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Nest Cam IQ Outdoor review: Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: A durable, costly camera for your yard

The $349 Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is a front-runner among weatherproof outdoor cameras -- but it costs a lot.

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Megan Wollerton
meganwollertonportraits0719-23a

Megan Wollerton

Senior Writer/Editor

Megan Wollerton has covered technology for CNET since 2013. Before that, she wrote for NBC's Dvice.com (now SyFy). Megan has a master's degree from the University of Louisville and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College, both in international relations. She is a board member of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. When Megan isn't writing, she's planning far-flung adventures.

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9 min read

Editor's note, Aug. 5, 2021: Google recently announced a new Nest Cam that will replace the Nest Cam reviewed here in late 2021. We will update our recommendations accordingly once we've reviewed the new model.

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7.4

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

The Good

The $349 Nest Cam IQ Outdoor sends fast motion and person alerts. Sign up for Nest's cloud service starting at $5 per month to get custom person alerts for anyone you add to your facial recognition database. The IQ Outdoor works with Alexa and Google Assistant.

The Bad

It's expensive, and fiddly to install.

The Bottom Line

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is expensive, but it might be worth it if you want a durable, weatherproof camera with facial recognition.

The $349 Nest Cam IQ Outdoor (£329, roughly AU$450, converted) is a weatherproof home security camera with strong performance, but its high price will scare a lot of people away. 

You can view a live video feed from your phone or computer and receive alerts when there's motion or a loud sound. In addition to its crisp 1080p HD resolution and responsive alerts, the IQ Outdoor comes with free person alerts and 12x digital zoom courtesy of a 4K image sensor. Folks who subscribe to the Nest Aware service can also create a facial recognition database of friends and family members to receive custom person alerts when the camera sees "Chris," "Ashlee" or anyone else they add.

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor also has the benefit of working alongside other Nest devices, so if you have Nest thermostats, a Hello doorbell, or anything else from the Google brand, you can view it all from the same app. The IQ Outdoor also works seamlessly with Alexa and Google Assistant.

But $349 is arguably too expensive for this DIY security camera, so you need to be sure you'll make use of the 4K sensor and the IQ Outdoor's other high-end features before you buy.

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor sees who you are, sends an alert

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Just how smart is the IQ Outdoor?

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor looks very similar to the $200/£150 Nest Cam Outdoor camera -- both are white, plug-in weatherproof cameras you mount to an exterior wall or ceiling with the included hardware. The main differences instead deal with the IQ Outdoor's free person alerts and the optional, subscription-based facial recognition via Nest Aware that costs $5 a month. The Nest Cam Outdoor has no facial recognition capability, and offers person alerts only via the same $5 monthly subscription. 

The IQ Outdoor's 4K image sensor is a significant distinction, too, as it allows for a 12x digital zoom and a free feature Nest calls "Supersight." Supersight automatically zooms in on people so you can more quickly figure out who's there and what they're doing. You can disable this feature in the app if it annoys you. 

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

Supersight is useful to an extent, for fast, close-up glances at a scene. At the same time, Nest's 1080p high-definition resolution is plenty crisp enough in every testing scenario I've come across. Take the below screenshot of our multimedia producer, Chris, as an example. In the larger screen, you're seeing Supersight at work, zooming in on him as he's walking around the IQ Outdoor. But in the regularly zoomed screen in the bottom left corner, I could still clearly make out that it was Chris and what he was doing. 

Supersight does make it easier to see objects more quickly. In one person alert, someone walked by the camera carrying a broom. Later, the same person carried a leaf blower within range of the camera. In both cases, he eventually walked close enough to the camera for me to see the broom and the blower in regular zoom mode, but Supersight made it possible to see them sooner.  

Fortunately, I didn't notice any changes to the video's loading time or any other obvious bandwidth issues as a result of Supersight and the IQ Outdoor's 4K sensor. 

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The app automatically zoomed in on Chris while he was taking pictures of the camera. You can see the full zoomed-out view in the small window in the bottom left corner.

