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Nest Cam Wired Review: Not the no brainer it should be

Nest Cam Wired Review: Not the no brainer it should be

Nest Cam Wired Review: Not the no brainer it should be

Smart home cameras are an easy way to add a layer of security to your home or to just keep an eye on things remotely. Google’s Nest Cam lineup has long fulfilled that purpose, but in the six years since its previous indoor camera release, the competition has stepped up. Finally, Google has released a new Nest Cam (wired) for a lower price than ever, but the choice isn’t as clear as it used to be.

Hardware

An adorable form factor

The very first thought I had when unboxing the new Nest Cam (wired) was that the hardware was absolutely adorable. The new design Google has put out is clearly inspired by 2017’s IQ lineup, and it’s a great look that has a real Pixar lamp vibe. The small physical size, too, just fits so well in the home.

The hardware is split into two distinct rounded pieces. The first is the base, which is dense in weight, but actually the smaller of the two pieces. A metal rod on an adjustable hinge then connects to the camera itself, which can be rotated to fit the needed angle. This works whether the camera is sitting flat on a table or mounted sideways to a wall. It’s a simple but effective design.

Nest Cam Wired Review: Not the no brainer it should be by All-Android.com

Google sells the new Nest Cam (wired) in “Snow” white, “Linen” gray, “Fog” blue/green, and “Sand,” the latter coming with a maple-wood base. The company provided our review unit in “Snow,” and I was happy with the overall look. While it doesn’t really hide itself in my home’s decor, it also doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, and feels much more subtle compared to its older sibling from 2015, and even competing cameras from the likes of Arlo, Ring, and others. In terms of design, I think Google has a clear winner on its hands.

Nest Cam Wired Review: Not the no brainer it should be
Nest Cam (wired) colors

Clever mounting

Perhaps the best part of the design, for me, was the mounting mechanism. The bottom piece of the base twists off to reveal two screw holes that makes mounting this camera a process that takes quite literally a minute or two. I do wish the bottom of the mount was more friendly to adhesive mounting methods — renters deserve to mount, too — but it’s a very well done setup.

Nest Cam Wired Review: Not the no brainer it should be
Nest Cam Wired Review: Not the no brainer it should be by All-Android.com

Camera quality

Six years later, a sensor downgrade

As great as the hardware around it is, one of the key aspects is just not cutting it. The 2MP, 135-degree FOV sensor in the Nest Cam (wired) is not nearly as good as it should be. It’s lower in resolution compared to the 2015 model, which results in lower 6x optical zoom and less detail in the image. 

In a bubble, though, the camera quality here is technically fine. There’s just barely enough detail in the image to see everything in a room that the camera is viewing. It’s really only when zooming in that this becomes a problem, as smaller details farther away from the camera can be hard to make out. There is a “max” quality setting for recording, but the difference is negligible at best.

The quality here isn’t unacceptable, but it’s a big step back from the Nest Cam IQ and even the Nest Cam Indoor that this model replaces.

HDR needs Google’s attention

The bigger problem is how this camera handles HDR processing. As mentioned, I set up the camera in my dining room, an area of my home where I have large windows that dominate nearly an entire wall. This proved incredibly difficult for the camera to handle if the windows were in view, especially on a sunny day. The highlights were absolutely blown out, and the resulting shadows in the room made details incredibly hard to see. These are the results I’d expect out of a bargain-bin camera, not one that costs a penny shy of $100.

This is something I’m sure Google can fix in future software updates. After all, we’re talking about the same company that works magic on its Pixel smartphone cameras, so the capabilities are certainly there, even if they’re currently in a different department.

Nest Cam Wired Review: Not the no brainer it should be

On the bright side, night vision seemed unaffected by both issues mentioned here. While I wish Google had adopted the newer night vision technology that enables color picture at night, the IR-based system kept a room well illuminated, and even in black and white, I could make everything out easily.

Software

The Home app is still a mess, and one Google isn’t fixing fast enough

Cutting right to the chase, the biggest weakness of Google’s new camera is without a doubt the app needed to use it. The Google Home app has a lot of great ideas, but its handling of the Nest lineup is a far cry from the focused greatness of the previous Nest app. Instead, it’s messy and unfinished, which might as well be the slogan for the Home app as a whole.

We went into much more detail on this in our review of the $179 Nest Cam (battery), but the Google Home app is just not as good at its job as the Nest app was, and you can’t use this new camera or any of Google’s latest Nest hardware in that older app in any capacity whatsoever. 

Through the Home app, the new Nest Cam (wired) can show a live feed, scroll through history, adjust settings, and be toggled on and off. The camera can also be used in Google Assistant routines including the “Home/Away” routines. The fit and finish, though, just aren’t there. For instance, you can’t set a schedule on the new Nest Cam, which makes it almost useless in large portions of my home. While I’m not concerned with Google’s handling of privacy, that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want cameras on in the portions of my home that I’m using during the day. To fit that need on older cameras, I have a daily schedule that ensures the camera turns on at night, regardless of if someone is home or not, and the Nest app’s “Away” routine turns the camera on when I leave. In the new setup, I cannot replicate that functionality at all, which is why, personally, I won’t be upgrading most of the cameras in my home for the foreseeable future.

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