Since Google released the first Nest Cams back in 2015,1 their slick facial recognition experience and sleek hardware have become a huge hit with homeowners. I took the brand’s latest generation cameras, Google Nest IQ, for a test drive recently, digging into its many features and premium-level technology for the better part of a week.
As with their other Nest-branded products like the Nest Hello Doorbells, Google proves there is almost no limit to the potential of their Nest Cams. (Visit our full Nest Hello Doorbell review for more.)
Did it all add up to the perfect camera experience? Not quite – but close. Today, I’ll take you through the good, bad, and everything else you’ll need to know before adding a Nest Cam to your home, as well as how it stacks up against the industry’s best security camera picks, like Arlo and Ring.
FYI: Google Nest has temporarily discontinued their “IQ” lineup of cameras, but they are slated to relaunch later this year with a whole new lineup.
Without further ado, let’s get into Nest Cams.
Before I even opened the box, it was evident these cameras were not made for lightweights. The outdoor cam, especially, is quite heavy when compared to its peers; it was evident these cams are well-made and exquisitely designed.
Going to the outdoor cam first, you might notice 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. So you know you’ll be dealing with a more complex installation job.
Note, here, that this mode of installation is different from previous Nest Cams, which included a magnetic mount and were much easier to install. If the Nest Cam 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.
For the average homeowner, an installation like this isn’t necessarily tougher than installing, say, the Ring Spotlight Camera I tested not long ago. You want to place it high enough to get a clear view of your backyard and get optimal coverage, so you might have to dig out that ladder. Also, you’ll want to plan your cable path2 before picking a final destination for this camera, making sure there’s enough slack between the power outlet and the camera. Without this, you might be stuck with unsightly wires hanging from your nice, new camera.
Now, having researched and tested many different styles of cameras, I do 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 Home Security, use wires with their cameras. So don’t be too turned off by them; cameras do generally work better this way.
If you’re looking for cameras you can place anywhere with even easier installation, take a look at my Blink camera system experience. 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. With a little patience, you should be up and running in a little under an hour.
Compared to installing the outdoor camera, the indoor Google Nest camera was mighty simple 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. I think you’ll like the flexibility here.
With that said, this is also a wired camera, and it might take some creative angling to avoid unsightly wire exposure. That does require a bit of handiwork. But I can’t stress this enough: Wired security systems just work better, plain and simple.
With both cameras in place, you can get to the business of setting up the cameras with your Wi-Fi and getting all that Google-stamped tech in your hands. Here, you’ll get a pretty standard setup process for Wi-Fi devices. You’ll install the app, scan the QR code, insert logins and passwords, and in a twist, you can now take advantage of a 30-day free trial for Nest Aware, which unlocks a whole world of advanced home automation features. (For more smart home tips, check out our complete home automation systems guide.)
Now, let’s go through some of the key takeaways from these cams. Pay close attention here; you might find a few surprises.
One thing I noted right out of the gate is that both Google Nest IQ cams offer 1080p HD resolution with a 4K sensor.3 You’ll get quality video resolution in real time and in every recording, and the sensor will help you really hone in on the fine details of your property.
While this isn’t an earth-shattering feature, look at it this way: 1080p is still the gold standard for this industry. With a bonus 4K sensor, Nest Cams will get you the clearest recordings possible, but it’s important to remember these are still wireless cameras. You’ll see occasional buffering and some lags in playback in even the best wireless security cameras, so don’t worry if things get bumpy now and then.
You’d be hard pressed to find a security camera these days that doesn’t have some night vision feature. But Nest Cams happen to handle this really well, again due to that sparkling Google tech behind them.
Those critters tiptoeing around your yard in the middle of the night, feasting on your vegetable garden… with Nest Cams, you’re finally able to spot them and even zoom in for more detail, and react accordingly.
Impressive, sure. But again, not all that surprising. This is Google, after all.
Here’s a great feature you typically don’t see in the industry: artificial intelligence-powered facial 4recognition. The Nest Cam IQ models use AI to detect familiar faces. You can set it up to alert your phone when it detects a familiar face, and when someone who isn’t “registered” walks by, the cameras immediately alert you of the stranger. Pretty neat, and definitely one of those “nice-to-have” features in a security camera.
An example: After hearing a local news report about a rash of car break-ins, I used one of the Nest Cams to check for signs that the same activity might be happening nearby. Luckily, the thieves didn’t come close (plus, my car doors are locked). But this is the kind of scenario the Nest Cam is meant for: Identifying and tracking suspicious activity, and sending you rich, textured notifications with zeroed-in images of the activity just a couple of seconds after it happened.
FYI: If Nest Cams are a bit out of your price range, consider Reolink cameras. They’re not Google, and they can’t track your face, but these cameras tested really well in my full Reolink camera review.
Though it didn’t work perfectly for me every time, Familiar Faces is one of those features that sets Nest Cams apart from the herd. Over time, AI features like this work better the longer you own the camera, continuing to analyze facial data until it has fully registered each resident of your home.
This is one of those features where you’re not going to get 100 percent accuracy on day one. Just give it a couple of days, and you’ll see the whole system start to work more smoothly.
One advantage of Nest Cams to keep in mind is that with or without a Nest Aware, you’ll always get instant mobile alerts when your Nest Cam detects activity. This isn’t too far removed from the subscription plan you’d get with a Lorex camera, for example, but it’s always nice to have a few freebies when all is said and done. (For more on Lorex, head over to my hands-on Lorex camera analysis.)
