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Nest Cam IQ Indoor review: Nest's 4K camera has the specs, but few will want to pay

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Editors' note (April 13, 2018): The Nest Cam IQ Indoor now doubles as a Google Assistant smart speaker. Read more about the new feature here.

The Good

The $299/£299 Nest Cam IQ has an 8-megapixel, 4K image sensor and improved 12x digital zoom for access to new livestreaming security features. A hardware upgrade improves the audio quality of Nest's two-way talk function.

The Bad

You still have to pay at least $10 per month for continuous cloud video storage. The camera's price doesn't quite match up with the features added.

The Bottom Line

The Nest Cam IQ is a solid camera that costs a little too much to readily recommend to most home security DIYers.
Nest Cam IQ Matrix Promo

The $299/£299 Nest Cam IQ is unquestionably smart, but I can't recommend it as readily as Nest's other security cameras. My main reason? Price.

Like the $199/£159 Nest Cam Indoor and Outdoor, the indoor-only IQ has 1080p HD livestreaming, a 130-degree field of view and advanced motion-sensing smarts. It also relies on the same Nest app and works with the same smart home partners. 

Read more: Google is replacing Works with Nest with Works with Google Assistant and it could make your smart home worse.  

The IQ's key differences are improved two-way audio and a larger 8-megapixel, 4K image sensor. The 4K sensor allows for 12x digital zoom and a free, IQ-exclusive feature called Supersight that focuses in on faces for an up-close look at who's in your house. 

While the IQ has more advanced specs and features than any Nest cam to date, I'm not sold on its value. If you don't mind paying more for this specced-out camera, go for it -- you will see a little more detail in the live feed. Regular ol' 1080p (without a 4K sensor) will likely do the trick for most, though.

Nest's 4K security camera auto-zooms to see faces up close

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Getting the Nest Cam IQ online

Follow these steps to get your Nest Cam up and running:

  • Create an account -- download the Nest app for Android, iPhone or the web

  • Enable notifications -- opt-in for real-time alerts when motion activity takes place

  • Name your house -- give your house a name; ours is the CNET Smart Home

  • Enter your address -- provide the address where your IQ is installed 

  • Allow Home/Away Assist -- give the Nest app permission to use your phone's location
  • Sign up for Family Accounts -- create individual Nest accounts for every family member

Many of these steps are optional, but enabling them all gives you full access to your Nest Cam's features. Providing your address, for instance, allows the software to track whether you and the rest of your family are home or away. This initial configuration process should take only a couple of minutes.

Now you're in your Nest app, but your camera hasn't been connected just yet. Here are the next steps for getting your Nest Cam IQ connected to your local Wi-Fi network:

  • Select "Add" on the app's home screen

  • Click "OK" when the app asks to access your camera

  • Scan the QR code on the bottom of the camera from the Nest app

  • Tell the Nest app where you're installing your IQ -- our CNET Smart Home camera is in the living room

  • Plug in the camera with the included power adapter; the app will automatically begin searching for the camera

  • Select your Wi-Fi network from the provided list and enter your password; your camera is now online

  • Opt-in to Nest's Familiar Face Alerts feature (optional, and only available for Nest Aware subscribers)

This may seem like a lot of steps, but most of them are very straightforward. The whole process should take less than 10 minutes, assuming your Wi-Fi network is strong and connects easily. Note: Always confirm the strength of your Wi-Fi connection where you plan to install your camera; a sluggish network can inhibit the live feed and other important features. 

What now?

Now that your Nest Cam IQ is online, you can go straight to viewing the live feed and enjoying free 30-day access to Nest's cloud subscription service, Nest Aware. Nest Aware is a contract-free service that costs $10 per month for 10 days of continuous video storage or $30 per month for 30 days of continuous video storage. (It's £8 or £24 in the UK respectively.) Learn more about Nest Aware here.

Nest Cam Indoor and Outdoor customers have to pay for Nest Aware to get access to features like Person Alerts, a type of notification that tells you when it sees a person (but not who it sees). Nest Cam IQ customers get this feature for free, as well as the IQ-exclusive Supersight. Supersight harnesses the IQ's powerful 4K image sensor, 12x digital zoom, as well as HDR (high dynamic range, for improved picture clarity) to track faces around a room.

Both Person Alerts and Supersight worked quite well, letting me know it spotted someone and zooming in on their face so I could ID them. If these two features are particularly important to you, the Nest Cam IQ's value improves slightly (since you don't have to pay for Nest Aware to access them). But, you'd still have to pay for Nest Aware if you want to review saved video footage. Note: Nest now offers all Nest customers 3 free hours of event history, but saved as snapshots of activity, rather than video clips. 

And, like Nest's other cameras, the IQ works with IFTTT, Nest's own Works with Nest platform, and Amazon Alexa (soon). Check out my post on viewing security camera feeds from the Amazon Echo Show for more details on the Alexa integration. 

Performance improvements

All of these features worked well during my testing, but three improvements stood out the most. First, you can see more detail than ever before with the IQ's 4K image sensor, including facial features that were previously fuzzy. Enabling Supersight, also called "Close-up tracking view" in the Nest app's settings, allows the camera to zoom in on motion to capture a close-up view of a person's face. 

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Supersight auto-zooms when it detects activity, but leaves a small full-view window in the bottom left corner.

Screenshot by CNET

Two-way talk is easier now, too, thanks to Nest's speaker upgrade; carry on a conversation with a family member remotely -- or tell your puppy to stop chewing on your shoes.

The biggest upgrade, though, is Nest's new Familiar Face Alerts feature. Note: Familiar Face Alerts are only available on IQ cameras with a Nest Aware subscription.

Familiar Face Alerts help you distinguish between friends and family -- and everyone else -- through an image database. When it detects a face, you can say whether or not you recognize the person to help train the system and improve its detection capabilities over time.

The verdict

The $299/£299 Nest Cam IQ is a solid camera with an equally solid app interface for accessing the live feed and making adjustments to features. But at 100 bucks more than Nest's indoor and outdoor cameras, the IQ strikes me as prohibitively expensive. 

That's especially true when you take a closer look at the features it adds. Yes, your live feed will have a bit more clarity, and you'll have free access to Person Alerts and Supersight. But are these features necessary for the regular DIYer who wants some security benefits, but is mainly checking in to see what their dog gets up to during the day? Probably not. 

The Nest Cam IQ has potential, but it just isn't quite worth the cost for most buyers today. Bump the price down, though, and Nest might really have something.

7.4

Nest Cam IQ Indoor

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 8Design 7Performance 8