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Nest Cam Review: Reaches for the Sky, Gets Stuck in the Cloud

nest cam on tableThe Nest ecosystem has made a name for itself with its smart thermostat and smoke detectors, giving you a DIY smarthome option for an affordable price. With its 2014 acquisition of Dropcam, Google’s Nest took its ecosystem beyond home automation and into home security. In this article I review the Indoor Nest Cam to see how well it fares against its competition and dive into whether or not it’s a truly viable security solution, or just another nice piece to the overall Nest puzzle.

 

The Nest ecosystem has made a name for itself with its smart thermostat and smoke detectors, giving you a DIY smarthome option for an affordable price. With its 2014 acquisition of Dropcam, Google’s Nest took its ecosystem beyond home automation and into home security. In this article I review the Indoor Nest Cam to see how well it fares against its competition and dive into whether or not it’s a truly viable security solution, or just another nice piece to the overall Nest puzzle. The Nest ecosystem has made a name for itself with its smart thermostat and smoke detectors,…
Performance/Usability
Customer Service/Experience
Hardware
Features
3.5 / 5
Summary : Nest Cam has one of the best designs of any DIY camera that I’ve seen. The excellent picture quality makes it perfect for checking in on pets and babysitters while you’re away. Unfortunately, Nest’s approach to notifications really undercuts its security value to a point where I wouldn’t recommend this camera as a viable security solution.

Pros

  • 24/7 live video
  • 1080p HD
  • Magnetic base
  • Versatile mount
  • Two-way audio
  • Easy setup
  • Simple-to-use app
  • 1080p HD video

Cons

  • Without Nest Aware it’s basically just a webcam.
  • $10 a month for basic cloud storage
  • No local storage
  • No customizable alerts
  • Limited notifications

What sets Nest Cam apart?

Nest-PicPicNest Cam’s design offers a versatility I’ve never seen in a DIY camera. The camera mount sets it apart from competitors like Yi or Cleverloop because you can remove the camera completely, and mount it almost anywhere. Nest Cam relies on an AC power cord, so you will have to be within a cord’s length (10 feet) of a power outlet. However, you’re not limited by the mount’s dimensions, which means you can place your camera somewhere subtle and out of the way.

How Much Does Nest Cam Cost?

The whole point of a security camera is to have recorded footage of any suspicious activity. But with Nest Cam you’ll have to pay extra for it. After your 30-day free trial runs out, you’ll need to pay for cloud storage if you want access to any recorded video. Nest offers two separate plans for recorded video history.

As far as cloud storage pricing goes, $10 per month is as low a price as you’ll see. However, Nest misses an opportunity to match competitors like Yi or Cleverloop. Both competitors offer an alternative form of video recording for free—either through local storage with an SD card or limited cloud-based storage (24 hours)—on top of extended cloud storage for a monthly fee.  By requiring a subscription-based service to record video, Nest puts itself at a disadvantage right from the start.

10-day video history $10 per month $100 per year
30-day video history $30 per month $300 per year

What’s in the box?

IMG_4071Nest Cam keeps things simple. Here’s what’s inside the box:

  • The camera/mount
  • Magnetic base
  • USB power cord (6 feet)
  • AC adapter
  • Step-by-step manual instructions

Many DIY cameras rely on in-app instructions for setup and installation, which can get overly complicated and confusing. I was glad to see that Nest keeps it simple and even included tangible, step-by-step instructions in the box.

Key features

Nest Aware

Nest presents Nest Aware as an optional service, but it’s really not. If you want recorded video in addition to seeing live streaming, you’ll need to pay $10 per month for Nest Aware—a subscription-based service that provides additional motion and sound-detection improvements to your Nest Cam. Basically, it connects your Nest Cam to Nest’s cloud server to process information and limit false alarms. Nest Aware hyper-focuses your Nest Cam to notice smaller, more subtle movements and distinguish between common patterns (like a tree blowing outside your window) and someone actually breaking into your home.

Nest Cam with Nest Aware might be the best DIY camera option available because of its unique features:

  • Activity Zones allow you to choose specific areas of the camera’s view to focus on, and only receive alerts if something happens with that particular zone.
  • Timelapse lets you speed up recorded video and monitor larger clips in a short amount of time, which means you can save time without missing anything important.
  • Alert Summary essentially bookmarks any portion of video where movement or sound was detected, so you can quickly review the activity

Pros

  • Live video feed
  • Motion/sound alerts
  • Two-way audio
  • Night Vision
  • 24/7 continuous recording
  • Alert summary
  • Activity zones
  • Clips
  • Timelapse
  • 10-day video history ($10/month)
  • 30-day video history ($30/month)

Cons

  • Live video feed
  • Motion/sound alerts (no recording)
  • Two-way audio
  • Night Vision

The biggest difference between paying for Nest Aware and not; with Nest Aware you get recorded video, without it you’ll only get live video feed. Nest does not provide any other means for recording video footage.

Tech specs

  • 1920 x 1080p HD resolution
  • 6.5 x 3.8 x 6.6 inches
  • 1.8 pounds
  • 130 degree wide-angle FOV
  • Night vision

My experience with Nest

Setup

Nest creates an excellent customer experience by providing one of the easiest setup processes I’ve ever come across. I love its simplicity:

  • Plug in the camera.
  • Download the app.
  • Scan the QR code on the back.
  • Done.

I’m a big believer that customer service and experience begins with the product, before I ever need to contact the company. In fact, it makes for a better experience if I never have to contact the company directly, because the product simply works. The entire setup process took me about a minute and a half and I did it all while sitting on my couch.

