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Nest Cam IQ Outdoor review

A high-quality outdoor security camera with a really smart app – but it’s expensive

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
(Image: © Nest Cam)

Our Verdict

The most powerful wired outdoor camera, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor’s 4K sensor produces the best-quality video. Facial recognition adds another dimension to protection, letting you see who came to your home that you didn’t know. While the Nest app is the best in the business, this camera relies on a Nest Aware subscription to be truly useful, while the high outlay may put some people off.

For

  • 4K sensor produces excellent video
  • Continuous recording with Nest Aware
  • Doesn’t flood you with motion alerts

Against

  • Comparatively expensive
  • Requires a Nest Aware subscription to be really useful
  • Can’t use scheduling with Home/Away Assist

With the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, Nest redefined what security cameras were capable of, introducing face recognition and clever tracking technology that follows a suspect around a room. With the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, the same features come to this rugged outdoor model, bar the option to turn this camera into a Google Home smart speaker.

With its 4K sensor and continuous recording, this camera brings the best image quality to outdoor security, and this model has been redesigned so that it’s harder to steal or knock off the wall.

Features

  • Continuous 24/7 recording via a Nest aware subscription
  • Smart facial recogntion helps you see exactly who your camera sees
  • Home/Away Assist and scheduling options for privacy
Key specifications

Resolution: 4K sensor (1080p recording)
Camera lens: 130-degree
Night vision: Yes
Recording options: Cloud via subscription
Two-way talk: Yes
WiFi: 802.11ac

As with Nest’s other products, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is controlled through the Nest smartphone app. When making the connection to your WiFi network (802.11ac is supported), Nest will try and use other devices in your home to help. The success rate isn’t always very good in our experience, and we ended up having to move our camera closer to our Nest Protect smart smoke alarm to get it connected – that’s a good reason not to install the camera in-situ before you get it working.

Once connected to the app, you get quite basic functionality with the camera. The app can warn you when the camera spots motion, and this model also has built-in people detection, so you’ll get a notification telling you that a person has been spotted.

To really unlock the camera’s capabilities, you need to have a Nest Aware cloud subscription. At its most basic, Nest Aware adds in cloud storage, giving you continuous recording. It’s this 24/7 coverage that makes Nest cameras stand out, as you’re guaranteed to capture everything going on even if the camera missed movement.

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 5-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. 

Adding Nest Aware also unlocks Activity Zones, which let you choose which parts of the video image you want to monitor. These zones (you can have up to three) help prevent false positives, such as by choosing to ignore the road, so you don’t get a notification every time a car drives past your house.

Thanks to a relatively recent update, Activity Zones can now be created in the app, rather than you having to use the Nest website. 

Activity Zones let you focus on the areas of the image that you’re interested in

For each zone, you can choose what you want to be notified about: all motion or just people. There’s also an additional zone that covers all of the remaining areas of the image that aren’t covered by your own Activity Zones. 

Being able to control notifications on a zone-by-zone basis really helps cut down on false positives, where the camera notifies you about unimportant motion.

If you flick on the camera’s microphone for audio recording, you can also set the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor to monitor for sound, with three selectable sound settings: people talking, dogs barking, and all other sounds. Accuracy is high, but how much extraneous sound is picked up will depend on where your camera is located; if it’s outside the front of your house, for example, you’re likely to pick up conversations of people walking past.

You can control notifications by zone

You can also use the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor’s microphone and speaker to have a two-way chat with someone via the app. The speaker on the camera is surprisingly loud – certainly loud enough to attract attention, and for you to warn off anyone acting suspiciously around your home.

To reduce the number of unnecessary notifications, you can set the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor to only send notifications when nobody is at home, with your phone’s location used to determine where you are. Nest can communicate with multiple phones to cover everyone in your home.

To stop the camera recording when you don’t want it to, you have a couple of options. You can use Home/Away Assist, which uses you phone’s location data to turn your Cam IQ Outdoor on when you leave the house and off when you return.

If you prefer, there’s also the option to schedule your camera to only record at particular times. Don’t use both options at once, though, as they can clash – for example, if you set your Nest Cam IQ Outdoor to record at night but you’re out, coming home will turn it off. It’s high time that Nest made scheduling play nicely with Home/Away Assist, as the current situation is far too rudimentary.

