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How to choose furniture for use with media

The most important specifications

  • The equipment you’ll be putting on the furniture. It’s critical to buy furniture designed to hold the equipment you intend to use it with. A 27" monitor, for example, cannot be safely placed on a cart or wall mount designed to hold only a 20." On the other hand, the manufacturer’s usage recommendation is the main spec you need to worry about. If you hold to this recommendation, and you stay with a reputable brand, it’s pretty safe to assume that the cart or mount will be of the right size, strength, and durability for the task at hand.

  • Safety features, such as monitor safety straps, non-tipping designs and UL approval are very important. Monitors, in particular, can be very dangerous when raised overhead, so it’s obvious that care must be exercised.

  • Construction and finish are a matter more of aesthetics and durability than of safety, assuming you follow the manufacturer’s usage recommendations. In general, wood veneers are among the best looking and most impressive, but least durable finishes available. Laminates will hold up to scratches and bumps better, but tend to be heavier and can be prone to damage if subject to flooding. Metal furniture is even more durable than laminates, and though it doesn’t fit with every decor, is usually a better choice for carts and cabinets that are moved frequently. Plastic furniture is not designed for the heaviest equipment, but is very durable, very low cost and offers the advantages of light weight plus easy assembly and disassembly.

Useful features

  • Electrical outlet strips, cord channels, shelving, keyboard drawers and other furniture features need little explanation, but they are important to keep in mind as you plan your furniture buy.
  • Adjustable height work surfaces can be important not only as a convenience but in preventing repetitive use injuries (such as carpel tunnel syndrome) and in meeting American Disabilities Act requirements.

  • Casters are of different sizes and types to match the load-levels required for the equipment a cart or table is designed to hold. If you’ll frequently move a cart long distances, it’s worth considering one with pneumatic tires.

  • Whether you buy your metal furniture welded in one piece or "ready-to-assemble" is, today, a question of balancing the extra cost of shipping against the inconvenience and extra cost of assembly. There’s very little difference in the safety or durability of the two types, since the critical joints in the ready-to-assemble furniture are welded in the same manner as the fully-built.

Beyond the specifications
Though the safety or durability of major furniture brands is rarely a problem, if you start to look at low-cost or off-brand furniture, it’s important to look closely for clues to its quality. One key indication is how well its pieces fit. Do all the doors open easily but close tightly? Are joints or welds clean and solid? Another is the quality of the finish. Is it even and smooth? Is the color consistent from piece to piece? Finally, does the item have a solid feel? Are the legs strong? Does the unit bend if you put equipment on it or lean on it? If you’re unhappy with what you find before you buy the unit, you can expect to be a lot more unhappy later.

Service is also an issue with furniture, as it can be very expensive ship back if you have a problem. What’s the manufacturer’s warranty? Will any needed service be handled locally or in some other state or country at the factory? What about the reputation of the dealer? Will he or she support you if you have a complaint?

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