► A standout in a wildly flooded market?
► New kid on the UK block
► Heavy features list is a promising start
|• Many features, yet simple to use||• Expect better resolution at this price|
|• Good build quality||• Not great at night or in low sun|
|• Compact and discreet|
|• Siri voice control|
Once a niche product, dashcams are now as mainstream as fuzzy dice or magic trees. Hanging in every other windscreen, they’re considerably safer, and provide plenty of entertainment for TikTok and YouTube as well as the rather more mundane purpose of providing evidence for accidents.
Nexar’s Beam dashcam joins a very crowded market, and it does so as a new brand in the UK with a relatively high price for an unknown quantity. Thanks to a fairly comprehensive and unusual package of software and camera however, it could be exactly the right choice for your car and driving.
Nexar Beam first impressions
The Beam is a compact camera that measures less than a couple of inches square, and has no distracting display on the back. The interface is limited to just two LEDs on the rear for power and Wi-Fi connection, and a power switch on the side. This switch ends up nearer the passenger in right hand drive cars, so if it had other features it would be a little irritating to use.
Connection to the mount is ‘dumb’ in that it’s just a plastic click, but there’s a flying cable to plug in. You can leave your windscreen mount in place and hardwire to the car and still remove the camera without disturbing the positioning. The mount also carries the GPS receiver.
The camera is a 2.0-megapixel unit that records in Full HD, but uploads to the Nexar cloud storage in 720p when you’re driving and have the app connected. With the included 32GB card it stores 4.5 hours of footage in a continuous roll of clips; it’s possible to download a Full HD clip from the camera with the Nexar app and then share/save/report it. Unlike some Wi-Fi enabled cameras it doesn’t seem to be possible to connect it to an in-car hotspot, so it’s easier to think of the Beam as an extension of your smartphone and work with it that way.
Installing the Nexar Beam
Nexar provide a dual-USB to 12V adaptor, a long USB cable and a set of stick on clips for the cable. There’s a plastic pry tool for moving windscreen and roof trim out of the way so you can hide the cable, and if you have a car with a USB power port near the rear view mirror then you can just use a short Mini-USB cable. Using this slightly larger, more robust connector is a neat touch, you’ll have no problem finding hardwiring kits and adapters. Fitment is with a suction cup that secures by rotating the mount 90 degrees – no stickers and very easy to use.
Everything is controlled by the free app, which is available for iPhone/iOS and Android. On iPhone it includes Siri integration, which goes some way to compensating for the lack of buttons and controls on the dashcam – you can trigger saving or uploading a clip with a voice command. It’s more focused than some rivals' attempts to include Alexa (such as Nextbase), and it works well.
You need the app right from the start, as you’re relying on it to position the camera as well as sign up for the cloud storage.
Once installed the Beam’s lack of screen and bright lights is very welcome, being small enough to hide behind most mirrors and requiring no pokes or prods from the driver, it doesn’t obscure the view at all.
Results and footage
In daytime conditions the Nexar Beam is excellent. Recorded footage is clear, with number plates and details legible a couple of cars ahead in typical traffic, though it does suffer from being blinded in low sun; without a polariser there are conditions where details are blown out. It senses movements and assigns clips with notes for ‘Hard Braking’ and similar, but doesn’t appear to apply any AI-type tools to detect cars that are too close.
In-car audio is recorded all the time, though you can strip it from downloaded clips, and it’s good enough to hear the noisy wheel bearing on my car (and, regrettably, me singing to Nik Kershaw).
If you see something you want to save, you either have to remember when it was as the camera is recording all the time, or use the app to save the clip (hence the voice control is essential). Unless you’re undertaking an epic drive, the 4.5 hours of footage on the card should be enough; you can always upgrade the standard 32GB card up to a 256GB card, but it must be a fast one. The voice control and app lets you send a clip directly to a contact, which could be useful if lost or feeling anxious about the behaviour of a vehicle near you.
Night footage is not as useful. Although the camera performs quite well with low noise, it just doesn’t have the clarity and dynamic range to cope with headlight glare, so the only details and numberplates you’re going to save away from towns and cities are those of the car in front. In urban areas it copes well with streetlights, so footage from well-lit junctions and roundabouts is still useful.
There is a parking mode, activated when the camera detects the car is off. Given there are no specs for the battery, we don’t know how long this will last, but it is activated by physical movement of the car, such as a bump or the door being opened.
Given the camera only records the view forward, it’s only really of use if someone bumps into the front of your car. A strong argument for reversing into spaces.
The Nexar Beam is a great little camera for drivers who want a no-nonsense record, but with easy access from a smartphone. It doesn’t attempt to do too much with the software, which leaves you wondering what potential there is for future models (Nexar are developing a 4G connected camera, where the cloud storage and parking mode would be more effective, but it won’t be as affordable).
I particularly liked how easy it was to hide it behind a mirror and have an uncluttered dashboard, plus the trouble-free operation of the parking mode (even if all it captured was me opening or closing doors, it did so reliably).
Setup and installation is easy and you can use it without all the app features. Fit, forget and then if there’s an incident you need to save, just pop the memory card out and check the HD footage directly. Multiple users can connect to the camera, so a passenger can view and share live footage if needed, too.
As a relatively new brand in the UK, Nexar still has a way to go forming insurance partnerships and connecting to additional services. But the Beam is worth buying just for the simplicity on offer and clear, crisp daytime video. If you do a lot of night driving, however, you may want to look elsewhere.
|Memory capacity||Up to 256GB|
|Memory card included||Yes|
|Dimensions||6.4 x 5 x 3.7cm|