Nest Cam IQ Tested
Nest has released their latest entry in their camera line, the Nest Cam IQ, touting 4K "Supersight", facial recognition, "HD audio", invisible IR, and more bells and whistles not found in the original Nest.
We bought and tested this new model to see how well each of the following perfomed:
- 'Familiar face' recognition performance
- Supersight auto tracking
- Enhanced 4K zoom
- Bidirectional "HD" audio
- Invisible 940nm IR
- Video latency
- Day/night image quality
See our full results inside.
In our testing, Nest Cam IQ had the following strengths compared to previous Nest cameras:
- High quality audio: The IQ's audio was among the best built in microphone/speakers we have used, with very clear microphone audio at much longer distances, with less audible noise as well as louder speaker volume.
- Lower latency: During our tests, the IQ cameras latency was noticeably lower than the standard Nest Cam, typically ~1-2 seconds vs. 4-6.
- Moderately improved day and night time quality: While the improvement was marginal, video quality was better.
However, in our testing, Nest Cam IQ had a series of important weaknesses overall:
- Familiar faces user experience / design is poor: There is no way to alert only on specific faces, no way to search through face events, alerts are cumbersome to verify since they only show the reference face not the face captured, and, importantly many faces are simply missed. Most of these things can and should be improved in future upgrades.
- 4K video benefits are minor: Supersight offers some potential modest improvements in image quality when autotracking, but in our tests this feature frequently failed to properly track moving subjects, focusing in on background areas where no motion was taking place seemingly at random.
- Nest's "enhance" cropping/zoom feature increased details but at the expense of cropping the field of view, which many home/DIY users may find confusing or objectionable.
- Installation challenges with integrated stand: The camera's stand is integrated (unlike past Nest cameras), which can make mounting more challenging / awkward.
Nest Cam IQ Impact
Given its lack of real functional advantages over the existing Nest Cam, the IQ is likely a tough sell for Nest, especially priced ~50% above existing models. However, if they can fully integrate familiar face detection into the UI and address Supersight issues to make these features truly useful, they could be novel differentiators for Nest against the slew of low cost cloud entrants which have become available in the past 1-2 years.
The Nest Cam IQ sells for $299 online, direct from Nest or from other online retailers. This is notably more expensive than most consumer/DIY cloud cameras, such as Nest's indoor cam, typically $200 and under, with some such as Ezviz's Mini as low as $60-70.
Nest Aware plans are priced as follows:
- 10 day history: $10/mo or $100/yr for first camera, $5/mo or $50/yr per additional
- 30 day history: $30/mo or $300/yr first camera, $15/mo or $150/yr additional
These prices are similar to must cloud storage plans. However, Hikvision's Ezviz cloud storage is notably less expensive, $4.99 per camera for seven days or $9.99 for 30 days.
Nest also has a free plan which includes only three hours of snapshot storage, and does not include Nest Aware, person alerts, or clip generation.
The Nest Cam IQ has much different form factor than past Nest cameras, more similar to the Nest Outdoor Cam. We take a look at the camera compared to past Nest models in this video:
Unlike past Nest cameras, the IQ's stand is integrated, with the charger port in the back of it, meaning it cannot be removed. This may make mounting in other orientations awkward, as the camera's 1/4-20 mount thread is on the bottom of the pedestal:
Familiar Face Recognition Limitations
There are several UI/app limitations which keep Nest's "familiar face detection" from being truly useful, covered in more detail below:
- No timeline integration/notifications only
- No face catalog
- No selectable face alerts
- Limited learning/teaching
No Timeline Integration
Face recognition events are shown only in notifications, both iOS/Android push and via email. There is no indication of a facial recognition event on the standard timeline, only motion. Users cannot hover over an event and see whose face was recognized, for example.
The only notification of familiar face events is on mobile devices, shown below. Note however that the face shown next to the familiar face event below is not taken from the current event. Instead, it is the main image used for that person in the admin interface (see below).
