Google Nest Cam (Battery) full review
The Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) – to give it its full name - is the first smart security camera to have Google branding: it’s been that long since the previous Nest Cam launched.
Several Nest Cam models were discontinued at the end of 2020 prompting rumours that new cameras were in the works, and this was confirmed by Google at the start of 2021, promising a new range before the year was out.
So the Nest Cam (Battery), which is what I’m calling it from here on in, is not your only option. There’s also the forthcoming Nest Cam with Floodlight and Nest Cam (Wired), the latter of which will be a better option if you only plan to use the camera indoors on mains power as it's half the price.
The battery-powered model sits in the middle in terms of price and is the only one designed to be used both indoors and outdoors. And though it has a battery, you can also run it from a power supply, which enables continuous recording along with a Nest Aware subscription.
If that's your plan, you will need to buy the optional outdoor power cable (as the one included in the box isn’t water resistant). It comes in 5m and 10m lengths, so it appears Google sort of listened to user feedback about wanting different options, but still doesn’t offer a very short cable for people mounting their camera next to a socket.
Features & design
- Alerts + zones don’t require subscription
- 3 hours’ worth of clip recording included
- Magnetic mount included. (desk mount optional)
- Optional outdoor power cable
It might look a bit like the old Nest Cam Outdoor, but this an entirely new beast. Google has fitted the new Nest Cam with a 6000mAh battery which can last for months, but only if there isn’t too much activity in the camera’s view.
Just like the Nest Doorbell (Battery), battery life will depend on a variety of factors including temperature, the video quality settings you choose and the clip duration.
But the biggest factor is where you point the camera, and therefore what it sees. Mount it facing a busy road and it will be constantly waking up and deciding if it needs to record the motion it has detected or not.
In a back garden (or yard) that sees much less activity, you’ll get closer to the seven months that Google estimates, shown below:
- Busy: About 1.5 months battery life (about 20 - 25 recorded events per day)
- Typical: About 3 months battery life (about 9 - 12 recorded events per day)
- Quiet: About 7 months battery life (about 2 - 4 recorded events per day)
I mounted the camera in my garden which is regularly used so would fall under the ‘Busy’ estimate. After 10 days’ use it told me the battery would last a further three weeks or so.
Of course, temperature also affects battery life, but so does the strength of the Wi-Fi signal. The worst I experienced in the depths of winter with the camera mounted at the extreme limit of my Wi-Fi network's coverage, was just four days before the battery gave out.
Unlike some other outdoor battery-powered security cameras, Google offers no solar panel to keep the battery topped up, but you can buy third-party versions bundled with the camera, such as Wasserstein's Made for Google solar panel.
If you use the weatherproof cable, note that the magnetic (and proprietary) connector has the cable exiting towards the front of the camera, not the rear. This is an odd decision by Google but it could be in order to avoid the cable fouling a third-party mount, as the screw thread is directly behind the connector. Plus, when the camera points downwards – as it will if you mount it high up on a wall, the cable hangs almost directly downwards.
The desk mount isn’t included in the box either, and will cost you £29.99 / $29.99.
A similar cable with USB at the other end is included for charging, but you can buy a dual charger from Wasserstein ($39.99) which has two slots - ideal if you buy the Nest Cam Battery 2-pack.
The only slight disappointment with the charger is that Wasserstein's anti-theft hood has to be removed first as the camera won't dock in the charger with it fitted.
Detection & recording
- Can detect people, animals, vehicles and packages
- 3 hours’ storage for events
- Can record if Wi-Fi signal is lost
One of the major differences from older Nest cameras is that the new ones, including the Nest Cam (Battery) have a much more powerful on-board processor. This allows it to detect people, animals, vehicles and packages and notify you of those things even if you don’t pay for a Nest Aware subscription.
You can also set up multiple zones in the Google Home app and choose what you want to look out for in those zones, specifying what should be recorded and – separately – what you want to be notified about.
It also gives you up to three hours’ worth of storage for recording clips. Unfortunately, this is a rolling three-hour window which means recordings disappear after that time, so you'll need to review them and download them to avoid losing them. It's not long enough to review what happened while you were asleep, which effectively forces you to subscribe to Nest Aware despite the on-board smarts.
There’s enough on-board storage for recording one hour of video, and this is used if Wi-Fi goes down – clips are uploaded to the cloud once the connection is restored.
As with the Nest Doorbell (Battery), you can play around with the settings and change the wake-up sensitivity and video quality.
Both will affect battery life, which is why the defaults are lower-quality video and a lower sensitivity so it doesn’t wake up and record everything.
However, the whole point of the on-board detection is that it’s smart enough to know what’s a vehicle, person, animal and package and does an excellent job of ignoring everything else, including trees or plants moving in the wind and big shifts in light, such as when the sun goes behind the clouds or a car drives past at night with bright headlights. Both are good examples of where older Nest cameras would notify you of motion that contained nothing important.
If you want familiar face detection, so notifications tell you who’s been seen, that requires Nest Aware.
By default, the maximum length of a recording is 30 seconds, but you can increase this to three minutes. It’s not the length that will be recorded when an event is detected, but the longest time a clip can last for if motion continues.
It’s only possible to record continuously if you subscribe to Nest Aware Plus and connect the camera to power. But for most people, that’s just not necessary as the event detection is so good.
Installation is very simple if you’re using the included magnetic mount and battery power. Simply drill two holes in your wall, or make marks if you’re screwing directly into wood, and mount the rear plastic piece. The magnetic part twists on top of that, and the camera is then held in place via those strong magnets.
