Nest Cam IQ Outdoor review: Good features for a steep price

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Nest Cam IQ Outdoor review

Nest has justifiably gained a reputation for making good-quality smart home devices. The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is a worthy addition to the product line. It's nicely designed; offers generally acceptable to excellent video quality; and provides a wide range of security options, including one of the best tamper-resistant designs we've seen. But it isn't competitively priced or packaged. In fact, unless you pay monthly for the Nest Aware cloud-storage plan, you can't even view your video history. Despite its price, it's still one of the best home security cameras you can find. It's one of the best Google Home compatible devices out there, too.

Editor's note (Aug. 2021): Nest has discontinued the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor. In its place is the Nest Cam (battery), which has a 1080p camera and includes for free three hours of rolling video storage as well as person, animal, and vehicle detection. For more details, please check out our Nest Cam (battery) review.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Design

Large, heavy and clunky, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is even bigger than the Nest Cam Outdoor. The white, conical IQ Outdoor is about 5 inches long with a face that's 3.6 inches in diameter and black, and it weighs 1.2 pounds. Four 850nm IR LEDs (for night vision) are arrayed evenly around the lens. The IQ has three microphones, two of which are on the face and one below it. The speaker is underneath the face, designed to reflect off the wall.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor specs

Video Resolution: 1080p with HDR
Field of View: 130 degrees
Night Vision: 4 infrared LEDs
Network Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/nac, 2.4 GHz or 5GHz Smart Home Connectivity: Google Home, Alexa, IFTTT plus Nest API
Audio: Two-way Mobile Devices Supported: iOS 9.0 or later, Android 4.1 or later
Web Browsers Supported: All major browsers

The camera's angle can be easily adjusted. It rotates a full 360 degrees on its base and pivots up and down on the neck of the base about 75 degrees. In addition, the conical case of the camera rotates about 65 degrees.

Designed for deterrence and tamper-resistance, the IQ Outdoor's large size and the pulsating neon-blue light ring around the lens bezel are quite conspicuous, so that strangers should realize at a glance that the property is protected. (You can turn off the light ring.) Unauthorized removal of the camera is more difficult than with most cameras, because the IQ is secured to the round, silver mounting plate not magnetically (as the Outdoor was) but locked in, requiring the supplied hex key to remove it.

The 25-foot flat power cable plugs in to a USB port in the base; the locked mounting plate fits snugly over the port. Unfortunately, the large 2.5-inch round x 1-inch thick power-adapter block isn't weatherproof. The cable is meant to be threaded through a hole in the wall and plugged into an inside outlet. That means cutting a small hole in your wall (ideally where the IQ Outdoor's mounting plate will cover it), then threading your cord through that hole and plugging the camera into an indoor outlet. This counters a key vulnerability of outdoor cameras — the IQ's hidden cord can't be cut — but involves a bit more work.

Like the previous Outdoor model, the IQ is IP66-rated for weather resistance, but the IQ has a wider operating temperature range: minus 40 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit versus minus 4 to 104 F.

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All Nest cameras use 2,048-bit RSA private keys, AES 128-bit encryption and Transport Layer Security (TLS) to connect to the cloud service. Customers can implement an optional two-factor authentication.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Video and audio quality

The IQ Outdoor's 1/2.5-inch, 8-megapixel (4K) CMOS sensor and 130-degree wide-angle glass lens creates clearer, more detailed 1080p video than you get from the Nest Outdoor (which uses a 3-megapixel sensor). This is achieved by first capturing video in 4K, applying HDR (high dynamic range) algorithms, then encoding down to 1080p.

The IQ's daylight videos are very good to excellent, providing a bright, clean, nicely exposed capture and good detail even when zoomed in.

While the IQ's nighttime videos illuminated by the four IR LEDs are generally acceptable and are significantly better than the Outdoor's, the IQ still had difficulty with exposure against a very dark background. Faces are discernable from about 10 feet away from the camera, but as the person approached the camera, the face tended to be overexposed, blurring details.

In our tests, the IQ's triple microphone array captured very good to excellent recorded audio even when the person wasn't facing the camera.

The IQ's full-duplex communication allows two-way sound to be sent and received simultaneously. (The Outdoor had half duplex.) However, the real-time two-way audio wasn't as strong or reliable as the recorded sound.

When a person spoke through the mobile app to the camera's speaker, the sound tended to be a bit noisy with some breakup, but it was generally quite audible. When I listened through the mobile app to someone speaking within 5 feet of the camera, the sound was clear and loud; farther away, it became quite soft and not as easy to hear.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Motion and sound detection

As with all Nest cameras, the IQ Outdoor's motion and sound detection are intelligent, robust, flexible and easy to use. However, key features are available only if you subscribe to the Nest Aware cloud plan.

