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Nest Cam Outdoor review: Nest's hardy outdoor camera watches over your roost

Nest brings the best parts of its existing indoor camera outside with Nest Cam Outdoor.

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Megan Wollerton
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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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If you like Nest Cam Indoor, you're probably going to like the $200/£150 Nest Cam Outdoor, too. That's because Nest essentially took its wide-angle high-definition indoor-only camera, wrapped it in a weather-friendly finish and offered it up to folks looking for a DIY outdoor camera.

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8.0

Nest Cam Outdoor

The Good

Nest Cam Outdoor comes with crisp HD video resolution, wide-angle glass lens, long extension cord and 3 hours of free cloud storage. It also plays well with other Nest products via the same Android and iPhone app.

The Bad

The alerts are still sporadic -- you won't get one every time activity takes place. If you want Person Alerts and select other advanced features, you will have to pay a monthly fee for the Nest Aware service.

The Bottom Line

Nest Cam Outdoor is up there with Netgear's Arlo as a highly recommendable DIY outdoor camera -- you'll just have to decide if you'd rather deal with Nest's power cord or Arlo's batteries.

That may seem a touch lazy to some, but Nest's indoor camera is great, so the team simply applied its core specs to another product. That's not all the Google/Alphabet property did, though.

Nest also updated its app to give every user 3 free hours of event-based cloud storage -- a significant upgrade that makes it more competitive with other DIY cams on the market. Now available for sale in the US with plans to expand internationally later this year, Nest Cam Outdoor is an outside-rate security camera I can comfortably recommend.

Take a look outside with Nest Cam Outdoor

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Venturing outside

There are quite a few outdoor-rated DIY security products on the market. Here's a non-exhaustive list of of the field today:

The vast majority of the products listed above are specialty outdoor products. The SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell, August Doorbell Cam, Ring Video Doorbell, Ring Video Doorbell Pro and Bird Home Automation DoorBird Video Doorbell, for instance, are all doorbell cameras. That means you'll have to replace your existing buzzer to set up one of these camera-equipped Wi-Fi versions. Similarly, you'll have to replace an existing wired outdoor light to install the Kuna Light Fixture.

Panasonic's Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit worked fine, but was quite dated and we haven't yet reviewed the Panasonic Nubo, Ring Stick Up Cam or Kuna Toucan. But the Netgear Arlo is a solid competitor to Nest's Outdoor Cam. Take a look at the two cameras side by side:

Comparing Nest Cam Outdoor and Netgear Arlo:

Nest Cam OutdoorNetgear Arlo
Price $200/£150$180/£135/AU$240
Color finish WhiteWhite
Power source 25-foot extension cord4 CR123 lithium 3-volt photo batteries
Resolution 1080p HD720p HD
Live streaming YesYes
Continuous recording Yes, with Nest AwareNo
Cloud storage Free 3-hour event-based snapshots (Optional 10-day or 30-day continuous recording and storage with Nest Aware subscription for $10 or $30 per month)Free 7-day event-based video clip storage (Optional 30- or 60-day event-based video clip storage with Arlo subscription for $10 or $15 per month)
Local storage NoNo
Mobile app Yes, Android and iPhoneYes, Android and iPhone
Web app YesYes
Night vision YesYes
Alerts Motion and sound (Person Alerts added with Nest Aware)Motion only
Activity zones Yes, with Nest AwareNo
Operating temperature range -4 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 40 degrees Celsius).14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 to 50 degree Celsius)
Third-party integrations Works with Nest, IFTTTIFTTT

While these cameras do share a lot of similarities, they have one major distinction -- their power source -- and it's really up to you whether you want to deal with a power cord or batteries. The Outdoor Cam's 25-foot power cord is long enough to give you quite a bit of leeway if your outdoor outlets aren't near your ideal installation spot. Still, you have to find a way to minimize the look of a long white cable hanging outside your house.

A battery-powered model like Netgear's Arlo makes installation easier, but you'll have to grab the camera from its installation spot periodically to swap out those hard-to-find CR123's.

I also have a question about theft with both of these units. Both Nest Cam Outdoor and Arlo look nice, but they have white finishes that aren't especially discreet. They also attach to their bases via magnets, making them simple to steal. For Nest Cam Outdoor, I'd suggest using the included clips to secure the power cord as a minimum precaution. Presumably you'll also get video footage of any thieves.

App stuff

When Nest announced the US retail availability of its Nest Cam Outdoor on September 8, it also launched a pretty major software update for both Android and iPhone. You can check out this post for the full details, but here's the gist:

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Enlarge Image
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"Your camera spotted a person."

Screenshot by CNET

Nest introduced 3 hours of free activity-based snapshots via a new feature called Sightline. Previously, you had to subscribe to Nest Aware for at least $10 per month to view past activity, but this 3-hour feature option at least gives users some glimpse into past events.

You can do even more with Sightline if you Subscribe to Nest Aware:

  • Time-lapse videos of events
  • Still images of important moments -- Nest says its algorithm curates which moments are most important and then selects the best image to showcase them
  • Activity zones

Nest also added Person Alerts for Nest Aware subscribers. Person Alerts isn't the same as facial recognition in that it can't tell who it sees, just that it sees someone. Still, it's a pretty significant addition.

Since everyone gets a one-month free subscription to Nest Aware from the date they set up their camera, I was able to test out all of these feature. Everything worked consistently well, with one frustrating exception. You still don't get an alert every time activity is detected. Nest says this is supposed to keep you from getting inundated with too many alerts. Fair enough.

Instead, it tries to determine what activity is the most important for you and uses Sightline's algorithm to show you the highlights. That could be a huge problem if you don't get an alert during a burglary, but a lot of people want complete control over their alerts so they can decide what's important and what isn't.

In terms of third-party integrations, I programmed Nest Cam Outdoor to send me a text when it detected either sound or motion via IFTTT. Nest Cam Outdoor doesn't show up as a dedicated IFTTT channel, but my camera still appeared in the list of available products via the general Nest Cam channel.

All of the indoor home security cameras we've tested

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The verdict

Nest's Outdoor Cam is a top contender as far as outside-rated DIY security products go. Its HD live stream is solid, its new 3-hour cloud storage adds significant appeal for folks who aren't interested in paying for Nest Aware and its magnetic base makes it easy to install.

On the other hand, that magnetic design also makes it easy to steal, and the power adapter could be a major eyesore depending on where you install it. I would also like to see more options in terms of alert customization rather than having to rely on Nest's algorithm to handle everything for you. Still, the $200/£150 Nest Cam Outdoor is a very strong outdoor security device that I highly recommend.

Not sold? Take a peek at the battery-powered Netgear Arlo.

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8.0

Nest Cam Outdoor

Score Breakdown

Features 8Usability 7Design 8Performance 9