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MEGATech Reviews: BenQ ScreenBar e-Reading Lamp
If you need a desk lamp to illuminate those late night work sessions in style, this handy light bar could be the ticket. But is it worth the price?
Pros
  • Adjustable brightness and color temperature
  • Universal compatibility with convenient USB power
  • Ambient light sensor
Cons
  • Expensive for what it is
  • Touchy controls lack feedback
  • Wobble doesn't inspire confidence
7Overall Score

Ever since becoming a dad almost four years (has it already been that long?!), I've become intimately familiar with what is known as the third shift. I get some work done during the day, I take care of the kid in the evening, and then I go back to work again after she's asleep for the night. Understandably, the home office is pretty dark by then but I don't want to illuminate it to its fullest either. Enter the BenQ ScreenBar e-reading LED Task Lamp, a handy solution that takes up no extra room on my already messy desk.

Light Up Your Desk

MEGATech Reviews: BenQ ScreenBar e-Reading Lamp

Sure, there are plenty of task lamps and desk lights around. Some of these are really cheap and take on your typical screw-in light bulb. Others can be a little fancier, perhaps offering LED lighting or even integrated wireless charging. One challenge with all these designs is that they inherently take up space on your desk, because they've got a base.

The BenQ ScreenBar is different in that it effectively clips to the top of your flat screen monitor (no one has a CRT anymore, do they?), eliminating the need for a traditional base. You get a strip of LED lights that can adjust from warm (2700K) to cool (6500K) with about a total of eight settings, plus various levels of dimming and an ambient light sensor for automatic adjustment.

MEGATech Reviews: BenQ ScreenBar e-Reading Lamp

Now, most of us know BenQ better for their monitors and projectors, but they've expanded well beyond that niche. You might recall the TreVolo S Bluetooth speaker I reviewed some time back.

The BenQ ScreenBar is equally "premium" in its approach with a price to match. Whereas some other task lamps can be purchased for a fraction of the price, this unit sells for $99. That's nothing to sneeze at, of course, but they justify the cost with the premium build and advanced features. For starters, it boasts an "asymmetrical optical design that only illuminates the desk and ensures zero reflective glare off the screen."

In my time with the light bar, I'd agree that this promise holds up to be true. My LCD displays aren't especially glossy or reflective to start with, so your mileage may vary. I didn't experience any glare myself and I found the lamp provided just the right amount of lamp for getting work done, all while reducing eye strain.

BenQ ScreenBar Touch Controls

MEGATech Reviews: BenQ ScreenBar e-Reading Lamp

Naturally, the BenQ ScreenBar needs power to operate and this is achieved through a simple microUSB to USB cable included in the package. If your monitor has powered USB ports (it only needs 5V/1A), then that's probably the most convenient solution. You could also plug it into your computer or through a wall adapter, if you'd like; me, I used my USB charging hub for the sake of convenience.

Because there is no base to this light bar -- it has a spring-loaded soft clasp that clips onto the top of your monitor -- all the controls are on the light bar itself. The first button on the far left adjusts the brightness, cycling through the various levels in sequence from high to low and back again. The second button is for color temperature, which works in the same way from warm to cool and back again. For both, you can hold or tap repeatedly.

Along the right side are a button for the ambient light sensor (the light will dim and brighten briefly to find its optimal level) and the power button. These are all touch controls, so you don't get any sort of tactile feedback. That's neither here nor there, really, but one thing that irked me is because the touch controls are on either side of the clasp, the light bar "wobbles" with each press. I never really felt like it was going to fall off my monitor, but it's not exactly reassuring either.

Warm and Cool LED Lighting

MEGATech Reviews: BenQ ScreenBar e-Reading Lamp

There's all kinds of science about the effects of light on the human body and mind. There are people way smarter than I am with far more insightful things to say on the topic, so I'll leave that to them. What I can tell you is that, in general, cool "blue" light tends to be more invigorating and warm "yellow" light tends to be more calming. That's why you should generally try to avoid too much "blue" light before bed, as it'll negatively impact your sleep patterns.

That's why I really appreciate how I can change the color temperature on the BenQ ScreenBar to suit my particular needs and preferences. I use a program called f.lux on my computer to adjust the color temperature of my monitors throughout the day too. With the BenQ ScreenBar, you effectively have two sets of LEDs in that bar: yellow and white. The gradations of color temperature result in their relative levels.

MEGATech Reviews: BenQ ScreenBar e-Reading Lamp

It can be a little difficult to really convey how this feels based on pictures alone, but you can see the startling difference in the two photos above. This is at about medium-high brightness with the color temperature set all the way cool and then all the way warm. This is with no other lights on in the room, aside from the illumination from the computer monitor itself.

For my setup, I also have a couple of LED light bars behind the monitors for ambient light, as well as an adjustable smart bulb in the ceiling fixture. I've been playing around with a combination of these three elements to come up with my ideal nighttime work light configuration. The BenQ ScreenBar really has helped with reducing eye strain and it's a lot easier writing and doing other things on the desk itself.

That's because my head and chair naturally block a little bit of the ceiling light and I've resisted putting a desk lamp on the desk itself, because I didn't want the glare on the monitors. In this regard, BenQ's solution (along with some ambient light behind the monitors) seems to work the best for me.

MEGATechie Bright Idea or MEGATechie Expensive Eyesore?

MEGATech Reviews: BenQ ScreenBar e-Reading Lamp

The BenQ ScreenBar is deceptively simple in its approach. It is, generally speaking, "just" an LED light bar that you clip onto your computer monitor. The asymmetrical design does appear to be effective in reducing or even eliminating screen glare, and having adjustable brightness and color temperature is invaluable. The build quality is solid too.

And I would like this a lot more (and rate it more highly) if not for two things holding me back. First, the "wobble" when you interact with the touch controls takes away from the experience. Perhaps if the clamp were wider and the controls more centered, this would be less of an issue. The second thing is the price. The BenQ ScreenBar is available now for $99 MSRP and that's a fair bit more than a cheaper LED task lamp. Whether or not these additional features are worth the premium to you is a personal matter.


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