The one exception is that the IQ offers person alerts out of the box to all users, not just Nest Aware subscribers, because it can do the processing in-camera. In our testing, the IQ Outdoor's person alerts reliably recognized the difference between people and animals. In addition, when the IQ detects a person, you can select (only in the mobile app) to have the camera zoom in at a user-defined magnification for a close-up that will pan with the person. At the same time, an inset window in the corner displays the full scene. However, we had difficulty turning that option off.

The IQ Outdoor consistently identified people we had named in our Nest app Familiar Faces library (for Nest Aware subscribers only). You can now easily merge duplicate profiles of the same person.

Person-speaking and dog-barking alerts are also available only to subscribers, as is Nest's excellent Activity Zones tool, which defines the areas in a scene you want the camera to watch. However, Netgear's Arlo cameras offer this feature for free.

Given the variety of alerts available, it's helpful that you have the option to toggle what notifications you will receive. For instance, you might want to get person alerts but not general motion alerts. What's more, each family member on the account can set their own preferences.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Cloud storage & playback

The IQ Outdoor records video 24/7. But the IQ has no local storage, so if you want to view your video history or download clips, you have to buy the Nest Aware cloud plan. If you don't subscribe, you will have access to your live video and a rolling 3-hour history of alert-related still images, plus optional email alerts with snapshots — and that's all.

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

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Subscribers have a nice selection of history-viewing options. On both the mobile app and the web portal, under the live video is a timeline to indicate when events (such as person-speaking detection) occur. If you have Activity Zones defined, the dots will be color-coordinated according to zones.

On the mobile app, those events are also available as separate short videos in the Sightline view, with captions indicating what triggered the alert. These event videos are great shortcuts for finding and playing alert videos. You can filter them to display those triggered by motion, person, familiar face and/or specific Activity Zones.

The web portal's time-lapse tool is helpful in pinpointing when an event occurs. It displays the key action (such as a person walking through the scene) of each video that was captured during a user-defined time period.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Scheduling

Scheduling when the camera will turn on or off is intuitive, though it requires too many taps and clicks. You can have several different on/off periods per day, and you can use check marks to set each period to recur on several days.

In addition, Home/Away Assist uses geofencing to turn the camera on or off, based on when you (and your phone) leave home.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Sharing 

Nest has several sharing options: Family Accounts, password-protected live view sharing and public video streaming.

Up to five friends or family members can have a Family Account on your camera. They will have access to the livestream and notification alerts, and if you're a Nest Aware subscriber, they can also view your video history. Additionally, it gives them the same control over your camera as you have, including the ability to change settings and share with others.

You can share a link to your camera's video (password-protected or publicly) on your computer through the web portal. Family Accounts may be set up in either the web portal or the mobile app.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Mobile apps & web portal

The Nest software is clean and easy to navigate; the handful of icons are mostly self-explanatory. The Android and iOS mobile apps are nearly identical. The web portal and mobile apps have important differences, with some features available in only one or the other.  

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The online Help is one of the best we've seen for security camera software, with clear explanations as well as easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Smart home integration

Nest's thermostats, alarm systems, smoke detectors and cameras (including the IQ Outdoor)  communicate with each other in a security ecosystem that's called the Nest Home. What's more, hundreds of third-party smart home products work with Nest products (including the IQ Outdoor) through the Nest API. In addition, Nest cameras support Google Home, Alexa and IFTTT.

However, if you migrate from a Nest account to a Google Assistant account (which you must do in order to take advantage of the Nest Aware pricing), you will lose most, if not all of the smart home interactions with third-party products that were available with your Nest account.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor review: Verdict

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is a quality, tamper-resistant device with lots of useful features and acceptable-to-excellent video capture. However, it's expensive. The initial price is high, at $349; a two-camera pack costs $598. Plus, you'll have to pay for a Nest Aware cloud subscription (at least $5/month) if you want to take advantage of the full value of the camera's nice feature set. Instead of the IQ Outdoor, we recommend buying a Netgear Arlo Pro or Pro 2, which is less expensive, offers a great array of features and includes a free seven-day cloud plan. But if you want to spring for Nest's camera, you won't be disappointed.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Sally Wiener Grotta

Sally Wiener Grotta is the president and lead analyst of DigitalBenchmarks test lab ( The scripts she created for various tech publications for testing and evaluating digital cameras, image quality, software and related technologies have become industry standards. Among her numerous books is the first major volume on image processing “Digital Imaging for Visual Artists” (McGraw-Hill), co-authored with Daniel Grotta. Her hundreds of reviews, stories and columns have appeared in scores of magazines, journals and online publications.