Beam N Read Hands-free Lights Review

Beam N Read Hands-free Lights from ASF Lightware Solutions are portable LED lamps worn on the chest. The theory is that this illuminates your working area better than headlamps or other options.

The people who make them are pretty enthusiastic about them, and deservedly so!

The company’s focus seems to be on products for people with vision problems, but they also are applying ‘Universal Design’, a design philosophy in which you make stuff that can be used by people with the widest range of needs (or lack thereof) as possible. (My ‘day job’ is helping make adaptive devices for people with disabilities, so I really appreciate this concept!)

Now- the Beam N Read is not really a typical ‘book light’. Book lights tend to be clip-on, lightweight units that (let’s be honest here) cast a rather feeble pool of light on the book. The Beam N Read is a pretty powerful unit.

The Beam N Read lights come in a variety of versions. If I may oversimplify the choices, you can select a 3 or 6 LED base unit, a variety of snap-on filters, and a slip-on ‘holder’ that fits either size base unit and can hold Fresnel-style magnifying lenses. I was sent a basic 3 LED with night filter (BNR LED 3), a 6 LED with filters and a lens (BNR LED 6), and a 3 LED unit with several lenses (BNR LED 103M).

The 3 and 6 LED units, lens holder, lenses, and filters

The units are well-built- there is a little noise during the Famous Gadgeteer Creak Test, but it is mostly around the battery compartment. Most of the unit is crafted from solid ABS plastic, molded in back. They come with a thin ribbon strap with a simple slide so you can wear them around your neck. The ribbon is long enough that they fit even my oversized noggin.

The head of the unit pivots up, which also turns it on (although the 6 LED unit also has a by-pass switch so you can use it as a more normal flashlight, etc.) They pivot in such a way as to shine nicely in the area you would normally hold a book or do other work in. The pivot clicks at several angles so you should find an angle to fit most needs.

The filters in my units were red (for the 3 LED) and orange (6 LED). They are tinted lightly enough that they do not turn everything red or orange but rather soften the bright bluish LED to a softer light.

The 4″x 5″ Fresnel lenses come in 2X, 4X, and 6X. They mount in a little slip-on holder that can hold them vertically or horizontally. The instructions remind you to not use more power than you need to prevent eye strain. It can be a bit tricky to get everything in focus and keep it there, but using the smallest effective magnification helps with this.

6X lens in use

As with any LED light, some of the big selling points are longer battery life and longer bulb life. They use 4 AA batteries and claim a full 120 hours for the 3 LED units. Just in case you did not know- while both AA and AAA (and even C and D) batteries put out the same 1.5 volts, the bigger the battery, the longer the battery life. Since this is worn on the neck, the weight of the AAs is not a big deal, and the longer life means lower operating costs.

As for the LEDs, they should last pretty much the life of the lights- not bad for lights that cost $19.95 to $29.95!

The shape and design of these lights creates a ‘bubble’ in front of you, perfect for reading, craft work, keyboarding, and more. I find that the ‘bubble’ with the 3 LED unit is perfect for hardcover books, and OK for navigating a dark room, but it is not going to illuminate too far forward. The 6 LED unit creates both a bigger ‘bubble’ and casts the light farther. This increased range is why it has a ‘bypass’ switch so you can use it with the head angled in more ways.

3 LED unit. Targets are about 8" and 15" away

3 LED with red filter

6 LED unit (Note- the targets are the actual packaging)

6 LED unit with orange filter

Their site lists several accessories, such as spare bulbs, AC cords, etc. It also features several other low-vision items.

Is there a downside? I think there is a small one, one that does not affect functionality at all. The downside I see is that the unit looks a little dorky. I’m sorry, but it does. Not only does it look dorky, most of the advertising looks dorky.

Part of the dorkiness is the large print they use to help one of their key market segments, but also applies to other aspects as well. They list 27 uses on one of the packages and include things like “25. Parenting”, “20. at Hotels”, “14. Making Jewelery”. All valid, but I have a hard time imagining that someone will pick up the package and say “Hey! I can use this for Night Walking! I never would have thought of that!”

Please understand that I consider myself the King of the Dorks, and I appreciate that the makers of this are really enthusiastic about these products, so while I enjoy teasing about the dorkiness, I really don’t consider it a big deal.

These are great, well-designed, well-built, and well-priced lights that will be very helpful for a variety of people- with or without vision difficulties.

 

Product Information

Price:$19.85 to $29.95
Manufacturer:ASF Lightware Solutions
Pros:
  • Tough
  • Long battery life
  • Lots of helpful accessories
Cons:
  • None
Posted in: Home, Kitchen, Outdoor Gear

4 comments… add one

  • Fred March 19, 2010, 4:48 am

    Nice review, Mark. I’m just getting to the point where I need bifocals when I’m working on things up close. My job requires soldering small components and working on machines that need some extra light inside. Do you think that these lights would work for applications like that? Some guys i work with use the head mount lights, or the baseball cap with built-in lights, but I might want to try something different.

    1
  • Mark Adkins March 19, 2010, 10:48 am

    @Fred

    It would depend on how close your head needs to be to the work. Reading, knitting, etc.- sure. Little fidgety things right in front of your eyes- probably not.

    When I solder, I usually take my glasses off and lean in- which would put the Beam N Read at an awkward angle. I’ll have to try out the 2x lens, though, and see if it helps.

    2
  • woofb March 20, 2010, 4:40 am

    How good is it at avoiding the pool-of-light problem one might have reading an e-book reader or dead tree book with a traditional booklight? Can it be easily bought by Brits?

    3
  • Mark Adkins March 20, 2010, 7:13 pm

    @Woofb,
    – Bought by Brits? I don’t know.
    – I am not sure what you mean by the ‘pool of light problem’. The size, intensity, and shape of the unit creates a bubble of light big enough that I had no problem with a hardcover book if that helps.

    4

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