The magnets mean it’s very easy to steal – if it’s within a scoundrel’s reach - but Google does offer a replacement policy if this happens. There’s also a ¼in screw mount so you can use third-party camera brackets. The Wasserstein anti-theft mount (below) costs £14.99/$14.99 and is one of the options when you buy the Nest Cam (Battery) from Google. It also adds a small hood which can improve image quality by shielding the lens from sunlight.
App & performance
- Works only with Google Home app
- Sub-par quality for the price
As I mentioned in my Nest Doorbell review, Google wants owners using the Google Home app, so setting up the Nest Cam (Battery) can only be done that way. There is no support for it in the Nest app whatsoever, nor on the home.nest.com web portal.
This is frustrating if you own older Nest cameras and prefer to stick to the Nest app for those, and also because the Google Home app just isn’t as good as the Nest app.
For example, there’s no way to see multiple camera feeds (splash screens – not the actual live video) on the same screen, and it’s surprisingly buggy.
Google confirmed to Tech Advisor that the flickering and flashing seen in recorded clips is a bug that’s being fixed, but there are others, too.
Notifications are one area. In my testing with an iPhone and Apple Watch, rich notifications didn’t work properly. Where a thumbnail image of the event is supposed to appear, a blank space was displayed on the Apple Watch. Plus, when the camera is running on battery power, it can take a few extra seconds to receive a notification simply because it takes a short while for it to come out of its low-power ‘idle’ mode.
The same is true if you launch the Google Home app to see the live stream. First you have to find the camera in the list of smart home devices, and then you see a remaining battery life estimate when you tap on it. You have to then tap the Live view button and wait for the feed to appear.
From that view you can press the blue microphone button to talk to whoever is in the vicinity of the camera, and the built-in mic allows you to hear them.
To see recorded events, you tap History, and this takes you to a scrollable timeline. You have to do a lot of swiping to go back even a couple of hours, so you’ll tend to dispense with this view and immediately tap Full history when it loads. (As a side note, nothing is recorded at all between events, and there’s no option to capture a still image every so often as you can with Ring’s Snapshots feature. This means large swathes of the timeline are blank.)
In the Full history view you get a list of events that you can filter by camera, event type (such as person), and you can tap on the calendar icon to jump to a specific date. Tap the three dots and there’s an option in the menu to save that clip to your device.
Because of the 1080p resolution and very high compression, images aren’t that detailed. Quality is good, but not really good enough considering the high price. It’s also a step backwards from the Nest Cam IQ which had a higher-resolution sensor which it used to zoom in and track a subject without losing detail. When you zoom in on the Cam (Battery)'s footage you don't really see any more information.
Here's what it looks like during the day in good weather:
At night, images are relatively sharp, but there's no colour night vision option. And unlike the Reolink Argus 3 Pro, there are no LEDs to provide a spotlight: you'll need to buy the Nest Cam with Floodlight for that.
The Nest Cam (Battery) does record in HDR and at 30 frames per second, which does help a bit, but except for HDR, Ring's Stick Up Cam offers similar features and specs for less than half the price. It also has a removable battery so you can leave the camera in place when it needs recharging – the Nest Cam (Battery) doesn’t.
If you’re wondering about how the camera works with existing smart home kit you won’t be surprised to learn it plays nicest with Google Nest hardware. And it doesn’t really play with anything else.
Where older Nest cameras can be viewed on an Amazon Echo Show once you’ve enabled the Google Nest skill, the new 2021 models are not supported and cannot be ‘discovered’ in the Alexa app. This may well be a deal-breaker for some – Matter-enabled devices (which should solve these interoperability problems) can’t come soon enough.
There’s no support for IFTTT either. Sadly, the new Nest Cams reside in a walled garden.
Price & availability
And, talking of price, you can buy a Nest Cam (Battery) for £179.99 or US$179.99 direct from Google.
There’s also a 2-pack which is slightly cheaper than buying two separately, but note that it comes with only one power supply and cable.
And remember that the desk stand is an optional extra, as is the weatherproof outdoor cable.
One other option is to buy Wasserstein's 3-in-1 floodlight, charger and mount ($69.99 - not available yet on Amazon UK). This is a cheaper alternative than buying Google's Nest Cam with Floodlight, but it doesn't have the anti-theft mount mentioned above: you'd have to buy that separately.
Having waited so long for a new Nest camera, it’s hard not to be disappointed with the Nest Cam (Battery). Yes, it’s good to have smart alerts and activity zones – plus three hours of event storage – but those are features you'd expect from an expensive security camera.
Video quality has taken a step backwards, as has integration with Alexa, because there is none (yet).
The Google Home app needs work to make it as good as the Nest app, and currently there’s no web portal alternative as there is for older Nest Cams.
If you don’t own those older models but you do have at least one Nest Hub smart display and are happy to live in Google’s walled garden, then you might be persuaded that the Nest Cam (Battery) is the security camera for you.
For just about everyone else, there’s better value and more versatility to be found elsewhere. In fact, here are some alternatives we can recommend in our roundup of the best smart security cameras.
Google Nest Cam (Battery): Specs
- Resolution: 1920x1080, 30fps, HDR
- Field of view: 130° diagonal
- Operating temperature:-20°C to 40°C
- Weather proofing rating: IP54
- Built-in rechargeable Li-Ion battery, 6Ah, 3.65 V
- Requires minimum 2Mb/s broadband connection (upload speed, per camera)
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, 2.4 GHz (5GHz US only)
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
- Dimensions: 83 x 83mm (3.27 x 3.27 in)
- 398g (14 oz)
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