Technology

Nest Cam (indoor) review: Google’s smart security camera has fast alerts and a nice design, but the video quality isn’t as good as cheaper competitors

Indoor cameras are a clumsy class. It’s laborious to search out a method to match one into your house with out feeling like Large Brother is watching you. My household hates having them in the home and solely grudgingly lets me set them as much as check as lengthy as I take them down as quickly as attainable. Regardless of my assurances that the gadgets are set to not report after we’re dwelling — they only don’t fairly imagine me. And so they’re not alone.

Making a camera prettier so it blends in higher with your house — as is the case with Google’s latest $100 Nest Cam (indoor) — could really feel like a step in the proper course, but it actually isn’t. In the finish, it’s nonetheless a massive black eye observing you — irrespective of how enticing its exterior casing.

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Good Stuff

  • Snappy (and free) smart alerts
  • Nice design
  • Good privateness options
  • 24/7 recording
  • Acquainted Faces is useful

Dangerous Stuff

  • Video quality points
  • Costly
  • No scheduling for cameras
  • Google House app interface is clunky
  • Not suitable with Alexa, SmartThings, Nest

If you happen to’re going to have an indoor camera, you want a actually good motive. Security — whereas a legitimate motive for some — may be simply as simply achieved with a well-placed outside camera (and be a lot much less prone to catch you in your knickers accidentally). Security — checking to see should you left the range on or trying in on the front room when your smart smoke alarm goes off is ok in principle — but, in actuality, requires a camera in each nook and cranny the place one thing may conceivably go improper (which is the principle behind Ring’s new At all times House Cam). Finally, the hottest motive to make use of indoor cameras is to test in on pets and youngsters.

As a pet / little one cam, the Nest Cam — which is a part of Google’s new lineup of security cameras that includes a doorbell, an indoor / outside camera, and a floodlight cameras — does a nice job. Its finest function is its on-device processing that delivers snappy (and free) smart alerts to inform you whether or not it’s a cat or your little one that simply snuck into the kitchen earlier than dinner.

With three hours of free occasion playback, you’ll be able to see what went on with out having to pay a month-to-month subscription price (as lengthy as you catch the alert inside that three-hour window), and due to some native storage, the camera can report an hour’s price of occasions if the web goes down. If you happen to spring for Google’s Nest Conscious plan (beginning at $6 a month), you’ll be able to add the glorious Acquainted Faces function (which can inform you which little one snuck into the kitchen — but sadly not which cat) and allow 24/7 recording (a useful function if you wish to see what your canine did all day or “movie” a occasion or occasion at your house).

Sadly, the Nest Cam just isn’t as good at both of these items as Nest’s earlier camera — the $299 Nest Cam IQ Indoor. It had the possibility of sound alerts to detect a canine barking and folks speaking and may report a timelapse — which was a enjoyable use of 24/7 recording. Granted, it was $200 costlier and fairly giant and cumbersome compared to the diminutive newer mannequin, but I’m not normally a fan of constructing smart dwelling gadgets dumber or much less succesful.

Maybe Google thinks the fancy 4K sensor-powered Nest Cam IQ with a built-in Google Assistant was overkill for the common individual, and possibly it was. But that doesn’t clarify why the newer Nest Cam with its 1080p, 2-megapixel camera has considerably worse video quality than the older model, past simply decrease decision. Google stated it ditched the 4K sensors to assist protect bandwidth (its wired cameras are infamous knowledge hogs), but primarily based on my testing, competitors’ cameras that price underneath $50 have higher video quality than this camera. They don’t look as fairly, although.

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The Nest Cam struggled with distinction and definition in indoor lighting conditions.

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The $36 Wyze cam with related specs as the Nest Cam captured a lot clearer footage, as you’ll be able to see on this screenshot taken at the similar time in the similar location as the Nest Cam.

In my testing, I in contrast the Nest Cam side-by-side with a $36 Wyze Cam V3, and the Wyze Cam produced significantly better quality photographs. The photographs from the Nest Cam had been over-saturated, darkish, and usually had a lot of artefacting. Additionally they appeared like I used to be viewing my dwelling by means of rose-tinted glasses. I examined two models as a result of Google stated it has recognized a difficulty with some cameras the place the auto-white stability is out of whack, inflicting the rosy tint. But each cameras I examined had the similar concern. Google says it’s rolling out a repair subsequent month, and I’ll re-test and replace this overview if I see any adjustments.

I additionally did a comparability with the Nest Cam battery, which is Google’s new indoor / outside camera that has the possibility of being wired. It didn’t wrestle as a lot with the distinction as the wired model, but its indoor photographs weren’t as crisp and clear as these it captured outside.

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The Nest Cam solid a very rosy glow over my home (which isn’t pink in actual life).

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This picture taken at the similar time but from a wall-mounted Nest Cam IQ, supplies a extra correct illustration of my kitchen.