In order to see even video to verify events, users must swipe the notification and view it, which shows a few frames of video. Tapping on the event further opens the Nest app to recorded video at that time.
Only Admin Face Catalog
Additionally, users cannot simply see a record of all faces that have been recognized tied to time/date stamps and video. The only record of faces is used for administration, allowing users to name/rename/delete recognized people and delete specific facial images if incorrect.
This interface is shown here:
No Specific Alerts
There is no way to select which faces do or do not trigger notifications. When set to away mode, all faces, known and unknown trigger notifications, while in home mode, only unknown faces trigger notifications. This may make the camera unusable due to the increased notification volume when users only want to know if one or two specific people are seen.
Finally, there is no way to teach the camera that an incorrectly identified "unknown" person is actually a known user. The person may be added more than once using the same name, but this does not combine facial images into a single person. This may cause confusion for users when looking at known persons, as they may assume (as we did) that the camera would combine these faces into a single person.
High Quality Audio
The Nest Cam IQ's built in microphone and speaker provided some of the best audio we have heard in IP cameras. Microphone audio was loud and clear compared to the original Nest Cam, able to pick up properly at much longer ranges, about as loud at ~30' range as the original Nest was at ~5'. The IQ's built in speaker was much louder and clearer than the Nest as well.
The samples below show the difference in microphone audio volume between the two cameras at ~5' and ~30'.
The Nest Cam IQ includes what they call "Supersight" tracking, which digitally zooms in on moving objects in the camera's field of view. However, in our tests, this feature was unreliable, with the camera losing track of subjects as they move or "floating" to track in areas where no motion was occurring. This is shown here:
When tracking, quality is slightly improved relative to manual digital zoom. For example, the image below shows a snapshot captured while automatically tracking on the left, compared to manually zooming to the same level on the right.
The Supersight tracking image shows some detail improvement, with subject features easier to make out and slightly better text legibility, but no drastic difference.
Nest Cam IQ "Enhanced" Zoom
Like other Nest cameras, the Nest Cam IQ includes the ability to crop the field of view and "enhance" the image, with much greater effect in the IQ due to its 4K sensor.
For example, the image below shows the Nest Cam IQ zoomed tightly to the test chart and enhanced on the left, with text legible to line 9-10. Using standard digital zoom, only lines 5/6 are legible. Note that though this is a drastic improvement, this is an extreme example, as it drastically cuts the 130° AoV down to ~10-15°, much narrower than is practical in most scenes, especially in DIY/consumer applications.
Image Quality Compared to Nest Cam
The Nest Cam IQ produces moderately better details than the standard Nest Cam indoor, with slightly better subject details and 1-2 additional lines of the test chart, as well as more even exposure.
At night, neither camera produces recognition details of the subject, with both very noisy. However, some rough details are visible in the Nest IQ, such as clothing, and the top 2-3 lines of the test chart are legible, not visible in the Nest Cam.
Invisible 940nm IR
The Nest Cam IQ uses invisible 940nm IR illuminators, unlike past models which used 850nm with a visible red glow. The image below shows the IR LED layout when turned on, but no light is visible from the camera to the human eye.
Latency Vs. Nest Cam
In our tests, Nest Cam IQ latency was noticeably lower than the original Nest Cam, typically 1-2 seconds vs. 4-6. This varied occasionally, with the original Nest sometimes on par with the IQ, but longer on average. We review this in this clip:
Nest includes quality and bandwidth settings on all cameras which are optimized via their algorithms to stay under specific data usage targets per month, ranging from 100 GB/mo. to 400.
Tech support was vague about what exactly these settings controlled, simply saying bandwidth was automatically managed.
We tested streams using each of these settings to see how bitrate and compression varied, shown below. Bitrate varied from 204 Kb/s at its lowest on setting 1 to almost 800 Kb/s on 4. Quantization varied from ~30 using setting 4 (average for IP cameras) to nearly 36 using 1.