes it are quite nice. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The cradle is the bit that actually holds your precious tablet, attaching to the mounting arm with a grouping of tongue-in-groove connections. The cradle itself features two arms that are adjustable to accommodate a wide range of tablets. One arm, which I'll call the bottom arm, spreads from 4.5 inches to a maximum width of 7.75 inches to wrap around the bottom corners of your tablet's frame. The upper arm doesn't spread, but extends to grip the top edge of the tablet. Devices from 5.5 to 11 inches tall will fit. The upper arm locks into place with a lever on the rear of the cradle once you've got your tablet's size dialed in. To accommodate easy removal and placement of your tablet, the lower arm has about an inch of spring-loaded stretch and play to allow you to snugly wedge the device in place.

The cradle is the bit of the system that directly holds your tablet. Antuan Goodwin/CNET
Expanding in two directions, the spring-loaded cradle can fit the vast majority of tablets. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Bracketron cradle's design and our expectations for it at times find themselves at odds. On the one hand, it has to hold a delicate yet bulky and relatively heavy device at the end of its arm, and hold it steadily while you drive to and fro, placing and removing the payload at each end of the trip. On the other hand, it has to flexible and adjustable; able to conform to the slope of many vehicle's windshield and the dimensions of a wide variety of tablets.

So it's no surprise that I found the cradle to be quite fiddly during setup. I'd set one joint to the right angle, only to knock it loose when adjusting another. Some joints were so stiff (such as the arm's hinge joint) that the effort required to move them made fine adjustment difficult. Others, such as the telescoping section, were so loose that keeping them locked into place was frustrating. However, I was eventually able to get my test tablet, an iPad Mini, suspended from the windshield.

The Bracketron cradle held the tablet securely, but I'd like a bit more stability and less wiggle. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

While I never felt like the tablet was in danger of falling, I was a bit annoyed by a bit of play in one of the mounting arm's joints, which allowed a bit of wobble as I drove about and when I tapped onscreen shortcuts in, for example, the Waze navigation app. Then again, I'm aware that the only way to completely eliminate the wiggle room would be to sacrifice the mount's adjustability, so I'm not judging the accessory too harshly.

I said that I wouldn't harp too much on the impracticability of windshield-mounting a tablet, but feel that I have to point out that even small tablets like the Google Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini took up a massive amount of my forward visibility, even in a large-ish sedan like the 2014 Lexus IS F or a massive truck like the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado. Dashboard mounting would probably be the best way to go here. The photos hardly do justice to how ridiculous and conspicuous I felt with that big ol' screen ahead. I don't even want to think about what driving with a full-size iPad would be like.

Fortunately, the Bracketron Universal Tablet Windshield Mount ships with an adhesive disc that can be attached to your dashboard. You can then attach its suction cup to this dish to hang the tablet lower in the cabin and out of your field of view. Unfortunately, the Bracketron system was so bulky that even mounted to the dashboard it obscured a significant amount of windshield space. Your mileage may vary depending on your car's dimensions and your mounting creativity, but I was never really able to see around the cradle and its tablet cargo while driving.

I hate to say it, but the Bracketron mount could probably use less adjustability and more streamlining. I'd take a second hinge joint closer to the suction cup in place of the mounting arm's loosey-goosey telescoping section, which I never really took advantage of. This might simplify the arm's adjustment significantly and add a good deal of stability to the system.

I tossed the Google Nexus 5 smartphone into the cradle to give a sense of scale to this windshield mount built for tablets. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Bracketron Universal Tablet Windshield Mount has an MSRP of $39.95. That's near the top end of what you should expect to pay for a windshield mount for a tablet (yes, there's more than one of them), with most that I've seen going for about $35. Those looking for a bargain -- or who just want to experiment with the windshield mounted tablet -- can find less expensive, less flexible options for as low as $15.

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Bracketron Universal Tablet Windshield Mount

Part Number: TMW-383-BX
Pricing is currently unavailable.