The editorial team at AlfredCamera has decided to give hands-on reviews of some of the best budget cameras on the market. After testing each camera for a period of two to three weeks, we’ll share the things that we love and the things we don’t. We strive to be as honest as possible during the process because we feel that this not only informs our readers about security products, but also helps us to make AlfredCamera a better product.
Addled with frame-rate, quality, and audio feedback issues as well as an overly long setup, Nest Cam seems at first to be all style and little substance—but when it does work, it soars, especially outdoors. Just let the notifications do the talking.
- 1080p HD with color night vision (infrared)
- 130° field of view
- Two-way audio
- Motion detection
- Person, object and animal detection notifications
- View or download footage up to 3 hours after recording
|🟢 Beautiful design|
🟢 High quality images when stable
🟢 Person, object and animal detection, all programmed into the camera itself for instant responses
🟢 Bright, vivid colors
🟢 Strong night vision
🟢 Great quality speaker and microphone make it perfect for two-way audio
|🔴 Connectivity issues sometimes completely prevent use|
🔴 No microSD support
🔴 Audio feedback loops
🔴 Lack of settings options for quality
🔴 No siren
🔴 The high-strength magnet means people with pacemakers and other medical devices should not use it
To no one’s surprise, Nest Cam is housed in packaging worthy of an aesthete’s eye. Adorned with sophisticated, clean branding, the sturdy cardboard box feels like it has something a lot more exciting inside it than a security camera.
But branding is king, and who could deny the reigning tech monarchs their ability to excite with logos, symbols, and a steadfast devotion to minimalism?
Sliding the box open, the camera immediately fell out—caught on film below—so perhaps the team spent a little more time on branding than functional box design. Thankfully, it avoided rolling straight to the ground. Open it upside down to avoid the same fate.
The camera itself is cradled in what at first sight looks like white plastic, but is actually cardboard.
Inside is the Nest Cam, its magnetic base, a mounting plate, a USB charging cable, and power adapter. Two screws and two wall anchors for mounting are found inside a cardboard cutout, and there’s also a quick start guide that instructs users to download Google Home.
Installation & Onboarding
|App Setup Time||Mounting tools included?||Drilling?|
|10-15 minutes||Screws x 2 Wall anchors x2Magnetized mounting plate||✅ Can also be stuck to metal surfaces via magnetic mount|
Onboarding is, by a country mile, the most long-winded of all the security cameras I have tested. While budget brands like AlfredCamera, Wyze, and Reolink prioritize an instant setup, Nest does quite the opposite. All in all, setting up the app takes at least a solid ten minutes. Users will probably have a faster time mounting the camera with a drill than they will setting up the app.
It’s a process impaired by menu-upon-menu of agreements, automation options, and confusing data-seeking practices. Then there’s the camera itself, which takes a while to download patch updates and actually start working.
Setup is extremely long-winded, with a lot of detail required as to camera location and purpose, as seen in the queries above.
None of this is especially problematic, but it should be noted that this isn’t the kind of device that can be set up five minutes before leaving for work in the morning. In fact, sitting down on a Saturday morning with a large coffee in hand may be required.
The camera’s battery charged relatively fast compared with other battery cameras like Ring Stick Up Cam. A charge from 0% to 100% takes about 5 hours, but, out of the box, it was charged in just 2 hours.
Something that is a little problematic, however, is that, unlike other devices, the Nest Cam is paired via a physical QR code stuck to the lens of the device. The user pulls this off and scans it with their phone, and is instructed to keep it safe on the back of the quick start guide.
Having the app generate a QR code for the camera to scan from the phone’s screen would have been a more secure way to pair the device. The inclusion of a QR code sticker is outdated, and it’s guaranteed to get lost.
The app prompts users to turn on Bluetooth to find the device before using the QR code. Alternatively, they can opt to select the device via the Wi-Fi settings.
The camera sits snugly in a magnetized base. When I say magnetized, I mean it in italics, all caps, and bold font. It’s an extremely strong magnet, so folks with pacemakers and other metal medical implants should steer clear of the device.
The strength is such that posing the camera is difficult, and my model quickly gathered scratch marks from trying to pull it off metallic surfaces (be aware that if mounting it to a metal surface, there’s a chance paint will be damaged when moving it).
However, it is very reassuring for outdoor viewing. Even an earthquake would have a hard time causing it to fall off.
