The Purpose of Monitor Light Bars & Why You Need One

If you’ve seen pictures of beautiful desk setups where there is no desk lamp in sight, but mysteriously the entire desk is lit up, that’s probably due to a monitor light bar.

It’s actually no mystery why these are so popular. In this article, we’re going to talk about the major benefits monitor light bars have and why you should consider getting one yourself. 

A monitor light bar is a desk lamp replacement that mounts on top of your monitor and illuminates your desk while producing zero screen glare.

Benq screenbar halo mounted on curved monitor

In this article, we’re going to talk about what monitor light bars do and show you exactly why they are worth it.

I’ve owned and tested four different light bars in the last few years from the cheap Amazon offerings to the flagship BenQ Halo (check out my BenQ Halo review here). These light bars have been my sole desk lamp for a long time.

Premium Pick
BenQ ScreenBar Halo Monitor Light

Enhance eye comfort with this monitor light bar's integrated backlight design that illuminates your back wall (bias lighting). With a smart wireless controller, it's easy to adjust brightness and color temperature. Its patented clip design mounts on almost any monitor, saving valuable desk space, and it's powered via USB, eliminating the need for extra wires.

Check Price on Amazon

At this point, I have a good idea of where monitor lights excel as well as the areas they still need help with. Let’s get started.

screenbar halo light bar govee bias

The Benefits Of Monitor Light Bars

1) No Desk Footprint

One of my favorite parts of monitor light bars is that they take up zero desk space. 

Unlike a traditional desk lamp that has a big base that sits on your desk, a monitor light bar doesn’t take up any room, at all. ZERO!

BenQ ScreenBar On Monitor

A monitor light bar simply sits on top of your monitor. Your monitor itself carries the light bar so the light doesn’t need its own stand. 

This is a super valuable trait if you have a small desk. Instead of a desk lamp taking up your precious desk space, you keep all of it with a light bar. More room on your desk means you have a more adaptable workspace. 

2) Light Exactly Where You Need It

Most desk lamps sit on one side of your desk. That means you usually get light from that one side of the desk. That’s not really ideal if your setup is centered with the desk.

Benq e-reading lamp - on desk with standard base
The desk lamp only illuminates one side of the desk.
Dual monitor desk setup
The monitor light bar illuminates the desk center.

Unlike a desk lamp, a monitor light bar is centered on your monitor. Your monitor is usually right in front of you, which means your light source is centered with you as well. It just makes sense.

As a result, the monitor-mounted light bar also provides you with light exactly where you need your light while working. 

With a light bar on your monitor, you can say goodbye to off-center table lamps for good. 

3) Adjustable Light Temperature

I am a bit of a stickler about light temperature. I will always prefer warm lighting over cold lighting. Warm lighting can also be better for your eyes as it has less of the blue end of the spectrum. 

Some folks say that whiter lights can make you more focused. I haven’t experienced a difference in mental focus with different light temperatures. I’m not convinced about that relationship just yet. 

I just know I personally like a warmer and more inviting touch.

screenbar halo light bar halo bias
Warm Lighting
screenbar halo lighting mode 3
Cool Lighting

Fortunately, monitor light bars are very accommodating for all types of lighting temperatures. If you prefer a clean white light, you have that option. If you light a warm light like me, you can get there with the push of a button. 

A typical desk lamp with a normal bulb does not give you this flexibility. You are pretty much stuck with what you’ve got. That is until the bulb goes out and you finally get to buy the correct temperature bulb. 

Monitor light bars let you choose exactly the color temperature you want with the push of a button.

While this isn’t unique to monitor light bars alone, I will say that I haven’t seen a fixed temperature monitor light bar. They are all temperature adjustable.

4) Adjustable Brightness

Another terrific accommodation that monitor light bars have is brightness adjustment. This is unlike a normal desk lamp that uses a bulb that is fixed at a certain brightness. 

With desk lamps, you usually have to look for the right power rating or lumen count to determine what amount of brightness is right for you. With monitor light bars, you can simply adjust the brightness as needed.

If you need more light in a bright room, crank it up! Too bright? Simply adjust as needed.

