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BenQ ScreenBar Lite review: A portable light for your laptop

The BenQ ScreenBar Lite is a portable desk lamp that clips to the screen of a laptop and is powered via USB. It’s the smaller version of the ScreenBar we reviewed last year and is designed for those who need a reliable lamp on the go. The light it spits out is strong, even, and customizable. It features easy-to-use controls, and is well built. But the price ($99 on Amazon) and cable type might put you off.

BenQ ScreenBar Lite Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The BenQ ScreenBar Lite comes with a plastic carrying case.

The laptop-centric ScreenBar Lite features everything we appreciated about the desktop-based ScreenBar. It’s powered off a single USB cable, attaches to your monitor to free up desk space, and puts out enough light while not adding glare to your screen. But because this is meant to be portable, those main points don’t tell the whole story.

BenQ ScreenBar Lite Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The ScreenBar Lite puts out plenty of light and is easily adjustable.

The ScreenBar Lite is controlled via a touch-sensitive top panel that includes power, brightness, and color temperature controls, as well as the ability to engage the auto setting and even save a favorite profile. An optional Windows or Mac desktop app can control most of those settings as well. 

The ScreenBar Lite features 15 brightness levels and 8 color temperature levels in its LED array, and it can reach 500 LUX in the center spot. In my testing it gets plenty bright, and offers enough color options to work in most situations. The auto-adjust feature is handy but not perfect, often creating excessive brightness or off-base color temperature. Luckily it’s easy to override and dial in the settings you prefer.

BenQ ScreenBar Lite Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The touch controls are easy to use.

The ScreenBar Lite is powered via a single 23-inch USB cable and connects to any Type-A port, just like the original ScreenBar. It’s worth noting that USB-A ports are becoming an endangered species on laptops, between the gradual shift to USB-C and the space constraints of ever-slimmer designs. If you already plan on taking a USB-A mouse and thumb drive, you may need to weigh your priorities. And if you don’t have any Type-A ports then you’re out of luck, unless you add a USB-C hub (we’ve reviewed some) or wait until BenQ makes a USB-C based option. On top of that, the USB cable is built into the ScreenBar Lite and can’t be swapped out, as is the case with its desktop sibling. 

BenQ ScreenBar Lite Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The ScreenBar Lite is a bit too top heavy for the Acer Swift 7.

The ScreenBar Lite is considerably lighter than the desktop version (weighing only 170 grams), and it attaches to the top of your laptop using a strong clip. The clip has adequate padding that should protect the screen even if you have no bezel, and it offers many tilt options. On smaller thin-and-light laptops it can easily cover your webcam and block the view of your screen, but if you’re using a 17-inch gaming laptop with thicker bezels then it should be less of an issue.

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