Nest Cam IQ
£299 | $299 https://nest.com If you want to see your kids, pets and burglars in Full HD, look no further
Although The Connected Home feels like its attracting the interest of those who are not nerds, rich folk and/or early adopters, there are only two areas to date that have really thrived.
One is Alexa and Google Home – soon to be joined by Apple’s take on home AI, the HomePod – and the other is smart security cameras.
If you do want a camera of this type, the Nest Cam IQ is as good as it gets. Of course, given its price – which is almost double that of the last Nest Cam, and nearly triple that of something like the old Logitech Circle or Nokia Home – it should be.
Design and setup
This really is an exemplary product in terms of setup. Unbox, plug in via a lengthy USB cable that fits seamlessly into the base, open the Nest app, click the big ‘+’ button and scan the QR code on the base. Obviously if you don’t have the Nest app you’ll have to download it and set up a Nest account. But that’s still perfectly straightforward.
The Cam IQ is quite attractive and feels premium and weighty. You can crane its neck up or down and even when looking down from a height, the heft of the base makes toppling unlikely. The Nest Cam IQ can also easily be mounted on wall. However, since there’s no weatherproofing, the Cam IQ is unsuitable for outdoor use.
Security also seems sound, with 128-bit AES with TLS/SSL secure connection and the option of two-step verification of any account changes, with a code being sent to a specified device to be entered before any change is allowed.
This is where the Cam IQ earns its high price. The sensor here is of 4K resolution. For streaming purposes, that is downgraded to Full HD, but the quality is noticeably higher. This is, of course, subject to the quality of your home Wi-Fi and your phone’s mobile data connection, though, especially if you’re watching a live stream.
Seen on your mobile via the Nest app, footage can easily be paused, panned and zoomed, and if you have Nest Aware (more on this shortly), the software also makes a pretty good stab at auto zooming on any humans it detects – don’t worry, as well as showing a zoomed view, it is still filming the full frame, so you can switch between both.
The Cam IQ’s 4K sensor is also used at full resolution to capture still images of people that it spots. Now 4K in this case, equates to an 8MP still, but it still gives clearer and more identifiable results than most smart cameras. Video footage is stored in the cloud for three hours, or if you have a Nest Aware subcription for 10 days at £8 per month or 30 days at £24 per month.
The real question is, do you really need the Cam IQ’s greater clarity?
For security purposes, maybe not. In most cases, you’ll be able to tell if a person in your house is a familiar face or an intruder even at lower resolution. Theoretically, a clearer face shot might be useful in subsequently securing an arrest or conviction, but if they’re wearing a mask, all you’ll have is a higher resolution view of their balaclava.
The Cam IQ works effectively as a two-way communications device thanks to an excellent mic array
“The Cam IQ’s 4K sensor is used at full resolution to capture still images of the people that it spots”
and very clear speaker. There is a bit of a time lag over a 3G/4G network, but it’s usually acceptable. Over Wi-Fi, you could use the Cam IQ as an intercom quite easily, however.
Night vision is also seriously impressive, and unlike on older cameras, there’s very little in the way of visible infra-red light to give the game away to burglars.
App and Nest Aware
It was something of a bone of contention with the original Nest Cam that it required an £8 per month/£80 per year subscription to Nest Aware to make it useful.
That’s because smart alerts were impossible without one. Any movement of any kind – household pets, shadows or even a plastic bag blowing past the window – would trigger an alert.
Nest Cam IQ, because of its much greater processing power, is able to recognise that a shape is a person and notifies you only when it spots a person, as opposed to anything else. This does reduce the number of alerts. However, you are still going to get them every time any one of your housemates, family or friends comes into view, and in a busy household, that gets old fast. The same applies if you set it up to snoop on the road outside. On a busy street, it’ll pick up anyone walking by and let you know. So realistically, you do still need Nest Aware, and every Cam IQ comes with a 30-day trial subscription.
That’s because this cloud-based service offers a raft of features that should be offered as standard, including detection of familiar faces and the ability to name them.
We only had the Cam IQ up and running for three days and it was already pretty good at recognising members of our household, and stopped notifying us every time we walked into our own office. You can turn off notifications when you’re at home entirely, though.
Nest Aware also enables you to set specific zones within the camera’s field of view that it scans for people, excluding everything else. Doorways are an obvious example, and, when pointing your camera out of the window, the area immediately in front of your door, so you pick up visitors but not passers-by. Getting these zones the right size and shape throws up some problems, but it’s helpful. Nest Aware can also alert you to sounds – specifically dogs barking or human voices.
The Cam IQ is a great piece of hardware. One obvious trick that Nest has missed out on, though, is including an alarm element. It makes the Protect smoke alarm; why couldn’t its cams trigger that when an intruder is detected?
That could be either an automatic function – although that would almost certainly lead to false alarms – or by you firing it via the app after being alerted. Bosch’s new suite of connected devices do offer such a function.
For keeping tabs on your family, in a non-sinister way, the Cam IQ does have its uses. With its ability to recognise familiar faces (albeit only with Nest Aware), Cam IQ is ideal for getting those reassurances about your loved ones.
Less useful, but more valuable, these kind of cams are all great for capturing video and stills of kids and pets at play, or doing amusing things that may earn you many likes and shares on YouTube. This one just happens to do it at higher resolution and with greater clarity than all its rivals.
The state of the art in connected cameras, although we’d sooner have a proper security system.