Since Google released the Nest Cam back in 2015,1 we’ve been awed by the power and performance of these cameras, from their slick facial recognition experience to their intuitive smart home ecosystem.
As we’re seeing with the latest release of its Google Nest Cam IQ, Google proves there is almost no limit to the potential of these cameras. So when we dug into Google Nest IQ for our hands-on review, we thought it would be best to test both the indoor and outdoor cams at the same time.
We found that the product design, activity tracking, and video features we tested in the Google Nest IQ cameras were second to none. But we also found the price tag of these products to be a bit steep, which can place a legitimate strain on cash-strapped consumers.
You also only have four cameras to choose from, so the product selection is not as robust as other brands like Arlo and Ring. But keep in mind that Nest is hyper-focused on mastering just a handful of cameras, and we think they’ve done that tremendously well.
After living with and interacting with these cams for a few days, we’re now sharing our full experience with you — the good and the bad. So let’s get to work.
Before we began unboxing, we could tell these cameras were not made for lightweights. The outdoor cam, especially, is quite heavy; it was evident these cams are well-made and exquisitely designed.
We tackled the outdoor cam first. We immediately noticed that since this is a wired setup, this cam must be mounted with screws, metal plates, a drill, and possibly some caulk for repairing wall damage. This told us we were dealing with an installation job that might turn out better if left to a professional.
Note that this is different from previous Nest Cams, which included a magnetic mount and were much easier to install. If the Nest IQ installation is over your head – and no shame if it is – you can always hire a Nest Pro to do the install for you.2
For this review, we chose to do the installation ourselves, because we’re gluttons for punishment and we didn’t have any plans that day.
We’re kidding. But it wasn’t easy, we won’t lie. We knew we wanted to install the outdoor cam high enough to get a clear view of our back yard and get optimal coverage, so we attached the brackets and screwed in the metal mounting plate right under our roof.
We know, we know. But what about that 25-foot cable wire attached to it? Where’s that supposed to go?
The handy instruction guide suggests that we “plan the cable path” before we mount the camera. That means we’re to measure the cable along the route where we’ll be installing it, making sure there’s enough slack between the power outlet and the camera. We did that, but then we were stuck with unsightly wires hanging from our nice, new camera.
Now, having researched and tested many different styles of cameras, we know that wires serve a real purpose: to eliminate the need for batteries and provide a more stable connection. In fact, some of the top-performing security systems in the world, like SimpliSafe, use wires with their cameras.
But we also know there are many options for wireless cameras that are super reliable, and – let’s face it – easier to install than Google Nest IQ Cams. It really does come down to personal preference here. However, if you really want a complete, wired security system, you are going to have to endure at least a couple of hours of setup. Put in the time, practice patience, and we think you’ll find it’s easier than you thought!
After installing the outdoor camera, it was time to turn our attention indoors. The Google Nest Cam IQ Indoor, we discovered, is much easier to install, as it comes with a stand and can be placed on a surface without mounting or drilling holes. As it’s only for use indoors, you don’t have to worry about weather damage, so you can set it up basically wherever you want. We like the flexibility here.
With that said, we still had the issue of the unsightly exposed wires. That does require a bit of handiwork. But we can’t stress this enough: Wired security systems just work better, plain and simple. Keep that in mind as you wipe the sweat off your brow after that installation job.
Once we had both cameras in place, we installed the Nest app on our phones and registered the cameras with their corresponding QR codes. We took advantage of a 30-day free trial for Nest Aware, which unlocks a whole world of advanced home automation features.
Now that we’ve finished setup, it’s time to see how these cameras perform in real-life situations.
One thing we loved right out of the gate is that both Google Nest IQ cams offer 1080p HD resolution with a 4K sensor. That means we experienced quality video resolution in real-time and in every recording, but with the sensor, we were able to really hone in on the fine details of our property.
An example: We had been getting reports in our neighborhood of people opening unlocked car doors and rummaging through them in the wee hours, looking for change or valuable items. Luckily, the thieves didn’t come to our property while we were using the Nest Cams (plus we lock our car doors), but if they had, we would have had a much better chance of identifying their faces. As we always say, the more evidence, the better!
Keep in mind that night vision has become a standard feature for security cameras in recent years, so it no longer surprises us when a camera’s night vision works well. But we have to say, the night vision on the IQ cams truly excelled during our tests.
Those critters tiptoeing around our yard in the middle of the night, feasting on our vegetable garden… we were finally able to spot them and even zoom in for more detail, and react accordingly.