5) Evenly Spread Beam

A pet peeve of mine is a light source that has a focused beam of light. With desk lamps that are off-center, the beam is always stronger on the side closest to the lamp. 

Your working surface should be evenly illuminated so you can actually use your entire work surface. A desk light should spread the light across your working area the best it can. Monitor light bars do this very well. 

How To Hide Your Computer Tower

Most monitor light bars have a nice light diffuser right in front of the high-powered LED strip. The result is a nice and even spread light across your working surface. 

This combined with actually having the light centered makes a light bar a really terrific desk light solution. 

6) Zero Screen Glare or Reflections

When I first learned about monitor light bars, my first thought was: this is going to cast a huge glare on my monitor. The light bar is so close to the monitor that I thought it was impossible not to create glare. 

Fortunately, this is not the case and I was very far from the truth. These light bars do a fantastic job of controlling the light spread. In my review of the BenQ ScreenBar Halo, I show how massive the light spread actually is on this premium light bar.

Light bar manufacturers know where you want the light (your desk), and they know where you don’t want the light (your monitor). 

That is a very important distinction. 

Hide That Monitor When Not In Use

The beam cuts off the light source very sharply as the beam gets closer to your monitor’s face. 

Light bars also allow you to rotate the light bar when mounted so you can dial in the perfect beam angle yourself! With this flexibility, you can be sure that monitor reflections and glares will not be a problem. 

If you are worried about curved monitor glare, we have a guide to light bars for curved monitors. If you have dual monitors, we have the best light bar setups for those as well.

ropelux RGB Monitor Light Bar, Dual Light Source Adjustable Cool Mix Warm Light Color Temperature Eye Protection Anti-Glare USB Reading Light Touch Control for Home Office PC Computer

7) Aesthetically Superior

I put this benefit lower down the list because function always comes before form. But the form on these monitor light bars is very appealing! 

Seeing pictures on Instagram and Reddit of all these workspace setups with monitor light bars made me turn to them in the first place. They are just plain attractive additions to your desk!

How Many Lumens Should Your Desk Lamp Have

Light bars essentially become one with your monitor. They are completely symmetrical and centered with your setup. The beam is centered and spread well. 

You also gained desk space without a traditional lamp so it’s basically a win in every way! You get more space on your desk and the light has a clean low-profile appearance.

8) Easy Cable Management

All of these light bars are LED-powered. This means most of these lights don’t require a ton of power. In fact, many can be powered via a normal 5V USB port. 

screenbar halo install

If you’ve shopped for monitor light bars before, you may have noticed they simply come with a USB cable end to be plugged into any powered USB port you have. 

A lot of monitors today come with USB ports so this becomes an easy plug-and-play solution!

If you have any USB ports on your monitor, cable management just becomes a breeze. You can simply plug your light bar into your monitor’s USB ports and viola! No need to route cables anywhere. 

If you want a deeper dive into monitor cable management, check out our dedicated article on hiding those monitor cables. 

9) Budget-Friendly Lighting

Our last benefit here is an important one. Monitor light bars are actually very budget-friendly. There is a lot of competition on marketplaces like Amazon, which makes these light bars come down. It’s great for us consumers! 

The top-of-the-line light bars are still from BenQ. They invented the concept as far as I know, and I own two of their ScreenBar series light bars. Both are superior to the affordable Amazon knockoffs.

I have reviews on both of these light bars below:

BenQ ScreenBar Review

BenQ ScreenBar Halo Review

Premium Pick
BenQ ScreenBar Halo Monitor Light

Enhance eye comfort with this monitor light bar's integrated backlight design that illuminates your back wall (bias lighting). With a smart wireless controller, it's easy to adjust brightness and color temperature. Its patented clip design mounts on almost any monitor, saving valuable desk space, and it's powered via USB, eliminating the need for extra wires.

Check Price on Amazon

The Halo is special as it has a backlit dial that lets you have full control of your light at the desk level. No need to reach up to your monitor every time you need to make an adjustment. 

The Halo also comes with a light on the back that illuminates your wall which further reduces eye strain. We have a dedicated article on ways that monitor light bars can ease eye strain here. ! Fantastic!

screenbar halo light bar rear light
screenbar halo control puck

Don’t let the BenQ prices scare you. You don’t have to spend that much for a good light bar. There are plenty of options available for a fraction of the cost. 

