Developers and designers spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screen. The same is true for anyone who works in a career field that requires them to sit in front of a screen for hours while they work. During daylight hours its not a huge problem because we have a natural light source that comes from the sun through our windows. Although this does not always apply to everyone for example if you are working in a room that has no windows.
You also have to take into account how the light source can have an effect on the way you view your screen. Like in the case of a glossy screen that can create reflections compared to a matte screen that tends to do a lot better in direct sunlight as it's not reflective. When working in the evenings and at night your screen viewing habits can change dramatically.
You have at least 4 options to choose from. Working with room lighting, a desk lamp, a computer monitor Light Bar or just working in the dark and using the light from your screens to help you see. There are pros and cons for each one of them.
Recently I had the opportunity to play around with a BenQ ScreenBar which I have been using for about 2 weeks.
What is a computer monitor Light Bar
A computer monitor Light Bar is essentially a long horizontal bar that has an LED light at the bottom. It is designed to sit on top of your computer monitor and it shines a light downwards towards your desk. They are designed to be small and portable as they do not take up a lot of space on your desk because they just stay on top of your computer monitor.
How a Light Bar can boost coding efficiency
Prior to using the BenQ ScreenBar my preference was to either work in the dark when it was late or to use the main light in my room. I did have a desk lamp but I did not like using it because it created unnecessary screen glare and reflections on my screens. The BenQ ScreenBar solved all of the problems that I was having and I realised that I was no longer having annoying eye strain late at night.
The BenQ ScreenBar illuminates the screen as well as the desk area so reading code becomes crystal clear and there is no more squinting in the dark trying to see things on the screen or on your desk. It is also possible to change the brightness and colour temperature.
In the words of BenQ:
For comfort, the warm light lets you relax and replenishes your energy; While working, the cool light allows you to concentrate and boosts efficiency.
Light Bar vs Desktop Lamp
Desk lamps are still good don't get me wrong but when it comes to using them combined with a computer the experience is nowhere near as good as you would expect it to be. I suppose that explains why Light Bars were invented in the first place. Desktop Lamps are fine if you are reading documents or a book because you need the direct light on the words and pages. But the same setup just causes lights and shadows to be everywhere when working in front of a screen.
Light Bars like the BenQ ScreenBar don't have those kind of problems. In the case of the BenQ ScreenBar it has an asymmetrical optical design which apparently ensures that only the desk is illuminated and they say it is better than other brands. All I can say is that it seems to fulfil the needs that I require it to do and the fact that it has a 5 star review on Amazon with 3.4K+ ratings means that the majority of buyers are happy customers too!
Here is a list of some of the features and advantages of using the BenQ ScreenBar:
- Touch controls
- Patented asymmetrical design
- Auto-Dimming ambient sensor
- Up to 50,000 hours of lifespan
- Colour temperature 2700~6500K
- Significantly less digital eye strain
- USB powered no need for a mains plug
- 15 brightness and 8 colour temperature levels
- Ergonomic and it does not take up desk space
- No screen glare, flickering or blue light hazard
- Patented monitor clip making it the most compatible design on the market
- Less back pain from sitting in awkward positions because of the light source
Real world usage
In real world usage I would have to say that it more a less lives up to expectations. During the day I don't really use it because obviously the sun provides enough light for my needs. One of my main concerns was whether the BenQ ScreenBar was going to be an eyesore having it on top of my monitor. For the first few days I actually decided to take it down and put it on my desk because it just felt weird having something up there which I was not used to.
I thought it was going to be a distraction because usually your eyes just gravitate towards it. I'm still not 100% sure if I'm cool with it yet but its up there right now and I guess I have got used to it somewhat. Who knows over time I might not even think about it.
Now when it comes to using it in the dark or under low light it's completely different. Its barely noticeable because its matte black like my monitor so you can't even see it. There is only a light that comes down making it easier to see the screen and desk.
I am yet to watch any movies or series with it on but I have watched some YouTube. It works well I have no issues with it. I guess it comes down to personal preference whether you want to be in a dark room when watching media or have a light over the screen. Either way I have no problems with or without it.
The same also applies to gaming you can choose to have it on or off and the experience is not that much different in my opinion.
I did notice two possible drawbacks when using the ScreenBar though. The first one is about connecting the BenQ ScreenBar to my LG 27UL850W 4K UHD LED LCD Monitor. So a USB Type-C to USB-A Male Cable is included in the box. The LG Monitor I own does have USB-A ports at the back but they only work if the monitor is connected to a laptop via the USB Type-C power cable.
So I can use the BenQ ScreenBar using that method without any problems. It works fine with my MacBook when using the monitor to power the monitor and charge my MacBook at the same time. However it was not possible to connect the BenQ ScreenBar directly to my MacBook.
Firstly because it only has USB Type-C so I can't use the included cable. And secondly because it only seems to work with the BenQ cable. I tried some other USB Type-C to USB Type-C cables but no luck. Maybe there is a way to get it working with a different cable? Anyway it worked with my Dell work laptop which does have USB-A ports it was able to power the BenQ ScreenBar.
The other issue that I had with the BenQ ScreenBar was the fact that it made it a bit difficult to use my MacBook when the light was on. Let me explain so I have an M1 MacBook and I guess the keyboard is shiny and reflective when a light hits it. In comparison my Dell laptop did not have this issue probably because the keyboard material is slightly different. It's much easier to see and understand in the pictures below.
BenQ ScreenBar On
M1 MacBook Pro
BenQ ScreenBar Off
M1 MacBook Pro
Overall I think that the BenQ ScreenBar is a really good product. It has opened my eyes to how important it is to have a good light source when you are working and how this can improve your health and productivity. The model I have is priced under £100/$100 so it should be well within your budget.
The keyboard reflection issues were quite annoying however it might just be by own setup and if I moved the monitor back or used an external keyboard it might not even be an issue. I did test putting my MacBook closer underneath the BenQ ScreenBar and there were no reflections but it required more reach to get to the keyboard. Anyway its not a deal breaker its something that can be fixed with better positioning i'm sure.
If you care about your eyesight and want to add another cool gadget to your office setup I highly recommend giving the BenQ ScreenBar a try.
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