The Google Nest Cam IQ is a small indoor camera, which plugs into a mains socket, and keeps an eye on what it can see in the home when you're away.

It can alert you to motion and sound detection, be scheduled to switch on or off at given times, and if you have a Nest Aware subscription, then it can offer familiar face detection and all your captured video clips are stored in the cloud to access remotely as needed.

But just how well does Nest IQ work?

Design

  • Matte white subtle design
  • LED ring around camera face
  • Adjustable head

Like most of Google's smart home products - including Google Home devices - the Nest Cam IQ has a simple, minimalist design that doesn't draw too much attention to itself. From the side, it almost looks like the baby lamp from the early Pixar animation short.

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The entire exterior is a matte white plastic, which looks very similar to the material and finish used on the Google and Nest smart home devices, such as the Google Home and Nest Hub Max. Its base is a simple circle design with a USB Type-C port on the back and a grippy rubber strip underneath to ensure it doesn't slip easily from where it's placed.

On the top the camera head has a dome-shaped case with a large round speaker grille at the back, the latter which is made from multiple individually machined holes. The camera face itself is an all-black round one with very little extra to note. There's a single LED on the top which lights up when the camera is on, or flashes when video from the camera is being watched, while a Nest logo is positioned near the bottom.

One of the only eye-catching elements is an LED ring that surrounds the entire camera face, but this only lights up when you switch it on for the first time, when the camera isn't setup or when you're making use of the walkie-talkie feature. Once the process of getting it connected to an account is finalised, the LED light ring switches off - which makes sense, otherwise it would be too obvious when functioning day-to-day.

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To make it as adjustable as possible, the camera head sits on top of a ball joint that lets you tilt it so far back it can point the camera up at the ceiling, or almost down to the floor. It's a well considered part of the design, and doesn't move too easily to ensure it holds steady at whatever angle you decide to set it. 

Setup

  • Download Nest App
  • Scan QR code on the base

Because it has its own base built in, there's no DIY installation required of any kind. Just find the shelf or mantle you want to place the Nest Cam IQ on, then plug it into your nearest power outlet. The Type-C cable that comes with it is a good couple of meters long, so you don't have to be right next to a wall socket.

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Once it's plugged in, download the Nest Android or iPhone app, then sign into or setup a Nest account before choosing to add the Nest IQ as a device (you can host multiple Nest products here - from thermostats to smoke alarms, as applicable).

To add the device you can either use the smartphone camera to scan the QR code, which takes just a few seconds, or input the serial number details manually. Then use the app to select the Wi-Fi network and you're done.

It's worth noting that you can also use the Google Home app to setup your Nest Cam IQ since Google and Nest have merged.

Features

  • Daytime or night vision capture
  • App alert and email when motion is detected
  • Facial recognition (requires subscription)
  • Home/away assist and schedules

By default, the Nest Cam IQ is designed to respond to both motion and when it sees a person's face. You'll get an app notification on your phone as well as via email, at any time the camera sees someone you recognise, or don't recognise, or whenever it detects significant movement. But you probably don't want non-stop alerts, which is where a number of features in the settings come into play.

The Home/Away assist feature tells the camera to switch on or off, depending on whether or not you're at home, which is useful if you work from home during the day, or you simply don't want it recording you about your daily business on a day off.

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You can also schedule the camera based on the time of day. As an example, you could still want your camera to be on and recording at night time, when you're asleep, even if you have set it to go off when you're at home. With the schedule feature, it overrides the Home/Away assist to ensure that you've got a night time camera watching your home while you're sleeping, for example.

Another setting you can switch on is the familiar faces feature, which recognises people over time who live in your house, or friends that you know - like the Nest Hello video doorbell. This information can then be used to adjust whether the Nest Cam IQ alerts you via the app or not.

The Nest Cam IQ also has Google Assistant built-in, which is pretty simple to set-up and easy to turn off if you don't want it. When setup, and on, the Nest Cam IQ can detect the "Hey Google" or "Ok Google" hot words, accepting requests and offering responses.

When Google Assistant is activated, it even lights up the Nest Cam IQ's attractive blue LED ring. The one thing it can't do though, is play music. It's not a Cast or Spotify Connect enabled device and so can't be used for playlists and albums, but you can still use it to control compatible smart home devices or ask Google questions.  

Watch it in action in our smarthome setup video below:

Issues

On the whole, the Nest Cam IQ works really well. But it's not perfect.

Firstly, the camera is unable to detect when a face is an actual person in a room and when it's just a face on the TV. If you're planning on having the indoor camera in your living room, be sure not to have the television in its field of view at all. This is a common problem with indoor security cameras though so a fault that can be forgiven.

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Secondly, its facial recognition feature isn't 100 per cent accurate. Whenever it detects a face, you get to inform the service if that face is familiar or not, as you do with the Nest Hello. A profile for that face is then created and every recorded instance of that person is stored within that saved profile.