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Check out the comparison chart to see how the IQ compares with the Nest Cam Outdoor, the Netatmo Presence and the Netgear Arlo Go:

Comparing outdoor security cameras


Nest Cam IQ OutdoorNest Cam OutdoorNetgear Arlo GoNetatmo Presence
Price $349$200$400$300
Color finish WhiteWhiteWhiteBlack
Weatherproof OutdoorOutdoorIndoor/outdoorOutdoor
Connection type Wi-FiWi-FiCellularWi-Fi
Power source Plug-in adapterPlug-in adapterRechargeable batteryHardwired
Resolution 1080p HD1080p HD720p HD1080p HD
Livestreaming Yes YesYesYes
Continuous recording Yes, with Nest AwareYes, with Nest AwareNoNo
Cloud storage Yes, free three-hour image history; optional Nest Aware subscription service starting at $5 per monthYes, free three-hour image history; optional Nest Aware subscription service starting at $5 per monthYes, free 7-day video clip history; optional subscription plan starting at $10 per monthNo
Local storage NoNoYes (microSD card, not included)Internal microSD card
Mobile app Yes YesYesYes
Web app Yes YesYesYes
Night vision Yes YesYesYes
Alerts Motion, sound, person, facial recognition (with Nest Aware)Motion, sound, person (with Nest Aware)Motion and soundMotion, person, car or animal
Activity zones Yes, with Nest AwareYes, with Nest AwareNoYes
Third-party integrations Amazon Alexa; Google Assistant; IFTTTAmazon Alexa; Google Assistant; IFTTTAmazon Alexa; Google Assistant; IFTTTApple HomeKit, IFTTT

I haven't tested any other wall-mounted Wi-Fi outdoor cameras that cost as much as the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which makes direct comparisons somewhat difficult. The Netgear Arlo Go and the Netatmo Presence come the closest both in terms of pricing and features. 

The Arlo Go by Netgear is an outdoor LTE camera. So instead of connecting over Wi-Fi, this one relies on a subscription to a cellular service. The Arlo Go is also battery-powered, so like Netgear's other indoor/outdoor Arlo cameras the Go doesn't have to be tethered to a power adapter. That certainly sets it apart from the IQ Outdoor, but they share the same third-party integrations with Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as cloud subscription services. The Netatmo Presence camera replaces an existing wired outdoor light fixture. It does connect over Wi-Fi and offer person alerts, but it works with Apple's smart home platform, HomeKit, rather than Alexa or Google Assistant. 

The $180 Logitech Circle 2 wired security camera beats them all, though, since it's compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant.

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The same view in daylight and at night.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Setup and beyond

In terms of setup and installation, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor was mostly simple. As with other Nest products, you download the Nest app and create an account, or sign in with your existing one, and follow the detailed step-by-step tutorial. Be sure to test the quality of your Wi-Fi network wherever you plan to install your camera, because you don't want to drill holes in your wall only to realize that you need to invest in a Wi-Fi extender. 

You also need to think about how you want to install your camera. You can't set the IQ Outdoor on a picnic table on your back deck railing and call it a day -- it doesn't have a typical camera base. Instead, it comes with mounting brackets designed to let you attach it to a ceiling or a wall. Nest's instructions suggest that you drill a hole through a wall so that you can feed the power adapter from an interior outlet. Its installation guide specifically says, "Nest Cam IQ Outdoor has a 25 foot (7.5 m) outdoor-rated power cable that is designed to be easily routed through or along a wall to an indoor power outlet."

Because I installed this camera temporarily for testing purposes, I didn't drill holes through any walls. I instead fed the cord straight down from the camera to an outdoor outlet, which worked well for me, but isn't recommended. You could always feed the cord through a door to an interior outlet, but that isn't as "finished-looking" and you risk tripping over the cable if it isn't secured well enough. Fortunately, your purchase does include cable clips if you want to make sure the cable doesn't move around. 

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You'll get an alert when Nest thinks it sees someone you've added to your facial recognition database. 

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

If you have an Alexa- or Google-Assistant-compatible smart TV or an Amazon speaker with a screen like the Echo Show, you can view your IQ Outdoor's live video feed with a voice command. I found getting this to work was as simple as opening up the Alexa or Google Home app and entering in the email and password of a Nest account. Then you can say, "Alexa/Hey, Google, show me the backyard camera" -- or whatever you name your camera.

