Nucleus Anywhere Intercom review: Clever Nucleus Intercom uses Alexa to help you keep watch

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The Good The Nucleus Anywhere Intercom makes video calls easy and connects calls without waiting for the recipient to pick up. With Amazon's Alexa, you can make calls with your voice or use the Nucleus to control your smart home.

The Bad You don't need a Nucleus if the people you want to talk to have a smartphone. The touchscreen is underused and the call quality isn't any better than you get from a number of free apps for video calls.

The Bottom Line Though it's entirely redundant for the smartphone-equipped family, the Nucleus works well enough as a feature-rich intercom to be worthwhile if you want to check on elderly parents or small children.

7.1 Overall
  • Features 8
  • Usability 8
  • Design 6
  • Performance 6

Between Skype, FaceTime and any of Google's apps for chatting, you might think a device like the Nucleus Anywhere Intercom redundant with the smartphone you already carry in your pocket. That said, if you have elderly parents or kids to check up on, especially if they aren't so familiar with technology, a Nucleus could come in handy.

A simple touchscreen with a camera you can use to make voice or video calls, the Nucleus fulfills its duties as an intercom well. You can instantly communicate from device to device, even if one of the devices is in a different home. It also communicates with phones via the app. To top it off, the Nucleus works with Amazon's digital assistant Alexa -- allowing you to make calls and access most of Alexa's other capabilities with your voice.

At $250, the Nucleus is on the expensive side for a smart home device, but it's cheaper and easier to use than most tablets, since it doesn't have most tablet functions. Don't be fooled by the big touchscreen and Alexa capabilities into thinking that the Nucleus is a good at multitasking. It's an intercom with a few extras and that's it. Still, if an intercom would be useful in your life, the Nucleus is worth considering.

Getting ready to chat

The 8-inch touchscreen on the Nucleus Anywhere Intercom sits below a large black ring surrounding a giant camera lens. The size of the touchscreen is comparable to an iPad Mini's, but the Nucleus is much thicker. It's not meant as a device you take around with you.

The Nucleus comes with a stand so you can easily prop it up on a desk. Unfortunately, you can't adjust the angle of the stand to give yourself the best view of the room. You can mount the device on the wall, and it comes with the necessary brackets.

You can't change the angle of the stand, but you can mount a Nucleus on a wall.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Plug in the Nucleus and it automatically boots up on its own. Enter your Wi-Fi info, then sit back for a bit while it downloads recent updates. Once it's ready, the Nucleus will walk you through a quick tutorial, then prompt you to set up an account and get started. You'll use your email address as your username, and you'll also give your name, your family name and a room name for that device.

In a nice touch, after you verify your email, Nucleus will send you a "Home Code." If you set up any other devices, you can skip straight to entering the room name by entering this code.

If you want to use it as an intercom system, you'll obviously want more than one. If you're primarily using it to check in with your elderly parents, a single Nucleus will work just fine with your cell phone via the Nucleus app for iOS and Android.

You can purchase a single Nucleus for $250 on the company's site, or buy a pack of them for various discounts. They're also available via Amazon, Best Buy and Lowe's. Right now, the product is only available in the US.

Making a call

The Nucleus home screen shows your connected devices, including cell phones.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Use a Nucleus to call another, and you'll see the one main advantage it has over the many free chat apps for your phone: You don't have to wait for the other person to pick up to connect. Press the camera or voice icon for another Nucleus device, and the receiving device picks up automatically.

You can make a quick announcement, check on a room or chat with your elderly parents without requiring them to even touch the screen. This even works from the mobile app, so you can check on your home remotely without needing anyone there to pick up.

Tap the privacy button to turn off the automatic pickup feature.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

I like this feature, privacy implications and all, because you can turn it off. Tap the Privacy button in the lower right corner of the screen and you will have to pick up to connect any inbound calls. You can tap the Do Not Disturb icon next to it if you don't want to receive any calls at all. There's even a physical shutter you can slide over the camera if you want to be certain your privacy is secured.

I'd have appreciated the ability to differentiate kids' devices from parents -- so that parents could still make a quick announcement even if the child has privacy mode turned on. I'd also add a "Page All" feature to my wish list allowing one device to quickly connect with all of the rest.

Close the physical shutter for an added layer of privacy.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Calling from device to cell phone isn't instant. In fact, if you've recently closed the apps on your cell, it won't go through. You need to have the Nucleus app open, at least in the background, to be notified that someone's trying to reach you.

You can also connect to other Nucleus users via a remote connection. Remote connections don't have access to all of your home devices, and don't connect instantly. In settings, you can share an individual device by sending a unique code to a friend over email. Once that person enters the code, you're prompted to approve the connection, and then you'll see each other in the remote tab.