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Nest Cam IQ Review

Nest’s newest security camera – IQ – looks a lot like the Nest Cam Outdoor. Inside, however, Nest has made several changes, including a higher image resolution, a better dynamic range, and significantly improved audio compared to the previous model. Nest’s app has some new features, such as face recognition, making it one of the best Google Home compatible devices. What hasn’t changed is the ease of use and extensive features – and the lack of essential services, including video history and Activity Zones, unless you subscribe to the company’s cloud service. Here is our Nest Cam IQ Review.

Nest Cam IQ Review: Design

Last updated on December 1, 2020 2:55 am
Last updated on December 1, 2020 2:55 am

The Nest Cam IQ is a reliable, well constructed white polycarbonate device with a height of about 5 inches. Its conical camera head, 3-inches in diameter, rotates 180-degrees horizontally and 160-degrees vertically on a thin 1.5-inch leg but stays strong and firm, in whatever position you place it. The 3-inch disk base is nicely weighted, which helps keep the camera in place on horizontal surfaces.

Nest Cam IQ Review

Warnings are signaled by an eye-catching electric-blue ring light that encloses the black camera angle, plus a small status light underneath the camera. Two-way audio is delivered via a three-microphone array on the left side of the lens and a speaker on the back. Two 940nm infrared LEDs on either side of the lens provide excellent illumination for nighttime recording. IQ has no local storage space and no batteries. The 10-foot power cable connects to a large round block that extends to darken an adjacent power outlet.

Nest Cam IQ Review: Motion and Sound Detection

Nest has made some excellent additions to its intelligent, adaptable motion and sound detection. However, essential features such as Activity Zones, sound analysis, and Familiar Face detection are only available if you subscribe to the cloud service (more about prices below). One of the fun new features is that the camera automatically zooms in on the area of the room where an activity has been detected, making it easier to identify the source of the alert quickly.

Text and email alerts include a screenshot of that zoomed-in view. However, if the activity is near the edge of the frame, the zoom is often not activated. If you subscribe to the Nest Aware cloud service, the app will ask you who the face is. These saved Familiar Faces are used to identify the person who will alert you when you receive notifications. In our tests, the software was very good at recognizing most of the people whose faces we had named.

Nest claims that IQ can distinguish between people and pets; however, we often received person alerts when our cat rascal came through the dining room. Unlike detected human faces, the software has no way to teach the camera to recognize the culprit. In the same way, although the new audio analysis supposedly distinguishes between a person speaking and a dog barking, it didn’t recognize the barking even if our dog was within 3 meters of the microphones.

Audio and Video Quality

The IQ’s 1/2.5-inch, 8-megapixel (4K) CMOS sensor with 12x digital zoom has a significantly higher resolution than previous Nest cameras and compares favorably to the 720p videos of the Arlo Pro. Besides, the firmware of the IQ combines video files in daylight with a high dynamic range (HDR). The result is outstanding quality daylight 1080p video that is clean, clear, and bright with better detail in the shadows.

In night mode, the two 940nm LEDs use an infrared cut filter that does not emit the red tell-tale light source that many other cameras give away. They provide beautiful illumination, even in a completely dark room, but with some vignetting along the perimeter of the 130-degree field of view. We were able to easily recognize faces in our videos in night mode, although the movement tends to be blurred.

Recorded audio and live two-way communication has been drastically improved in this model. The three-microphone array combined with the new noise reduction and echo cancellation produces a sound that is loud, clear, and distinct regardless of the person’s position relative to the camera. While the loudspeaker is on the back of the camera, the sound is clear and easy to understand, allowing smooth conversation via the mobile app to and from the camera.

Nest Cam IQ Review: Cloud Storage

Although Nest has added a few useful features to its Nest Aware cloud service, it remains a bad solution for the user. That’s because, after the free trial period of one month, you won’t have a continuous recording, Familiar Face detection, or Activity Zones unless you pay a monthly fee. Most importantly, unlike the Arlo Pro, IQ doesn’t have local storage, so that you won’t have access to your video history. Instead, you can only view snapshots from the last 3 hours.

Nest has updated its Nest Aware cloud storage plans for the security cameras and video doorbell; now, for $6 per month (or $60 per year), you can store 30 days of history from an unlimited number of cameras in one location. If you upgrade to Nest Aware Plus ($12/month, $120 per year), you get 60 days of rolling cloud storage, plus 10 days of 24/7 video history.


The smooth, hassle-free installation of the Nest Cam IQ follows the industry standard of downloading the app to your phone and scanning a QR code (convenient on the base of the device) to link it to the software. Most other cameras need to be placed near your network hub for installation and then moved to their monitoring location, which can sometimes cause network connection problems. The IQ can be connected where you want it and then installed.

Nest Cam IQ Review: Mobile App

The Nest software is easy to navigate and understand, and its functions are often profound and intelligent. For example, the interface for planning the times when your camera is on or off is both flexible and convenient, allowing you to set several periods within each day of the week or set the same period for several days at a time. Similarly, you can define multiple irregularly shaped Activity Zones by simply dragging and dropping the eight nodes of the shape.

The iPhone and Android mobile apps are clean, with just a handful of icons. Most controls are centralized in Settings. Automatic rotation between the horizontal and vertical views is responsive, as is the two-finger pinch/spread, which uses the 12x digital zoom. The web portal is just as accessible and well designed. However, given the additional screen of the portal, it offers a better view of the timeline details.

Other differences in the portal (compared to the apps) are the greater control over clips and the ability to define and manage Activity Zones. On the other hand, the Family sharing of the camera is only possible via the mobile app. Finding specific events in the library and (if you subscribe to Nest Aware) playing the related video is very easy. Both also display dots with a color key for defined alerts, such as movement or audio detected within a particular activity zone.

Nest Cam IQ Review

However, the portal has more functionality in editing and managing the clips. In the portal, you can set the start and endpoint of the saved video, but you can also download your clip, link to it, and share it with Facebook, NestDoor, or Twitter.

Nest Cam IQ Review: Conclusion

The Nest Cam IQ has an excellent image quality during the day (even at night, it is pretty good), excellent audio, and the software is one of our favorites among security cameras. However, it’s expensive, $100 more than the previous Nest cameras, as well as our favorite outdoor camera, the Arlo Pro. Additionally, given that accessing your video history is a primary goal behind having a surveillance camera, the lack of local storage of the IQ forces the user to pay for a monthly cloud plan. For these two reasons, the Netgear Arlo Pro cameras are a better deal, but the Nest Cam IQ is also worth considering.

Check our list of Best Home Security Cameras

8.5 Total Score
Our Verdict

The Nest Cam IQ is a step above the previous models of Nest and offers excellent audio, good to very good video quality, and intelligent, intuitive software. However, it is expensive and requires a cloud subscription to access your video history and other important features.

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Very good video quality
  • Intelligent Familiar Face detection
  • Well-designed, intuitive software
  • No local storage
  • Key features require cloud subscription
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