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Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) Review

Verdict

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A powerful all-round camera, the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) gives you the option of battery or powered recording and works inside and out. With on-device recording giving up to three hours of video, plus smart object detection, this is a camera that doesn’t necessarily need a cloud subscription, although Nest Aware is well priced if you want more recorded footage. The Google Home app isn’t as good as the old Nest one, though, and more control over how and when the camera records would be good.

Pros

  • Offline recording
  • On-board object detection
  • Very flexible

Cons

  • New Google Home app not as good as the Nest app
  • No IFTTT

Availability

  • UKRRP: £179.99
  • USARRP: $179.99
  • EuropeRRP: €199.99

Key Features

  • TypeThis is an indoor or outdoor camera that can be used on battery power alone, although it can be run from the mains power.
  • ConnectionThis camera connects to your home Wi-Fi via 2.4GHz networking.

Introduction

Just when I thought that Google was never going to update its line-up of security cameras, it discontinued both the Nest Cam IQ and Nest Cam IQ Outdoor and has released the successor, the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery).

As you can probably tell from the name of the product, this is both an indoor and outdoor camera, and it’s battery operated, although you can also permanently power it. Built-in storage and smart on-device object detection mean that you don’t need to worry about a cloud subscription, although opt for Nest Aware and you’ll get some advanced features.

Overall, this new package is a triumph over the old cameras, delivering more features, but the software isn’t quite as flexible as I’d want.

Design and installation

  • Lots of mounting options
  • Only a magnetic mount in the box
  • A great-looking security camera

Getting a security camera to look right is hard. On the one hand, you want them to stick out so that they put off burglars; on the other hand, you want a camera to look nice so that it doesn’t spoil the appearance of your home. Google has nailed that in the past, and the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) continues to do so. A lozenge-shaped hunk of smooth white plastic, this camera looks great whether you place it outside or in.

At 83 x 83 x 83mm (max dimensions), this camera is a little bigger than the main battery competition, such as the Arlo Pro 3. It’s available in a single- or dual-pack. Both packs ship with just the large magnetic mount, which has a wall bracket that you screw into place, and then you attach the camera directly to it.

Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) magnetic mount

However, you can use any magnetic mount: outside, I had the old Nest Cam Outdoor, so just repurposed that mount instead, although Google has said that the smaller mount here may not be able to take the weight, so use the provided one instead.

If you prefer, you can use a tripod mount, using the screw thread underneath, or you can buy the optional stand for indoor use.

There’s a charging cable in the box that magnetically attaches to the bottom of the camera to top up the battery. If you’d rather have the camera permanently powered, you can buy the optional weatherproof adaptor (5m or 10m lengths available).

Installation is now via the Google Home app, rather than the old Nest app. This is a clear sign that Google tends to remove the Nest app, as only older products, such as the still-available Nest Cam Outdoor, will use this.

It’s quick to get the camera installed: once you’ve scanned the QR code the camera connects to your home Wi-Fi connection and is ready to go.

Features

  • Needs more flexibility for recording
  • Excellent features and recording without a subscription
  • Nest Aware adds more features

As with the Nest Doorbell (battery), the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) doesn’t necessarily require a cloud subscription to get the most out of it. Thanks to the AI chip onboard, the camera can spot when it’s seen a person, animal, vehicle or any other motion. These features are usually only available in cloud subscription packages.

You can use this level of detection to control exactly how the camera works. First, you can set which events you get notifications for, say only getting alerted when a person is spotted. Secondly, you can control which events the camera records for.

Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) notifications

Even better, the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) lets you draw activity zones, to only monitor the part of the image that you’re interested in. For each zone, you can then choose which events you want to record and which you want to be notified for. For example, you could record people and animals in one zone, getting alerts for people only, and then record people only in another zone.

Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) activity zones

Google treats everything outside of a zone as the special Outside of zone area, which can have its own recording and notification rules. Most cameras treat everything outside of a zone as not important, so there’s a bit more flexibility here.

If you’re running the camera on battery power, Google recommends that you don’t turn on all-motion recording, as this can reduce battery life.

Internally, the camera can record up to three hours of footage offline, so you don’t technically need a subscription, as you can save any clips you need within that time. If you want more recording history, you can upgrade to a Nest Aware subscription. For the entry-level £5-a-month plan, you get 30-days of event recording for all cameras in your home, which is excellent value.

Nest Aware also turns on Familiar face detection, or facial recognition to me and you. This lets the camera spot and recognise people that you know. You can create profiles for each person, so you can be told who the camera has spotted. This information is shared between all cameras, including the doorbell and is still a unique feature that the competition doesn’t have.

Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) facial recognition

You do need to manage profiles carefully, deleting incorrectly categorised snapshots, and merging duplicate profiles, or facial recognition can get things wrong. Properly looked after, it’s a system that works really well.

If you choose to permanently power your camera, then you can upgrade to the more expensive Nest Aware subscription, which adds constant video recording into the mix, so everything is captured.

Cleverly, if your Wi-Fi goes down or power is cut to your camera, the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) can record up to three hours of video on battery power, uploading the results when the connection is restored. That makes this camera more reliable than the cloud-only competition.

