(Pocket-lint) - Google updated its Nest offering in 2021, not only with a battery-powered video doorbell but also a battery-operated Nest camera - making installation and positioning significantly easier across the board.
The Nest Cam (Outdoor or Indoor, Battery) - yes, it has a clunky name, brackets and all, which we'll be truncating for the majority of this review - can be used indoors or outdoors, just as its full name makes abundantly clear.
Previously there were two Nest models - separate indoor and outdoor 'IQ' offerings - so you chose the model based on where you were installing the camera. Now you don't need to even think about that, giving greater flexibility. So just how good is the 2021 battery-powered Nest Cam?
- Measures: 83 x 83mm / Weight: 398g
- IP54 dust- and water-resistant
- Finish: 'Snow' only
The Nest Cam is significantly larger than the cameras it replaces, but it offers familiar design features. The white plastic body - which is called 'Snow', apparently, and made from 47 per cent post-consumer recycled material according to Google - has a smooth matte finish.
On the front there's a plastic black face, which is matte rather than glossy as found on the older Nest Cam models, in which the camera sensor lives in the middle. There's an LED light at the top, which lights up green when the camera is active.
Look closely and there is no mistaking that the Nest Cam is a security camera, but Google does an excellent job of making it much less of an eyesore than some competing conventional security cameras.
The white-domed rear of the 2021 Nest Cam magnetically attaches to a matching white disc, which you can mount anywhere. It's a strong magnet, though there is of course nothing stopping someone walking up to it and pulling the camera off.
On the underside of the Nest Cam's body there's a screw-mount for those who want to attach it to the stand - which is sold separately - alongside a charging connection for those who have the luxury of a plug socket nearby.
The Nest Cam's design is as nice as you can expect from a security camera, so it looks pretty good on the side of your house. However, its size means it's more subtle outside than in, especially when mounted rather than on the stand.
The only other thing we would say here is that there's also a Nest Cam (Wired) coming soon. It's cheaper, hard-wired only, and could be more suitable if you are planning on having it inside and plugged in. There's also a Nest Cam Floodlight due late in 2021, if you're after something for outside with built-in illumination.
- Sticks magnetically to metal surface
- Mounts to wall with two screws
- Stand available separately
- Google Home app
Aside from the Nest Cam's inoffensive design, it's actually the installation that makes this particular device so appealing. Previously, the Nest Cam Outdoor required some serious consideration when it came to installation - you needed to get power to it, which for most people meant professional installation and the associated additional cost.
The 2021 Nest Cam doesn't need to be hard-wired, but it can be. If you have easy access to power close to where you want to install the camera then, sure, why not? You get more features, such as continuous recording - if you have a Nest Aware subscription anyway. Otherwise you can use the battery and charge it when necessary.
We mentioned the magnetic backplate, which makes it very easy to take the Nest Cam on and off in order to charge it - though we're talking every month here, rather than every other day. A charging cable and plug come in the box and it's a specific connection so no USB Type-C (like the Nest Doorbell (Battery) has).
The magnetic backplate attaches to a wall plate, which requires mounting with two screws. There is also the option of a stand though, which we would probably recommend for indoor use for greater subtlety. Once you've positioned the Nest Cam where you want it, it's simply a case of following the step-by-step instructions in the Google Home app, which is very straightforward (note: it doesn't use the Nest app, which we think is a bit of a shame, as Home is clunkier in our view).
Camera and features
- Functions in: -20°C to 40°C (-4°F to 104°F)
- 2-megapixel, 1/2.8-inch sensor
- 130-degree FOV, 1080p 30fps
- Speaker & microphone
Under the hood of the Nest Cam you'll find a 2-megapixel sensor, which outputs wide-angle 1080p footage (up to 30fps), with both night vision and high dynamic range (HDR) features enhancing what you can see day or night.
Other features are plentiful. There's a speaker and microphone on board allowing for Talk and Listen through the Google Home app, so you can communicate with anyone that the camera picks up.
The Nest Cam can identify people, animals, vehicles and motion without a subscription, and you can toggle each on and off as you please, meaning you can tailor notifications so you aren't alerted each time, say, a tree blows in the wind. There's also Familiar Face detection - if you have a Nest Aware subscription - which can recognise specific faces and alert you accordingly.
There are also Activity Zones that enable you to determine a certain section within the Nest Cam's view that's particularly important. This could be anything, but we set up a zone for the doors on our outside office, which allowed us to get alerts when we needed them, rather than just when people or the cat were in the garden.
The Nest Cam will also continue recording even when there's a Wi-Fi outage, thanks to its battery power, and you get access to the previous three hours' worth of event recordings without a Nest Aware subscription (up to 60 days with the relevant subscription though - useful if you're often away).
- Wired or battery operated
- Works better with Google than Amazon
The 2021 Nest Cam is an excellent security camera in our experience. The camera quality is good - both in terms of image and video, despite only being 1080p resolution - though not as good as the older Nest Cam Indoor IQ. It also misses out on the feature that saw the Nest Cam Indoor IQ zoom and track a subject without losing detail.
There's very little delay between the camera spotting something and an alert coming through to your phone. It's still a couple of seconds, but nothing to write home about. The alerts are also great, with the camera very good at actually detecting an event.
We love that you can toggle the various different categories on or off - motion, people, vehicles and animals - as it makes notifications much more streamlined, only alerting you when actually necessary. Our older Nest Cam Outdoor alerts us a lot more than the 2021 Nest Cam, but 50 per cent of those alerts aren't necessary.
We chose to have continuous power to the Nest Cam during testing, using the outdoor weatherproof cable to see how it dealt with various weather conditions. We found the image quality during the day and night to be good, as well as in bad conditions. The only downside of the cable is that it is back-to-front in terms of design, which means the cable is seen more easily than if it was reversed. If it had been reversed though, the mounting screw would be unusable so it's an odd design move.
Battery life is said to be around one-and-a-half months when the area in front of the camera is busy, though you will have to remove the entire camera to charge the battery as it isn't removable, unlike Ring's Stick Up Cam.
The one other thing to bear in mind is that the battery-powered Nest Cam plays very nicely with the Google smart home devices, like the Nest Hub Max, but the same can't be said for other smart home systems, like Amazon's Echo range.
The Google Nest Cam (Outdoor or Indoor, Battery) offers a solid, sustainable and inoffensive design - one that you won't mind having inside or outside your home - while also delivering good video quality and plenty of features without the necessity for an additional Nest Aware subscription (though adding one extends recordings history and more).
The battery operation adds flexibility that just wasn't there with previous Nest Cam models, making it a great option for any home, though you do lose a couple of features opting for battery over a hard-wired install. And if you have Amazon Echo devices it's worth noting it won't play as nicely as it does with Google's smart home products.
Overall, the 2021 Nest Cam isn't the cheapest, and the Google Home app isn't as good as the Nest app, but it's still an excellent security camera with a great blend of design, features and convenience.
Ring Stick Up Cam
For those with an Amazon smart home system, it's worth considering the Ring Stick-Up Cam that also offers 1080p video, as well as working indoors and outdoors just like the Nest. This Ring option has a removable, rechargeable battery pack, but it can also be plugged into the mains.