The Nest Cam IQ Indoor was the first security camera from a big manufacturer to use a 4K sensor, and it remains one of the best-quality security cameras you can buy. Although the footage is only saved to the cloud at 1080p, the higher-quality initial recording gives you some of the best video quality you can get. More than that, the high-resolution sensor enables some neat tricks, including the ability to track an intruder through your home, and facial recognition.
Throw in the camera’s ability to become a makeshift Google Home smart speaker, and the Nest Cam IQ is one of the best security cameras you can buy. However, the high initial price, and the reliance on Nest Aware for the more advanced features, may make this a camera that’s a little too expensive for some.
- Continuous video recording with a Nest Aware subscription
- Can work as a rudimentary Google Home smart speaker
- Geo-location and video scheduling, although not together
Resolution: 4K Sensor (1080p recording)
Camera lens: 130-degree
Night vision: Yes
Recording options: Cloud via subscription
Two-way talk: Yes
As with Nest’s other cameras, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is controlled via the excellent Nest app, which also takes care of the company’s other devices, including the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector.
Once your camera is recognized in the app, you get very basic operation: the camera can tell you when there’s motion, although no video is recorded. Thanks to its 4K sensor and high-power processor, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor can tell the difference between general motion and a person, something the Nest Cam requires a Nest Aware subscription for.
As neat as that is, if you want the more advanced features and the ability to record footage you’ll still need to take out a Nest Aware subscription. Five-day video history, with 24/7 continuous recording, costs $5 a month or $50 a year; 10-day video history is $10 a month or $10 a year, and 30-day is $30 a month or $300 a year. For most people, the five-day history will provide more than enough footage, and ample time to save any crucial footage before it’s deleted. Nest offers discounts of up to 50% on subscriptions for additional cameras.
Even considering that you get continuous recording, whereas most cameras only record clips when motion triggers the camera, Nest Aware is comparatively expensive, so you’ll want to factor in the yearly cost when weighing up pricing options.
As to those additional features that come with Nest Aware, key to cutting down on a surge of notifications are Activity Zones, which let you choose which areas of the video feed to monitor. For example, you can watch a door, or choose to ignore the lower part of the image to avoid pets triggering your camera. There’s also a catch-all Outside a Zone area, which is all other parts of the image.
You can set which notifications you want to receive per zone: People and/or All other motion. Person detection proved very reliable in our testing, so turning on notifications for people only is a good way to cut down superfluous alerts.
If you turn on your camera’s microphone for recording, you can also set the camera to listen out for noises, including people talking, dog barking and all other sounds. How useful these features will be depends to some degree on how noisy your house is, but sound detection another way to capture a potential intrusion, even if you can’t see who’s in your home.
Having a speaker and microphone in the camera enables you to have a two-way chat using the app – useful if you need to scare off someone in your home who shouldn’t be there, as well as for household communication. The Nest Cam IQ Indoor’s speaker is loud, and there’s only a little delay in the connection, so conversations are easy to have.
Familiar Faces is Nest’s facial recognition technology, which enables the camera to tell the difference between strangers and dangers. When your camera spots new faces, you can tell it if you know the person or not, and name the people you do know in order to get customized alerts when people you know are spotted. It’s a shame you can’t configure alerts to only warn you about unfamiliar people, though.
If you’ve got other Nest cameras that support Familiar Faces, such as the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor and Nest Hello, the library is shared between all cameras, which is neat, and gives you all-around protection. Occasionally Nest will get it wrong, failing to recognize a face it’s seen before and creating a duplicate profile. Fortunately, you can ‘merge’ these mistakes into one profile, helping to train the camera to better identify that person in the future.
Although the Nest Cam IQ Indoor can record continuously, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to bug the inside of your home in this way. To stop the camera recording when you don’t want it to, you can manually turn it off in the app, or you can use automation.
First, Nest’s Home/Away Assist feature enables you to turn your camera on when you go out and off when you come back home, using your phone’s location data. Alternatively, you can set a schedule for recording, but unfortunately, you can’t use both options together, as the results are unreliable: for example, coming home late will turn your camera off even if you have it scheduled to record.
It’s a real shame that Home/Away Assist and scheduling won’t play nicely together. For example, we’d like to have our camera record when we’re out, but also turn on automatically at night when we’re in bed.
You can’t control the video resolution as such, but the quality of video is defined by the bandwidth setting you choose. High-quality video, for example, gives you the best image quality, although it will use up to a whopping 400GB of data per month. The three other settings are for 300GB, 200GB and 100GB of data. Given the importance of image quality, the higher settings are best if your broadband and Wi-Fi are up to the job.
