Updated: Jun 27, 2022
A few weeks ago like a few others, I was offered a new BenQ Screenbar Halo in return for an honest review and a few tweets giving my thoughts. It's not something I've done before but when this was a piece of office equipment I had previously flirted with purchasing I couldn't really kick a gift horse in the mouth.
So it arrived in a long rectangular box, packaged well and all the contents laid out neatly in their own space. Very professional, giving a feeling of confidence in the Screenbar Halo that I was about to piece together. Well, when I say piece together there really wasn't much to do other than fit it to the top of my monitor (which is ridiculously easily to do) and plug the USB connection into my MacBook Pro via a USB-C adaptor that isn't included. Other than that, it was just about putting the included batteries into the lovely solid little wifi controller and off I went.
The first time the light came on, the Screenbar Halo was in a position that shown outwards and into my line of sight, due to my seating position in my office space I thought, then realised the bar itself has about a quarter turn in it to adjust it to a comfortable position for individual preference. I turned it in towards the screen and downwards over my MacBook Pro keyboard and hey presto, a lovely soft downlight over my work space with zero flare. I did need a very quick skim over the accompanying instructions to understand the wifi controller. Again very straight forward with 4 basic controls, temperature, brightness, auto brightness and favourite. A circular turn to adjust temp and brightness on the surprisingly cool metal control ring was seamless and I quickly found my preferred combination and saved it as the favourite setting for convenience and a good starting point.
I cleared up the packaging and sat back and played around with it a little where I found a 5th control on the wifi control that allowed me to choose between front light, back light or both. I settled for both, as it immediate seemed to have a lovely balance, creating an extremely pleasing and comfortable ambience in my space. I seemed happy with a slightly warmer tone which I later read to be the more relaxed temperature to work in, whereas the cooler blue was incumbent of a more productive workspace. This I found explains a lot about my productivity.
The second thing I noticed after clearing away the packaging was how unintrusive it was when set up. The bar sitting unnoticeable on the monitor while the controller is actually a nice small elegant addition to the desktop, sitting just to my right of the keyboard almost like a mouse. To be honest it could probably just sit under the monitor out the way once it's on, there seems little need to mess with it once you're set and working away, which is good since some office gadgets can be a constant distraction.
As I understand, the main purpose of the Screenbar Halo is to eliminate eye strain when working in low light conditions, which can quite often be the norm for photographers. I was actually eager to see if this was going to be the case as I had noticed I was suffering a fare bit of tired eyes while working late into the night. I had put it down to my ageing eyes in the past and my reluctance to make the inevitable trip to the opticians for my first pair of reading glasses. So, unless I'm suffering from some kind of placebo effect, my eyes do seem to be getting a lot less strain while working under the light from the Screenbar Halo. I have stuck with the warmer temperature though, so my workflow remains consistently slow as anyone who tries to follow any of my so called regular blogs will know (I will catch up with 12X8, honest!). As I write this, I'm reminded of a time about a year ago or so back when I was often getting sore eyes and the occasional headache. Similarly I had thought it was time for glasses until I read an article about the effects of blue light from screens, particularly phone screens. Being a Samsung phone user it suggested using the Eye Comfort Shield feature to protect me from eye strain. I found the function and almost immediately my eye strain was gone, as well as the headaches. So, with this knowledge I'm now not surprised the Screenbar Halo is not causing any strain as one of their claims is there is no evil blue light from the bar, even at the cooler setting.
This week I've mainly been working with a few older images for a client who requested large prints. As these hadn't been prepared for printing previously it was a great opportunity to see if the light would effect my soft proofing, the calibration of my monitor and ultimately causing problems getting true colour representation on the prints to match the screen. I keep my monitor well calibrated so I wasn't wanting anything to effect that fine balance. I wasn't disappointed, there was no adverse effect at all, the proofing was not hindered in any way and the prints were made and dispatched to the client.
So I've been very positive about the Screenbar Halo and I believe rightly so. But it's only right I mention any negatives I've found. From opening the box to making it part of my productive work space I honestly can't find any. But, and it's a real pernickety but, if I was to give any negative it's something I noticed even before I opened the parcel and got to the product packaging. It was the G energy efficiency rating stuck on it. Perhaps it's the time's we're living in, but it jumped out at me as soon as I saw it. If I saw that on a fridge, washing machine etc then there's no way I'd buy it. How much energy will it actually use, I might never know but it was a concern. After using it now for a few weeks though and having set my preferences to the favourites touch button on the wifi controller, it turns out I don't like the light any brighter than the 2nd of 16 increasing increments anyway, mainly because of my set up of MBP mirrored on a BenQ Monitor where the light reflects upwards from the silver keyboard surround, so perhaps it won't be too expensive to work at this setting but still, it's a thought.
* Edited * - here's the reply and answer from BenQ regarding the energy rating*
Our ScreenBar was designed under the old ErP regulation (EU) 874/2012, where it was on the A+ energy label. This old regulation was based on energy consumption, structure and optical effect. We did not expect a change of this rule. Indeed, the new ErP regulation (EU) 2019/2015 has raised the standards in terms of energy labeling. Their rating of electronic devices is calculated this way: Lunm (lm) / watt (W).
At BenQ, we care about the lighting quality of our ScreenBar to avoid eye strain for our consumers. Due to its asymmetrical design, our ScreenBar projects reflections and refractions within its structure, therefore the Lunm (lm) / watt (W) result is less. That's why we are now classified on G on this energy label.
As you can see below other models have been impacted by this regulation passing from grades A- A+ to grades F and G.
One other thing which is perhaps maybe my own misunderstanding of the purpose of the screenbar is that I naively believed it would eliminate screen reflections when working during daylight hours where window light reflects, in my case from behind me when facing the screen. It's not something it claims it can do but I must admit, it does actually help a little anyway, well I feel it does at least.
Finally, I mentioned at the very beginning the Benq Screenbar Halo was something I'd already considered before it was offered to me. So perhaps the best test for me is whether I'd buy it now I've had experience of using it for a few weeks. Knowing what I know now then I'd have to say yes, It might not be on the top of the list of essentials for my workspace but it's very near the top for its relief of eye strain alone.
I hope this has been some use to anyone considering the Benq Screenbar Halo and if you wish to read more official product material then visit here