Monitoring the outside of your house makes a lot of sense – especially if there's been a spate of break-ins in your area. The difficulty is that outdoor cameras have traditionally been a bit of a pain to set up and configure. The Nest Cam Outdoor hopes to change that, thanks to painless installation, smart monitoring and a design that makes the camera actually look good when it's installed.
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Nest wanted to build a camera that was easy to install and looked great. I'm happy to say that it's achieved both. While no security camera is ever going to be desirable, the Nest Cam Outdoor comes close. With its rounded back and flat front, the camera looks more like a high-end spotlight rather than a traditional security device.
It's tough, too, rated at IP65. That means it's completely dustproof and can withstand low-pressure water jets. That's more than enough even for a heavy spring downpour.
More importantly, the Nest Cam Outdoor is super-easy to self-install for most people. Rather than having to be hard-wired into an electrical circuit, the Nest Cam Outdoor comes with a waterproof power supply composed of two parts. There's a junction box hard-wired to a three-pin plug, and the camera has a captive weatherproofed USB cable that connects to the junction box.
With its simplest form of installation, you need only attach the junction box to a wall via the provided bracket, and put the plug into an outdoor socket. If you don't have an outdoor socket, you'll need to drill through a wall and route the USB cable through the junction box, which you plug into a standard power socket.
For all installations, you get to use Nest's excellent magnetic camera mount. This mount screws into a wall and, because it's round, you don't have to worry about getting it level. You then just tap the camera to the mount, and its magnet grabs hold. The magnet's powerful enough to hold the camera in place, but still gives you some movement, so you can rotate and tilt the camera until you're happy with the field of view.
I've got an outdoor power socket and physically installing the camera took no more than 30 minutes, with all of the cabling kept neatly kept out of the way using the supplied cable clips.
To get the camera working, you have to use the supplied app to connect it to your Wi-Fi network (802.11n, 2.4GHz only). Nest has one app for all of its devices, which is handy, as you can use the same app for the outdoor camera, the Nest Cam Indoor, and the Nest Thermostat. I found it painless to get my camera online and connected to my Wi-Fi, using the live preview the app offers to ensure that I was capturing the right parts of my garden.
Having a security camera is as much about when it doesn't record as when it does, retaining your privacy. To that end, the camera can automatically turn off when you're home, only turning on when the mobile app detects that you're out. It can track your entire household, as Nest supports multiple user accounts.
You can also schedule the camera to turn on and off. I've got mine configured to record from roughly when it gets dark, until 9am in the morning. Nest's scheduling is a little confusing to use at first, as the app displays bars that you naturally want to touch and slide but can't. This is a minor complaint, though, and once your schedule is set correctly, you're unlikely to need to touch this setting.
As with the Cam Indoor, the Outdoor version has a microphone and speaker so that you can speak to anyone outside. It could be handy for talking to couriers or for warning off a would-be thief. A great IFTTT channel lets you integrate the camera with other smart devices – turning on lights when the camera detects movement, for example.
As with Nest's previous camera, the Cam Outdoor is heavily reliant on a Nest Aware subscription. This costs £8 per month for 10-day video history, or £24 per month for 30-day video history – but if you buy an annual subscription, you get 12 months for the price of 10.
The camera records to Nest Aware for 24 hours a day, so you can scroll back through your entire video footage. The service also enables several extra features, including more advanced motion detection, the option to create, save and download video clips, and the ability to manually set special zones for monitoring, called Activity Zones.
Without Nest Aware, you get basic motion alerts, photos of activity are saved for three hours, and you can watch the live stream. The camera has no onboard storage and no ability to save video to a different location, such as a NAS drive. With the lack of features, not subscribing to Nest Aware makes the Cam Outdoor seem a little pointless.
If you opt for multiple cameras, be prepared to pay even more, as each additional camera costs £4 per month for 10-day history or £12 per month for 30-day history – with the same annual discounts available as before. If you've got two outdoor cameras and one indoor, a 10-day plan would cost you £16 a month.
Although Nest Aware is expensive, it's just about the best cloud system that I've used. Both the app and web console are slick and easy to use, clearly highlighting any detected events. Motion processing is top-notch, too, with the camera ignoring swaying trees and only alerting you of 'proper' movement. As a result, I got very few false positives and not a constant deluge of notifications.
Nest Aware can distinguish between people and other movements, giving different notifications. There's no way to set the camera only to notify when it detects people, which you can do with the Netatmo Presence.
Using the web app only, not the mobile version, you can set Activity Zones to monitor certain areas of the image. This is a handy way of further cutting down on notifications. With Zones set, you can choose which ones to be notified about and which ones you're happy to ignore.
Finally, the Nest Cam Outdoor also listens for loud noises, such as glass being broken, and delivers a warning notification. Notifications are some of the best, with both the Android and email alerts showing you a still image of the detected activity.
Although the Nest Cam Outdoor can record at 1080p, it defaults to 720p. You can manually force the camera into 1080p mode, although you get a warning telling you that the camera may get warm and that it will use more bandwidth.
In general, Nest advises that 720p video uses an average of 200Kbps with a max of 500Kbps for scenes with lots of activity, while 1080p uses an average of 450Kbps with a max of 1.2Mbps. That translates to between 60GB and 380GB of bandwidth per month, depending on resolution and activity, so you'll definitely want unlimited broadband. I recommend leaving the camera set to its Auto setting, as 720p footage is more than enough for a security camera.
Image quality is excellent. In daylight, the picture is sharp, and faces can clearly be seen. Some detail is blurred out in uniform areas, such as grass, but the important information is kept.
At night when it gets dark, the camera switches to IR mode. It's not fooled into switching modes by a torch being shone at it, either, so you know that the Nest Cam Outdoor will record reliably. I was impressed by the IR light, which clearly illuminated my 40ft garden, all the way to the shed at the bottom.
The Nest Cam Outdoor is by far one of the best security cameras, provided you're happy paying for a subscription to Nest Aware, and that you have the broadband bandwidth to accommodate it. With a subscription, you get 24-hour recording, excellent motion detection and a slick app through which to view everything.
The closest competition is the Netatmo Presence, which can tell the difference (mostly) between people, animals and cars. It's more expensive than the Nest Cam Outdoor, but it has no monthly subscription cost, integrating for free with Dropbox or an FTP server. The downside is that Netatmo's camera is harder to install, and the overall experience isn't quite as neat.
A slick and powerful outdoor security camera, but the ongoing subscription costs are expensive.