The Nest Cam Outdoor security camera is one of the most popular choices for an outdoor security camera and shows up frequently on most recommended lists. If you’re a frequent reader, then you know how much import we place on research. The next logical step was to test one out for ourselves, so I had a Nest Outdoor Camera sent my way and spent two weeks exploring the ins and outs of the camera and its functionality. Read on to find out more about my experience as well as read other consumers’ Nest Outdoor Camera reviews.
Nest Outdoor Cam
The Nest Cam can be found on most online retailers and in many big-box stores. A Nest Cam usually runs $199 for a single camera or $348 for a two pack, but does go on sale from time to time. Below is a sampling of prices at stores that currently carry the Nest Cam.
The Nest Outdoor Cam is one of the highest-resolution cameras I have ever seen. Here are a few of its tech specs:
- 1080p video
- 130-degree field of view
- 8x digital zoom
- IP65 weatherproofing
- Minimum 2 Mbps upload speed
A note on the upload speed requirement: I have the basic package from my internet service provider. While the average user won’t experience any difficult streaming from the Nest, I’m an avid gamer and Netflix user. I’ve seen increased lag and buffering times since installing the camera, so heavy-duty internet users will need to prioritize their bandwidth use within their router or improve their upload speeds.
The Nest left me with a great impression right out of the slightly dented box (something I blame on the delivery company). The packaging was neat and minimalistic, without a lot of unnecessary plastic to cut through. The reusable Velcro wire tires were easy to open and allowed me to place anything I didn’t need back into the box. The way Nest packs its screws and attachments was genius, and in my opinion, perfectly organized. I had no difficulty finding all of the parts, and the included manual provided a handy list of what to expect.
The Nest Cam feels good. It’s heavy and made of high-quality plastic, and the wires are thick and not overly flexible. There is a sense of durability surrounding the camera, and just the feel of it makes me believe it’s completely weatherproof. In fact, the camera has an IP65 rating, which ensures protection from dust and low-pressure water jets (like garden hoses).
Nest Outdoor Cam Reviews: Installation and setup
Installing the Nest took less than an hour from unboxing to recording. If you have a metal surface outside, you can mount the camera without using screws and instead use its magnetic base to keep it in place. If you want to mount the camera to a wooden surface, you need only two screws (the package includes multiple screws) to attach a magnetic plate for the mount. Once the mount is in place, the camera fits securely in it while still providing a generous amount of room to adjust the angle.
My area has had a rash of car break-ins lately, so I placed the camera in an upstairs bedroom window overlooking the parking lot. The instructions recommend against placing the camera in direct sunlight, but I haven’t encountered any problems as a result of doing so.
The next step is to download the Nest app and create an account. Account creation requires an email address and a password with at least eight characters using a mixture of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and symbols. Make sure you allow notifications on your mobile device, or else the app won’t be able to alert you when it detects activity.
Then you enter your address and a name for the camera’s location. I chose “Backyard” for mine, but it can be anything you want. The app uses your address to autofill other information as well as to keep you informed about the weather and temperature at your home when you’re away.
After you have named the location, look for the “Add” option in the app. (The instructions say to search for “Add Camera,” but the options have changed.) Allow the app to access your phone’s camera, then scan the QR code found on the underside of the Nest Cam. It will make an audible “beep” when connected, and you should soon see the live stream from the camera.
It may have just been my bandwidth (or lack thereof), but I noticed around two seconds of lag in the stream. I also had some difficulty picking up the live feed, but I had two other Wi-Fi devices placed beside the camera as I was setting it up. This may have led to interference.
The Nest notifies me in two separate ways when it detects activity: via my phone and with an email. It sends a 30-second recording showing what it detected (15 seconds before and 15 seconds after the action). In my experience, it’s usually someone driving past or my neighbors parking beside me. (To avoid this, you can set specific zones so you don’t get a notification for every car.)
The resolution is excellent, and I can clearly make out details during the day. At night it’s a bit more difficult. I initially placed the camera behind blackout curtains so that light from inside the house wouldn’t affect it, but the night vision is not as effective with a window and a screen in the way. With a clear line of sight, the night vision is almost as clear as during the day. I removed the screen and could make out license plates across the parking lot.
The camera is particularly sensitive to motion. I received notifications on my phone for everything from a car passing in the parking lot to a squirrel playing on the wall. The Nest distinguishes between motion and people. Whenever I step onto my back patio, the notification changes to “Your camera thinks it spotted a person.” It’s batting 1,000 on accuracy at the moment—the camera has never sent me a notification unless it actually detected something. However, it doesn’t always pick up on people. I walked to my truck and back several times before it finally activated, and that required me to stay in the camera’s line of sight for several seconds.
The camera has two settings: Home and Away. The Nest automatically streams video when in Away mode, but turns off streaming when in Home mode. You can still access your feed at any time, and the camera automatically activates when it detects motion.
The Nest has a number of features that make it an awesome camera (in addition to the ultra-high resolution). The ability to zoom in a video is one of my favorites—unfortunately, the loss of resolution while zooming detracts from the feature. The other major downside with the Nest is that all its best features require a subscription to Nest Aware, although users receive a 30-day trial with the purchase of a Nest camera.