A mounting plate is included which slots into the underside of the base. This is also strong; without even fixing it into place, I spent about five minutes trying to yank it off the bottom of the base. If mounting on a wall, the plate is slipped inside grooves in the base, and the included screws and anchors are then used to attach it to a wall via a drill.
It’s all very secure and sturdy, giving users peace of mind about leaving the device outside.
There’s no physical instructions, but for those anxious about mounting, app onboarding does provide a tonne of different instructions about how to mount the device in specific locations.
This is greatly appreciated, since security cameras brands often leave users scratching their heads as to how to mount a device.
Setup asks questions about how the camera will be used, and also provides extensive instructions as to how to mount it on different surfaces.
Hardware – Durability, Aesthetics, Size, Weight
|3.27 in x 3.27 in without mount||398 g||✅ IP54||White matte plastic||❎||✅ Up to 3 hours|
Without exaggerating, Nest Cam is beautiful for a security camera. The elegant curves, sturdy matte casing, and ultra-minimal look make it possibly one of the most attractive IP cameras on the market.
Some will find its hefty weight annoying, others will find it to be an indication of a high quality build. I’m somewhere in the middle. I think it limits how much people will use the camera indoors.
Actually, it seems obvious that this device is really built for outdoors. It has an IP rating of IP54, meaning it’s waterproof and dustproof. Posing the device in any other position than a wall-mounted one is awkward because of how strong the magnet is.
The width of the device is large compared to indoor-dedicated cameras, and the included USB charging cable is on the smaller side.
Interestingly, AI-based features like person detection are carried out inside the camera rather than on the app. This is unusual for IP security cameras, and during the periods when the camera was working optimally, it was quite clear that this made person detection notifications virtually instant. More on that later.
Software – App Usability, Third Party Compatibility
|Wi-Fi?||LTE Data (3G, 4G, 5G)?||Bluetooth?||Wired?|
|✅ 2.4 GHz||❎||✅ Can only be used to connect to pair devices.||❎ Charges via USB cable, lasting between 1.5 and 7 months.|
The app is frequently improved, but the only feasible solution for users is an extremely solid internet connection. I found that using mobile data on the paired phone rather than the Wi-Fi router that the camera was connected to increased functionality considerably.
As soon as I reconnected to the Wi-Fi network that the camera was using, I experienced lag, frame rate drops, and signal disruptions.
Automations are pretty easy to put together, however, with the app doing a lot of the work for the user through reasonable recommendations.
A ‘routine’ is a combination of a ‘starter’ (i.e. a voice command for a Google Assistant-enabled device) and various ‘actions’, which could be turning on night vision on Nest Cams, having an Echo device read out tomorrow’s weather forecast, and turning off all smart lights in the home from a single ‘starter’, for example.
‘Routines’ are the app’s automations, which are easily put together through intelligent recommendations the app provides for ‘starters’ and ‘actions’.
For those curious if Nest Cam can function as a Google Assistant, it cannot. Saying ‘Hey, Google!’ to the camera won’t do anything. Users will need an Android smartphone, smart speaker, or Google Assistant-enabled screen device to do this.
Sure, it’s a security camera (and one that’s probably going to be outside where the user rarely comes into contact with it), but given that it has a great speaker and microphone, it’s a little surprising that the app doesn’t provide the option to enable this. It might have been useful for those using the device indoors to monitor children, for instance.
|Quality||Frame rate||Field of view||Infrared|
|Up to 1080p HD||Up to 30 FPS||130°||✅|
The quality of video rose and fell considerably over short periods, presumably as a result of internet connection. After the camera finished setting up, I was shocked by how poor quality the image was. It was grainy, and barely registered movement in real time, with delays of 3-5 seconds.
After disconnecting my phone from the Wi-Fi router and having everyone in the house also refrain from using it, the livestream became smooth and responsive to real-time movement, with delays being limited to about half a second to a second.
Occasionally Nest Cam’s live feed came close to the 30 frames per second the camera is supposed to be capable of. But the difference between the highest frame rate and the lowest frame rate that the camera achieves is significant. If multiple people are using the same internet connection at once, expect a low frame rate.
Presumably, Google’s ideal buyer is either a person with a home already full of Wi-Fi-enabled Google products or a person that will be easily convinced to add more. But based on my experience, it’s hard to imagine the camera feed functioning well in either scenario.
