The BenQ “Genie” E-Reading Lamp Deserves a Spot on Your Desk

Rating: 9/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $149
This is the BenQ Genie E-Reading Lamp. My real desk is not this clean.
Michael Crider

Workplace illumination is important. Important enough to spend more than a hundred bucks on a fancy lamp? I wouldn’t have thought so until BenQ sent me this weird-looking Genie E-Reading Desk Lamp.

Here's What We Like

  • Flexible arm
  • High degree of intensity options
  • Very stable
  • Wide light beam

And What We Don't

  • Automatic mode isn't flexible 
  • Weird touch switch

The thing looks like a post-modern interpretation of the Pixar-style reading lamp, with a curved bar packed with LEDs replacing the traditional single bulb. I wouldn’t have given it a second glance, except that Jason was head over heels for BenQ’s ScreenBar, which was similarly positioned as ideal for reading text on electronic screens.

I was shocked at how good this thing is. Between the quality construction and the amazingly even lighting, going back to a conventional lamp for my work setup will be touch for me. Some usability choices are odd, but overall it’s a fantastic product that justifies its premium price.

Setting It Up

After opening the package I found the Genie lamp comes in just two pieces: the main LED array and the base and boom arm. Attaching them requires installing two screws with the included hex key. I got it all set up in about three minutes, including the nicely braided power cable and its breakaway wall-wart power connection. The cable tucks neatly into the boom arm.

Setup requires installing just two screws. Note that swanky braided power cable.
Setup requires installing just two screws. Note that swanky braided power cable. Michael Crider

Set up on my desk, the lamp looks sort of like an unfinished emoticon: _°/˘. Taste is subjective, of course, and I won’t tell you this thing fits into every bit of decor. If you’re working on an antique banker’s desk, it probably won’t accent things quite like one of those old-fashioned brass lamps with the green shade. But on my standing desk, stuffed to the edges with speakers, tablets, phones, and small LEGO spaceships, it looks pretty slick. If you’re looking to match a theme, the lamp has multiple color options for the aluminum LED bar.

The ball joint gives you flexibility, not just for illuminating the work area, but for keeping the LEDs out of your eyes.
The ball joint gives you flexibility, not just for illuminating the work area, but for keeping the LEDs out of your eyes. Michael Crider

The LED bar moves on a ball joint, so the actual light portion of the lamp can be put into a surprisingly varied amount of positions. The boom arm is on a less flexible hinge, moving from 90 to about 25 degrees. It’s enough to handle most situations and position the LEDs away from your eyes, but those with larger desks or big monitors might want to go for the double-hinged version that’s roughly twice as tall.

Aziz, LIGHT!

The lamp uses 36 individual LEDs spread out evenly across its curved bar. And they’re gorgeous. The design of the lamp allows them to evenly illuminate a shockingly wide area—it handled the entire horizontal space of my five-foot desk, with plenty of space left over, with only a slight emphasis on the middle range.

36 LEDs alternate between pure white and amber, giving the lighting a lot of flexibility.
36 LEDs alternate between pure white and amber, giving the lighting a lot of flexibility. Michael Crider

At its highest setting, the light is bright, but still warm, avoiding the cold clinical feel of some LEDs. Alternating between full-brightness white and softer amber LEDs gives it an excellent warmth, even at full power. If that’s too much for you, the circular dial on top of the bar allows you to adjust the temperature and intensity of the light, from full, “Let’s get some work done” power to “I just need a little extra light to see the fine print on this letter.” It’s a wide range, making the system appealingly flexible.

The lamp is equipped with an automatic mode, which uses a light sensor to dynamically adjust the lighting level based on ambient light in the room. It’s a nice inclusion, but I found myself manually adjusting the light after activating it almost every time. Strangely, the automatic mode has more fine control over itself, often cutting power to the middle array of LEDs. (That isn’t possible with the dial alone.) Note that since the LEDs are on only one side of the lamp, you’ll want to position the base on your right side if you’re shorter and sometimes have the bar beneath your eye level to avoid shining it directly into your eyes.

Odd Control Choices

The lamp is activated by touch: Tap the circular extension on the side of the light bar and it comes on. I’m not a fan of touch controls on anything that isn’t a screen, but I have to admit that it’s at least more functional than some of the implementations I’ve seen. I usually turned the light on by pressing down on the adjustment dial instead: This can turn the light on, but not off.

Controls are a bit awkward thanks to the touch-sensitive power button.
Controls are a bit awkward thanks to the touch-sensitive power button. Michael Crider

You also activate the automatic light-sensing mode with the ring. Keep your finger pressed to it for two seconds to turn this feature on and off. Again, it works, but I don’t see why it couldn’t just be a standard switch or button. The aesthetic value is not worth the compromise in utility—a classic example of form over function. Especially since “aesthetic value” is skin-deep, as the control circle is a rather cheap plastic that contrasts poorly with the metal of the rest of the lamp.

I See the Light

As a reviewer, I’m often happy to see review units go back to the manufacturer just to get the space back in my home, especially with appliances. That’s not the case with the BenQ Genie E-Reading Lamp. I want to keep it, and to be honest, I’ll probably buy one for myself when UPS takes it away.

This review is really just an excuse to let me put as many of my hobbies in one photo as I can.
This review is really just an excuse to let me put as many of my hobbies in one photo as I can. Michael Crider

That’s no idle compliment since this thing is pricey. BenQ gives the retail price at $149, or $199 if you want the larger one with the double-hinged arm. But gosh-darn it, this thing justifies its high price by giving off wonderful light in a wide, wide array, which avoids being harsh on my eyes even at its widest setting.

I wasn’t impressed with the light-sensing automatic mode, and I don’t see what would have been so bad about a conventional light switch. But other than those minor quibbles, this lamp is fantastic and well worth its high asking price.

Rating: 9/10
Price: $149

Here’s What We Like

  • Flexible arm
  • High degree of intensity options
  • Very stable
  • Wide light beam

And What We Don't

  • Automatic mode isn't flexible 
  • Weird touch switch

Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider has been writing about computers, phones, video games, and general nerdy things on the internet for ten years. He’s never happier than when he’s tinkering with his home-built desktop or soldering a new keyboard. Read Full Bio »

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