The personal home security market is on the up, thanks to reduced costs and size of components required to make it all work. Now, we no longer need a dedicated room to setup recorders and monitors, all we need is a small camera and an internet connection.
That's exactly where Nest Cam IQ fit into the equation. It's a small 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 learn your behaviour patterns, be scheduled to switch on or off at given times, and if you pay for an extended subscription then all your captured video clips are stored in the cloud to access remotely as needed.
With increasing numbers of smart products appearing, however, Nest's big appeal is that it's backed by one of the world's biggest companies: Google. That means there's the resource and expertise behind the product to help it stand out - and improve over time, too.
But just how well does Nest IQ work?
Nest Cam IQ review: Design
- Matte white subtle design
- LED ring around camera face
- Adjustable head
Like a most of Google's recent smart home products - like Google Home and Google Wifi - 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.
The entire exterior is a matte white plastic, which looks very similar to the material and finish used on the aforementioned Google smart home devices. 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, and a Nest logo 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.
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.
Nest Cam IQ review: 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 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.
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 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.
Nest Cam IQ review: Now with added Google Assistant
- 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 camera is designed to respond to both motion and when it sees a person's face. By default 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.
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 scheduler, it overrides the home/away assist to ensure that you've got a night time camera watching your home while you're unconscious.
Another setting you can switch on is the familiar faces feature, which can use the camera over time to recognise people who live in your house, or friends that you know, which can be used to adjust whether it alerts you via the app or not.
One feature added some time after our review first published was the addition of Google Assistant. With up to date firmware, we received a notification to install/enable the Google Assistant feature, and it was pretty simple to set up.
Once accepted, we signed in with our Google account, waited for it to be authorised and then it was done. The process took a couple of minutes, and afterwards the Nest Cam was able to detect the "Hey Google" hot word, and accept requests and offer responses. It even lights up its 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.
Watch it in action in our smarthome setup video below:
Nest Cam IQ review: Issues
On the whole, it 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.
Secondly, its recognition isn't 100 per cent accurate. Whenever it detects a face, you get to inform the service if that face is familiar or not. It then creates a profile for that face and stores every recorded instance of that person within that saved profile. If our hair was 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 then we'd create a new profile. In the end, we had five different profiles for the same person.
Perhaps more problematically, it 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, we feel the camera should be equipped with the intelligence to measure a person's size and overall shape, to help avoid instances where two people could be mistaken for the same one.
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.
Nest Cam IQ review: Is it worth buying?
- Motion tracking within footage
- Walkie-talkie function
Despite those shortcoming, the Nest Cam IQ was 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.
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.
Nest Cam IQ review: 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.
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 Cam IQ review: 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 a few hours worth of stored footage.
You do get a free trial for the first month, but after that you need to sign up for either the £8 or £24 per month package. The lower cost subscription gets you 10 days of video history, the more expensive model gives you 30 days. Both give you intelligent alerts/facial recognition, which basically ensures you get notified when a person is spotted in your property.
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 £80, while the higher tier is £240. It's not cheap, given the expense of the product itself.
There is no doubt that the Nest Cam IQ is one of the most technologically advanced personal indoor security cameras available. It has a lot of really great features. It's 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 is already at least £100 more expensive than all the other great indoor smart home cameras. Then the subscription cost to Nest Aware - which makes the camera really worth having - will cost you at least another £80 or more over the first year. Realistically, you're looking at being £379 down, for one camera and access to the cloud service.
It might have a mid-high IQ, but it's ongoing price point isn't so intelligent.
Alternatives to consider
It doesn't have a cloud back-up service like the Nest system, but it 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.
Read the full review: Netatmo Welcome review: Big Brother is watching and knows who you are
If you want an affordable option, the Logitech Circle is an ideal solution although it doesn't have many of the smart features found in either the Nest Cam IQ or the Netatmo Welcome. It only costs £160 and can record 24 hours of video in the cloud without a subscription. After that it costs a maximum of £7.99 per month, with the lowest tier subscription costing just £2.99.
Read the full review: Logitech Circle review: The portable home security camera