Impressive, we thought. But again, not all that surprising. This is Google, after all.
Here’s a great feature that we typically don’t see in the industry: AI-powered facial recognition.3 The Nest Cam IQ models use artificial intelligence to detect familiar faces. We set it up to notify us via mobile alerts, with names and everything, when our cameras detect a familiar face. When someone who wasn’t “registered” walked by, the cameras immediately alerted us of the stranger. Pretty neat!
FYI: Familiar Faces doesn’t always work perfectly. Even after we had “registered” everyone in our household, the IQ cams did occasionally ask us who they were. We think this might have been due to the change in the person’s appearance – i.e. maybe they took their glasses off at night, or maybe the camera captured them in an odd position. This was resolved after we “reminded” the cameras who the faces belonged to.
It’s worth mentioning that with or without a Nest Aware subscription plan, you’ll get instant mobile alerts when your Nest Cam detects activity. And don’t worry about false alarms, as the IQ Cams allow for custom motion zones. We appreciated being able to dial in exactly what we wanted to receive notifications for. For instance, we knew we didn’t need to be alerted every time the indoor camera detected motion, so we changed the “When to Send” setting from “Always” to “No one’s home.” Now, our camera will only send motion alerts when we’re away.
With 24/7 live video on the IQ, we could open the Nest app and view our live video footage from pretty much anywhere, simply by opening the Nest app and tapping a camera view. Most security camera brands offer this feature these days. And we think it’s vital if you really want to monitor your home while you’re away.
If you already have a Google Assistant-enabled device, you’re probably accustomed to saying “OK Google” and asking your most burning questions.
Well, now you can have your Google Assistant and your camera in the same neat little package! In an upgrade to the original Google Nest Cams, Google Assistant is now embedded into the cameras.4 That means you can use the assistant just like you do with any one of Google Home’s speakers and displays, like Google Home Max or Nest Home Mini, as you build your fully connected and fully automated home.
Our indoor camera acted just like the other Google Assistant we have in our home – our Google Home Mini. It set reminders for us, found recipes on the web, and even told a dad joke or two.
That’s the magic of these cams: they’ve managed to pack so many helpful features into these devices, it’s hard not to be impressed.
Also new in the IQ Cams is Supersight, which is part of the Nest Aware subscription. Like a spyglass, Supersight can zoom in on a person and automatically follow them. Sounds creepy, right? Well, we found it particularly useful when combined with the Familiar Faces feature. Our Nest Cam IQs actually followed friends and family in the house to get an accurate reading before tipping us off with a mobile alert.
IQ Cams have a three-microphone array and high-quality speaker (HD talk and listen), whereas the original Nest Cams only have one microphone and speaker. Either way, you’ll be able to spook porch pirates and other intruders using your smartphone. And you’ll be able to do it in real-time, too, provided you have a strong Internet connection. For our part, we experienced very little lag in two-way audio. It was a refreshing boost!
Pro Tip: If you think you’ll change your Wi-Fi in the near future, take a picture of the QR codes on the cameras and print them out so you don’t have to take the cameras down to reconfigure them with the new Wi-Fi.
We’ll say it… Nest Cams are not cheap. The original Nest Cams started at $129. With the IQ devices, you’re getting a serious upgrade with Google’s state-of-the-art facial recognition technology and other nifty add-ons like the built-in Google Assistant. The question is, are all those bells and whistles really worth the price?
Here’s our pricing breakdown:
|Nest Cam IQ Indoor||Nest Cam IQ Outdoor|
|1080p HD video quality||✓||✓|
|Built-in Google Assistant||✓||✖|
We’re firm believers that when it comes to home security equipment, you usually get what you pay for. So when faced with the idea of paying $299 (for the indoor cam) and $399 (for the outdoor cam), we knew we’d have access to highly intelligent, innovative features to protect our home and family. And it’s hard to put a price on that. Also, keep in mind there are discounts for each additional camera you buy. For instance, you can save $100 when you buy two Nest Cam IQ Outdoor devices.
If you’re on a budget, we’d recommend checking out Ring cameras, which is the security camera brand we’ve consistently ranked at the top. Or, you could go with the original Nest Cams for $129 and $199, and you’ll still get 1080p HD video quality, night vision, and two-way talk. These cameras aren’t nearly as intelligent, and they don’t fully harness the power of Nest Aware, but in our experience, they’re more in line with industry average prices.