The affordable options are starting to come with this control dial too! Check out the light bar below.

Budget Pick
MELIFO Monitor Light Bar

Illuminate your keyboard area without reflecting glare on the screen with this budget-friendly monitor light bar. With stepless dimming and memory function, adjust brightness and color temperature to your preference. Its USB power supply makes it easy to use anywhere.

Check Price on Amazon

The Cons

Monitor Light Bars & Webcam Compatibility

Monitor screen bars are placed directly on top of your monitor at the center. Can you think of any other useful computer peripherals that are placed here? Yup, the good old webcam. 

In this age of remote work, it’s a pretty critical piece of tech.

There is a conflict here because you might have to choose between having a light bar or having a webcam. Fortunately, we have options here. 

The BenQ ScreenBar Halo has an optional webcam accessory that allows webcams to be seated on top of the lightbar. We talk about this in-depth in our review of the BenQ Halo Light Bar.

Here’s an image of the webcam accessory being used with the BenQ IdeaCam on the ScreenBar Halo. It works pretty well. (If you are a heavy show-and-tell worker, check out our dedicated review of the BenQ IdeaCam here).

screenbar halo light bar webcam accessory with ideacam

In my eyes, I can see this webcam accessory being used on almost any light bar that has a flat surface.

Some people get by this placement conflict by just forcing their webcam to sit right on top of their light bar. 

If you have two monitors, you can have a light bar on one monitor and a webcam on the other. We talk about all the ways your webcam and monitor light bar can coexist here. .

Though there are solutions, it is important to be aware of this possible conflict. 

Your Monitor is Not The Best Power Source

Most light bars do not provide a power brick with a monitor light bar. I assume this is because they advertise using your monitor’s USB port to power the light. This is a nice idea but has disadvantages in practice.

First of all, only newer monitors have USB ports. Second of all, your monitor must be turned on to supply power to any USB ports. At least that’s how my monitor works.

If you use this light as your primary desk light, you will once in a while need to turn on the light when your computer is not on.

I was happy with the clean cable management until I wanted to write some notes in my planner before calling it a night. I had to turn on my computer so my monitor was able to supply power to my monitor lightbar…Very impractical.

That same night I routed the monitor light USB cable to a power hub I have under my desk. It was such a ridiculous problem to have so I had to bypass this feature that was supposed to be a convenience.

Most of us have extra USB wall adapters, so this is not a huge problem. However, I like when manufacturers supply a wall plug just so I know it has the proper current supply.

Will a 5-volt 1-amp power supply be enough? Or does it need 2 amps? If you only have a 1 amp plug available, does that mean you get a dimmer light?

All in all, this is a slight cost-cutting decision by light bar manufacturers. They tried to save some cash by not providing a power supply, and I expect the user experience is going to suffer in certain cases because of it.

Possible Keyboard Glare

Another issue that may or may not be a problem for you is keyboard glare. This is when the light is at a specific angle relative to you and your keyboard and the light bounces back to you. 

This makes the keyboard text a bit harder to see, especially if it has a glossy finish. 

There are a ton of variables here, so this is not a deal breaker. Some of the variables include your keyboard angle, your sitting height, monitor distance from you, and so on. 

Don’t let this stop you from trying out one of these monitor light bars. We have 9 benefits, and 2 easily workable cons. I usually end up liking a product when the pros outweigh the cons of this magnitude!

Are Monitor Light Bars Worth It?

In summary here is why a monitor light bar would be completely worth it:

  • Takes up zero desk space
  • Provides you with a centered light source
  • Does not cast any glare on your screen
  • Full temperature and brightness control
  • Come in budget-friendly versions

There are more benefits than just those that we covered above, but those are the strongest qualities that make monitor light bars almost a no-brainer. I won’t be moving away from a monitor light bar anytime soon.

The only way I would probably not buy a monitor light is if I had a desk that didn’t have a monitor at all.

Before You Go

If you have a curved monitor, check out our article on using light bars with curved monitors. We also have a dedicated article on how light bars compare against traditional desk lamps.

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I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!