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

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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.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.4 Overall
  • Features 7
  • Usability 8
  • Design 7
  • Performance 8

Review Sections

The $349/£329 Nest Cam IQ Outdoor (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.

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. 

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. 

nestcamiqoutdoor-supersight

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 Outdoor Nest Cam Outdoor Netgear Arlo Go Netatmo Presence
Price $349 $200 $400 $300
Color finish White White White Black
Weatherproof Outdoor Outdoor Indoor/outdoor Outdoor
Connection type Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Cellular Wi-Fi
Power source Plug-in adapter Plug-in adapter Rechargeable battery Hardwired
Resolution 1080p HD 1080p HD 720p HD 1080p HD
Livestreaming Yes Yes Yes Yes
Continuous recording Yes, with Nest Aware Yes, with Nest Aware No No
Cloud storage Yes, free three-hour image history; optional Nest Aware subscription service starting at $5 per month Yes, free three-hour image history; optional Nest Aware subscription service starting at $5 per month Yes, free 7-day video clip history; optional subscription plan starting at $10 per month No
Local storage No No Yes (microSD card, not included) Internal microSD card
Mobile app Yes Yes Yes Yes
Web app Yes Yes Yes Yes
Night vision Yes Yes Yes Yes
Alerts Motion, sound, person, facial recognition (with Nest Aware) Motion, sound, person (with Nest Aware) Motion and sound Motion, person, car or animal
Activity zones Yes, with Nest Aware Yes, with Nest Aware No Yes
Third-party integrations Amazon Alexa; Google Assistant; IFTTT Amazon Alexa; Google Assistant; IFTTT Amazon Alexa; Google Assistant; IFTTT Apple 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.

nestcamiqoutdoor-day-night

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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