Video quality

full-width-living-room-nest

Nest Cam’s 1080p video is clear enough to make out details in my kitchen and living room area, even from 30 feet away. The 130 degree wide-angle lense covers the entirety of my main living space. I can see if someone enters from the front door, sliding backdoor, or garage in enough detail to make an identification. Nest’s video quality exceeded my expectations and outperforms Yi.

Motion detection

The motion detection works beautifully. Nest Cam even chimes softly when it activates and registers motion. An alert was immediately sent to my email, letting me know that Nest Cam had detected movement. This feature works exactly as intended and if it weren’t for Nest’s self-hamstringing notification strategy, this alone would make Nest Cam a decent security camera.

Notifications

Nest needs to rethink its notification strategy. Although the motion detection works beautifully, once I receive an alert that the Nest Cam detects motion, I cannot receive any alerts for another thiry minutes. According to Nest’s support page:

Nest Cam and Dropcam will let you know they’ve detected motion and sound once every thirty minutes. It works this way so you won’t get swamped by a flood of emails and alerts if your camera picks up a lot of sudden activity.

Why it’s a problem

Only allowing notifications once every thirty minutes creates a huge window of opportunity for a smash-and-grab burglar.

While at work, I received a motion detection notification. I checked the footage to see that my wife forgot something on the counter and seemed to be in a hurry, which got me thinking: now that I’ve received a notification, I won’t be notified of any activity for another thirty minutes. What if two minutes after my wife leaves again, a burglar breaks into my home? I won’t receive any notifications for another half an hour, because it happened within thirty minutes of my last notification.

I concede that getting swamped with emails and notifications gets frustrating, but notification frequency should be the user’s choice, not Nest’s. CleverLoop allows you to choose what should be considered an “alert” during the initial setup process. Granted, you’re inundated with notifications for the first few days while it learns patterns, but it doesn’t leave you vulnerable for thirty minutes at a time like Nest Cam. Luckily for Nest, a simple software update could fix this vulnerability. As it stands, Nest notifications are too sporadic to be reliable.

Nest Cam User reviews

Positive Reviews

Awesome camera. I absolutely love this camera. They were easy to set up as the picture is very clear. I currently use mine as a baby monitor for my children. I love how clear the night vision is and as well as you can zoom in and the picture is still clear. I personally have mine set up to alert me when there is movement or sound coming from my kids room and this feature works out really well. I always know when my kids are up. I will be buying more for the rest of my house. My only complaint is I don’t like how the cord is very visible. – R. Mendala, August 11, 2016, Amazon Reviews.

Nearly perfect. The Nest camera is very simple to setup and use if you do not want to dive into the details and specifics of the app and online service. Even getting into the Nest Aware service and it’s functions are quite simple. The only annoyance I found so far with the online recording is some features can only be changed from the web interface, and not in the Nest App Itself (Camera Sharing, Custom Zones, etc)

The 1080p feed itself seems a bit grainy to me (one of the reasons why I gave 4 Stars), but that could be a function of my room, lighting, setup, etc. The cost of the Nest Aware service is the other downer at $10/month for the basic service. I will likely not keep the service past the trial until I get the outdoor variant which I’ll want the recording history. It would be nice to see an option to record locally in addition to online only. – Amazon Customer, August 11, 2016, Amazon Reviews.

Negative Reviews

The Nest Camera is useless unless you are willing to pay $100.00 a year for Nest Aware. The camera works great, but once your free 10 days of cloud recording expires, the camera is worthless. The app will notify you that you had motion or a sound a few minutes ago, but you can go back and see what happened, you can only see the current image. For a $200.00 camera, I expect at least a few hours to go back and look at the footage. It is unfortunate Nest is forcing additional money out of its customers if they want a usable product. I have the Nest Thermostat, Nest Protect and the Nest Cameras. The thermostat and the protects are fantastic, but Nest has failed with the Camera by forcing you to buy a subscription service. Nest needs to step up like the Canary Camera did and give at least 12 hours of free cloud recording. – guardian, August 6, 2016, Amazon Review.

No way to record locally. This is not an IP camera. You must purchase a subscription from NEST. There is no way to delete video without deleting the entire video history. I will be returning this product. – User, July 17, 2016, Amazon Reviews.

Do we recommend Nest Cam?

As far as DIY cameras go, Nest Cam has a lot going for it. It’s great for checking in on pets, babysitters, or nursery rooms. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a serious security camera. Thirty-minutes between notifications and alerts leaves too much room for error and makes Nest Cam an unreliable security solution, which is too bad, because I feel like Nest Cam is the best designed camera I’ve tested so far.

I also feel like the subscription model holds Nest Cam back from being a truly dynamic product. Ten dollars a month doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s enough to make me look for a cheaper alternative, like Yi. Local storage, limited free cloud storage, or loop recordings would go a long way to putting Nest Cam above the competition. But as far as security goes, I think I’ll move on to the next cam.

Something to consider: If you’re are interested in reading our overall rankings of  Top Rated Security Camera Reviews and how we ranked them, or if you have specific things you’re looking for, consider checking out any of these articles: Best Night Vision Cameras, Best HD Security Cameras, Best Cheap Security Cameras, Best Outdoor Security CamerasBest Hidden Cameras, or Best Dash Cams.

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About Kyle Lemmon

Kyle Lemmon
Kyle is all about first-hand experience and hands-on testing. He has BA in Creative Writing from Weber State University and comes to ASecureLife.com with extensive experience testing and installing security cameras, security system equipment, and personal safety devices. With two kids at home, Kyle’s also a huge advocate for safety in the home and is passionate about sharing his findings with as many people as possible.
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