A couple of years ago, Jason reviewed the original model of the BenQ ScreenBar, an LED lamp designed to sit on top of a monitor and provide perfect lighting to your desk area. He freakin’ loved it, awarding the lamp a perfect 10 out of 10 score.
BenQ offered the upgraded model, the ScreenBar Plus, to me. Because my desk doesn’t exactly have room for a conventional lamp, or even one of BenQ’s excellent but unconventional ones, I said yes. And, while I’m not quite as over the moon for it as Jason was, it still gets a firm recommendation for anyone who wants a great lamp for their computer desktop. Provided, of course, that they don’t mind the high price.
This Little Light Bar of Mine
The basic structure of the ScreenBar Plus is the same as the original: a big horizontal bar that hangs just over the top of a standard computer monitor. Its array of LEDs is angled so that illuminates your desk, without shining into your eyes or onto the screen. You’ll have to fiddle with it a bit—the cylindrical bar has a bit of adjustable give—but once it’s in the right spot it’s more or less perfect.
The upgrade is in the control cluster. The original and still-available ScreenBar has all its controls on the bar itself, forcing you to reach up to activate or adjust it. On the Plus, you get a little hockey puck and two buttons, one for auto-dimming and the other for switching between brightness and color temperature control.
There’s not much to it—it’s a lamp, after all. Tap the dial’s center button to turn the lamp on or off, and the auto button to automatically set the brightness and temperature. For manual control, just turn the dial—in standard mode, it adjusts the brightness, or tap the temperature button to go warmer or colder.
The bar itself is about 18 inches wide, and it’s surprisingly heavy. It sits on top of a monitor with a little plastic lip, very much like a USB webcam, and has a big bean-shaped counterweight to let it rest on the top without rocking. The last bit is the power cord, which plugs into a standard USB-A port and splits off for the control puck.
Aesthetically it’s understated and pleasing, fitting in unobtrusively whether you’re using a shiny Mac or an even-shinier gaming monitor. The control cluster is similarly good-looking without being distracting—without knowing what it is, you might mistake it for a volume knob or a 3D mouse.
But the light is the best part of it. You can blast your work area with clean light or bathe it in warm light if you just want a little extra illumination. Changing it up is much easier than on the standard model, and thanks to its very specific positioning of the LEDs and reflecting mirror, it won’t glare up your screen. That’s true even if you have secondary monitors—while I can tell there’s a bit of light getting onto the matte screens, it’s never enough to wash them out. Impressive.
Here’s the highest and lowest brightness I was able to get from the Screenbar Plus:
And, the warmest and coolest temperature I could manually set, at max brightness:
A Few Small Complaints
There are only two problems I have with the ScreenBar Plus design. The first one is the relatively short cables. The short cable for the USB power is understandable—it’s assumed that you’ll be plugging the lamp directly into your monitor. (Though perhaps it shouldn’t be—not every monitor has USB ports, after all.)
But the control puck only extends a couple of feet from the Y-point in the cable, making routing it around things on your desk a potential hassle. That goes double if, like me, you prefer to keep your cable routing clean. This is a problem that the original model, with its direct controls, didn’t face.
I’m also not thrilled with the ScreenBar’s accommodation for webcams, or lack thereof. It’s possible to perch my webcam on top of the horizontal bar, but it’s awkward at best—the circular lip means it’s just kind of rocking there. And, the extra few inches it pushes forward means that the lens is quite close to my face.
On the Pricey Side
The regular ScreenBar is worth the rather hefty $100 asking price, if you need unobtrusive lighting and don’t have room for a regular lamp. Or, of course, if you just want a lamp that looks neat and offers clean light.
I’d say the ease of adjusting the light with the puck controller is certainly worth the $30 upgrade for the ScreenBar Plus, but $130 is definitely pushing into “luxury” territory for a desk lamp. There are cheaper alternatives for less than half the price. If you can find either at even a small discount, they’d be much more appealing.
I’d be able to look past the high price if there was some kind of smart home integration feature, allowing for even more convenient control of the light bar. Alas, no such luck. So, with those caveats earning it a slightly lower-than-perfect score, I’d still say it’s a damn good light with some very specific design choices.
Here’s What We Like
- Fantastic build quality
- Excellent lighting
- Easy control cluster
And What We Don't
- Could use a longer cable
- Tricky to use with a Webcam