RBA & AF Astrophotography

BenQ ScreenBar Lamp Review

Posted: August 10th, 2018


Back in June, BenQ sent me a BenQ ScreenBar Lamp, asking for my opinion and how it helped (or didn't help) on my work, whether processing astronomical images or anything else.

How is this important?

Lighting is one thing we don't often pay much attention to, but like everything related to our workspace, when used efficiently, it can help our performance and even creativity!

A poorly lit workstation will cause more stress in our eyes as we're blinded from everything but the light coming from the monitor. This will make us tired sooner, becoming less productive, perhaps without even noticing.

On the other hand, if we illuminate our work area really well, any light sources not properly shielded will likely produce reflections on our monitors. We can use hoods to reduce reflections, but they don't always completely solve the problem and, in some cases - such as when the light source is behind you, not above you - don't help much.

That's where the BenQ ScreenBar lamps comes to the rescue.

What is the BenQ ScreenBar Lamp?

The BenQ ScreenBar lamp is a bar-shaped lamp for your desktop. It aims at solving three different problems: insufficient lighting, screen glare & reflection and limited desktop space. And it does precisely that, remarkably well!

It installs right on top of your monitor, saving desktop space. It uses an asymmetrical optical design that illuminates your work area while leaving the monitor completely undisturbed from glare or reflections. Last, while you can control brightness and light temperature (color), it also offers an "auto" mode that adjust itself automatically as the light ambiance in the room changes, providing the "perfect" amount of light at all times.

Out of the box

The ScreenBar comes nicely packaged, not taking much parcel space. Installation doesn't require any instructions: snap the bar onto the hanger, connect it with the provided USB cable to your monitor (or another nearby USB plug) and you're good to go!

Features

You cannot expect a lamp from the innovators at BenQ that only lets you switch it on and off with no other features.

Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, the lamp comes with a USB port from where it gets electricity, and two different adjustments - one for light temperature (color) and the other one for brightness. Also, as mentioned, it also has an "auto" mode that adjust itself automatically as the light ambiance in the room changes.

Working with the ScreenBar

I've been using the ScreenBar for two months already, and I am completely sold on the benefits, while I am also firm on what I think could be improved.

Pros

The most obvious benefit is having a work area well illuminated, in concordance with the illumination of the room plus my monitors, while not disturbing my view of what's on the screens in any way. I normally use the "auto" mode and let the ScreenBar decide what's the best setting. Only if I find the light temperature too warm or too cold, I might switch to a setting more to my liking and leave it like that for the rest of the session, although I rarely do this.

The fact you can go from truly warm to extremely cold light temperatures, along with brightness control really allows you to be as picky as you want about the best light for the moment.

I have found that for me, the best way to work is by having the room mildly illuminated, using a flood light source that's behind and above the monitors (so it doesn't bother the displays), then using the ScreenBar to further illuminate my workspace. Just the ScreenBar and the monitor(s) in an otherwise dark room will create a very localized illuminated area, similar to just having the monitor on, but with your work area also illuminated. Much better if the room also has some illumination.

Cons

While using the ScreenBar is a no-brainer for most of the things we usually do in our desktop computers, I still have mixed feelings about using it when doing delicate image processing work. I've used the ScreenBar enough to know I don't perceive any difference in the display regardless of whether the ScreenBar is on or off, but because the light does change the ambiance of the space between you and the monitor, you might want to do critical work with theScreenBar only after you had the bar turned on for a while - so your eyes are adapted to this ambiance and aren't bothered.

If you would like to use the ScreenBar for graphic work (video, photo, etc) and have a hood on top of your monitor(s), you'd have to remove the hood. Unfortunately, you cannot install the ScreenBar on a monitor that has a hood on it. Whether this is BenQ's way to tell us not to use the ScreenBar on workstations that require a hood, or it really is a design limitation, it would be good if using one didn't have to exclude the other.

Since I have a dual monitor setup and only one of the displays has a hood (my "main" monitor), I ended up setting up the ScrenBar in the un-hooded monitor, while leaving the main display with its hood on. My workspace area is well illuminated, my main monitor is 100% undisturbed from any lights or reflections, and I didn't have to give up anything.

Conclusions

BenQ's ScreenBar lamp is a product that doesn't cost much and will make our time at our desktop more comfortable and productive, but we may feel just fine with our current setting, and fail to see the advantages if we did the switch. However, if you go ahead and get one, you will use it, not because you've got it but because it's definitely better than what you had before! Overtime, the benefits will start showing, whether you notice or not. Eventually, like many other things, once you're used to it, you too will miss it if it's gone.

Also, since the ScreenBar uses low consumption LEDs and plugs to any USB port for power, you're also saving energy - a LOT if you were still using incandescent light bulbs (or worse!) instead.

In conclusion, BenQ's ScreenBar lamp is not a must-have gadget, BUT if you want to improve the quality of lighting around your workspace (and all the advantages that come with that), all without disturbing your display(s) in any way, I definitely recommend it.

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