Nest Cam review:

Don't get rid of your Dropcam just yet

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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

1.5 stars 10 user reviews

The Good Nest Cam's high-resolution video (1080p), magnetic base, pivoting stand and updated app make this DIY device an improvement over Dropcam Pro -- and many other DIY cameras.

The Bad Like Dropcam Pro, Nest Cam is still just a webcam at heart. While it does offer security features like opt-in motion and sound alerts, they aren't especially useful since you can only receive one notification every 30 minutes.

The Bottom Line Given that Nest Cam and Dropcam Pro are pretty similar, it doesn't make a lot of sense for existing users to replace their Pro. But, budding DIYers searching for a high-res live streaming camera really can't beat Nest Cam.

8.6 Overall
  • Features 8.0
  • Usability 9.0
  • Design 8.5
  • Performance 9.0

Startup Dropcam emerged on the connected webcam scene in 2009. The team churned out a handful of products over the years and Dropcam -- particularly with help from its $200 Dropcam Pro -- quickly rose up the ranks as the high-res DIY security cam company to beat. Then, smart-thermostat maker and Google property Nest swooped in and bought the brand for a cool $555 million last June and, after some serious speculation, finally unveiled a "new-and-improved" Dropcam Pro replacement called Nest Cam just last week.

Here's the gist: Nest Cam is better than Dropcam Pro. It has a full 1080p video resolution, a rotating, magnetic stand, a new app interface as well as a couple of other minor improvements. It even retails for the same amount as its predecessor. But all that stuff isn't enough of an upgrade for me to urge existing Dropcam Pro users to run to a local store to snatch one up today. If you're in the market for a webcam with a few security features, the $200 Nest Cam is rapidly replacing Dropcam Pro as the gold standard and I highly recommend it. Just don't expect it to function as a true security camera .

The webcam side of the spectrum

I'm a little torn on Nest Cam. Its specs -- 1080p video (specifically, a 1920x1080, 2-megapixel resolution), night vision, two-way talk, sound and motion alerts, optional Nest Aware cloud services that let you revisit past footage and set activity zones for a fee -- are solid. A quick side-by-side comparison of Nest Cam with ArcSoft's Simplicam , Dropcam Pro , Icontrol's Piper (original) and Samsung's SmartCam HD Pro clearly shows that it's competitive with these highly rated models.

ArcSoft Simplicam Nest Cam Dropcam Pro Piper Samsung SmartCam HD Pro
Price $150 $200 $200 $200 $190
Color Black Black Black White White
Field of view (diagonal) 107 degrees 130 degrees 130 degrees 180 degrees 128 degrees
Video quality 1,280x720 1,920x1,080 1,280x720 1,920x1,080 1,920x1,080
Cloud storage Yes, starts at $5/month or $50/year for 1 day Yes, starts at $10/month or $99/year for 10 days Yes, starts at $10/month or $99/year for 7 days Yes, saves up to 1,000 clips at no extra cost No
Local storage No No No No Yes, SD card
Glass lens Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Night vision Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Mobile app Yes, Android and iOS Yes, Android and iOS Yes, Android and iOS Yes, Android and iOS Yes, Android and iOS
Web app Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
2-way audio Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Motion and sound alerts Yes, and face recognition with cloud subscription Yes Yes Yes Yes
Protocol integration No No No Yes, Z-Wave No

The thing is, it really isn't a fully functioning security camera -- which would be a deal breaker if its video quality wasn't so darn impressive.

Its biggest offense is that it doesn't have customizable alerts. Instead, it is programmed to issue a maximum of one motion or sound alert every 30 minutes, just like Dropcam Pro.

In other words, I could walk in front of the camera and trigger an immediate motion alert (assuming that it had been at least 30 minutes since the previous notification) and for the next half-hour won't receive any notifications at all. So say I triggered a motion alert while I was turning off a lamp in the living room before heading to bed for the night. If someone broke in 20 minutes later, I wouldn't receive a notification. And, if they happened to spend only a few minutes rifling through my stuff before making an escape, I wouldn't get an alert then, either.

This places Nest Cam pretty far on the webcam side of the spectrum, and it also doesn't offer the best value for cloud recording compared with some other models in the same price range.

You can arm and disarm Icontrol's original Piper as well as its pricer NV model , and both give you a lot of control over how and when you receive alerts and both come with built-in sirens and free event-based recording. ArcSoft's Simplicam has cloud subscription fees starting at just 5 bucks a month. Even the free Salient Eye Android app , which converts a camera-equipped Android device of your choosing into a security camera, has arm and disarm functionality, a siren and customizable alerts.

Nest Cam costs $200 in the US and is available at chain retailers like Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe's nationwide as well as on Nest's online store and on Amazon. Folks in the UK will be able to buy units for £159 starting in July. Nest hasn't announced Australian availability as of yet, but the US price converts to roughly $AU260.

The new Nest Aware cloud video service cost $10 a month for 10 days of continuous recording and $30 a month for 30 days of continuous recording. This is very similar to Dropcam's original subscription levels, although its lowest tier cost $10 a month for 7 days of continuous recording (so you get a few more days of footage for the same price with this new Nest service). That's decent, but it would be much better if they offered a $5 for 5 days option or something else similarly affordable. Along with that, it's really frustrating that you can't customize the sensitivity of the motion sensor and the frequency of related alerts.

And...action!

Nest Cam never disappointed in terms of video quality. Its live stream in regular and night vision modes were top notch, making it a little easier to pick up on details in a room or a person's features than with Dropcam Pro. (I actually tested a Dropcam Pro alongside Nest Cam so I could pick up on subtle differences between the two.)

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