BenQ ScreenBar Plus Hands-On: Easy to use, and with plenty of features, but cables galore
BenQ currently sells three ScreenBar monitor lights, which it calls the ScreenBar Lite, the ScreenBar and the ScreenBar Plus. We have already reviewed the ScreenBar Lite, designed for laptops, but the desktop-intended ScreenBar and ScreenBar Plus have evaded us until now. However, BenQ has now kindly provided the ScreenBar Plus for us to try, which we have been doing so for over a month now.
We should stress that BenQ sent us a ScreenBar Plus at no cost to us, but this does not affect our views on the device. Similarly, BenQ has had no say in what we have written about the ScreenBar Plus in this hands-on.
The ScreenBar Plus does its job well, overall, aside from design issues. The lamp lights our desk well without inducing screen glare, a benefit that remains true even at its brightest setting. According to BenQ, the ScreenBar Plus reaches 1,000 lux at its centre from a height of 45 cm, which is bright enough for our eyes. We wish that lamp's minimum brightness was a bit dimmer though, especially in low light conditions.
The lamp itself consists of a long strip of LEDs that alternate between yellow and white, providing a smooth transition from 2,700-6,500 K. The ScreenBar Plus represents this range as eight colours, but the white LEDs quickly overpower the yellow ones, in our opinion.
According to BenQ, the ScreenBar Plus should last 50,000 hours before it needs replacing. Simulating a 40-hour working week, then that should mean approximately 24 years use from one ScreenBar Plus. Unsurprisingly, a month or so's use has not presented any problems for the ScreenBar Plus.
The ScreenBar Plus does not require much power to run, either. According to BenQ, the lamp consumes up to 5 W via a 5 V/1 A USB port. In our experience, you can run the ScreenBar Plus from a less powerful USB port, but it will cut off if you increase its brightness too much.
The desktop dial makes using the ScreenBar Plus simple, even if it contains several functions. Pressing the control knob switches on or off the lamp, while rotating it cycles brightness and hues levels depending on what mode you have enabled. BenQ has a button for switching between brightness and hue adjustment, but there is also an automatic mode that relies on a light sensor. Personally, we find the auto dimmer to be a touch too bright and cold, so we have left manual mode on when using the ScreenBar Plus daily. There is no way to save custom settings as there is with the ScreenBar Lite either, but the lamp remembers the last-known brightness and hue used.
Incidentally, the ScreenBar Plus does not support any smart home integration with Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Similarly, there is no way to control the lamp from a smartphone or even on the PC to which it is connected. While we understand why BenQ decided against creating a smartphone app or integrating the ScreenBar Plus with smart home services, the company has developed a desktop app for the cheaper ScreenBar Lite.
The ScreenBar Plus is more than a lamp though, which is also one of its downfalls. BenQ has equipped its premium monitor light with a clip that the company has designed to attach to monitors and a desktop dial that sits unobtrusively on a desk. BenQ designs the ScreenBar Plus to attach to one monitor, although we encountered no problems with hinging the clip against two monitors in a multiple monitor setup.
With that said, the cable layout is more cumbersome than BenQ's marketing images would suggest. The desktop dial's cable links to a small plastic splitter, on the other side of which BenQ has attached the USB Type-A cable for power and the micro USB cable that runs to the lamp. Even though this may sound simplistic, the execution leaves cables dangling all over the place.
Undoubtedly, cable management fans will find this problematic, as the cable to the lamp just drapes over the back of the clip and counterweight, and will not sit flush with the monitor on which it has been attached. While most monitor stands will hide the cable, you may struggle to do so with a VESA mount, and you will need some tape to hide the cable if you plan to use the ScreenBar Plus on two monitors.
Verdict - Expensive but useful for some desks
In short, the ScreenBar Plus is a useful addition to a desk that does not already have a lamp on it. Arguably, the way that the ScreenBar Plus lights up desk space in front of it has made us reach for it over a conventional desk lamp in the last month or so.
Nonetheless, the standard ScreenBar offers the same functionality as the ScreenBar Plus but at about two-thirds of the price. The former eschews a desktop dial for onboard controls, but we would prefer that over unsightly cables. The desktop dial is finished to a high standard though, so we can see why BenQ charges more for it.