Night time imaginative and prescient on the Nest Cam was extra profitable — and positively not rose-tinted. The usual black and white video captures as much as 15 toes at evening, which is greater than you’d want in most dwelling environments. The 6x digital zoom (a step down from the Nest Cam IQ’s 12x) gave me sufficient pixels to zoom in on faces and make them out clearly.

After all, video quality isn’t every part relating to a smart dwelling security camera. It’s no good having top-quality video should you can’t entry it shortly on a useable app. Design and construct are additionally elements, as are privateness options, audio quality, and smart dwelling integrations.

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The Nest Cam may be mounted to a ceiling or wall utilizing screws.

The Nest Cam has a nice design and the distinctive possibility of 4 shade decisions — white, gray, blue, and pink. It’s additionally surprisingly small — the base is sort of as massive as the camera, and the two collectively prime out at slightly below 4 inches. A maple wooden base on the pink camera is a nice decor contact, but I didn’t like the restricted quantity of flexibility the camera had on the mount (which it’s fastened, too). Whilst you can mount it on the wall, as effectively as sit flat on a desk or shelf, it solely tilts up and down a few levels, making it difficult to place completely in some conditions. You’ll be able to transfer it aspect to aspect nearly a full 360 levels, but the fastened wire will cease you from going all the approach round.

When the camera is recording, a small LED on the camera glows inexperienced, and this will’t be disabled. If somebody is viewing the dwell stream, the LED flashes. That is a good privateness function — though not sufficient to assuage the fears of my household. Finally, a bodily {hardware} shutter is the solely factor that can make most individuals really feel comfy, and I’m stunned Google didn’t provide this selection.

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The Nest Cam is just barely taller than a journey sized bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Nest Cam has full-duplex two-way audio, which labored effectively in my testing. I may keep it up a dialog as if it had been a phone name — even speaking over one another and nonetheless with the ability to hear. That have is significantly better than a lot of indoor security cameras the place the interplay is extra like a walkie-talkie, and lag time may be actually irritating.

The Nest Cam can be fast at sending alerts. Notifications for movement, animals, folks, and autos (there’s not a lot of visitors in my front room, to be honest) arrived on my iPhone 13 simply 1 to three seconds after the motion. This may give me loads of time to react — nonetheless, the Google House app takes as much as 10 seconds to drag up the footage. For simply shortly viewing footage, the Nest Hub smart shows are quicker than the app, pulling up a feed inside a couple seconds, but you’ll be able to’t work together with the feed or discuss to somebody by means of the Hub.

This brings me to my different concern with the Nest Cam: the Google House app. You must use it with this camera; it received’t work with the Nest app. I’ve used and cherished the Nest app for years, and its means to shortly scroll by means of footage and recorded occasions all on one web page is one thing I actually miss right here. With the House app, you must faucet into two or three completely different screens to see clips, dwell footage, or a timeline, and the timeline scroll could be very gradual (Google has said it’s fixing this).

Whereas the accuracy of alerts in the newer Nest Cams is much superior to the older ones — which would normally ping me 35 instances in the center of the evening as a result of a spider was constructing its internet on the camera — digging in the Settings part of the Google House app to determine the way to arrange an exercise zone is sort of as tiresome. But Google has clearly indicated that it plans emigrate every part from the Nest app, so we’ll all need to wrestle on in the House app.

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The Nest Cam makes use of an connected 10 foot USB-An influence cable, which may plug into the included energy brick.

There is just too a lot occurring in the House app to make utilizing it as a security camera hub a nice expertise. And whereas the camera interface has some nice touches (like seeing a dwell feed of all of your cameras if you open it), it’s too fiddly and requires too many faucets and clicks and scrolls to get to the footage you need.

It’s additionally lacking some options from the Nest app, together with scheduling your cameras to return on and off at sure instances. As a substitute, there’s a Routine that can management them primarily based in your location, but that’s not useful if you would like them on at evening if you are sleeping. There’s an choice to solely get notified when the camera is on and nobody is dwelling, which helps a bit, but scheduling doesn’t really feel like a massive ask.

You can also’t use Google’s Nest cameras in any ecosystem apart from Google House. The outdated Nest cameras labored with Amazon Alexa and, extra just lately, SmartThings, but these are Google solely. In case you are operating a Google smart dwelling, that received’t be a difficulty — these cameras combine properly with some other Google-compatible system. Apart from in a single odd approach — you’ll be able to’t view your camera feed on a Chromecast-enabled TV. Google says it’s engaged on including the function, as effectively as a internet interface, which was a function of Nest cameras.

Whereas I do recognize Google’s efforts to make smart dwelling gadgets extra suited to our dwelling, and the native processing is a superb step ahead, I don’t like seeing gadgets lose performance. Google nonetheless has a lot of labor to do with the Nest Cam, and that’s a disgrace as a result of Nest’s indoor cameras had been the trade gold commonplace. Now, in far too many respects, they’re enjoying catch up.

Pictures by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

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