The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is a version of the company's Nest Cam IQ smart home camera designed for the outside world, ideal to help keep a secure eye on your property. It's also the update for the original Nest Cam Outdoor.

The IQ Outdoor includes a number of design and feature enhancements and specification improvements based on feedback from customers. The result is a camera that's bigger, bolder and smarter. But is it worth the extra money?

Installation

  • Twice the size of the previous Nest Cam Outdoor
  • LED ring to highlight when it's being used
  • Two installation options include cable security fitting
  • 7.5m power cable

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor looks very much like the previous camera, only much larger. The IQ has a more substantial body with a more structured, robust finish that's designed not only to house improved technology but also to stand up to a wider range of weather conditions.

The IQ comes with a secure backplate that's screwed into your wall. This requires a hex security key in order to remove, so security is a paramount part of the design.

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The new backplate design also allows for a more secure fit. The power cable - which is USB-C based - is a nice length and can be run through a dedicated hole in the backplate straight into the house, meaning you can avoid exposing any wires to the outside world where they can be tampered with. The cable locks into place so it won't come unattached, even when tugging on it.

Installation of the camera is a relative breeze. The biggest issue you're likely to face is routing the power cable, as for the best installation you'll need to drill a hole through the outside wall of your home (you can pass it through a window or opening if you'd prefer, but it's less secure to do so). You can get an idea of the tools you'll need in Nest's support articles, but the main requirement is for a 1/2in or 1.3cm wide hole. You'll need a heavy-duty masonry drill bit, the necessary protections, and probably permission from the other half too.

The instructions recommend pairing the camera with the Nest app before committing to its install to confirm that the Wi-Fi signal is strong enough and you get the correct angle of view from its proposed site. 

Design features

  • IP66 rated with -40C to +45C operational temperature
  • 4K, 8MP sensor with 12x digital zoom and HDR (high dynamic range)
  • 1080p recording and 130-degree field of view
  • Three microphones and 15 x more powerful speaker
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi compatibility, 2x2 MIMO

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor includes an uprated IP66 housing, which allows it to cope with lower and higher temperatures than the previous camera, to the tune of -40C to +45C. That makes it more than capable of handling most residential weather conditions around the globe. In rural England neither of those extremes will ever be an issue, however, so we can't comment on how well it'll withstand constant sunshine or freezing ice.

On the camera front, the IQ houses an 8MP sensor that's capable of capturing 1080p video footage with a 130-degree field of view. This sensor also caters for high dynamic range (HDR), to help it balance out between shadows and highlights for the best possible detail. In practice, we found this meant a slightly better image capture than on the earlier Nest Cam Outdoor.

There's a 12x digital zoom you can use on captured and live footage, too. This is much like on any other camera: any slight zoom quickly results in a blocky and pixelated image, as it's digitally enhancing the image rather than using an optical resolve. We found the zoomed image is clear enough to see faces of people approaching the house, but not sharp enough to make out neighbours' number plates across the road. 

Within the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor's body are three microphones. Two of these are intended to allow for noise-cancellation and suppression that helps with detecting suspicious noises in the local area, but also for use with the two-way communication system. There's a large speaker system housed within the body that Nest says is 15 times more powerful than the speaker on the previous model. We believe it too: it's an incredibly loud two-way system, so loud that we discovered the whole street could hear our television broadcasting from inside the house through the mic on our smartphone.

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The two-way system uses a full-duplex design, which means you only need to press the button on the app once to open communication. Then you can talk to people on the other end like placing a call on your smartphone. The downside is sometimes a delay in video playback means a lag in the conversation. There's also a light ring which illuminates to help highlight to visitors where your voice is coming from... though we doubt they'd fail to notice given the speaker's loudness. 

A definite highlight of the new camera is the inclusion of 2x2 MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) transmitters. These updated transmitters ensure a steady and solid connection to the camera and none of the disconnects we saw with the previous model. 

Video quality and bandwidth usage

  • 24/7 live video with motion detection
  • Automatic night vision mode
  • Supersight for automatic zoom and tracking 
  • 100-400GB/month bandwidth use

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor captures 24/7 live video at Full HD resolution (max), with automatic night vision mode and HDR. There's also a person-tracking mode called Supersight, where the camera automatically tracks and zooms-in on people as they approach the house, just like a proper security camera.

We found this quality is good enough for day-to-day home security. It's capable of recognising people and allowing for a good video of the area it's capturing, day or night. 

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One thing to bear in mind is the impact the quality has on data usage. You can change the recording quality within the app to set the camera to your preferred quality. The higher the quality, the more data you'll use. Something you need to be wary of if you have a fair usage policy on your home broadband.

With the IQ set to the very best quality, the camera will attempt to use 400GB of data per month at around 4.0Mbps. At the lowest, it will use 100GB. The more cameras you have, the more data you'll use. This might be a consideration as usage may be limited or restricted by your broadband provider depending on the broadband policies. 

App features and settings

  • Person detection alerts without subscription
  • Familiar face detection and alerts
  • Desktop browser access and smartphone app control
  • Philips Hue Lighting, Wemo plugs, TP-Link and Lifx compatibility

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is controlled via the Nest app - available for both iOS and Android - which is the same app that controls Nest thermostats and other Nest products. It's a neat solution located in the one place.