And for the most part, you probably won’t have to worry about false alarms, as the Google Nest IQ Cams allow for custom motion zones. Common in the biggest names in the biz, custom motion zones help you dial in exactly what you want to receive notifications for. For instance, if you know you won’t need to be alerted every time the indoor camera detects motion, you can change the “When to send” setting from “Always” to “No one’s home.” Now, your camera will only send motion alerts when you’re away.
With 24/7 live video, you can open the Nest app and view your live video footage from pretty much anywhere. Most security camera brands offer this feature these days, and it really is vital if you want to monitor your home while you’re away.
One word of caution, though: If you want to set the camera to record 24/7, that won’t be free. You’ll pay a sizable annual (or monthly) fee for all that storage and data through Nest Aware. But keep in mind that this is the same technology that brought us the groundbreaking Nest Smart Thermostat.
Simply put, I don’t think it’s worth skimping on.
FYI: For another stellar wired home security option, check out our hands-on review of Night Owl Cameras.
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 cameras4. 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.
Pro Tip: Need more Google smart home ideas? See our guide to the best security systems that work with Google.
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, it’s particularly useful when combined with the Familiar Faces feature. Now, it can actually follow friends and family in the house to get an accurate reading before tipping you off with a mobile alert.
Again, this is a paid feature that requires a Nest Aware subscription. And, like Familiar Faces, it’s not an essential component but more of a nice-to-have feature you’d expect from Google. If you’re looking for more “bare essentials” cameras that do the job just as well, you might be interested in something from Amcrest (see my latest Amcrest review to learn more).
Nest 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. Consider it 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.
If you haven’t picked up on this by now … Nest Cams are not cheap. The original Nest Cams started at $129 and shot up pretty significantly with the IQ upgrade, which is an important consideration if you’ve never bought a Nest Cam before. They’re not totally outrageous cost-wise, though; even something as simple as Ring’s Stick Up camera is going to cost you close to $100 for equipment and storage. Again, it’s very much a get-what-you-pay-for scenario here. And by the way, Ring Stick Up Cam is still a really good camera for that price; read more in my full Ring Stick Up Cam review.
Here’s our latest Nest Cam pricing breakdown. For a deeper look at costs and pricing, visit our full Nest Cam pricing guide.
|Google Nest Cam Indoor||1080p HD, magnetic base, person alerts||$129.99|
|Google Nest Cam Outdoor||1080p HD, magnetic mount, person alerts, weatherproof||$199|
|Google Nest Cam IQ Indoor||1080p with 4K sensor, facial recognition, instant alerts||$299|
|Google Nest Cam IQ Outdoor||1080p with 4K sensor, facial recognition, instant alerts, weatherproof||$399|
As with any home security purchase, signing up for a subscription is usually going to give you a better experience. Using Nest Cams with a Nest Aware subscription will definitely deliver that.
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 about your home, from the people in it to the activity around it. So I 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||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|
Google Nest’s community page, which – unsurprisingly – looks like a Google search page – is a helpful resource if you’re having trouble with your Nest Cams. 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, there were reports from Nest customers running into problems making returns and following up on issues, but you shouldn’t expect to experience any of that.
When I called in, Google’s support team was friendly and knowledgeable. But as mentioned above, you’ll probably be able to find the answer you need via their community page.
After trying out the Nest IQ indoor and outdoor security cameras, and really weighing the pros and cons, the biggest gripe was with the high prices. It is asking a lot to charge $399 for a security camera, even after that meaty IQ upgrade. 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 you’ll be really happy with a pair of Nest Cams.
In my experience, a Nest Cam IQ (indoor or outdoor), combined with Nest Aware, offers one of the most powerful home security experiences available today.
But alas … the specific IQ cameras I tested have gone to the chopping block and have been discontinued. Thankfully, though, you can still purchase Google Nest’s standard lineup of indoor and outdoor cameras. I’ll update this Nest Camera guide again just as soon as the company shows their hand regarding next moves on IQ.
Yes, Nest offers a generous two-year warranty. They also have a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Yes. As you spend more time getting to know your Nest Cams, they’ll continue recognizing people in your home to get better insight. It’s not 100 percent accurate, but it still gets the job done.
No, Nest does not require any long-term contracts. The Nest Aware cloud plans can be canceled at any time.
Nest’s customer service can be a mixed bag. I didn’t have any issues reaching and speaking with a friendly and knowledgeable agent, but you might find the live chat feature to be a bit lackluster.
Absolutely, especially for the IQ Cams. For only $6 per month, you can get 30 days of video history and a host of advanced features like Familiar Faces and 24/7 monitoring. Definitely worth it.
BBC. (2015, June 17). Google-owned Nest launches HD security camera.
Reolink. (2020, October 29). How to Run Security Camera Wires: Step-by-Step Guide & Videos.
Axis. (2019, October). Sensor size and image quality in 4K cameras.
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.
Jaime Fraze is an experienced digital editor in the tech, business and food spaces, having produced content for clients ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to fledgling nonprofits for more than 15 years. As a wife, mother and homeowner, she understands that buying home security products can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s why Jaime has constantly strived to ensure that every piece of content she produces has met SafeHome.org’s rigorous standards, and that her readers come away with the power to make better, smarter decisions. Learn more about Jaime here