You can add a schedule or use Home/Away Assist to define when your camera will record, but you can’t use both together

Familiar Faces is a feature carried over from the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, and since implemented on the Nest Hello video doorbell. It’s Nest’s facial recognition technology, which can be used to train the system to spot people you know. Neatly, the system works across all Nest devices, so a face spotted by your Nest Hello can be recognized by your Nest Cam IQ, for example.

Once you’ve told Nest that you recognize a face, you can give a name to that person. Nest will then tell you that it’s spotted that person in future (without names, you’re just told that your camera has spotted a familiar face).

Facial recognition is pretty powerful, with only the odd mistake. Occasionally, Nest will categorize the same person as two different people; however, you can use such errors to ‘train’ the system, to the point where there’s only the occasional lapse.

That said, we found that this system is far less reliable at night with the infrared LEDs on, and the system would often not spot a familiar face. 

It’s a shame that there’s currently no way to tell the system to only notify you when a certain person has been spotted or to only warn you when someone unrecognized has been seen.

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor can recognize familiar faces, but it will need a bit of a helping hand to achieve maximum accuracy

For recording, there’s a setting in the app to control the quality and the bandwidth used. Although the uploaded footage is saved at 1080p resolution, the camera shoots in 4K natively and produces higher-quality video than the Nest Cam Outdoor. As a result, the Nest Cam IQ’s top quality setting will use up to a massive 400GB per month, with 300GB, 200GB and 100GB settings below that. 

We recommend using the highest-quality setting that your internet connection and Wi-Fi can take, while keeping an eye on data usage if you have a limited internet connection, as the lower settings dramatically reduce quality.

Set the highest quality setting that your internet connection can take in order to get the best quality video

Set the highest quality setting that your internet connection can take in order to get the best quality video

Part of the reason that so much data is used is because the video is recorded continuously to the cloud. The advantage of this is that you can scroll back through it and view everything that happened going back as far as your subscription allows, not just footage triggered by motion, each clip of which is tagged as an ‘event’. Nest makes this really easy to do, with the timeline view letting you effortlessly scroll back in time. The timeline is marked with thumbnails of events, color-coded to the zone in which they were recorded. 

If you want to find just events, there’s an ‘Event history option’, which lets you select a specific day and filter by Zone, Motion, Person and Familiar face. All events can be saved to your Nest account or downloaded to your phone to preserve evidence. Likewise, you can create and save your own clips from footage recorded outside of events. No other company has come close to making its app as fluent and as easy to use as Nest has.

You can save clips to your Nest account and to your phone

Nest has both an Amazon Alexa skills and Google Assistant commands for the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which let you stream footage from the camera to a smart display, such as the Amazon Echo Show or Google Home Hub. It’s a shame that you can’t use either of these to toggle the camera on and off.

There’s also an IFTTT (if this, then that) channel, which lets you trigger other devices when the camera detects motion. Likely to be more useful are the array of ‘Works with Nest’ integrations, such as being able to turn on a Hue light after a random delay when motion is spotted, to create the appearance of someone being at home investigating what’s going on.

Design and build

  • Tough and heavy body
  • Securely attaches to mount for a more secure installation
  • Powered via cable that must run through an external wall

Nest has long designed some of the best-looking security cameras, and the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is no different. Finished in the company’s customary smooth white plastic, this is one security camera that’s stylish enough to have on display, while attracting attention and, hopefully, warning off would-be thieves.

While Nest’s first outdoor camera, the Nest Cam Outdoor, was designed to be easy to install, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor goes for a more secure installation method, which makes it a bit trickier to fix. Rather than having an outdoor junction box, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor needs to be powered internally, so you’ll need to run the USB Type-C cable through a hole drilled in your external wall.

The neatest and most secure way to install the camera is to fit the mounting bracket over the hole you’ve drilled, so there’s no cable on show that can be cut. If this isn’t possible, the mount has a cutaway so that you can run the USB cable along a wall to the hole in your wall. Nest provides screw-in cable tidies to keep things neat.