Tap the notification and the user will be taken to the ‘history’ section rather than the livestream, allowing them to view up to 30 seconds of captured footage up to 3 hours after the event has occurred (subscribe to Nest Aware for more).
In the first image, it was able to identify a person from a super-close-up of a hand. The second image shows push notifications, which include a small screencap of the footage. The third image shows where users are taken when they open the notification; the ‘history’ tab showing what just happened, rather than the live feed.
The brilliance of the motion detection features in the face of the more-or-less terrible live feed indicates that there’s only one way to use the camera properly—mount it outside and forget about it for 6 months until it needs a charge.
Notifications can be relied on to keep the user in the know, showing them a high quality, smooth clip of what just happened. At least until the app improves, this is a device designed around motion detection, not real-time viewing.
Night vision was strong, and among the best I’ve seen. Contrast levels make for a well-balanced image, though, as always, users can expect anything close to the lens to be washed out for a few seconds.
Generally, I found that having the device in black and white constantly made it considerably more functional when viewing the live feed—footage took on a clarity and smoothness much more deserving of the camera’s capabilities.
There’s a disappointing lack of options when it comes to image quality. Indeed, even the regular three quality setting modes one would expect—low, medium, and high—are reduced to just two: ‘high’ and ‘max’.
Settings options are quite limited compared to other security cameras.
Perhaps as a result of internet connection, I couldn’t notice any discernible difference between the two, other than the white balance on the ‘max’ setting being slightly worse, interestingly enough.
High quality (left) and Max quality (right). Little discernible difference, though note that the white balance in the sky is poorer on the right.
Generally speaking, I was impressed by how well-balanced the colors were. When connection is stable and a strong image is created, colors are well defined and ‘pop’ to help make the image legible.
Colors are balanced well when the feed is running smoothly; here, the contrasting colors all ‘pop’ to give the image brilliant clarity. Dark, dull colors stand out against the bright ones.
The speaker on the device is very good compared to cheaper IP cameras, and it makes the voice loud and clear when using two-way audio. The app also provides the option to change the volume of it, which is appreciated since this is a setting overlooked by other security camera apps.
I experienced audio feedback loops when the viewing device was near the camera. These were quite bad compared with those experienced on other security cameras—painfully loud and irritating.
The camera has high pitched sound effects that occasionally beep and boop, and since these are pretty much absent from other cameras, I suspect the sound effects may have created the feedback. That being said, once I switched to mobile data, I noticed they didn’t occur so much.
Disappointingly, there is no siren, which feels like a waste of a perfectly good speaker.
|Nest Cam Battery (Model)||Subscription Service|
|RRP $179.99 (US)||From $6 a month (US)|
Google Nest Cam Battery retails for $179.99 in the US. Wait for sales to roll around–it is often on offer for less.
The quality of the build, its ability to work indoors and outdoors, and, above all, Google’s name are likely responsible for the price, which is substantially more than lower-end budget cameras that pull off the same functions.
Its direct competitor is Arlo’s Pro line, which is significantly more expensive, though the pro line boasts higher image quality.
However, it’s not entirely true that what’s being paid for is just the name. Nest Cam’s internal AI features set it apart from competition, with really useful distinctions made between people, objects, and animals that works both flawlessly and speedily.
Nest Aware is available in the US from $6 a month.
On paper, the Nest Cam is a fantastic security camera. It looks beautiful, and has all the stats to support its purported prestige. But often it just doesn’t work. Well, that is assuming the user in question doesn’t have an internet connection blessed by the Gods of Wi-Fi.
When no one else was using the Wi-Fi router it was connected to, the live image quality of Nest Cam was clear and smooth, with vivid color saturation. Motion detection makes up for the live feed’s failures, and the clips saved are of high quality with an equally high frame rate.
Clearly, this isn’t the device for folks that like to keep an eye on the camera feed in real time. Users will get the best out of it if they mount it and forget about it. Notifications will keep them in-the-know in the meantime.
The Google Home app is ambitious and well-designed, but is guilty of latency issues, signal dropouts, and a long setup. It seems that the app is responsible for much of the Nest Cam’s shortcomings rather than the hardware itself.
It’s also a shame that settings options are so limited. Still, it deserves praise for making automation easy, and it’s not hard to see how devotees will happily welcome a Nest Cam into an existing arsenal of Google Home products.