Security cameras used to be the stuff of warehouses and businesses only. Very few homes bothered setting up cameras and recording decks and endless wiring.
With the shift to digital video and cloud storage, that’s much less of an issue. If you want smart home monitoring there’s no shortage of small, inexpensive “home” security cameras to pick from.
Google recently re-entered that space with its Nest Cam line of security cameras. Nest as a brand is one Google already uses for its cute Nest Mini speakers and Nest displays.
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks testing out the Nest range of devices to see how they compare.
There’s a lot of choice in the Nest camera range, but the heart of any of them is the basic battery powered Nest Cam. The cheapest model is the “Nest Cam Indoor”. That model relies on a wired power connection. You then shift up to the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor) which is battery powered (but can be wired) or the Nest Cam with Floodlight.
The floodlight is pricey, and more so because you also must cost in getting an electrician to install it for you. That’s not just a matter of safety, but also legal responsibility.
I’ve tested the Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor) and Nest Cam Floodlight in my home.
The Nest Cam is suitable for outdoor or indoor usage because it’s weather resistant for basic rain and dust ingress. I’ve not had one outside for long enough to notice if it’s going to discolour over time, mind you. It feels inevitable that if you do opt for outdoor mounting that it’s likely to get a little grubby – or bedecked in a few spiderwebs.
One criticism here is that the default Nest cam comes with an easy magnetic base, but it’s designed to attach vertically to a wall. That’s great if you want it in your carport on the wall but less so if you plan to use it indoors. Angling it correctly is harder if you don’t want it to sit vertically.
Google does sell a Nest stand for this purpose if you find it’s needed – and there’s always the cheaper Nest Cam indoor for that purpose.
Setup is simple, based around the Google Home app. That’s available for both Android phones as you’d expect but also Apple’s iPhones. Once you’re signed in, a quick QR code scan and coordination with your home or small office Wi-Fi network is all you need. Let the Google Home app know where you’ve placed the camera, and you’re pretty much good to go.
The key reason anyone buys one of these gadgets is for smart detection of indoor or outdoor events. That could be your parcel deliveries coming in, a lost pet or to ensure that the security of your stuff remains constant.
Here the Nest cams perform well, with options for selecting notifications to your paired phone based on motion, vehicles, people, or animals.
Animal detection is remarkably smart, although it doesn’t pick the difference between next door’s cat or a passing bin chicken to speak of. For vehicles, it’s wise to set an area for capture if your camera faces the street or a neighbour’s driveway, unless you like getting lots of notifications.
It can also go smarter, although not without cost – quite literally. Google sells a subscription package on top of the cost of each Nest camera that adds either 30 or 60 days of video history, as well as optional 24/7 recording and facial detection for familiar faces and package detection. The Nest Aware subscription starts at $9/month, although it relies on having devices wired, not working off battery.
One neat feature here that I’ve not seen on other devices is what happens when your Internet connection goes down. For many of these smart, Internet connected cameras that’s when they’re entirely offline. The Nest Cams send you an alert if they do drop net connectivity, but they also then record for at least the next hour. When your Internet is restored, that footage is then uploaded.
The reliance on Internet connectivity may be an issue for some. To work efficiently, it needs a decent upload speed. Google says it can get by with as little as 700kbps for the standard video quality setting, but that’s going to be quite slow.
Even on a fast 25/250Mbps HFC NBN connection, there was a notable wait from the time I got a detection to when I could view the recorded video.
The Home app does flick straight to the live camera which may make it clear, but if you’re on a slow or shaky internet connection, it might struggle.
It’s also reliant on a decent Wi-Fi connection, and that’s not always something that you have everywhere you might want to place a camera. That’s where having Wi-Fi boosters or a mesh network system setup could help, because a poor Wi-Fi signal and a streaming security camera is not a good combination.
Google’s Nest Cameras are nice, and they’re quite smart, but they’re also premium priced compared to the much of the offerings from competitors such as Arlo, Ring or Swann. If you’re after a simple setup and you already use Google Home and the Google Assistant for other smart home features, though, they integrate neatly and work well.