This hefty amount of bandwidth is mostly down to the fact that the Nest Cam IQ Indoor records constantly when it’s on. It’s a neat trick, and means that you can scroll through everything that’s been recorded, regardless of whether your camera was triggered by motion or not.
The Nest app makes it really easy to scroll through everything, with a timeline that lets you seamlessly scroll through everything you’ve recorded. Neatly, the timeline has thumbnails to show you when the footage was recorded; alternatively, you can Use the Filter view to find the event you want.
All events can be downloaded to your phone and saved to your Nest account, and you can create custom clips to save, too.
Nest has both an Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant skill for the Cam IQ Outdoor, enabling you to stream footage from the camera to a smart display, such as the Amazon Echo Show or Google Home Hub.
Cleverly, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor can be Google Assistant-enabled, effectively turning it into a Google Home smart speaker – you can do most of the things you can with a Google Home, including controlling your smart home devices, getting general information from Google and receiving calendar updates, although you can’t make phone calls.
The speaker in the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is a little tinny, although it’s loud enough to hear for general use (you certainly wouldn’t want to play music over it). Even so, being able to quickly add another Google smart speaker to your home is a neat trick.
There’s also an IFTTT (If This, Then That) channel so that you can control other smart devices when the Nest Cam IQ Indoor detects motion. More usefully, in many cases, there are Works with Nest automated rules, which can do things such as turning on Hue lights if the camera picks up motion. Works with Nest is being phased out although most rules should be replicated on the new Works with Google Assistant system that replaces it.
Design and build
- Flexible stand lets you point the camera where you want
- You can wall-mount the camera
- Neat USB-C connection
The Nest Cam IQ Indoor looks great with its tear-shaped body, decked out in the company’s customary soft-touch white plastic. It’s also incredibly easy to position, thanks to a stand that lets you point the camera in practically any direction without worrying that the whole thing will topple over. If you prefer, you can wall-mount the camera, which will make it a bit more secure, although you have to buy the screw mount separately.
As with other indoor cameras, the Nest Cam IQ is easy for someone to disable when they’re in your home, either by knocking it over or turning the power off. However, it’s likely that you’ll capture the perpetrator in action.
Once the camera is mounted, the setup process is as simple as plugging in the USB-C power cable, and hooking the camera up to your 802.11ac Wi-Fi network.
If you have other Nest devices, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor will attempt to connect to them for configuration information. This process wasn’t particularly reliable in our experience, and often failed. Moving the camera closer to other Nest devices can help, but it’s frustrating that you can’t override this automated help and simply select the wireless network you want your camera to join.
- Excellent daytime image quality
- Powerful IR LEDs preserve nighttime image quality
- Motion tracking lets the camera follow events
Inside the camera is a 4K sensor, although all footage is downsampled to 1080p when it’s streamed or stored online. Far from being a waste of pixels, however, the high-resolution sensor gives you a few advantages.
First, video downsampled from 4K to 1080p looks better than video shot natively at Full HD – you can see the image quality you get in the daylight shot below. Thanks to the combination of HDR and the high-resolution sensor, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor’s footage is sharper and clearer than other cameras’, with plenty of detail in daytime images.
At night, the camera uses high-power 940nm IR LEDs to light up dark spaces. Video gets a touch softer under IR, as it does with all cameras, but the quality is still very good. From the footage recorded it’s possible to find a frame that gives you the detail you need, including enough sharpness to identify individuals.
The 4K sensor also gives the Nest Cam IQ Indoor a couple of neat tricks. First, you get a 4x zoom into 1080p without losing quality, and the Nest Cam IQ can even automatically zoom in and track motion with Close-up tracking view, enabling you to more clearly see what’s going on – the full wide-angle shot via the camera’s 130-degree lens will still be available to give you the bigger picture.
Nest’s motion detection is excellent. Combined with Activity Zones and the facility to configure the notifications you want to see, you get very few false positives from this camera, so it’s not bothersome to have it on for long periods.
In terms of pure image quality, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor is the best indoor-only model we’ve tested. Clear and detailed footage, by both day and night, lets you see exactly what’s going on, while the high-quality motion detection and lack of unnecessary alerts mean the Nest Cam IQ Indoor is also a camera that won’t constantly bother you.
Nest Aware, although it’s quite expensive, gives you 24/7 video recording, so you’ve got more chance of capturing suspicious activity while your camera is on – and you’ll really need to pay for a subscription, as without it the Nest Cam IQ Indoor is of limited use.
There’s some annoyance around the clash between Home/Away Assist and scheduling, and it’s high time that Nest got the two features to play nicely. Even so, if you’re looking for the best-quality indoor camera, this is it; if, however, you can make do with slightly lower-quality video while enjoying the same range of features, bar facial recognition and the Google Assistant option, the Nest Cam is a better choice.