With all the scurrying around to set up home offices to work remotely, everyone focuses on the usual suspects like monitors, keyboard and mouse etc. What is usually overlooked in a good working desk setup? Lighting. With thanks to BenQ, we get to road test the WiT Screenbar Plus – an unique LED desk lamp.
Like all good things in IT, something temporary means it is generally set in stone. So when I “temporarily” set up my workspace whilst the home renovation was still going on, everything on it became the norm as time went on. That means a halogen desk lamp that has followed me to Australia from over three decades ago (hey beggars can’t be choosers right?) ended up back on my desk as my working light. It was not doing the job for me with it’s limited coverage, fixed colour temperature, even the positioning arm gets in the way of the curtains being closed properly. It came from an era before any genuine thoughts of energy efficiency, and who knows where I can even get replacement tubes for it.
The BenQ WiT Screenbar Plus comes shipped in three components – the Screenbar itself, the counterweighted monitor clip and a control cluster with attached USB cable. It does not come with instructions on how to put it together, but it is a no brainer.
The Screenbar is 450mm long and made from anodised, sand blasted aluminium alloy. The clip holding the Screenbar is made from polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (PC/ABS) polymer.
Overall it is a discreet, stylish and unobtrusive unit that would not look out of place in any environment. The control cluster is made from the same combination of materials, and without context would appear to be a volume control.
First check that the LED bar is in the right orientation, then snap fit it into the monitor clip, taking care to align the USB-C socket with the opening. If you mess up you can take it out and redo it, or if the alignment is slightly out, slide the bar over until the socket is fitted correctly.
To be honest there is no real up or down to the LED bar, but the OCD part of me looking at the very discreet branding “Screenbar Plus” upside down would annoy me no end. So for the record, the branding should be on the right side of the assembled unit.
The last thing is to grab the control cluster and attached cable, plug in the USB-C end into the Screenbar and the USB-A side into a powered socket (5V, 1A is sufficient), put the puck on the desk and it is ready to go.
The Screenbar fits easily onto my Dell U2412M. The clip does not need anything to lock into place and has a “comma” shaped counterweight. It is just a matter of positioning it to straddle the bezel with the lip on the front face and it is good to go. While the specifications say that it will fit for bezels between 1 and 3 cm thick, I had no issues with my HP ZR24w and it’s 5cm thick edge.
The clip allows for 20 degrees of rotation so it is easy to find the best angle to suit your setup. As for the control cluster, it does include the light sensor so it is best to position it where it can work effectively. In other words, do not bury it so that it cannot detect the ambient light.
There are three controls on it. The big round dial in the center turns it on and off by a press, there is a satisfying feedback and a click when done. It is also a dial to adjust the brightness or colour temperature.
The left button is for automatic adjustment, a green ring will illuminate when this mode is active. The right button is a brightness or hue adjustment toggle. There are two corresponding LEDs at the bottom of the front face to indicate which mode the dial is set for.
When it is powered up the first time after an extended down time, the light does a strange little power on blink – light comes up, fades a bit, then back to the level it needs to be. I assume this is the sensor figures out what the lux levels and colour temperature should be set to, but it also does it in manual mode. Feels quirky but wasy enough to get used to.
A light is a light, what is so special with the BenQ WiT Screenbar Plus compared to any other light? There are a few aspects. Firstly it does not take up any of the precious desk real estate. In my case it does not have the awkward arm with my current incumbent which seems to get in the way of the blinds no matter what.
Second issue is screen glare, traditional lamps can cause screen glare and contribute to poor eye strain and ultimately poor eye health. The Screenbar design casts a curtain of light down the area in front of the monitor, and eliminates the risk of glare. During my extensive use over the past week, I have noticed a better comfort level for my eyes in general when I am spending all day in front of the computer.
