Placing security cameras around your home allows you to keep an eye on what’s going on indoors while you’re away, but you need a weatherproof model to monitor any activity that happens outside. With the $199 Nest Cam Outdoor, the folks at Nest Labs have essentially taken the indoor Nest Cam, put it in a weatherproof enclosure, and bundled it with an extra long ruggedized power cord and a magnetic mounting plate.You’ll need an outdoor electrical outlet to power it and a Nest Aware subscription to take full advantage of its numerous features, but neither prevents it from being one of the best outdoor security cams we’ve tested, and our Editors’ Choice. The camera delivers sharp 1080p video and detailed night vision, and it works with other Nest products and a host of third-party devices.
Design and Features
The Nest Cam Outdoor$182.87 at Amazon uses the same camera as the indoor Nest Cam$179.97 at Amazon we reviewed last year. It’s a 3-megapixel 1080p camera with a 130-degree field of view, eight Infrared LEDS for night vision, and an 8x digital zoom. Wireless connectivity comes by way of a dual-band 802.11n radio and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and there’s a built-in speaker and microphone for two-way audio communication. As with the indoor model, this camera uses motion and audio sensors to trigger recordings and send push notifications and email alerts.
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The camera has a soft white weatherproof enclosure that measures 3 inches deep and 2.8 inches in diameter. It also has an IP65 rating for water resistance, and an operating temperature range of -4 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.As with the Netgear Arlo$249.99 at Amazon, the Nest Cam attaches to a magnetic base that allows you to position the camera for optimal viewing. The camera’s face is glossy black and the rear of the enclosure is rounded and has a metal sub-surface. A 10-foot USB power cable is hardwired to the enclosure and the camera comes with a 15-foot weatherproof power cord that has a two-prong plug on one end and a USB Type A connector on the other end. Also included in the box are mounting screws and an installation guide.
The Nest Cam Outdoor delivers live 24/7 video on demand and is always recording, unlike the Arlo, which wakes up and begins recording when motion is detected. It comes with a free 30-day Nest Aware trial subscription that allows you to view cloud-stored recorded video which is displayed in the Sightline app screen.
Sightline is a new feature that allows you to swipe up or down on your phone to fast forward or rewind through recorded video, and use dots and still images to pinpoint a specific triggered event. A gray dot signifies a motion or sound event that occurred outside of your custom motion zone, while a colored dot identifies a motion event that occurred inside the zone. Tapping the associated image plays video and audio that was recorded during that event. Because video is always being recorded, you can rewind to a point before the event took place to see what transpired before the alert was triggered.
Once the trial period ends it takes all of your recorded video with it and leaves you with a three-hour history of still images instead. That is, unless you subscribe to one of the Nest Aware plans first; $100 per year gets you 10 days of video history and the ability to share it with friends, while $300 gets you a 30-day plan. For now, you have to use the Web interface to share video clips, but according to a Nest spokesperson, that function is coming to the mobile app soon. A Nest Aware subscription also gets you Person Alerts, which uses algorithms to determine if there’s an actual person in the viewing frame before it sends you an alert stating that it saw somebody, accompanied by a link to the video. If the camera isn’t 100 percent sure that a person caused the event, it will send an alert saying that it thinks it saw someone, along with a link.
Other Nest Aware benefits include the ability to view zoomed-in snapshots of critical events, and to create time-lapse clips from recorded video. You can also create motion detection zones, but as with video sharing, this has to be done on a computer (a future update will bring this feature to the mobile app as well). The camera has its own IFTTT channel and interacts with other Nest devices, as well as numerous third-party smart home gadgets including August Home products, Philips Hue and LIFX smart lighting, Chamberlain MyQ garage door openers, and the SkyBell Doorbell. That means you can do things like set your lights to automatically turn on when an event is triggered.
The Nest Cam Outdoor uses the same app as the Nest Thermostat, the Nest Protect$99.99 at Best Buy, and the indoor Nest Cam. The Home page displays every installed Nest device by room and gives you the status of each one. Tapping the camera takes you to a page that contains a video window on the top half of the screen and the Sightline activity track on the bottom half. Turning your phone sideways provides a full-screen landscape view, and pressing the microphone button at the bottom initiates two-way audio between your mobile device and whoever is in front of the camera.
Camera settings include Home/Away Assist, which uses your phone’s location services to arm or disarm the camera, an on/off scheduler, microphone sensitivity adjustments, and notification settings that let you assign an email address and choose which devices will receive alerts and when. You can also enable and disable night vision, rotate the image, and choose one of four image quality settings (360p, 720p, 1080p, Auto).
Installation and Performance
The Nest Cam Outdoor is relatively easy to install as long as you have an outdoor power outlet nearby. Otherwise, you’ll have to run an extension cord to an outlet or have an electrician install a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlet, preferably close to where you want to install the camera. You also have to download the Nest app and create an account.
Fortunately, I have a couple of outdoor GFCI outlets scattered throughout the perimeter of my house, so installation was a snap. To start, I powered the camera up indoors and fired up the Nest app. I tapped the Settings gear, tapped Add Product, and selected Nest Cam. I scanned the QR code on the back of the camera, chose a location for it, waited around 15 seconds for the camera to find my Wi-Fi network, and entered my password. After a few seconds the camera let out a chime and I was able to see live video in the app. I was instructed to unplug the camera, bring it outside to where it will be installed, and plug it in to make sure it could connect to my Wi-Fi router. I screwed the magnetic base to a window sill, attached the camera to the base, and adjusted the angle to cover my back deck and doorway.
As we saw with the indoor Nest Cam, the Outdoor camera delivers highly detailed 1080p video with excellent color representation and very good contrast. Black-and-white night vision appeared sharp and well-lit out to around 20 feet. Recorded video is every bit as sharp as what you get from the live feed. The motion and sound detectors worked perfectly, and never failed to send an email and push notification when triggered.
When I reviewed the indoor camera there was a 30-minute wait time between alerts, but now motion and sound alerts come within three minutes or so of the event. The motion zone feature did a great job of preventing false alerts due to wind and passing cars, and the speaker and microphone delivered clear two-way audio.
With the Nest Cam Outdoor you can see what’s going on outside of your house and view recorded video of specific events when it detects motion or sounds. The camera is weatherproof and relatively easy to install, but you’ll need an outdoor power source. In addition to sharp 1080p video in both day and night, you get push notifications and email alerts when one of the sensors is triggered, two-way audio, and a thoughtfully designed app with a Sightline feature that makes it easy to find video from a specific timeframe without having to sift through hours of footage. However, you need a Nest Aware subscription to view cloud-based recordings and create custom motion detection zones. That said, the Nest Cam Outdoor’s stellar image quality, durability, and ability to work with numerous other connected devices earns it our Editors’ Choice for outdoor surveillance cameras.