Nest Cam Indoor Review
Pros: Great video quality, smooth real-time viewing, field leading monitoring services available
Cons: Very limited without a subscription
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Nest Cam Indoor was one of our favorite cameras, bested only by the new Nest Cam IQ, which adds advanced facial recognition features. However, the Nest Cam Indoor is still a great camera, and its price has been dropping now that it is no longer at the top of the Nest line.
The Nest Cam Indoor earned a 7 out of 10 in our monitoring performance metric. This put it just off the top score of 8 and well above the low score of 4. All else ignored, the Nest Cam was the second-best performer in this test (behind the IQ), but its lack of non-subscription services edged it out of a top slot.
Monitoring Services With/Without a Subscription
Nest was one of the first players on the WiFi security camera scene, and their experience shows. It is one of the few cameras that allows you to set specific areas where the camera should look for motion, allowing you to cut down on extraneous activity alerts when something blows by the window or the cat jumps on the bed. Of the models that offer a feature like this, the Nest Cam's 'activity zones are by far the most customizable and, in our experience, most effective. This camera also has a very effective algorithm that recognizes people, allowing you to get different alerts for when there is a person at the front door versus when there was just motion at the front door. It also offers geofencing, allowing the camera to instantly switch into away mode once your phone leaves the house.
The major downside to the Nest cam is that none of these amazing features are available without a subscription. In fact, Nest's non-subscription offerings are the worst of any of the models we tested. You only get standard activity alerts and a 3-hour history of moments when the camera detected activity. And you can't even download those video clips, all you can do is take screenshots of them. Without a subscription, the Nest Cam is essentially relegated to a live stream video machine (which admittedly it excels at, and might be all you need if your primary use is to look in on pets). However, a $10/month subscription gets you all of the top of the line features mentioned above, plus 10 days of 24/7 video history and the ability to create timelapses.
Finally, Nest offers other smart home devices like a WiFi thermostat and smoke detector, and those offerings may be expanding. If the idea of having multiple smart devices all working on the same app on your phone, you may want to think about buying into the Nest system.
The audio associated with video captured on the Nest cam is quite clear. Conversations are generally understandable and we were able to hear when a rogue cat turned on the kitchen faucet. Our friends over at BabyGearLab found it adept at picking up the sounds of a crying child. There were a couple models with clearer microphones than the Nest, namely the Canary All-in-One, but we doubt anyone will be disappointed with the Nest's audio quality.
The Nest also offers 2-way audio, and we found its speaker to be one of the best of the bunch. Anything spoken through the Nest was clearly heard on the other side, and would elicit a big jump when we yelled at our coworkers with it.
The Nest Cam Indoor shared the runner-up score of 8 out of 10 in our video quality testing with its sibling, the Nest Cam Outdoor, and two other cameras. It just barely missed the top score, earned by the Nest Cam IQ. Our video quality scores went as low as 3 for other cameras.
The Nest Cam Indoor's high definition, 1080p quality certainly came through in its video recordings, and despite its wide 130˚ lens the edges of the image only looked ever so slightly distorted. Colors looked bright and true. Faces were recognizable if someone stood still in front of the camera for a second, but someone passing quickly in front of the camera would, at best, yield a blurry screenshot of their face (but this was a problem for all of the cameras we tested). The night vision was also quite good, with details clearly visible, but it exacerbated the problem of trying to make out quick moving faces. There were two cameras that provided clearer nighttime images, the Samsung SmartCam HD Pro and the Logitech Circle, but the difference was slight. Upgrading to the Nest Cam IQ also brings better night vision video quality, but we don't think that improvement alone is worth upgrading.
App Ease of Use
Nest has the app design game down. Their app earned the top score of 9 out of 10 in our app ease of use testing, distancing itself from the worst scoring app, which scored a 5. Upon opening the app you get a quick view of what your camera is looking at, and a scrollable timeline of video history. Jumping into the settings menu it is easy to change the home/away scheduling and turn on geofencing.
Upgrading to a Nest Aware subscription unlocks a whole slew of features and makes activity alerts much more customizable. These additional menus are likewise easy to navigate. The only thing we don't like about the app: you can't set Nest's activity zones on it, this must be done from a computer. However, you probably won't be changing activity zones around too often, so this is a minor complaint.
The Nest Cam Indoor was one of our favorite models for real-time viewing, sharing the top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric with its outdoor counterpart and the new IQ. Scores in this metric were as low as 5.
In our tests the latency on this camera was just 4 seconds, making it very close to true real-time viewing. The stream was also the most consistent, with little to no hiccups, pixelation, or pauses to refresh. The picture itself was also the crispest of any live feed we watched. If you mainly want a security camera so you can de-stress at work by logging on and watching your dog wag its tail, this is the camera for you.
The Nest Cam Indoor can sit on any flat surface and has a magnetic base. If you want to mount it to a non-magnetic wall it comes with a mounting plate that installs with a couple of screws. The camera does not have a battery and must be plugged into a standard outlet.
For the Nest Cam Indoor, value is in the eye of the beholder. With a list price of $200 its price just a bit higher than average. If you only want it for real-time viewing its stellar performance in that area makes it a great value. If you want to use it for actual monitoring you must get a $10/month subscription. Yes a Nest Cam with a subscription is the best monitoring device we tested, but there are models like the Canary All-in-One and the NetGear Arlo Q that can offer decent monitoring performance without a subscription, and thus represent a better long-term value.
The Nest Cam Indoor is the best security camera for real-time viewing. If you're willing to pay for a subscription it is also one of the best overall cameras, slightly behind the Nest Cam IQ that offer advanced facial recognition.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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