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

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.

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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