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The app is pretty powerful too. There are a wealth of settings within it that allow you to adjust it to your preference. You can change how notifications are sent, what you get notified about and when. You can also do things like setup the camera to turn on and off when you're home, away, or on a specific schedule. Turn the status light on or off, set the microphone to record or not, and more. 

Another bonus of this device is the compatibility with Philips Hue lighting, Wemo plugs, TP-Link and Lifx devices. This allows you to setup such devices so when you're away from home, if the camera detects movement outside the house it can do clever things like turn on your lights to give the illusion that someone is home.

Notifications and alerts

Notifications are obviously where the action happens with any smart home camera. These alerts are designed to let you know when there's an issue, a threat to the security of your home, or just to alert you when family members have returned home.

The problem with some of these devices is you'll get bombarded with alerts for things you don't need to know about - like changes in light being reported as motion. With notifications set to "all", the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor goes to town. As our camera faces the driveway, it would pick up neighbours walking their dogs, cars going up and down the road and even cats wandering the neighbourhood. That's a lot of notifications.

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The camera has an option for sending notifications when it hears people talking. This is theoretically pretty powerful when combined with people detection. In reality, though, we found that a pigeon cooing or even a strong breeze would set it off with disappointing regularity. 

Notifications can be set to push notifications to your phone, email, or both. We find email notifications to be really handy as they often include a photo of the activity that's been detected. You can also adjust notifications to limit them to just when people are detected and adjust so they're only reported when no one is home. 

People detection is the most useful feature of the IQ. It's also a feature included for free out-of-the-box - without the need to subscribe to a Nest Aware plan (subscription costs are detailed at the bottom of this review). It's not a perfect system though: sometimes the camera would only record/notify when people walked directly in the line of sight; if people walked through the peripheral vision of the camera, it often didn't report them as people. Yet, reviewing the recordings through the day we could see the camera using the Supersight mode and zoom to follow people it noticed, despite not notifying them as people. 

Familiar face detection

With a Nest Aware subscription, people notifications are improved with the power of "familiar face" detection.

This system allows you to mark friends and family members who approach the home and label them so the camera will alert you when it sees them entering or leaving. This allows for easier event filtering too, so you can quickly see when strangers have been seen. 

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We found this detection to be pretty intelligent, quickly identifying family members. It is possible to help improve the accuracy if you combine and merge images in the app where the system hasn't determined who they are, but we rarely found the need to do this.

You do need to be aware of compliance with the law in your area, though, as privacy legislation may require consent from visitors to the home before you can use this system.

Event filtering and activity zones

Events detected by the camera can be filtered so they can be quickly viewed within the app at a glance. This includes filtering for when the camera has detected people, talking, motion, sound, familiar faces and unfamiliar faces. Clearly, the more you have included in this list, the more events you get within the app. We found most of the time it made sense to limit filtering to people, otherwise we ended up with hundreds of events throughout the day to scroll back through.

The app also allows for the creation of activity zones based on areas you do or don't want notifications from. For example, person detection near a door or gate might be useful, but a place where members of the public regularly walk by might not be. 

Google Assistant compatibility

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is compatible with Google Assistant, which means you can use Google Home devices and your phone to cast footage from your camera to your television via a Chromecast. Once paired, a simple command of "Hey Google, play (location name) camera on my Chromecast" is enough to get the footage on your big screen. 

Subscription costs and benefits

  • Nest Cam IQ Outdoor offers familiar faces alerts with subscription
  • Nest Aware subscription price changes and discounts available

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor comes with a 30 day free trial of Nest Aware - Nest's subscription plan - which means you get a taster of what's on offer at the full subscription level. After that time, if you don't subscribe the camera defaults to the free plan.

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This free plan only offers a three-hour video history, motion alerts, person alerts, a live video feed, and the two-way communication features. The inclusion of the person notifications is an upgrade from the previous camera and very handy, but you don't get familiar faces alerts without a subscription. You also cannot download and share clips or access some of the other useful features.

With a Nest Aware subscription, you can access up to 30-days worth of video history, 24/7 continuous video footage, intelligent alerts, clips and time-lapse and access the activity zone settings. 

Current subscription costs are:

  • £4 a month for 5-days of recordings
  • £8 a month for 10-days
  • £24 a month for 30-days

There are also discounts available for additional cameras:

  • £3 a month for 5-days
  • £4 a month for 10-days
  • £12 a month for 30-days
Verdict

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is certainly much improved over the original Nest Cam Outdoor. Although still far from subtle in terms of design, it's easier to install and its design changes make it more secure too - hiding the power cable behind the secure mounting for wiring it directly into the house is a brilliant update. 

The IQ Outdoor is enhanced in many other areas too: the camera's transmitters mean it doesn't suffer from issues with disconnects from Wi-Fi; the powerful speaker mean its much better for two-way communication; the footage is clearer and the audio crisper; and the notifications are more intelligent.

However, the IQ Outdoor is let down by the footage and feature limitations of its free plan. Only being able to access three hours of footage is seriously limiting as you could be burgled overnight and wake in the morning a few hours later to find you couldn't see the recordings. Other smart cameras offer as much as 24 hours of free footage. Add that the new camera is £329/$379 to purchase, with a likely monthly subscription on top, and it's a pricey solution... but a greatly capable one.

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Alternatives to consider

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Ring Floodlight Cam

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It might not be the prettiest outdoor camera ever, but it has one major benefit: there's no subscription cost. Yep, simply connect to Dropbox or an FTP and you'll be able to save all the footage you need.