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Nest Cam Indoor review: This smart indoor security camera sees in HD

Nest's $200 Dropcam Pro replacement is pretty awesome, but it doesn't offer enough extras to warrant an immediate upgrade.

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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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6 min read

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

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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8.3

Nest Cam Indoor

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.

Nest Cam IQ Matrix Promo


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 .

Give high-res live streaming a go with Nest Cam (pictures)

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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 SimplicamNest CamDropcam ProPiperSamsung SmartCam HD Pro
Price $150$200$200$200$190
Color BlackBlackBlackWhiteWhite
Field of view (diagonal) 107 degrees130 degrees130 degrees180 degrees128 degrees
Video quality 1,280x7201,920x1,0801,280x7201,920x1,0801,920x1,080
Cloud storage Yes, starts at $5/month or $50/year for 1 dayYes, starts at $10/month or $99/year for 10 daysYes, starts at $10/month or $99/year for 7 daysYes, saves up to 1,000 clips at no extra cost No
Local storage NoNoNoNoYes, SD card
Glass lens YesYesYesYesYes
Night vision YesYesYesNoYes
Mobile app Yes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOSYes, Android and iOS
Web app YesYesYesYesYes
2-way audio YesYesYesYesYes
Motion and sound alerts Yes, and face recognition with cloud subscription YesYesYesYes
Protocol integration NoNoNoYes, Z-WaveNo

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.

All of the indoor home security cameras we've tested

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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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Nest Cam and Dropcam Pro side by side.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Take a look at these screenshots comparing Nest Cam and Dropcam Pro in regular and night-vision modes (note that the cameras were side by side so the fields of view may look slightly different, although both are 130 degrees).

nest-cam3.jpg

The cameras in night-vision mode.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

While Nest Cam's 1080p video is slightly better than Dropcam Pro's 720p feed, it isn't dramatic enough to make replacing your Dropcam Pro worthwhile. But, it is a fantastic live-streaming device -- one of the best we've seen. Piper's 1080p is good, but its 180-degree fisheye lens distorts the view to some extent. Samsung's SmartCam HD Pro probably comes the closest, but its feed still wasn't as clear as the new Nest Cam.

I also received the motion and sound alerts promptly, although they were limited to 30-minute increments. The activity zone feature that lets you target specific areas for alerts worked consistently as well.

Although you can't currently integrate Nest Cam with third-party products or services like IFTTT, you can link it to the Nest Learning Thermostat via the "Home & Away" feature in the Nest app. When you enable this feature, your Nest Cam will turn on when you set the Nest Learning Thermostat to Away and off when you set it to Home. This feature was very responsive and worked every time.

Nest hasn't shared any specifics about integrations with its parent company, Google and the Brillo Internet of Things operating system that it announced in May, either, although Greg Hu, a Nest product manager, did say this month that there would be more to share on that front "soon." I also expect to hear details about partnerships within Nest's own Internet of Things initiative, Works with Nest, which pairs Nest products with third-party devices for advanced home automations.




Design and setup

Nest Cam is an attractive camera with a lot of built-in functionality. Like the Dropcam Pro, you can remove the camera from the stand and its black finish blends in well with most surroundings. This version adds on a magnetic base as well as a rotating stand so you can more easily install the camera and optimize its angle.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Setup was seamless. I already had the Nest app from using the Learning Thermostat, so I just opened the app and selected "Add product." From there, the app walks you through everything you need to configure your camera, including selecting Nest Cam from the list of options (you can add Learning Thermostats, Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, Nest Cams, Dropcam Pros and the original Dropcam on the new Nest app), scanning the QR code on the back of the camera and entering in local Wi-Fi details.

Once it connects, you'll have access to the home screen, the live feed and more. You'll also get a free trial of the Nest Aware service so you can decide if continuous recording and activity zones are worth it.

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Inside the app.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Should you buy a Nest Cam?

Nest Cam is an excellent camera and its streamlined app provides easy access to your live feed, activity log and settings. $10 per month is a little steep for entry-level cloud services and the 30-minute wait between alerts is less than helpful. Even so, Nest Cam is easy to recommend to anyone interested in an top-of-the-line webcam with some security features thrown into the mix.

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8.3

Nest Cam Indoor

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 9Design 8.5Performance 9