If our hair is a little different, or we had a different facial expression, were caught at a different angle or wearing glasses, it would see us as a new person, and create a new profile.

Perhaps more problematically though, the Nest Cam IQ sometimes has a hard time telling two similar-looking people apart from each other. For instance, a brother and sister who are nearly three years apart in age - clearly different heights and different hair style and colour - were detected as the same person and stored in the same profile automatically.

To improve this, the Nest Cam IQ should be equipped with the intelligence to measure a person's size and overall shape, for example, to help avoid instances where two people could be mistaken for the same one.

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Motion sensing is a much simpler technology and works pretty well. Although, it has a hard time telling the difference between motion outdoors and motion indoors. Ours regularly alerted us when a car went passed on the road outside the house, which is roughly 20 meters from the lounge window, perhaps 25 meters from where the camera was initially placed.

Is it worth buying?

  • Motion tracking within footage
  • Walkie-talkie function

Despite those shortcoming, the Nest Cam IQ is still a very useful and reliable indoor security camera. And it has one killer feature that we love.

While the camera has a 4K sensor, it doesn't use it to beam 4K content to your phone. It uses all that extra resolution so that it can digitally zoom within footage and pan to follow motion. That means, for example, if someone is spotted moving in the room, the camera zooms in and then follows that person, making it easier to identify them - all without physical moving parts and the noise associated with that.

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One other feature that's useful - particularly if you want to scare off intruders - is the ability to speak through the camera. When viewing the live feed, you press the microphone and then shout things like "go away or I shall taunt you a second time!" and watch the intruders flee... Or at least cause a mild panic, and warn them that you're calling the police.

Video quality

  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) capture
  • 4K sensor is used for motion panning only, not 4K output

The quality of footage from Nest IQ is decent, with plenty of sharpness and colour in daylight, and enough detail in night vision mode to see clearly what's happening.

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The only time you notice a slight drop in resolution is when the camera goes in to its motion tracking mode. The digital zoom loses detail as it crops in. 

One element of performance that's a little disappointing is the camera stream takes a little while to load up, or sometimes pauses and buffers, which can put it 5-10 seconds behind the real-world due to lag. Obviously if you want to make use of the walkie-talkie feature, this isn't ideal. 

Nest Aware

  • Facial recognition requires subscription
  • £8 or £24 per month
  • 10-days or 30-days of video

To get the most out of the Nest Cam IQ, or arguably to make it worthwhile having, you have to subscribe to Nest Aware. Without Nest Aware, you won't get the facial recognition feature, and you only get access to three hours worth of stored footage.

You do get a free trial for the first month, but after that you need to sign up for the £4, £8 or £24 per month package. The lower cost subscription gets you 5 days of video history, the middle offers 10 days of video history and the more expensive model gives you 30 days. All give you intelligent alerts/facial recognition, which basically ensures you get notified when a person is spotted in your property.

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With Nest Aware you also get Activity Zones, which lets you highlight specific parts of the room that the camera should pay more attention to. For instance, you can highlight a door or window, and the service can suggest other zones for you as well. 

It's worth noting that if you want to save money in the long run, you can pay for the annual plan, which gives you 12 months worth of Nest Aware for the price of 10 months. That means the lower tier costs £40, middle tier costs £80, while the higher tier is £240. It's not cheap, given the expense of the product itself.

Verdict

There is no doubt the Nest Cam IQ is one of the most technologically advanced personal indoor security cameras available. It has a lot of really great features, including built-in Google Assistant and seamless integration with Google Home devices. It's also attractive and will fit in to any home without drawing excess attention to itself.

But there's also no getting around the fact that the cost is prohibitive. 

The camera costs £299 to buy, which more expensive than most other great indoor smart home cameras - even if it does have more features than most. Then the subscription cost to Nest Aware - which makes the camera really worth having - will cost you at least another £40 or more over the first year.

Realistically, you're looking at being £340 down, for one camera and access to the cloud service. The Nest Cam IQ might have a mid-high IQ, but it's ongoing price point isn't so intelligent.

Also consider

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Arlo Ultra 4K

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The Arlo Ultra is pricier than the Nest Cam IQ but it offers 4K HDR video quality for those that want a crystal clear view of what is going on inside, or outside, their home. There's plenty of features available and the Arlo Ultra has a rechargeable battery so you can place it wherever you want.

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Netatmo Welcome

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It doesn't have a cloud back-up service like the Nest system, but the Netatmo Welcome is a very capable indoor camera. It costs £199 to buy and, because there's no cloud service, there's no monthly subscription to pay on top of that initial outlay. What's more, it's a very attractive camera and has facial recognition. 

This review was first published in 2017 and has since been updated to reflect new features and the market.