Nest Cam IQ Full Review: The Best Smart Home Security Camera System Yet?

Nest Cam IQ, as elegant as the items around it.

Nest

Nest Cam IQ, as elegant as the items around it.

When Nest announced its latest home security camera, it looked promising. It’s just hit stores and I’ve been trying it out for the last week or two, to really get the measure of it.

It starts well. There’s the high-quality experience I associate with Nest that begins with the well-designed packaging. Take the Nest Cam IQ out of its box and you can see and feel the excellent build quality. Smooth, satin-finish white plastic with a hinge that stays exactly where you put it and a base on which it balances securely. You can also wall-mount it and there’s a screw-fitting under the base.

Don’t do that just yet though, because you’ll need to see the QR code on the unit’s base when setting it up.

That’s done using a smartphone app. Once you’ve downloaded the app, which is the same one for all Nest products, outdoor camera, thermostat and so on, you choose Add a Product. Nest Cam IQ is in the list (note: it only appeared there earlier this week when the app was updated so make sure you’re current).

Tip the base up to show the QR code to the app and the two pair quickly. After that, it’s just a matter of plugging it in, connecting it to your wi-fi and waiting while the camera sings a little song to let you know it’s successfully connected.

The Nest Cam IQ cable, carefully moulded to fit the base perfectly.

David Phelan

The Nest Cam IQ cable, carefully moulded to fit the base perfectly.

As you plug in the USB-C charging cable, note the attention to detail. This cable has differently shaped ends and the one that plugs into the camera is precisely shaped to perfectly fit the slot in the camera base. Neat.

And now you can wall-mount it, if you’d like to. The white cable is 10 feet long, so should be enough for most rooms.

One of the biggest features on the Nest Cam IQ is the picture quality. It has a 4K sensor, which is more than rival cameras manage. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be transmitting 4K-resolution footage to your computer or phone when it sends you a video alert.

After all, unless you have the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, you won’t be able to see it at that video quality anyway. And think of the bandwidth it would eat up.

No, the 4K is there for one of the smartest elements on the Nest Cam IQ. If it spots a person crossing its field of vision, it can track them by digitally zooming in. Additionally, although the camera doesn’t move, the software can intelligently pan across the main frame across the wide-angle (130-degree) picture. The zoom and the digital pan track movement accurately and the 4K resolution is what makes that zoom-in possible while maintaining HD transmission. This is a feature called Supersight and works tremendously. Nest says it should mean higher-quality footage, rich enough to be of use to law enforcement if you need it.

Nest relays information to your smartphone

Nest

Nest relays information to your smartphone

Picture quality is certainly good, helped along by the fact that the sensor has HDR capabilities to sharpen the images.

Video alerts are sent to you by email and app whenever the camera spots movement, though it claims to be able to tell the difference between a person and a thing.

In my tests, I got several alerts when the dog got off the couch, though to be fair, she’s definitely not a thing and actually I do think of her as a person, so maybe Nest got it right.

You can use the app or the website at any time to watch what’s going on in front of the camera, and an excellent microphone and speaker arrangement mean you can interact with home from wherever you are. Even if that’s just to say, “I told you, get down off the couch.”

The regular alerts, which include a snapshot of what the camera saw, and Supersight cost nothing. The app includes a snapshot history of the previous three hours in case you miss an alert.

You can also set schedules to determine when it records or let the app use your mobile phone’s location so that it senses when you go out and it starts recording.

There’s also a subscription option, called Nest Aware. In addition to the regular alerts, it has face recognition smarts which learn to identify people and alert you if there’s a new face. In practice, it recognised me okay, unless I did something really crazy like, you know, put my glasses on. Then, like Lois Lane, it failed to recognise my secret identity.

I will add that I know of other people who have found the camera recognises them with or without specs.

Nest Aware also offers intelligent audio alerts so if the dog’s barking, it can let you know.

With Nest Aware you can highlight areas in the camera’s view so when there’s activity in that part of the frame you receive an alert. The subscription also includes continuous recording and you can create custom clips or timelapses.

The subscription recordings give you a 10-day or 30-day video history that you can browse at high speed. If you want the 10-day history, the price is $10 a month or $100 a year. For the 30-day history the price is a higher, $30 a month or $300 a year. Prices in the UK are £80 a year or £8 a month. If you want the 30-day history the price is a higher, £24 a month or £240 a year.

The monthly subscription doesn’t automatically renew, by the way, so you might only want it for a couple of times a year when you go on vacation.

The Nest Cam IQ snuggled in a bookshelf.

David Phelan

The Nest Cam IQ snuggled in a bookshelf.

Note that unlike some rival cameras, there is no free storage with Nest, only with Nest Aware. You can use the app to see what’s happening at any time, of course, and can save clips of what you’re seeing to your phone, which may be enough for many people.

It’s priced at $299 (£299 in the UK) which puts it at the top end, price-wise for home security cameras. But the quality throughout is exceptional. The build is good, the images look great, even at night, and Supersight is a game-changer. Every feature works well, with the possible exception of face recognition for occasional spectacle-wearers, and you quickly feel you can rely on the Nest Cam IQ.

I’ve tested a lot of these kinds of camera, and there are plenty of excellent ones available. Like the Netatmo Welcome, and Nokia Home, for instance.

Nonetheless, I’d say Nest’s latest is the best out there, though it really works best when you opt for the Nest Aware subscription, too.

The first models, Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor are still on sale and are cheaper: $199 each.

Nest’s products are not compatible with Apple HomeKit but work seamlessly with Amazon Echo and Google Home.

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