Since acquiring Dropcam in 2014, engineers at Google’s Nest Labs division have been striving to perfect a more intelligent, more useful home security camera. It’s been slow going, but in the past few months, the outlook has looked much brighter.
We were impressed by Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which combines good looking hardware, intelligent software and high-quality imaging to a deliver a premium monitoring solution for your home’s exterior. Today, we’ll look at the company’s indoor camera, the $299 Nest Cam IQ Indoor.
Of course, since the Dropcam days, the smart cam market has become much more competitive. When you can buy a solid 1080p camera like Wyze Cam for just $20, throwing more than ten times that sum at Nest Cam IQ sounds like madness. And that’s before you’ve added monthly subscription fees. Should you add this indoor camera to your growing smart home ecosystem? And does it justify its premium price?
A smart cam for the connoisseur
As usual, Nest Cam IQ Indoor is beautifully presented, with an unboxing experience that reaches the heights of Apple’s finer moments. The camera itself is hewn from the same soft-touch, premium plastics as the outdoor model, with a similar, stylish swagger.
A wide base provides ample stability on the desktop and includes a standard, quarter-inch screw hole for mounting. Meanwhile, a beautifully-machined ball joint provides 180-degree horizonal adjustment and almost the same vertically, allowing plenty of scope to find just the right angle for optimum room coverage. An oversized, bell-shaped camera body feels reassuringly heavy and robust but remains elegant to the eye. Clean lines and flowing curves mark Nest Cam IQ as a camera for the smart home connoisseur.
Under the hood, Nest packs in an 8-megapixel, 4K sensor supporting the same smart imaging features that we loved in Nest Cam IQ Outdoor. Smart tracking and enhanced zoom may be well-worn Hollywood tropes, but this device finally brings them home.
Otherwise, the spec sheet makes familiar reading: 1080p video output, 130-degree wide-angle field of view, night vision and two-way audio are now common features, although Nest delivers with more refinement than competitors. Step-by-step setup guidance is provided by the Nest smartphone app, which should ensure you’re up and running quickly.
High quality imaging with impressively wide views
Nest Cam IQ Indoor offers clean and clear daytime imaging, that’s certainly a cut above many competitors. The impressively-wide field of view ensures great room coverage with little noticeable fish-eye effect. We usually experience some over-exposure with smart camera sensors, particularly near windows or lights. Nest’s camera follows that trend, although performance was a little better than other devices we’ve tested recently. Images in darkened rooms were also good, with effective illumination, although we felt the image could have been a little brighter and punchier.
Clean lines and flowing curves mark Nest Cam IQ as a camera for the smart home connoisseur.
We’ve got few complaints. A close comparison with a budget camera like the $20 Wyze Cam shows that Nest Cam IQ Indoor certainly offers a wider, more refined image, but the difference in quality is far smaller than the price gap.
Paywalled features add intelligence, but deliver limited value
Of course, the Nest proposition isn’t just about image quality. There’s a host of intelligent features to enjoy, such as facial recognition, automatic close-ups, user-defined activity zones, smart clips and time-lapse video creation. Frustratingly, these features are locked behind the Nest Aware subscription paywall, priced from $50 per year or $5 per month. Most smart cam vendors offer subscription-based pricing for extended features – longer recording history being a favorite – but with Nest Cam IQ Indoor being sold at a significant premium over these devices, the pay to play model looks increasingly less attractive.
For example, we’ve found Nest’s facial recognition feature a fabulous addition on their outdoor cameras. The Nest Hello smart doorbell in particular does a great job at notifying us when our local UPS guy drops off a package. But it’s markedly less useful on an indoor camera. It’s a similar story with automatic tracking and image enhancements, which are breakthrough features for a camera mounted at long-range, like Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, but make less sense on a good quality, static indoor cam.
More obviously, if Wyze Cam can support activity zone creation and timelapse features out of the box for $20, we fail to see why a $300 down payment with Nest can’t secure the same.
Google Assistant adds value and difference
Google Assistant integration, combined with the camera’s high-quality microphone array and speaker, offers real differentiation and value. If you’ve yet to buy a Google Home device, save yourself some money, as this camera offers most – but not all – of its features, including smart home control (with Nest devices alongside a raft of partners) plus online queries and more.
Google Assistant integration offers real value.
Fun stuff, such as music streaming and games, isn’t available, but that’s probably a blessing. The integrated speaker is certainly better quality than those we encounter on most smart cams but wouldn’t be our top choice for tunes. But we were pleased that Nest Cam’s microphone array was able to pick up voice commands from around a large room, even at low volume.
If you’re looking for a reliable, responsive and easy-to-use smart home camera, Nest Cam may pack a premium, but it also packs a punch. Easy scheduling allows you to configure when monitoring is active, or you can use Nest’s Home/Away Assist feature to automatically enable the camera when you leave home.
Smart sound detection and notifications can alert you to a dog barking, a person talking, or other sounds at home and, unlike many competitors, actually work. Not only are sounds correctly identified, they’re processed quickly, with notifications arriving on your smartphone just a few seconds later. And we’re big fans of Nest’s Sightline feature, which makes it easy to swipe through key moments captured throughout the day in the Nest app, with intelligent filters helping you review the alerts that concern you the most.
The Nest Cam IQ Indoor is backed by a 2-year limited warranty.Our Take
There’s no doubt that Nest Cam IQ Indoor is a smart, slick and sophisticated security camera – a brilliant combination of intelligent features and high-quality performance delivered with style and grace. But given such strong competition in the market today, the Nest needs to do more to justify the camera’s $299 price tag, particularly with so many features locked behind a subscription paywall.
Is there a better alternative?
Today’s indoor smart cam market is packed with players, although it can be tough to find products that really stand out. Our budget pick, the $20 Wyze Cam v2, is a solid choice at a bargain basement price. While it lacks the intelligence, style and premium quality of Nest’s camera, its image quality is good, and its value for money is unprecedented.
Elsewhere, the versatile Netgear Arlo Pro 2 system supports fully wireless and weatherproof operation, so it can be used indoors or out. It’s expensive, though. More a fan of Alexa when it comes to smart assistants? The $120 Amazon Cloud Cam has full integration, supporting Fire TV and Echo Show or Spot control alongside smart home security duties.
How long will it last?
If you’re spending $299 on a camera, you’ll want it to last, and we have no doubt that’ll be the case with this Google-backed smart cam. Nest Labs continues to build new features for its devices, although its somewhat of a lottery as to whether they’ll be delivered for free, or added to the Nest Aware subscription line-up.
Should you buy it?
If you’re deeply invested in Nest smart home’s ecosystem (or want to be), you’ll be happy to invest in this smart home camera, and you’ll be delighted with its results. Others should carefully consider whether the premium features on offer are worth the price.