Nest Aware gives you 10 or 30 days of continuous video history, which is a much better option than just reviewing notifications. The continuous video history allows you to go back to any moment in the preceding period and examine the activity. Another great feature is the ability to create up to four activity zones, which allows you to set a specific area you want to monitor. I used it to highlight my vehicle and back patio. This eliminated notifications for passing vehicles in the parking lot, but still alerted me if anyone entered my back gate or walked too close to my truck. The feature was a bit difficult to set up, however—unlike most every other option with Nest, you can enable zones only via the website.
Nest Aware also enables you to create specific video clips and timelapses. These video clips can be turned over to police as evidence or used to review incidents, or you can use them as keepsakes. For example, if you had a party in your backyard, you could create a timelapse of the entire event to give to attendees later.
The last major feature is the intelligent alerts. I touched on this briefly before, but intelligent alerts allow the Nest to differentiate between general motion and a person.
One thing I would have liked to see in the Nest Outdoor Cam is the ability to notify authorities with the press of a button. This feature is often provided in full security systems, so if you’re looking for something like that, check out our article on the best security systems. Many of Nest’s competitors have this feature, usually accompanied by a siren to alert you that someone is making trouble in the neighborhood. As it is, the Nest is only capable of two-way talk. So while you can shout at someone through the camera, you would still need to manually contact the authorities.
Without Nest Aware, the camera is capable of high-resolution streaming, but not much else. The features that make the Nest Outdoor Cam so useful come at the cost of a subscription.
Here’s what the Nest can do without Nest Aware:
- High-resolution live streaming
- Two-way talk
- Motion notifications
Without Nest Aware, you cannot set zones, save recordings to the cloud, or access more than 12 hours of footage. The app reminds you of this with a small, permanent bar at the bottom of the screen that says “Get more with Nest Aware.”
Nest Aware is Nest’s subscription service. The service provides a number of useful features that make it worth the higher cost.
- 10-day video history: $10 per month/$100 per year for the first camera, $5 per month/$50 per year per each additional camera
- 30-day video history: $30 per month/$300 per year for the first camera, $15 per month/$150 per year per each additional camera
|Service||Without Nest Aware||With Nest Aware|
|24/7 live video|
|3-hour snapshot history|
|10- or 30-day video history|
|Talk & listen|
|Zoom & enhance|
|Clips and timelapse|
|Share live streams|
|Without Nest Aware||With Nest Aware|
See what others have to say about the Nest Outdoor Camera.
Nest Outdoor Cam Reviews: the good
“I’ve installed other security cameras and the setup/ integration with the applications has taken hours. With Nest, I had it out of the box, installed and ready to go in less than an hour. Everything you need is in the box. I recommend adding a locking outlet cover if you’re plugging it in outside. Also make sure you mount the USB to power source box high up so it can’t be tampered with. Great picture, Awesome design. Very pleased early on. Looking forward to exploring the app/ online capabilities with Nest Aware.” — AW (Amazon), October 30, 2016
“I did a lot of research before choosing the Nest Camera as a security and notification device. The setup was easy and fast. The quality is excellent. Many people may be hesitant to purchase this camera due to the $10 per month subscription fee. Don’t be. The service offers constant recording for 7 days, very easy to use software, great app for your phone, and the person recognition is well worth the price. You can view the video from anywhere/anytime and don’t need to worry about a dvr. The microphone and audio is a little delayed but work fine for the purpose. I do wish there were more options to limit the amount of notifications, but otherwise is an excellent product. Highly recommend.” — aghusk (Best Buy), October 25, 2016
Nest Outdoor Cam reviews: the bad
“To be brutally honest the features of this camera are competitive if you buy the subscription. If you don’t it’s just a ‘dumb’ camera with minimal features. Any activity outdoors will wipe out any useful information that would be stored in the limited amount of saved time. In other words if you don’t pay the monthly fee any incidents will most likely be wiped out before you are able to retrieve the images.
Additional issues include: lots of false alerts without the use of zones which are NOT available without a subscription so the alerts are also useless.” — MNB (Amazon), December 8, 2016
“Well made. Nice looking. But not practical. There is a large round piece in the middle of the wiring that is hard to hide. The camera is nice. The concept is nice. But to just plug it outdoors and leave it there for someone to unplug it and walk away with it is silly. The large round piece in the middle of the wire connections also means it’s impossible to hide the wires along a trim or door edge or put inside a conduit. I returned mine after not being able to install it in a semi-decent looking way. It’s an eyesore.” — Reviewer1971 (Best Buy), November 25, 2016
An extra layer of security
After spending this much time with the Nest and evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, I would absolutely recommend the camera to anyone. In my opinion, the cost of the subscription is worth the benefits it provides. As I said at the beginning of the article, after dealing with two car break-ins (and after my roommate’s car was stolen), the sense of safety the security camera provided is something I can’t quite put a price on. I plan to expand to two Nest Cams for my home: one for the back patio area, and another to watch the front door.