What we bought: How BenQ’s Screenbar completed my home office setup

This light managed to make Canada’s terrible winters less dreary.

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

One of the first things I set out to do when I joined Engadget in the summer of 2018 was to build a beautiful home office. At my previous job, I didn’t get many opportunities to work remotely, so it wasn’t a priority. That turned out to be a mistake, because when I began working from home I found it quickly wore me down. My kitchen simply wasn’t cutting it as an office – so I set out to change things.

A closeup of the ScreenBar's logo.
Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Piece by piece, the office I built in my bedroom came together into a space where I enjoyed sitting down to write. But it wasn’t until this year that it felt like it was complete. The piece that was missing was the BenQ Screenbar, a lighting fixture you install on your monitor.

I put off buying the Screenbar for a few years, mostly because of its $170 CAD ($109 USD) price tag. So why then didn’t I buy a regular table lamp you ask? Well, the Screenbar drew my eye for a few reasons. I live in a small condo in Toronto, so a lamp that could sit on my monitor, instead of my table, was appealing because space is at a premium, especially on my small desk. Additionally, the Screenbar shares a feature I love on the Philips Hue lights. Out of the box, you can adjust the color temperature of its LEDs — no need to buy separate bulbs. BenQ also claims the Screenbar produces less glare than a traditional table lamp due to how you position it on top of your monitor.

A closeup of the Screenbar's capacitive controls.
Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Setup is also easy. A USB-C to USB-A cable connects the Screenbar to your computer, providing it with all the power it needs. You don’t need to install any software on your PC to use the device. Four capacitive buttons on the top allow you to turn the Screenbar on and off, adjust the color temperature and brightness, or turn on automatic brightness. BenQ sells a more expensive version of the Screenbar that comes with a puck you can place on your desk for more convenient access to the controls, but that’s unnecessary for most people.

The one downside of the Screenbar is that it takes up space you could otherwise use to mount a webcam. With a flat, 27-inch monitor like my Dell, it’s possible to fit both, but neither could sit dead center.

Depending on your needs, that could dissuade you entirely from considering the BenQ Screenbar. For me, it was an easy decision to make. I don’t need to do a lot of Zoom calls. The position of my office desk also isn’t ideal for video calling. When I sit down to write, my back faces a wall-to-wall window. That’s not an easy scene for a web camera to expose. My solution has been to use my MacBook Air and sit by the side of the window when I need to jump on Zoom.

A shot of the Screenbar mounted to a monitor.
Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Looking back now, I wish I had bought the Screenbar earlier. To say it has transformed the atmosphere of my bedroom and office would be an understatement. Winter in Toronto is a long, dark affair. In January and February, the sun can set as early as 5PM. My mood, like many people’s, can vary greatly depending on the amount and quality of light that filters into my home. The fact you can adjust the color temperature of the Screenbar’s LEDs between 2700K and 6500K means it can produce warm, bright, sunlight-esque whites, making it ideal for all-day use and even color-sensitive work like photo editing. In my experience, it’s the perfect solution for a small space.

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