Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Premium hardware and clever software make for a smart security package

Nest's security camera adds facial recognition and a good set of notifications to keep you in the loop -- at a price.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director
Image: Nest

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is Nest's latest security camera and aims to combine premium design with some smart software to help you monitor the area outside your home.

The IQ Cam Outdoor, which measures 12.8cm by 9.3cm by 9.3cm (5" x 3.7" x 3.7") and weighs in at 568g, is a reassuringly solid piece of hardware with a high-quality look and feel -- as you'd expect for something that bills itself as 'your first line of defence'. It's IP66 rated, which makes it effectively weatherproof, and has an operating temperature range of -40°C to 45°C (-40°F to 113°F).

The IQ Outdoor is designed to be placed -- as the name suggests -- on the exterior of your building. Setting up the camera is a pretty swift affair, consisting mainly of scanning a QR code and installing the Nest app. Getting the camera physically installed is a bit more involved.

Deciding where to put the camera is the first and most important step. You'll need to find somewhere that gives you good coverage of the area you want to monitor, because the IQ Outdoor is a going to be solidly fixed in place.

SEE: How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (cover story PDF)

Complicating your decision slightly is the need for a good wi-fi signal: too far from the router and you won't get enough of a signal, which ruled out a couple of options for me, testing in an awkwardly-shaped Victorian house with thick walls and an average broadband connection. Access to power is another factor: because it's constantly streaming top-quality video, the IQ Outdoor runs on mains power, and needs to be plugged in inside.

That means you'll need to find somewhere that has a good view, good wi-fi and is in reach of a power socket. Fortunately the power cable is 7.5m long, which should give you enough to find a power outlet somewhere.

Once you've negotiated this step (and it's best to test a few locations before deciding), the next stage is the physical installation.

The package comes with the screws, wall plugs and cable clips you'll need to attach it to the outside of your house, plus the aforementioned 7.5m of power cable to connect to a socket indoors.

First you'll have to screw the back plate onto a sturdy surface. In my case this involved drilling holes in brick to attach the wall plate. The camera slots into this and can only be removed with a hex key, which is also included.

In most cases, unless you can find a way around it, you'll also have to drill through the wall to access a socket inside the house. This may take the installation beyond the skills of some, although Nest does offer to point you in the direction of companies to help with this.

Providing a drill bit (like Amazon-owned rival Ring does with its doorbell) to make it easier to get the wall plate attached would have been useful. Still, the IQ Outdoor package does contain plenty of (particularly nice) screws, wall plugs and cable tidies so that if you do change your mind you'll have enough spares to move it to a better location.

Image quality is a key factor, and the 4K sensor in the IQ Outdoor does a very good job, delivering clear and sharp video (1080p at 30fps) with the claimed ability to detect people up to 50 feet (15m) away.

The 130-degree field of view should be enough to cover most gardens or driveways, and the 12x digital zoom allows you to focus in on areas of interest (although picture quality does of course decline if you do this). The 2x2 MIMO chip keeps the camera streaming at all times without dropping out, which puts it ahead of some other cameras in this respect.


Keep tabs on zones of interest -- like your garden fence -- via the Nest Cam IQ app.

Image: Nest

The software is perhaps more interesting than the hardware. Once the camera is up and running there are a couple more tasks to do, one of which is to train it to recognise your friends and family. Like some other security cameras, the IQ Outdoor uses facial recognition technology: when the camera spots a face it will ask you -- via the app -- whether you recognise them (you can also name them).

I found this worked quite well, apart from a few errors where the camera mistook the shadow made by some leaves for a face looming in.

You can also set up 'zones' of interest in the image so that you can track areas of particular interest or ignore alerts coming from others (in my case a tree that moves around a lot in the wind, triggering unnecessary alerts).

Both of these are genuinely useful features because they give you what you want from a camera like this: alerts about what's going on, where, and who is doing it.

Once it's trained and set up, the camera alerts you if a familiar or unfamiliar face is spotted, or if motion is detected. Thanks to the microphone it can also tell you if it hears voices or barking, although in my testing this seemed less effective than the face alerts. When the camera spots motion or faces you'll get a notification on your phone, which will also include a snapshot of the person or motion it has spotted, plus a bit of detail -- whether it's someone the camera recognises, or an unfamiliar face. This makes it a lot easier to scroll through and check if there's anything you should be worried about.

The IQ Outdoor also overcomes another problem with many home IoT devices, which is that you receive information but have no way of acting upon it.

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

The IQ Outdoor has a built-in speaker, which means that if you see somebody you can also talk to them. It's a loud speaker too, so if you want to warn someone off they won't be laughing at your tinny voice. When you're talking, the blue LED ring on the camera lights up, too, for added emphasis.

You get a one month free trial of the Nest Aware service; without it you'll still get the live view and activity alerts, but only snapshots of events from the last three hours, which is unlikely to be enough for most users.

Most of the interesting features of the camera, like familiar face alerts, activity zones and full video storage, are only available with the tiered Nest Aware service. That means on top of the cost of the camera (£329 inc. VAT, or $349 in the US) you're likely to have to pay an addition fee -- something to factor in before you buy. Nest tiers the subscriptions by how long you want to store the video: a 5-day video history will cost you £4 a month, 10 days is £8 and the full 30-day video history will set you back a significant £24 a month (you can save some money by paying for a year up front).


The Nest IQ Outdoor is an impressive package; sleek, premium hardware, very good image quality and a set of useful notifications, including facial recognition. The alerts are particularly helpful and lift the camera from passive gadget into a useful addition to home security. But it's a premium package at a premium price, and that's before you add in the subscription package that you'll need to get the best out of it. Many people may be happy with a smaller feature set or the lower quality offered by cheaper cameras, but a the high end the Nest IQ Outdoor is a compelling package if you want to spend more.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor specs

Camera dimensions 12.8 cm x 9.3 cm x 9.3 cm (5" x 3.7" x 3.7")
Weight 568g (20oz)
Cable length 7.5 m (25 ft)
Camera 1/2.5", 8-megapixel (4K) colour sensor, 12x digital zoom
Video Up to 1080p (1920 × 1080) at 30 frames/sec, H.264 encoding, HDR
Night Vision High-power 850nm infrared LEDs
Wireless 802.11b/g/n @ 2.4GHz (WEP, WPA, WPA2 encryption supported), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 802.15.4 @ 2.4GHz
Camera cost £329 (inc. VAT) / $349
Nest Aware subscriptions:
  • 5-day
£4 / $5 per month, £40 / $50 per year
  • 10-day
£8 / $10 per month, £80 / $100 per year
  • 30-day
£24 / $30 per month, £240 / $300 per year


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