Nest Hello Review

Nest Hello review: Not just a doorbell, but a security camera

Verdict

Excellent performance, facial detection and continuous video recording make the Nest Hello the ultimate video doorbell.

Pros

  • Fast response
  • Continuous recording option
  • Can silence internal chime
  • Facial recognition

Cons

  • Installation a little tricky
  • Few Quiet Time options

Key Features

  • Review Price: £229
  • Talk and see caller through your phone
  • 1600 x 1200 portrait capture
  • Facial recognition and continuous recording (via Nest Aware)
  • IFTTT channel
  • Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration

What is the Nest Hello?

It’s surprising that it’s taken so long for a major competitor to launch a video doorbell to challenge the Ring. The wait has well been worth it: the Nest Hello builds on the Ring Video Doorbell’s features, adding additional security and convenience to your front door.

Portrait-mode answering, continuous video recording, and the ability to answer your door from your Google Home all make the Nest Hello a robust, intelligent and flexible method by which to protect your front door.

Nest Hello – Design and build

Nest kit – such as the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor – has always impressed in the ‘looks’ department, and the Nest Hello is no different. The sleek black lozenge-shaped case will be right at home on the outside of your house. I found it smart enough to make it obvious that the Nest Hello is a doorbell and should, therefore, be pressed by guests; plain enough that it doesn’t ruin the exterior of your home.

At 117 x 43 x 26mm, the Nest Hello is considerably slimmer than the Ring Video Doorbell 2. This is largely because the Nest Hello is a wired-only product, so there’s no bulky battery to accommodate.

The slimmer body makes the device a little easier to fit in some locations. I live in a Victorian house with narrow door frames, which didn’t easily accommodate the Ring Video Doorbell 2. The Nest Hello was positioned far easier.

In the box  you’ll find a 15-degree wedge to angle the doorbell, so you can get the field of view you need to cover your entry-way.

Since the Nest Hello is wired-only, installation isn’t as convenient as it is with the Ring Video Doorbell 2. For starters, you’ll need a transformer, and an existing one may not do the job; Nest requires a 16-to-24V AC transformer and many UK models are 12V. You’ll need an internal chime, too.

Although a competent DIYer will be able to tackle the installation, a professional install may be the route worth taking or many. This will set you back £100 and will include connecting the doorbell and getting it working through the app.

Note that you may need a replacement transformer and chime; the installation service doesn’t cover running new cabling, so expect to pay more if you don’t have a wired doorbell.

Nest Hello – Features

The Nest Hello is managed through the Nest app, which is also home to other products in the range, such as the Nest Cam IQ and Nest Thermostat. If you already have some Nest kit, a single place for everything is super-convenient.

Hooking up the Nest Hello to your home network is fairly straightforward. In my case, Nest wanted to use my Nest Protect to help the camera join my home network. This should have required a simple tap of the Nest Protect’s main button, but the procedure failed the first time.

Annoyingly, Nest doesn’t provide an alternative installation method. In the end, I removed the Nest Protect from the wall (it’s in an outside office) and moved it to the front door, where the Nest Hello connected and paired to my home network.

The Nest Hello has built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but UK regulations are such that only the 2.4GHz band is supported. Make sure, then, that you have a strong wireless connection at the front door.

Related: Best Wi-Fi extenders

Once the camera is connected, the Nest Hello can be monitored and controlled just like any other Nest camera. Video is shot at a resolution of 1600 x 1200, and presented in portrait rather than landscape. Combined with the 160-degree lens, the video format is a good choice, since it means you capture a person’s entire body as they approach your front door.

As with other Nest cameras, you can set a schedule for when the camera is active, or have it turn on or off based on your location. You shouldn’t use location tracking and scheduling together, since it can have unpredictable results – the camera might turn off when you’re out.

However, with this type of product, it makes far more sense to leave the camera on permanently.

A press of the button on the pad outside will make your indoor chime ring, and you’ll receive a pop-up notification on your phone (and Apple Watch, if you have one). Answer it to have a conversation, just as you’d expect.

If you’re in a rush, there are three pre-defined speech options, which are read out by the Google Assistant through the doorbell’s speaker: “You can leave it”, “We’ll be right with you”, “We can’t answer the door”. All three are a little terse, but could be handy if you’re otherwise occupied, such as in a meeting at work.

Nest uses a Chime connector, which sits between the doorbell and your indoor chime. It’s a neat addition, as it means that you can turn off your internal chime permanently.

Using the Quiet Time feature in the app, you can also temporarily disable the chime for 30, 60 or 90 minutes. It’s a shame there’s no option to schedule Quiet Time for longer periods, such as overnight.

Nest Hello – Performance and Nest Aware

The internal chime ring is instant and as quick as using a traditional doorbell. Smartphone notifications can take up to 30 seconds to come through to your phone, and answering takes a few seconds more while the app connects.

This is quicker than with the Ring Video Doorbell, which takes a while to wake up and connect to your wireless network, particularly on battery mode. The high-quality microphone and external speaker make it easy and clear to have a chat with whoever is at your front door.

Even better, since the video is in portrait mode, you can hold your phone normally to have a chat. Ring requires you to turn your phone into landscape mode, which is trickier; plus, the phone isn’t as comfortable or as secure to hold in this position.

