Satechi SCH-121 Cup Holder Mount for Smartphones & Tablets review: Satechi SCH-121 Cup Holder Mount for Smartphones & Tablets

Need something to safely hold that handheld tech in the car? The Satechi Cup Holder Mount is here to help.

Antuan Goodwin

Antuan Goodwin

Reviews Editor / Cars

Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and performance to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.

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4 min read

The Satechi Cup Holder mount is a fairly self-explanatory device that serves one very basic function: to hold your phone or tablet in place while you drive. Why would you even want to mount a tablet in your car in the first place?

Satechi SCH-121 Cup Holder Mount for Smartphohes & Tablets

Satechi SCH-121 Cup Holder Mount for Smartphones & Tablets

The Good

The <b>Satechi SCH-121 Cup Holder Mount</b> ships with cradles for smartphones and 7- to 10-inch tablets. When locked into place, the SCH-121 is quite stable.

The Bad

The positioning arm could benefit from one more point of articulation at its base.

The Bottom Line

Depending on the position and nature of your car's cup holders, the <b>Satechi SCH-121 Cup Holder Mount</b> is a reasonable alternative to windshield-mounting a tablet.

Well, for the same reasons you may want to position a phone on your dashboard. With the aid of navigation software, a tablet can be a great alternative to a standalone GPS device or in-dash navigation system. Audio-streaming software can pipe in Internet radio and podcasts. The trick is to avoid the temptation to fire up Hero Academy or Battle Bears on your next dull freeway slog.

Satechi can't help you with that last bit, but its SCH-121 Cup Holder Mount for Tablets and Smartphones can help you to keep your phone or tablet visible, accessible, and stable while you drive.

The Satechi mount sits atop a cylindrical, slightly weighted base that fits into your vehicle's cup holder. Simply dropping the base into place likely won't keep your device upright once the vehicle gets going around a good bend, so Satechi has engineered a trio of plastic blocks with rubber feet that extend from the center of this base to lock and hold the kit in place. It can take a bit of finicking to get everything lined up during your installation, but the result is a mounting point for the electronic device that can be removed with a twist when needed.

From the top of this base extends an arm that features two points of articulation: two hinge joints that unlock with the press of a button and have slightly over 180 degrees of motion. At the top of the arm is a rotating joint where the cradle connects that spins 360 degrees. The arm lacks a rotating point of articulation where it meets the base, which is what makes positioning the arm over the locked-in base slightly tricky. Again, a bit of fiddling and adjusting is necessary.

The actual mounting point locks in place at the top of all of the aforementioned hardware. The Satechi Cup Holder kit ships with two pieces of mounting hardware, one sized to hold smartphones and another for holding tablets.

Satechi SCH-121
The Satechi Cup Holder Mount ships with a smartphone mount that should fit most currently available handsets. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The smartphone mount features a pair of foam-padded ratcheting arms that release and extend at the touch of a button. The arms can grasp phones up to 3.4 inches in width, which pretty much covers every smartphone on the market. At the base of this mount are a pair of smaller arms that rotate 90 degrees downward to form a base that the smartphone can rest on.

The much larger tablet mount also has a pair of ratcheting and extending arms that can accommodate a device up to 9.8 inches wide -- appropriate for nearly every 7- to 10-inch tablet on the market. I tested it with the Apple iPad, the Kindle Fire, and the Google Nexus 7.

Satechi SCH-121
Even small tablets like the Kindle Fire proved to be obstructions to our test car's shifter. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The usefulness of the Satechi Cup Holder mount will depend almost entirely on the location and stability of your vehicle's cup holders. For example, our 2007 Chevrolet Aveo test car has fold-out cup holders upon which the Satechi system was never able to gain stable purchase. The next car we tested was a 2013 Acura ILX that featured center-console cupholders. This location proved stable enough for smartphones, but the larger tablets interfered with operation of the shifter. It's my opinion that this system would work best with console-mounted cupholders that sit forward of an automatic transmission's shifter.

Additionally, I found that the Satechi Cup Holder mount worked well (possibly better) in the back seat. Rear passengers in vehicles with centrally located cup holders can take advantage of this mounting system's ability to hold a tablet stable by watching video or accessing apps during long road trips.

Satechi SCH-121
Larger tablets, such as the Apple iPad, are probably best used from the rear seats. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

In sum
Mounting a smartphone in a cup holder has its pros and cons. Depending on the nature of your car's cup holders, the phone or tablet can be positioned where it's not a visual distraction in your line of sight, but is still accessible. However, in many cars, the cup holders' locations can place the phone in awkward positions. Larger tablets can even interfere with the shifter, making it difficult even to shift into drive.

However, this system's usefulness as the base for an impromptu rear-seat entertainment center came as a pleasant surprise and makes the back seat, in my opinion, the best place to use this mount.

The Satechi Cup Holder Mount regularly retails for $49.99, but it is possible to find the kit for as low as $39.99. I'd like to see this smartphone- and tablet-mounting kit broken into two less expensive kits, one for smartphones and one for tablets. Because you can't use the tablet and smartphone mounts at the same time, I think for most users one of the device cradles will just be collecting dust in a drawer somewhere anyway.

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