Nest became a household name by reinventing the thermostat, but now the Google-owned company has a range of smart devices that work together to automate or protect your home.
The latest product is this weatherproof camera that complements Nest’s existing indoor camera, and its performance and specifications are similar, which is no bad thing. Unsurprisingly, the two work seamlessly within the same excellent companion app, but Nest products are also supported by an ecosystem of smart home devices from other brands.
Just look for the ‘Works with Nest’ branding and you’ll find products that can complement each other by, for instance, turning on a smart bulb when the camera detects motion. It’s a benefit that you might not at first appreciate.
Design and build
Priced at £179 (around $220, AU$290), the Nest Cam Outdoor shares an aesthetic similarity with its indoor sibling, but it is rugged and waterproof to IP65 certification. That means it can survive a regular deluge. And instead of a being fixed to a stand, this one comes with a separate magnetic base that can be screwed to the wall to provide a magnetic cradle for the rounded back of the camera.
The power cable is fixed somewhat incongruously to the base of the camera. Next to this inlet are the perforated holes of the speaker, which being on the bottom, are safe from water ingress. The only problem is that this means you cannot install the camera upside-down.
The USB cable is rugged too, and at the end of its 3m length it’s joined via a waterproof junction to another 4.5m run that plugs into a mains power adapter.
The 1080p camera actually defaults to 720p mode and we think it looks good in either resolution. Ten IR sensors ensure that it can see clearly in the dark as well. A microphone and speaker are built-in for two-way audio communication, but you won’t find a microSD card slot for local video storage.
What sets this camera apart is an iOS/Android app that’s several notches above the competition. That’s not so surprising, given that Google is behind its development. The app shows you a live feed from your cameras, and provided you take out a subscription, it allows you to customise your notifications by setting up to three active motion zones. These are areas within the camera’s view which can be drawn and designated as sensitive to movement.
For example, you can use the companion app to draw a motion zone around a doorway, so that when it opens you’ll get an alert, but you won’t for mere movement around it.
Installation and use
Nest includes everything you need to install its outdoor camera, from the screws and wall plugs that fix the magnetic base, to the cable clips that secure the heavy-duty USB cable. The camera itself is held securely in place by the magnet, but with nothing else to keep it there other than the cable, a desirable gadget like this could itself become a target for thieves. Install well out of reach is our advice.
Once installed, getting the camera online is made very easy by the Nest companion app, or at least, it should be. The app walks you through a step-by-step process that’s made simple by the addition of a QRF code on the camera that your phone simply scans in order to pair. However, our camera would not pair with our Virgin router and after many attempts, we had to find an alternative router. We had a similar issue at a different location, which suggests a glitch in Nest’s system rather than our own.
Assuming you don’t have the same problems, Nest’s slick software should make the user experience the best in the business. Certainly, the expensive Nest Aware subscription makes the recording, ordering (on a clickable timeline of events) and playback of up to 30 days of video footage a seamless affair.
Picture quality is similarly impressive, especially in 1080p mode which records at an above-average 30 frames per second. However, we did experience quite a lot of frozen images while the video buffered and strained at the limit of our 10Mbps broadband network. For everyday use, 720p looks almost as detailed and requires less bandwidth.
The 10 infrared sensors ensure you get decent video quality in complete darkness too, something that cheaper cameras struggle with. As for audio, the microphone is good enough to pick up subtle sounds, while the speaker delivers a clear voice when you talk via your phone.
The motion sensor is also fairly successful at differentiating between people and animals. There were occasions when a cat was mistaken for a human, but it certainly managed to filter out the irrelevant movement that’s bound to occur in the camera’s field of view.
This camera feels quite rugged and well-constructed enough to survive the worst weather without leaking. The robust 25-foot cable adds installation flexibility and the strong magnetic bracket is a neat way to fix it to a wall.
Picture quality is excellent in both 1080p and 720p modes with very good night vision too.
The main advantages with Nest, though, are its strong software support, available on iOS, Android and via a web portal, and its unrivalled integration with a whole ecosystem of smart home devices.
It must be said that the USB cable looks rather odd, emerging from the chin of the camera and not out through the bracket, which also leaves it vulnerable to burglars, who might like to steal the camera itself. It is rather expensive and fixed to the wall only by a magnet, after all.
We had some trouble getting our camera to recognise certain routers, despite help from the excellent companion app. Our main concern, however, is the price. The initial outlay seems fair, but you really need to take out a subscription to benefit from all of the features available, and Nest Aware is the most expensive service we have come across – you pay £8/$10 per month (around AU$13) to keep 10 days of video history for a single camera.
Nest’s stylish camera is backed up by the most user-friendly companion app of all the security cameras we’ve seen and its Nest Aware service, which stores up to 30 days of footage in the cloud, is the most reliable and accessible. The only problem is that it’s also the most expensive and without paying for a subscription, you cannot access all of the camera’s features.
The camera itself is very well specified, so we suspect that its integration with other Nest products, like the brand’s smart thermostat, is what gives this device an advantage over the rest.