By default, the Nest Hello can recognise people, which you can use to configure motion alerts: you can toggle notifications for general motion or people. That’s a neat way to keep track of who goes up to your front door, but who may not ring the bell. Via the app, you can view thumbnails of previous activity, including motion and ring events.

As with other Nest cameras, the Nest Hello becomes far better when you add a Nest Aware subscription. The most important addition is 24/7 video recording. With this turned on, you can scroll back through your video history and watch everything that went on; there’s no chance of missing a crucial event because the camera hadn’t been triggered to record.

The Nest App is fantastic at handling this, with its timeline view letting you scroll through everything effortlessly, highlighting events (motion and rings) so that they’re easy to find. Alternatively, the event view lets you just jump straight to an event, with thumbnails making it easy to find the one that you want. Nest is the gold standard for video history; no other security camera, let alone doorbell, comes close to the power on offer here.

The downside of continuous recording is the bandwidth that the system will use. According to Nest, a camera set to Low quality will typically use 50GB of data a month; on Medium it’s 150GB and on High it’s 300GB. You’ll definitely want an unlimited connection with a decent upload speed to use this feature, particularly if you want to set the video to high.

There’s also an option to listen for and alert you to loud noises. With a less sophisticated microphone, the Nest Hello doesn’t have the ‘Person talking’ and ‘Dog barking’ alerts of some of the other cameras.

Nest Aware also adds a few additional features. Zones let you configure the part of the image you want to monitor, cutting down on false alerts by, say, ignoring a neighbour walking past. For each zone, you can toggle person and motion alerts individually. Nest also lets you digitally zoom and lock the zoom level, which can be a good way of cropping out a neighbour’s garden: under current UK law, you can record the street, but you should take into account neighbour’s privacy by not overtly recording their comings and goings.

Nest Hello Zones

Facial recognition is also available. Any faces recognised by other cameras (the Nest Cam IQ or Nest Cam Outdoor IQ) are carried over and automatically recognised by Nest Hello. For new faces, you can tell the app which people you recognise, and which you don’t. This personalises the notifications you receive, with Nest telling you if there’s someone familiar or unfamiliar at the door. It’s a shame you can’t control alerts based on whether someone was recognised or not.

Facial recognition is really powerful, and the system gets better over time; the more it sees the same people. Mistakes can be made, however, and Nest can sometimes make two entries for the same person. These can be merged to improve detection in the future.

Nest Aware used to be very expensive, but the new entry-level subscription is just £4 a month (or £40 for a year) for  five days of video history. That’s excellent value, particularly when you consider that  Nest Aware’s camera or doorbell’s cloud storage offering is far better than that of rivals.

Nest Hello – Video quality

Nest uses HDR to deliver better-quality footage without blown-out or shadow areas obscuring details – and it works well. The footage during the day is brilliantly exposed across the entire picture.

Due to compression, faster-moving video loses a bit of detail, but you get a sharp image when someone is stood in front of your door waiting for you to answer. There’s very little noise in the image, and it’s easy to recognise individuals. Certainly, compared to the competition, the Nest Hello is up there.

Nest Hello Daytime sample

At night, the camera uses its IR LEDs. These were powerful enough to light up my entire front garden. Some detail is lost and the image becomes a bit noisier, but the same qualities shine through and you get a detailed image of anyone waiting outside of your home.

Nest Hello nighttime sample

Nest Hello – Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, IFTTT and more

Nest Hello works with Google Assistant notifications. When the doorbell is pressed, your Google Home (or other Assistant-enabled devices) will announce that there’s someone at the door, so you know without having to be close to your phone or within earshot of your doorbell.

Control of Notifications can be toggled per device using the Google Assistant app (not the Google Home app) on your phone (iOS and Android). You can also cast the video stream to a Chromecast, if you just want to see what’s going on.

Nest Hello Google Assistant announcments

Related: Google Home guide

If you have a smart display, such as the Google Home Hub or Lenovo Smart Display 10″, there’s another trick: the screen shows you a live feed from the Nest Hello, so you can see who’s at the door. At the moment you can only hang up the call by choosing the ignore option, but a future update is set to let you answer the door or use the quick responses directrly from the screen. At this point, the Google Home Hub or similar device will become even more useful, acting as a powerful intercom system, too.

Google Home Hub Nest Hello

Alexa support is available, although this is limited to viewing the camera feed on a video-enabled device, such as the Amazon Echo Show or Fire TV. Currently, there’s no option for announcements or answering a ring.

Related: Amazon Alexa guide

An IFTTT channel has Triggers only, so you can control other devices when your Nest Hello has a sound or motion event (or both). For better automation, there’s Works with Nest, which has some automated rules. For example, when you’ve been away for more than 24 hours, motion can make your Philips Hue lights turn on automatically to trick someone into thinking you’re at home.

Why buy the Nest Hello?

Without a battery, the Nest Hello isn’t quite as easy or as convenient to install as the Ring Video Doorbell 2. But that’s the only minor downside, as the fully wired Nest Hello has so many more advantages over its competition.

Swifter performance, Google Home notifications and, with Nest Ware, continuous video recording and facial recognition make the Nest Hello the best video doorbell available. For the ultimate protection of your front door, this is the model to buy.

Score