Finding footage in the Google Home app isn’t as easy as it was with the Nest app. With the Nest app, opening it up would show you a preview of the camera. Tap the preview and you’d get the live view and the timeline to scroll through, with filtering options to find events.

Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) live view

With the Google Home app, you have to scroll down to find your camera, then tap it to bring up the live view (it starts automatically if your camera is powered, but needs an extra tap to start the camera for battery mode). Then, you have to tap History to view a more basic timeline that you can’t filter and tap Full History to get a filterable thumbnail view of clips. All clips can be downloaded to your device.

Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) history

You can manually turn the camera on and off using the Google Home app. If you want to automate it, then you need to enable the Home/Away routines in the app, which can use your phone (and those of other people in your household) to detect who’s at home to change mode automatically.

With this, you can choose to have your camera turn on and off automatically, or you can choose to only get notifications when you’re away from home. It’s a good tool but not as comprehensive as the competition. With Ring, if you have the Ring Alarm, you can adjust cameras based on the mode of the alarm: different settings for whether the alarm is set to on, at home or turned off.

With cameras, such as the Arlo Pro 3, you can use geolocation and a schedule, and you can adjust mode using SmartThings or IFTTT. Both Ring and Arlo have more powerful control, which can be important. After all, nobody really wants to record lots of footage of themselves.

As the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) installs via the Google Home app it’s only compatible with the Google Assistant, and it doesn’t have IFTTT support. With a smart display, such as the Nest Hub (2nd generation), you can view the live feed. There’s no Alexa support, although the launch of Matter in the future may change that.

Video quality

  • Good-enough video quality
  • Night time uses powerful IR
  • Slightly over-sharpened image

Video footage is captured at a resolution of 1920 x 1080. The camera uses a 130-degree (diagonal) field of view, which is good enough for outside use: I could get most of my garden in with this; you can get cameras with wider fields of view if you want to capture more.

Testing the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) out, I found that its footage was pretty good but not class-leading. During the day, video has clear signs of compression, filtering out the detail on my t-shirt, for example, and the video is quite clearly sharpened. However, there’s enough detail left to spot individuals and the image is well exposed, even when facing direct sunlight.

At night, the camera turns on its IR sensor. This has good range, lighting up my entire garden, although the resulting footage is a lot softer, removing some more detail from the image. I’d say that footage is on a par with that shot from Ring’s cameras, but Arlo’s 2K cameras (the Pro 3 and Pro 4) shoot better video and I’ve not seen a camera come close to that of the Arlo Ultra.

Nest Hub (2nd generation) night sample

Still, what you get here is video footage that’s more than good enough for its intended purpose.

Final thoughts

While it’s fair to say that you can get better quality video footage elsewhere, what the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) does is deliver more than good-enough quality. It’s the features that really sell this model, with on-camera detection and up to three-hours of free video recording meaning that you don’t necessarily need a cloud subscription. If you do want more video recording, then Nest Aware starts at just £5 a month, which is excellent value.

If you want more control over how your cameras record, then Arlo is a better option. And, if you have Ring cameras or the alarm, or Echo smart speakers, then I’d go for Ring instead. Alternatively, check out my guides to the best indoor security cameras and the best outdoor security cameras.

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Should you buy it?

If you want a powerful camera that can go inside or out, with excellent free features and offline recording, this is a great camera.

If you’ve got cameras from a different manufacturer already, then it’s probably cheaper overall to stick with that system. If you have Echo devices, then this camera won’t play nicely with them.

Final Thoughts

While it’s fair to say that you can get better quality video footage elsewhere, what the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) does is deliver more than good-enough quality. It’s the features that really sell this model, with on-camera detection and up to three-hours of free video recording meaning that you don’t necessarily need a cloud subscription. If you do want more video recording, then Nest Aware starts at just £5 a month, which is excellent value.

If you want more control over how your cameras record, then Arlo is a better option. And, if you have Ring cameras or the alarm, or Echo smart speakers, then I’d go for Ring instead. Alternatively, check out my guides to the best indoor security cameras and the best outdoor security cameras.

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Used as our main security camera for the review period

We test compatibility with the main smart systems (HomeKit, Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings, IFTTT and more) to see how easy each camera is to automate.

We take samples during the day and night to see how clear each camera’s video is.

FAQs

Do you need a Nest Aware subscription to use the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery)?

No, you don’t. Without a subscription, you get three hours of video recording and object detection. You can add Nest Aware to get more recording history.

How long does the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) on a charge?

It should last around three months on a charge although you can permanently power it.

Full specs

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
Manufacturer
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Resolution
Voice Assistant
Battery Length
Smart assistants
App Control
Camera Type
Mounting option
View Field
Recording option
Two-way audio
Night vision
Light
Motion detection
Activity zones
Object detection
Audio detection
Power source

Jargon buster

Google Assistant

A voice assistant which is Google’s take on Amazon’s Alexa.

Alexa

Amazon's smart voice assistant

IFTTT

If This Then That (IFTTT) is a free web-based smart home platform that lets you create simple rules to automate your home.

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