These feature-rich, expertly designed cameras are tops in performance and tech, but are they worth the price?
At some point in our tech-filled lives, we’ve all encountered Google in one way or another. Heck, we’d be willing to bet that’s how you found this review. What you may not be so familiar with, though, is just how long they’ve been in the smart home and security spaces.
After the tech giant’s acquisition of Nest Labs, which gave us the transformative Nest Thermostat in 2011,1 we’ve seen a rapidly expanding line of high-tech, brilliantly designed devices as their line of products has grown. Today, though, we’re going to be talking about the company’s security cameras and the Nest Doorbell, specifically.2
To start with, it needs to be said that Nest is an extremely popular brand. So popular, in fact, that some big-name security providers are stocking Nest products as part of their equipment packages – read more about that in our review of ADT’s Self Setup. That should give you peace of mind that the quality is there, but we do need to talk about the price really quickly.
There are no two ways around this — the price tag can turn some homeowners off of Nest entirely. As we detail in our hands-on review of the Nest Cam, this equipment isn’t cheap. There are three Nest Cam’s to choose from: the Nest Cam (Battery), the one pictured above, the Nest Cam with Floodlight (Wired), which is essentially the same camera with an onboard light pack, and the Nest Cam (Wired), an indoor-only model. That last one will run you $99.99. The version with the floodlight? $279.99.
Yeah, almost $300. That’s kind of a tough pill to swallow if you’re looking for a multi-camera security solution at your property. But don’t start sweating just yet; keep in mind that this is way more than a camera. As with many products in Google’s smart home ecosystem, the features and tech injected into these cameras make them more than the sum of their parts, like a lot of our leading outdoor camera brands.
Now, before we break down Nest Cams one by one, here are a few quick stats on Google Nest to consider:
|Best Asset||A.I. Face Recognition|
|Monthly Cost||$6 to $12|
Pro Tip: Want to save big bucks on one of these Nest Cams? Check out our Nest Cams Prime Day deals and discounts guide.
We’re going to dig deep into each one of these pieces of equipment and get into the value of each one. We’re also going to be discussing subscription packages and cloud storage plans, and we’ll touch on some ways to save.
First, here’s a quick take on features of Google Nest Cams:
Check out more recommendations from the SafeHome team:
The current iteration of the Google Nest Cam took all of the lessons learned from previous models — notably the Nest Cam IQ — and made everything better and smaller. Simply put, this is an exceptional camera. It’s battery operated so it mounts anywhere, and the magnetic mount makes it easy to adjust. It’s jam-packed with high tech features like facial recognition and package detection, and its long-term battery life makes it so you won’t be taking it down to charge every couple of weeks.
While we certainly enjoyed testing the Nest Cam and working with it on a day-to-day basis, we do have to say it’s not the perfect camera. Although it certainly gets close in some regards, we will say the resolution is a little lacking, and the black and white night vision feels a little outdated on a camera that retails for nearly $180. For that price point, we’d expect to see 2K resolution and color night vision, but as the Rolling Stones say — you can’t always get what you want.
The latest Nest Cam is a solid choice for most homeowners looking to keep an eye on things indoors and out. While the price point is a tad high, it’s an extremely solid, reliable device that will certainly help protect what’s important to you.
Overall, we think the Nest Cam is a good buy. It compares well to some of Ring’s cameras, like the Ring Indoor Camera. We recently did a deep-dive review of the Ring Indoor Camera, and it’s worth a gander.
The stripped-down, wired version of the Nest Cam is for indoor use only, but don’t think for a second this camera might be lacking in some way. It still packs all the features and tech specs of its above cousin, and with a Nest Aware subscription, you’ll get all of the same AI-powered tools that make this product line so popular.
On top of that, the indoor cam has intelligent alerts, so it can tell the difference between a person, an animal, or a vehicle passing outside, and you can customize your alert settings and activity zones so your phone will only buzz when it’s important. If you’ve ever dealt with indoor security cameras in high-traffic homes, you’ll know how important this is.
We also really like that unlike the battery operated Nest Cam, this version comes in multiple colors, so it’s easy to find a model that fits with your decor. Its adjustable base can be set up on a flat surface or mounted on a wall, so you’ll be able to get the vantage point you’re looking for.
The wired Nest Cam is slightly less expensive than others in the lineup, which makes sense — it’s definitely got the fewest bells and whistles. It retails for just $99.99. For context, when in our hands-on review of YI cameras, we found some similar models priced for around $30. That said, they definitely didn’t offer all of the tech features of the Nest Cam.
