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Nest Cam Outdoor Review

The best outdoor camera if your'e willing to pay for a subscription service
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Nest Cam Outdoor Review
Credit: Nest
Price:  $200 List
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Manufacturer:   Nest
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Feb 22, 2017

Our Verdict

The Nest Cam Outdoor is essentially a Nest Cam Indoor stuffed into a weatherproof shell. Its magnetic mount makes installation easy, and it simply needs to be plugged into any outside outlet, generally eliminating the need to drill holes or run wires through windows. It also provides field leading video quality and real time viewing. However, Nest provides very little in terms of monitoring services unless you buy their Nest Aware subscription. With that subscription we feel the Nest Cam Outdoor is the best WiFi security camera for outdoor monitoring, which earned it our Top Pick for an Outdoor Camera Award. If you want an outdoor camera that is usable for more than just real time viewing but don't want to pay for a subscription, we would suggest you check out the Canary Flex. If you're just looking for a basic, low cost outdoor camera the new Blink XT could fit the bill. Nest also just released the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which is essentially the same camera with an advanced facial recognition feature. It also costs substantially more.
Great video quality
Smooth real time viewing
Field leading monitoring services available
Very limited without a subscription
The New Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is now available for preorder. We've already tested the indoor version of the Nest Cam IQ. Based on that experience we feel confident saying that it is only worth upgrading to the IQ Outdoor if you want access to the new facial recognition feature (note: this feature is not available in Illinois). This feature learns people's faces and thus can tell you when someone familiar walks by the camera versus a stranger. Apart from that new feature the new IQ Outdoor will likely function exactly the same as the original Nest Cam Outdoor, as that was the case with the indoor models.

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison

Below we go into detail about how the Nest Cam Outdoor performed in each of our individual testing metrics.

nest cam outdoor - weather testing one of the top nest cameras.
Weather testing one of the top Nest cameras.
Credit: Jenna Amerman

Monitoring Performance

The Nest Cam Outdoor earned a score of 7 out of 10 in our monitoring services testing. This put it just off the top score of 8 and far ahead of the lowest scoring model, which earned a 3.

Monitoring Services With/Without a Subscription

With a subscription, we found Nest's cameras to be the most effective monitoring cameras available. For $10 a month Nest gives you 10 days of 24/7 video history, specific alerts for when the camera sees a person, and activity zones that allow you to dictate where the camera does and does not look for motion. A couple other cameras (the Samsung SmartCam and Logitech Circle) offer a similar feature, but we found Nest's to be the most effective at cutting down on meaningless activity alerts. This is even more crucial for the Nest Cam Outdoor as you will almost certainly have more extraneous activity outside than inside, and you don't want your phone buzzing every time a bird flutters by the camera. This means all of your alerts will be more meaningful and thus less likely to be ignored. These activity zones are the main reason we feel the Nest with a subscription is the best monitoring camera out there.

nest cam outdoor - nest's activity zones were the best of this type of technology that...
Nest's activity zones were the best of this type of technology that we tested.

Without a subscription Nest offers you very little. Just 3 hours of video history, and not even a full video history, just moments when the camera detected motion. You also don't get the activity zones. Without a subscription the Nest Cam is essentially relegated to a real-time viewing machine. If Nest offered a bit more without a subscription it would have easily earned the top score in this metric, but its spartan non-subscription services knocked it down a peg. If you want an outdoor camera that offers a bit more without a subscription the Canary Flex may serve you well, as it offers a 24-hour history of 10-second motion activated clips free. The Blink XT also provides 2 hours of cloud storage and saves only clips where motion is detected, all without a subscription.

Audio Quality

The Nest Cam Outdoor's audio quality was decent in our testing. You can generally understand conversations had within 15 feet of the camera, though wind can disrupt that a bit. It also has a loudspeaker for 2-way audio which would easily allow you to alert andy trespassers that someone is watching.

Couldn't Someone Unplug the Camera?

Since the most convenient way to install the Nest Cam Outdoor is to plug it into an outside outlet, there may be some concern that someone would just unplug it. If that happens your phone gets an alert with a photo of the last thing the camera saw before it was unplugged. If the plug is in view of the camera this could be useful, but if it isn't you may be out of luck.

Video Quality

The Nest Cam Outdoor's 1080p resolution put it in the club of top scorers that earned an 8 out of 10 in this metric. This was significantly better than the worst scoring model, which earned a 3.

Daytime videos from this camera are clear and crisp, and even provided good resolution and contrast when staring at the blankets of white snow we had outside our office during testing. The camera's night vision also provided good resolution, though faces were only really identifiable if someone pauses and stands still in front of the camera. The lens provides a wide 130˚ field of view yet only slightly distorts the edges of the image.

App Ease of Use

Nest's app was the hands down favorite amongst our testers. It picked up the top score of 9 out of 10 in a metric that saw scores as low as 5.

The overall app design just made navigation feel easy and intuitive. Setting schedules, adjusting notifications, and using features like geofencing could all easily be done by someone opening the app for the first time. Our only complaint was that you can't program activity zones within the app, that requires logging onto your nest account on a computer.

Real Time Viewing

The Nest Cam Outdoor secured the top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric, a score it shared with the Nest Cam Indoor. Scores in this metric fell as low as 5.

In our testing the Nest Cam Outdoor had a latency of only 4 seconds, a single second more than the top performing model in that capacity. What really set it apart was its video stream, which never stuttered and remained clear and unpixelated throughout all of our testing.

Installation Notes

The Nest Cam Outdoor has a magnetic base that securely sticks to most magnetic surfaces. The camera itself mounts to the base with a second magnet and can easily be turned in any direction. A mounting plate that installs with a few screws can be used to mount it on a non-magnetic wall. It does not have a battery and must be plugged into a standard outlet. The camera includes 25 feet of cable, allowing it to be plugged into an outside outlet in most situations.

nest cam outdoor - the nest cam outdoor comes with 25 feet of cable.
The Nest Cam Outdoor comes with 25 feet of cable.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman


The Nest Cam Outdoor costs about the same as most other 1080p security cameras. If you just want something to be able to check in on your driveway periodically this is a great value. If you want meaningful activity alerts from your outdoor security cam you'll have to get a $10/month subscription. This still represents a decent value, as the Nest Cam Outdoor with a subscription was the best performing monitoring camera in our testing. However, the Canary Flex offers a 24-hour history of 10-second motion activated clips without a subscription, and may be a better value if that meets your outdoor camera needs.


The Nest Cam Outdoor is our favorite outdoor monitoring camera, but only if you pony up for a $10/month subscription. Otherwise it is a great camera for real-time viewing, but not much else.

Max Mutter and Steven Tata