In a moderately lit room the default brightness is at 500 lux, in line with the American National Standard Practice for Office Lighting. With the automatic adjustment enabled, it will reduce the lighting to 300 lux in a dim room, as well as match the colour of the environment to prevent eye strain. The sensor takes into account the light emission from the monitor and output a lux level to make the overall experience more comfortable. I find the auto adjustment feature handy with the variable Melbourne weather where conditions can change rapidly. The Screenbar takes care of the adjustment for me without interrupting my flow.
I have a dual monitor set up (who doesn’t?), there is some light spillage to the second monitor but in my experience, it is limited to the bottom corner closest to the side where the Screenbar is. BenQ rates the coverage to be 74cm wide by 35m deep, so the spillage is to be expected.
The Screenbar has a colour temperature range from 2700K (warm light) to 6500K (cool light) in 8 intervals, with full compliance with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) LED lighting chromaticity standard. Depending on my needs, it is easy to turn the light warmer to relax, or if I need to focus on bashing this review out, tune it to a cooler temperature.
Because the light allows you to illuminate your work space without casting any light on your screen. While you would still need to calibrate your monitor for photo editing, it does reduce any environmental lighting influences which will help achieve a more consistent conditions for photo and video editing.
Manually dialing in the brightness and being able to control the temperature gives me a much more accurate view of the scaled models that I paint, and with the light now positioned directly over my work area I find myself working with finer parts a bit easier than before.
The control cluster will store the last setting in memory. On one hand it is a handy feature if you are prone to switching it off as you leave your desk and come back a few minutes later to turn it back on. On the other hand, lighting can change so dramatically the last setting might be completely wrong. Regardless it is easy to adjust it manually, or via the auto adjustment function.
Because of the offset from the screen bezel, my Logitech StreamCam can sit next to the monitor clip without any issues.
This one is not so much a problem for me, but I can foresee it to be a potential problem for other setups where the monitor USB ports are not powered. The cable length for the control cluster is limited by the length between it and the Y splitter, where one side goes to USB power. I have at the back of my desk a power cube with USB ports so it is not an issue for me.
There is no smart home integration available, it would be a nice to have to be able to trigger it on a routine or remotely to simulate presence at home.
It does not come with a power adapter. Again this does not bother me personally but it may for others. Although that said, a multiport adapter would be really nice touch.
Can I have a dual Screenbar through the one controller to suit my two monitor setup? Have an additional button that toggles left, right or both with the controller for fine tuning. It would give much more coverage across the entire modern workspace.
Whilst I am at it, can I also have some smart home integration?
BenQ WiT Screenbar Plus is a marvel of design and engineering, delivering excellent lighting in a stylish sleek design. At a RRP of AUD$229 it is not a cheap proposition, but then again some desk lamps retail significantly north of that. Taking in consideration of the on-going costs of your health – eye strain, need for corrective glasses or contact lense, headaches from the glare, reflection or poor lighting. A good pair of glasses alone can easily be double the purchase price of the Screenbar.
There are some minor gripes which have been duly noted above, none of them are deal breakers in this iteration. The BenQ WiT Screenbar Plus does the job and does it brilliantly, taking up virtually no desk space making it an elegant solution for the home office. For me it was a piece of the puzzle that I had not seriously considered before, and now it is changing my work life.
As our Editor Emeritus can attest, I am notoriously reluctant to name a favourite gadget at the time of publishing, but I am breaking rank and the BenQ WiT Screenbar Plus gets my first ever Editor’s Choice Award as Editor-in-Chief. Congratulations BenQ!
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Light source: Dual color LED
Color Rendering Index: Ra>95
Illuminance: 1000 Lux in the center (height 45cm)
Luminous Flux: 2700K : 300lm ; 6500K : 320lm
Color Temperature: 2700~6500K
Power Input: 5V , 1A USB port
Power Consumption: 5W (max.)
Materials: Aluminium alloy, PC / ABS
Dimension: Lamp: 45cm x 9.0cm x 9.2cm ; Controller: 7.4cm x 7.4cm x 3.3cm
Net Weight: 0.68 kg