If you’re looking to shine a light on things outside, the Nest floodlight cam is your best bet. Not only will its powerful motion-activated spotlight help you see things better once the sun goes down, it has the added benefit of actively deterring would-be intruders. No one likes to be blinded by a floodlight — especially people who are up to no good.
Did You Know? When we compared Nest Cams to Ring, arguably its closest competitor, we found that while the equipment costs are definitely higher on Nest’s end, Ring’s cameras are more basic in the features they offer. So while you might pay more for Nest, you’re also paying for a smarter, more intuitive experience overall. Just something to keep in mind.
But that floodlight comes in handy in other ways, as well. Using the handy-dandy Google Home app, you can set your camera to a schedule and dial the brightness up or down, so that it’ll automatically turn on just enough to light your path when, say, you’re coming home from work. This is getting into smart home territory, which we really like to see.
One of the drawbacks of the Nest Cam Floodlight is that it will need to be hardwired in. If you have an existing floodlight that you’re looking to replace, the job won’t be too tough. If you’re looking to install one fresh, though, you’re likely going to want professional installation. The good news there is that Google makes that really easy to do.
The other drawback is the price. The Nest Cam Floodlight is an eye-watering $279.99. This pretty steep price tag can be a deterrent to some, especially if you’re thinking about outfitting your property with multiple cameras.
While it’s not a security camera in the traditional sense of the word, the Google Nest Doorbell does perform some pretty important security functions pretty well, especially when you pair it with a Nest Aware subscription — more on that later. Nest Aware lets you take advantage of some of this smart doorbell’s smarter functions like package detection and facial recognition. This means when your family pops over for a visit you’ll know who’s at the door, and if a stranger makes off with that Amazon package, you’ll have something to show the authorities.
Pro Tip: The Nest Doorbell is available in battery-powered or hard-wired models. The hard-wired iteration will be a little more in-depth to install, and its battery-powered brother will be a little chunkier.
At $179.99 it’s certainly not the cheapest doorbell on the market today, but I will say it’s one of the best-designed and most feature-packed. It’s also one of the most DIY-friendly, too. In my hands-on Nest Doorbell review I found that set up was a breeze, installation was no problem, and day-to-day use required little-to-no fiddling about with settings or positioning. Right out of the box, the Nest Doorbell just gets it right.
|Nest Cam (Battery)||Indoor/outdoor functionality, 1080p resolution, two-way talk, AI-powered alerts||$179.99|
|Nest Cam with Floodlight (Wired)||Motion-activated floodlight, 1080p resolution, AI-powered alerts, two-way talk||$279.99|
|Nest Cam (Wired)||Indoor only, AI-powered alerts, two way talk||$99.99|
|Nest Doorbell||Smart Alerts, 24/7 video, package detection||$179.99|
Google Nest discounts its cameras from time to time, but we found that the real savings comes from bundling, or packaging several cameras together. Nest has several packages that are a little easier on the pocketbook than buying the cameras individually. Here are the deals we’re currently seeing:
|Nest Camera Package||# of Cameras||Package Savings||Package Cost|
|Nest Cam Battery 2 Pack||2||$29.99||$329.98|
|Nest Cam Battery 4 Pack||4||$63.98||$596.00|
In another nod to truly smart home security, we discovered that Nest cameras are built so that you don’t have to buy a subscription or sign a contract to use most (not all) of their features and store your video history. That’s always a plus for us, as we’re not fond of being locked into service agreements or monthly monitoring fees, and we’re pretty sure you’re not, either.
Nest Aware,3 Nest’s subscription service, gave us the option to add 24/7 recording to our feature set, along with the freedom of accessing our video history from anywhere (that’s the beauty of the cloud!).
In our hands-on experience with Nest Cam IQ cameras, we did find that it was pretty much essential to spring for at least the basic Nest Aware package, in order to truly harness all that facial recognition technology. That said, this plan really changes the game in home security, and we don’t recommend buying these cameras without it.
