The Nest Cam couples excellent audio and image quality with clever detection features and some free clip storage
- Excellent audio and image quality
- Some free video storage history
- Flexible object and zone detection options
- Free storage limited to three-hour window
- Flickering footage
- No spotlight or alarm
The Nest Cam presents a conundrum to the security-camera-purchasing consumer. It offers plenty of features for a reasonable outlay, it looks great and it’s made by Google, which carries with it a certain cachet. The camera also lets you use most of its advanced features for free, not tying you into a monthly subscription as manufacturers of some of its biggest rivals tend to do.
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On the other hand, it has some shortcomings, including a handful of weird design decisions, and, although it provides many features for “free”, there are still limitations.
Nest Cam review: What do you get for the money?
The Nest Cam is a substantial item and feels extremely well made. Each camera costs £180, or £320 for a twin pack, and in the box the camera is accompanied by a circular magnetic wall plate and a charger.
The plate can be attached to the wall using the included screws and Rawlplugs, or it can be magnetically attached to a metal surface. And, since the camera is IP54 rated, you can place it outside or indoors.
As far as specifications go, the camera is capable of recording video at a 1080p resolution with a frame rate of 30fps via a 1/2.8in, 2MP sensor. The lens has a reasonably wide 130-degree field of view, clips are captured in HDR, there’s a built-in speaker and microphone for two-way audio communication and the camera provides automatic, monochrome night vision recording with the help of six infrared LEDs.
So far, so ordinary. Where the Nest Cam stands out is in the sophistication of its object detection system. Not only is the Nest Cam able to detect the presence of people in the frame, it can also identify animals (cats or dogs) and cars, allowing you to limit recordings and/or notifications only to the types of events you want to see.
What’s more, it carries out all of those detection functions on the camera itself – the theory being that this is faster, and more secure, than passing data to the cloud before notifying you.
The other big positive of owning a Nest Cam is the fact that it provides access to stored video clips for free. Now, there’s still a limit to this in that you only have three hours to view or download motion-triggered video clips after they’ve been recorded. You also don’t get the option of continuous video recording history unless you pay for a Nest Aware subscription. You’ll also need to wire the camera to the mains if you want continuous recording.
However, the Nest Cam’s offering is more generous than what you get with either Ring or Arlo’s cameras, neither of which provide any form of clip storage for free. And if you own multiple Nest products – say, a doorbell and two Nest Cams – the £5 per month price for a Nest Aware account is pretty reasonable. This gives you a much lengthier 30 days to review and download your video history.
Nest Cam review: How well does it work?
Setup is pretty straightforward and is carried out entirely within the Google Home app. I had no issues with it at all and was up and running in under ten minutes; the most demanding part of the process was deciding where to mount the camera and screwing the mount to the wall. There’s no hub to connect and set up; the camera simply connects directly to your home Wi-Fi over the 2.4GHz frequency band.
Once it’s fully charged, the Nest Cam simply snaps to the magnetic plate and starts detecting and recording. By default, it’s set to detect all motion across the frame, but that won’t be practical for most people; you don’t want to be alerted every time some foliage waves in the breeze or your neighbour pops out to mow the lawn.
This is where the Nest Cam’s motion zones and object detection system comes in handy. They allow you to filter out events you don’t want to record and only see things that are important to you.
Your options here are people, animals (it works for both dogs and cats) and vehicles, which is handy for keeping track of would-be burglars approaching your property either in person or by car, and for keeping an eye on how your dog or cat is coping without you while you’re out.
Combined with the ability to set up to four motion zones, as well as define which types of objects you want detected and whether you want notifications and/or recordings to take place in each, it’s a hugely flexible system. You can even set notification and object type detection options for the area outside your motion detection zones.
It all works pretty well, too, although you may need to adjust the sensitivity from the default “Medium” settings to “High” to capture some things – the camera attached to my garden office above the door failed to detect my cat until I tweaked this setting. Google warns this may cause more notifications and therefore impact battery life but so far, I haven’t found this to be the case.
Moreover, both image quality and audio quality are exceptional. Although the resolution isn’t as high as the 2K quality offered by the Arlo Pro 4 and our favourite security camera, the Eufy SoloCam E40, the Nest Cam’s 1080p recording doesn’t look that much different. The colour balance is a little more neutral and contrast is stronger, but there isn’t a huge loss in detail.
The only difference in quality really comes with the night vision, at least where the Arlo Pro 4 is concerned. That camera comes with a white LED floodlight, which means the camera can record in colour at night, where the Nest Cam is only able to record in monochrome using its infrared LEDs.
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Nest Cam review: Is there anything it could do better?
In general, there are many things to like about the Nest Cam but there are some negatives to take account of. The first, and most serious, Google has fixed since launch. Right at the beginning of each recorded video clip, thee would be a noticeable flicker as the camera adjusted to the available light. That has now been resolved and the footage is clear of any glitches.
The next is that, although the Nest Cam’s free storage is nice to have, it’s still limited, and giving you three hours to review and download isn’t quite long enough. Imagine if something happens in the middle of the night, more than three hours before you wake up. That video clip is gone unless you’re paying Google £5 per month for Nest Aware.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are other security cameras that go one better. Our current favourite, the Eufy SoloCam E40, comes with 8GB of built-in storage and no limitations on how long you can keep hold of your footage other than the amount of storage space it occupies.
There’s also no spotlight or alarm, where rivals (including the E40) include both, and although there’s good integration with other Nest products such as the Nest Hub, there’s no support for either Alexa or Siri. Again, rivals support multiple assistants.
The final pair of annoyances are small but, while perhaps a little nitpicky, they’re important nonetheless. First, the cameras use a proprietary connector to charge, which means you’re beholden to Google if your charger breaks or you lose it. Worse, if it decides to discontinue the camera and its accessories at some point in the future, then you might be stuck with a dead unit.
I also think it’s a bit mad that the QR setup code isn’t printed anywhere on the body of the camera itself. Instead, it’s on a sticker in the box that Google tells you to attach to the rear page of the instruction manual – and you’re bound to lose that. Now, you can skip this step and use the setup code that is printed on the camera, so it isn’t a complete disaster, but this option is not entirely obvious.
Nest Cam review: Should I buy one?
Despite the niggles, however, the Nest Cam is a likeable home security camera that has plenty of things to recommend it. Image quality and audio quality are both superb, and object detection generally works well. I’m a big fan of how flexible the motion detection zone system is, and it’s good that the camera isn’t completely useless if you choose not to pay a subscription.
However, the price of £180 is quite high and, as the Eufy SoloCam E40 proves, you don’t have to pay for a subscription to get a decent outdoor security camera that does most of what the Nest Cam does. If you have multiple Nest cameras and the Doorbell, it makes sense to invest in a Nest Cam; otherwise, you’re better off with the Eufy.