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One of the more attractive security cameras, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor should also attract the attention of would-be intruders

One of the more attractive security cameras, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor should also attract the attention of would-be intruders
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The camera’s mount can only be unlocked via this hex lock, making the camera more secure and harder to knock off the wall

The camera’s mount can only be unlocked via this hex lock, making the camera more secure and harder to knock off the wall
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If you can’t run the cable through the mounting bracket, you can run it externally, although this isn’t as secure

If you can’t run the cable through the mounting bracket, you can run it externally, although this isn’t as secure
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The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor features a camera with a 130-degree coverage

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor features a camera with a 130-degree coverage

The USB-C cable locks securely in place on the camera, so it can’t be pulled out. To unplug the camera, you have to unlock the cable using a switch that’s only accessible once the camera has been removed from the mounting bracket. Further improving security, the Nest Cam Outdoor’s magnetic mount has been replaced – the new mount locks into place on the wall bracket, and requires the supplied hex key to release it.

For the casual would-be thief, then, trying to knock your camera off the wall or steal it is far harder with the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor then it was with the older camera. If security is paramount, then the extra hassle of installing the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor over its predecessor is worth it.

Performance

  • Excellent motion detection that’s rarely set off by accident
  • Super-sharp video during the day and night
  • Close-up tracking follows the action automatically 

Inside the camera is a 4K sensor, with the footage downsampled to 1080p. That may seem like a waste, but there are a couple of advantages. First, the HDR footage captured at such high resolution and downscaled is sharper than footage from a camera with a native 1080p resolution. Certainly, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor captured the best-quality footage we’ve seen from a powered external camera.

During the day, even in bright, blinding sunlight, there’s a huge amount of detail and sharpness to the picture, making it easy to discern fine details and tell people apart. Compared to the older Nest Cam Outdoor, this newer model produces far sharper images.

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During the day, video footage is amongst the sharpest we’ve seen

During the day, video footage is amongst the sharpest we’ve seen
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At night, IR LEDs make the footage a little softer, although you can still make out individuals

At night, IR LEDs make the footage a little softer, although you can still make out individuals

At night, the camera engages its IR LEDs, ably lighting up our 30-foot test garden. Detail becomes a little softer in this mode, although there’s still more sharpness and detail than we’ve seen from other cameras; again, you can easily spot individuals and make out details in the picture.

Nest has some clever uses for the 4K sensor, though. First, as a 4K image is four times the resolution if 1080p (the resolution that video is stored at and streamed to your phone), it means that you can zoom up to 4x into the image and still get a true Full HD image. In effect, it’s a digital zoom without having to sacrifice resolution or quality. Second, Nest uses this zoom for its Close-up tracking, zooming into a motion event and following it around. In the case of a person entering the picture, that means you get high-quality tracking of what’s going on.

Nest maintains the original footage from the 130-degree lens in the cloud, so you can zoom out to see what else was going on. If you really don’t like this feature, you can turn it off but we think it helps to highlight what’s going on.

Nest doesn’t let you adjust motion sensitivity because it doesn’t have to – the detection algorithm is exceptionally good. Foliage blowing in the wind won’t set the camera off, neither will shadows changing, as clouds move across the sun. There are more false positives than with an indoor camera, however: insects flitting across the lens occasionally set the camera off, as did a furniture cover blowing in the wind. Such instances were rare, though, and the camera didn’t overly bother us with unnecessary alerts.

If you set the camera to record audio you’ll be impressed with the results. Nest uses sophisticated noise reduction algorithms, so you’ll capture the finer audio details in your footage even in a heavy rain storm.

Verdict

Using its 4K sensor to perform some clever tricks, including the smart Close-up tracking, as well as to capture some of the best video footage we’ve seen from a security camera, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is a great way to protect your home. It helps that the Nest app is so good, while Nest Aware is the best cloud service that you can get, enabling continuous recording.

If you insist on the best, and want an outdoor camera that’s hard to steal, then this is the best model you can buy

That said, it’s hard to get away from the price of this camera, and it’s one of the most expensive models you can buy. While there’s now a five-day version of Nest Aware, the service still costs more per month than rivals. It’s not bad value, especially given the continuous recording, but the cost may be more than you’re willing to pay – and without Nest Aware the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor isn’t much use.

If you insist on the best, and want an outdoor camera that’s hard to steal, then this is the best model you can buy. If you don’t mind ever-so-slightly inferior image quality with the same continuous recording, and a model that’s a little easier to disable or steal, the Nest Cam Outdoor is considerably cheaper, and will be the better choice for most people.

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