This article was first published as Hardware Review: Tetrax Handheld Electronics Mounting System on Blogcritics…
When you think of industrial design, Italy and a sleek modern aesthetic often comes to mind. Walmec S.p.A., in the Sarano suburb of Conegliano, is better known for their spray gun technology than mobile platform widgets. That hasn’t stopped then from leveraging their manufacturing expertise and a good bit of clever design sense to create an innovative mounting system for mobile devices. Here in the US, the Walcom division handles the five members of their Tetrax line, all designed to secure mobile handhelds in a variety of environments.
Their Tetrax XWAY is a removable mount for handheld hardware, while their Tetrax FIXWAY and tiny FIX are versions intended for more permanent placement most anywhere on your dashboard without marring the surface. In the photo above, the XWAY’s hiding behind the GPS at left, while the FIX is barely visible at right.
For this review, I received an XWAY housed in a little blister pac. The XWAY is a metal reinforced x–shaped moulding, about the length of a AA battery, with strong magnets embedded where the arms meet. On the back is a “beak” with two jaws that open and close as you twist a collar on the front. This is basically a small, locking pliers and it allows you to open the jaws, grip an aircon vent blade, and bite down to hold the XWAY in place. The jaws are lined with soft plastic so nothing gets damaged in the process. You can loosen the collar, and move or reposition the XWAY any time you like.
The key to the whole Tetrax system is the magnet assembly in the middle of the X. Those four, gold plated neodymium alloy magnets, visible above, are laid out with alternate polarities opposing each other. This layout cancels the overall magnetic field they produce and also gives the whole better attraction strength, providing 750 grams or a bit over 26 ounces of holding power. That’s about three times what even the burliest GPS handheld weighs so, once you stick it onto the XWAY, your Emily or Bob or whatever you call your GPS isn’t going anywhere until you decide to move it.
Along with the XWAY itself, four small ferrous metal discs are supplied for attaching to your mobile widgets. They have a special 3M structural adhesive that allows you to place, remove and reposition the discs without marring your precious phone or iPod’s surface. Walcom even supplies little alcohol wipes to prep things before attachment.
Once the discs, or “clips” as they call them, are in place, it’s a simple matter to place your iWhatever or GPS nav unit up against the XWAY et, voilà, the magnets take over and your electronic miracle is firmly held. When you leave your vehicle, just pull your gadget off the XWAY and go. Ferrous implies magnetic and the supplied discs certainly are…I attached one to both my iPod touch and my LG Rumor Touch, and they now hold tenaciously to their XWAY mount.
In use, the XWAY’s four diagonal arms provide effective back and lateral support as you punch up coordinates, select a song, or look up cheap gas prices. Because the XWAY’s jaws can be opened and closed, you can move the XWAY from one location in the car to another, and from one vehicle to another. If you decide you want additional or more permanent mounting, the same magnetic clips works with the other members of the Tetrax family and, additional discs are available for accessorizing all your handhelds.
Let’s talk suction cup mounts…Many GPS navigation products include them. The trouble is that, if you place them within driver and passenger’s reach, they obstruct your view. Also, the suction mount makes a good “Steal Me!” sign in your window. To complicate things, California, Minnesota and other states prohibit mounting anything on the windshield. The exception: “A portable Global Positioning System (GPS), which may be mounted in a 7″ square in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver or in a 5″ square in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver and outside of an airbag deployment zone…” Not ideal.
Unlike vendor–specific mounting kits, Tetrax is an excellent accessory for all your small mobile/handheld electronics. The Walmec approach means no windshield is needed, the entire system is repositionable and, everything’s less likely to hit any occupants during a collision. It’s a simple, easy to use solution and, 100% Italian. With a name like Masciarotte, I gotta like that!