For us, spending a little extra on the IQ models and tapping into their super-impressive AI Familiar Faces and Supersight features, among other upgrades, was the right call.
We found Nest Aware,5 Nest’s subscription service, to be a little cheaper than Arlo’s Smart plans (also a great choice), and only slightly more expensive than Ring’s Protect Plans. In the words of Goldilocks, it’s juuuust right.
Here’s the bottom line on Nest Aware: If you have the Nest Cam IQ, the only way to harness its facial recognition technology is through this plan. With it, you’ll get 24/7 recording, 30 days of cloud storage, and Supersight. All of this is crucial in allowing the cameras to learn everything possible about your home, from the people in it to the activity around it. So we don’t recommend skimping here.
|Nest Aware||Nest Aware Plus|
|Video History||30-days||60-days (plus 10-days 24/7 video history)|
|Custom Activity Zones||✓||✓|
|Create & Share Clips||✓||✓|
|AI facial recognition||✓||✓|
|Monthly Fee||$6 per month||$12 per month|
|Yearly Fee||$60 per year||$120 per year|
As we went about our testing with the cameras, we caught a few instances where the close-up tracking on the outdoor camera didn’t take. At one point, when the camera picked up some kids running through our yard, it started to zoom in on their faces and follow them, but then stopped before they were out of the frame. We looked into this via Google Nest’s Community page, which – unsurprisingly – looks like a Google search page.
A few users pointed to issues with random misses on close-up tracking. A few others pointed to overall communication lags between the cameras and the Nest app. Our conclusion: it’s probably the Internet connection.
On our end, the issues were negligible and did not compromise the quality or performance of either camera. And as far as the customer support page is concerned, we’re confident that you’ll find resources there that’ll solve whatever problems you encounter. There’s no troubleshooting topic this page doesn’t cover!
Otherwise, if you still need to speak to a human, Google makes that relatively easy, too. Before Nest.com became part of the Google Store, we were hearing reports from many Nest customers running into problems making returns and following up on complex issues, but thankfully we didn’t experience any of that.
When we called in, Google’s support team was friendly and knowledgeable. But as we mentioned above, we were mostly able to find what we needed through their community page. Overall, we were pleased with Nest’s performance in the customer service department.
After trying out the Nest IQ indoor and outdoor security cameras, and really weighing the pros and cons, we have to say that our biggest gripe was with the high prices. We generally think $399 is steep for a security camera. But if you have a decent budget to work with, you value high-tech smart devices, and you can handle wired installation (or are willing to hire a pro), then we highly recommend springing for the IQs.
If you do buy the IQs, we also wholeheartedly recommend signing up for the free 30-day trial of Nest Aware so that you can really get the most out of your camera purchase. In our experience, a Nest Cam IQ (indoor or outdoor), combined with Nest Aware, offers one of the most powerful home security experiences available today. That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.
The A.I.-powered familiar face alerts we got with our Nest IQ cams worked exceedingly well, despite a few false matches. No complaints there.
They are, but for a reason. While many have bristled at the price point of Nest Cams, paying up to $399 for a single security camera actually makes sense when you consider the rugged, durable construction of these cameras and the super-smart features behind them.
No, but without a Nest Aware subscription, we discovered we couldn’t access certain features like Supersight, the IQ cam’s smart motion tracking tool, and continuous recording.
Yes, but not in quite the same way we used them with our Google Home devices. To use Nest Cams with an Amazon Alexa device (we have an Echo Show), we simply searched for the Nest skill by name in our Alexa app, linked the accounts, and pulled up our camera’s live feed using voice commands.
We’ve heard from a few users that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nest customer service agents are increasingly hard to reach via phone. But when we contacted them for a separate issue, we were able to speak with a friendly and knowledgeable agent with little wait time.
Statt, N. and Dieter, B. (2019, May 7). Google Nest: Why Google Finally Embraced Nest as its Smart Home Brand. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/7/18530609/google-nest-smart-home-brand-merging-hub-max-rebrand-io-2019
Nest Labs. (2020). Find a Nest Pro. https://nest.com/uk/nest-pro-installation/
Fortune Business Insights. (2020, July 8). Facial Recognition Market Size to Reach USD 12.92 Billion by 2027; Growing Adoption of Internet of Things (ioT) And AI Technologies to Stoke Demand.
Eadicicco, L. (2018, Feb. 21). You Can Now Talk to Your Nest Security Camera. Time.
Lloyd, Craig. (2017, May 13). What is Nest Aware, and Should You Pay for a Subscription? How-To Geek.