Compared to plans offered by other leading brands we’ve tested and reviewed, namely Arlo Camera Smart plans, the basic Nest Aware package is actually a good deal, especially when you consider that Arlo Smart doesn’t have continuous recording. We also like that we can choose to take advantage of Nest Aware’s free trial for 30 days of video history before committing to a paid subscription.
|Nest Aware||Nest Aware Plus|
|Video History||30 days||60 days (plus 10 days 24/7 video history)|
|Custom Activity Zones||Yes||Yes|
|Create & Share Clips||Yes||Yes|
|AI facial recognition||Yes||Yes|
|Monthly Fee||$6 per month after free trial||$12 per month|
|Yearly Fee||$60 per year||$120 per year|
Here’s a rundown of many of the features we found in Nest Cams. As you browse, though, keep in mind that some features are only available in the Nest Cam IQ lineup.
1080p HD Video Resolution
Nest cameras all record in industry-standard 1080p resolution. Certainly not the best on the market, but definitely good enough to see the fine detail you want in a security camera. Thanks to the 2 megapixel sensor, the motion is super smooth and you’re not going to have to spend an arm and a leg recording those 2k and 4k videos in the cloud. Overall, the picture quality is solid, but it won’t knock your socks off.
Instant Mobile Alerts
The Google Home, which also houses Google’s smart speakers, thermostat, and other devices, let us view live footage of our Nest Cams any time we wanted. We were notified when motion occurred, but going further, we were also able to set up activity zones to consolidate our motion, and schedule when we wanted to receive alerts.
Since these are DIY cameras, we expected a fairly simple DIY installation, and we got it. All of the cameras are easy to install and set up, but our favorite, admittedly, was being able to hang our Google Nest Cam on our indoor greenhouse. No screws, no mess, no fuss!
Infrared Night Vision
As an essential feature in home security, night vision is a feature we tend to examine pretty closely. After all, what’s the good in protecting ourselves from threats if we can’t see them? We loved viewing our barebones, pitch-black backyard through the lenses of Nest Cams made clearer through the magic of infrared night vision. We especially liked knowing we could pull up that view any time of night to make sure all is well.
Nest Cams’ Familiar Faces feature ties together several facial recognition components into one seamless experience. We simply set Familiar Faces to notify us via mobile alert when a person is detected, and then the camera did the rest – immediately notifying us when it detected a face and asking us if it was familiar. Depending on our answer, the camera learns whether to recognize that face again, as someone we already know, or continue to flag it as someone we don’t.
With a three-microphone array and high-quality speaker (HD talk and listen), Two-Way Talk worked smoothly in our tests. Barring the occasional Wi-Fi glitch, the experience was pretty seamless. Plus, those glitches are the same kind that break up your phone conversations, so it certainly wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
All told, if you’re looking for cameras that can learn everything imaginable about your home (and visitors to your home!), we’ll say this: Nest is a winning pick for advanced home security cameras. Once we got past the equipment sticker shock, we saw the true value in these cameras, both for their durable construction and for their smart motion features.
And if you’re thinking, “I’ll never need all these features,” or you still think the price is too high, consider this: In our experience, we saw how well Google Nest Cams could deliver when a few thieves known to roam the neighborhood looking for unlocked cars happened to pass through (this actually happened to us; luckily our cars were locked).
Pro Tip: If your budget simply can’t handle Nest’s equipment costs, we suggest checking out our list of home security cameras that make great alternatives to Nest Cams.
We’ve seen several occasions where criminals are caught simply because they showed up in a neighbor’s security camera video, where they immediately give away their location and allow police to respond appropriately. It could be the most valuable gift these security cameras can give us, and it could mean making your neighborhood, and your home, a safer place.
The Google Nest Cam is a little more expensive than its competitors, at around $150. However, its reliability and features make the price reasonable.
Your Nest Cam will run fine without a subscription service, but to take advantage of all of its features, you’ll need a Nest Aware account.
The Google Nest Cam has industry-standard 1080p video resolution. This is more than enough for capturing important events, but some of the finer details might be lost.
The indoor/outdoor iteration of the Nest Cam is battery operated, but the indoor-only model is wired.
True to its reputation, the Google Nest Cam is among some of the best security cameras on the market today. While it’s a little more expensive than some of the other options available, it has great features and a solid design.
Kessler, S. (2011, Dec. 15). Nest: The Story Behind the World’s Most Beautiful Thermostat. Mashable.com.
BusinessWire. (2017, Sept. 20). Nest Expands Into Home Security With First Security System Designed to Be Easy on Residents, Tough on Intruders. Nest Labs.
Desai, R. (2020, May 12). 5 things to know about the new Nest Aware. Google Nest/The Keyword.