Note: Make sure to name your IQ Outdoor something unique so Alexa and Google Assistant can distinguish between it and any other connected cameras you might have at home. The same goes for the TV you want to view your live feed on. I had to specify to Google Assistant, "Hey Google, show me the backyard camera on the main TV." 

Google Assistant is built in to the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, meaning you can ask it questions and control your smart devices in much the same way as you would a Google Home speaker. But that feature won't be available on the IQ Outdoor any time soon. A Nest support page specifically says: "Note: In order to help protect your privacy and security, the Google Assistant is not included on any of our outdoor products such as Nest Cam IQ Outdoor."

That makes sense, but it's yet another feature excluded from this pricey security camera. 

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When the IQ Outdoor sees a new face, it asks if you know the person. If so, you can assign a name and add that person to your database of "familiar faces" in the app.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Facial recognition is becoming increasingly common among DIY security cameras, but having it on an outdoor device is not as common. Nest's own Hello video doorbell has the same feature and it worked very well. The same is true for the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor. I tested the IQ Outdoor during different times of day in different weather conditions with different hair styles -- and even wore sunglasses to try to confuse it. Every time it recognized and correctly identified me. It also successfully picked up Chris and a couple of other people I added to my database.

This feature is only available to Nest Aware subscribers, though. Read more about Nest Aware here.

As you can see in the screenshots above, the app will let you know when it sees a new face and give you the chance to say whether you know the person or not. If you do and want that person to be part of the database, click yes and add the name to the app. Then you'll start receiving custom alerts that will tell you when the camera sees "Chris" or "Megan" versus an "unfamiliar face."

Everything I tested worked well. The live feed was crisp and clear, the alerts were prompt and the facial recognition algorithm never mistook me for someone else. 

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Create up to four motion zones in Nest's web app.

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

I also like that you have the option to sign up for free features like Home/Away Assist. Home/Away Assist lets Nest use your phone's location to determine if you're home or not. From there, you can customize if you want your camera (or any other Nest devices) to automatically turn on when you leave and off when you get home (or, in the case of Nest's thermostats, simply adjust to different temperatures rather than turning on or off). Since this is an outdoor camera, I wasn't concerned about this privacy setting, but it's a nice thing to have if you do want it.

Nest Aware subscribers also get access to motion detection zones, a feature that's easy to set up in Nest's web app. Just log in to the web app, and select "Zones" and then "Create" to select up to four areas where the camera can customize the motion it detects by area.

32 outdoor security cameras that take home security seriously

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Conclusion

I have few complaints about the impressive $349 Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, but the issues I do have could easily be deal breakers. The installation is a bit involved, particularly if you decide to drill through a wall rather than just running the cable through a nearby door. It's also a very expensive camera. The upfront expense, plus the expectation that you'll probably sign up for Nest Aware, means you'll also be spending at least $50 per year to use the advanced features the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor provides (Nest gives you a discount if you pay for a year's cloud service subscription rather than month-to-month). 

Since the Nest Cam IQ Indoor is priced at $299, the weatherproof IQ Outdoor was understandably priced higher. But because the IQ Indoor is so much more expensive than the $199 Nest Cam Indoor, the IQ Outdoor's price seems even more absurd. 

Another gripe, aside from the high price of the camera itself, is that Nest still doesn't offer a free, short-term video clip storage option. It currently gives you three free hours of saved snapshot history, but no video clips. Nearly every other competitor offers at least a couple of hours of free video clips so you can review past events, including Netgear, which offers a full seven days of saved clips.

For $349, I expect Nest to offer more free features -- perhaps both the person alerts and the facial recognition database. But that shift would likely require Nest to offer a free video option and it's clearly trying hard to avoid that. 

If you're looking for a full-featured DIY home security camera, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is a still good option. It's truly one of the few that combines strong performance with an easy-to-use app and it has the added bonus of being supported by Google, which is a major smart home platform. Consider it if you want facial recognition, but stick with the $200 Nest Cam Outdoor if you don't because the IQ Outdoor isn't worth it for the 4K and Supersight features alone.

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7.4

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 8Design 7Performance 8
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