Technology

Google’s new Nest cameras and doorbell have lower prices and more smarts

Google has announced a new line of home security cameras and a video doorbell under its Nest brand. The new models, which include an indoor-only camera, an indoor / outdoor camera, a floodlight, and the video doorbell, replace the older Nest IQ cameras and Nest Hello doorbell. The main themes with the new devices are a unified design language and more accessible pricing — each model costs less than the camera it’s replacing, while adding more capabilities.

The design of the new cameras will be familiar to anyone who’s seen other Nest products released in the past couple of years, such as the latest Nest Thermostat, Nest WiFi, or the Nest Audio smart speaker. The company has been moving toward softer edges and muted color palettes, and the new cameras adhere to that with color options that are meant to blend in, not stand out.

Google is also adding a bit more intelligence to the cameras, thanks to advances in on-device machine learning. The new models can detect people, animals, packages, and vehicles and provide specific alerts for each of them without the need for cloud processing (or its related subscription costs). (The Familiar Faces feature, which uses cloud-based facial recognition, still requires a paid plan.) The idea behind it all is to cut down the noise from constant motion notifications, a common complaint with home security cameras and video doorbells.

Google says the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) in the new cameras allows the algorithms to run on twice as many pixels and at twice the frame rate of previous Nest Cams, which provides more reliable event detection and alerts, similar to how a TPU will improve the upcoming Pixel 6 smartphone’s capabilities. The cameras also include three hours of event history without a subscription and have internal storage for up to an hour of event clips (roughly equivalent to a week of events) in case the Wi-Fi goes down.

Lastly, Google is pitching versatility with this lineup, as both the doorbell and the new Nest Cam can be used in either battery-powered or wired configurations. There is also a range of accessories available for wall or table mounting, or setting up a camera indoors or out.

What you won’t see emphasized with the new models is 4K resolution or spec-race hardware advancements. Google says the tradeoff required for 4K video — higher bandwidth consumption, larger cloud storage costs — outweighs the benefits. Plus, Google believes things like better HDR processing and smarter notifications are more helpful than just increasing the resolution would be.

The centerpiece of the lineup is the new $179.99 Nest Cam, which can be used indoors or out. (Sophie Le Guen, Google’s lead product manager for Home and Nest products, tells me that outdoors is where the company is seeing the most interest and growth in security cameras.) It has an internal battery that the company claims lasts up to three months between charges with typical usage. It can also be wired into permanent power; an optional weatherproof power cable or solar panel is available for outdoor installations.

The Nest Cam has a soft, rounded design partially made with recycled plastic, but it maintains IP54 weather sealing. Google says its magnetic mounting base has been tested to withstand storm force winds and there will be an anti-theft mount that can be used to make sure the camera isn’t stolen.

The camera records 16:9 1080p video at up to 30fps through a 130-degree field of view. You can zoom up to 6x digitally in the Google Home app when viewing the feed or a recorded clip. Should you need more than the three hours of event history (clips of events that happened within the past three hours) included for free, you can pay for a Nest Aware or Aware Plus subscription that offers up to 10 days of 24/7 recording and 60 days of event history.

The new Nest Cam is available in white and can be preordered starting today, August 5th, with shipments expected to begin on August 24th.

Google Nest Cam with Floodlight

The $279.99 Nest Cam with Floodlight is Google’s first connected floodlight camera and fills a gap in the lineup that other companies have addressed for some time now. Effectively, it’s a Nest Cam attached to a 2400 lumen floodlight. It requires permanent power — no battery option here — and features IP65 weather resistance rating.

Unlike standard floodlights, which get triggered by any sort of motion, the Nest Cam with Floodlight can use the same intelligence available in the other cameras to only activate when it detects a person or vehicle. This separates it from other floodlight cameras, such as the Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro, which turns on and records a clip for any motion it detects.

Google says the Nest Cam with Floodlight will be available at a later date.

Google Nest Cam Indoor

The simplest and least expensive new camera in the lineup is the $99.99 Nest Cam Indoor. A much smaller camera than the standard Nest Cam, the indoor model lacks the battery and weather sealing of the more expensive model, but maintains the same camera specs and intelligence features.

The Nest Cam Indoor will be available in four colors (white, pink, beige, or green) to better match your decor or other Nest products you might have in your home. There’s also an optional wooden base available for it and the camera can be placed on a table or mounted on a wall.

The Nest Cam Indoor is expected to be available at a later date.

Google Nest Doorbell

The $179.99 Google Nest Doorbell is the first video doorbell from the company to work on either battery or wired power. (The $229.99 Nest Hello doorbell from 2018 was limited to wired-only configurations.) It’s compatible with more homes than Nest’s earlier doorbell and comes in four colors (white, beige, green, or gray) to better match your entrance decor. Google says typical battery life is about two and a half months between charges, though that is impacted by how busy your doorway is and the environment.

The Nest Doorbell has a 3:4 tall aspect ratio, similar to the old Nest Hello, which Google says allows you to see visitors head to toe and packages that are as close as eight inches from the door. The vertical field of view reaches 145 degrees, though it’s not clear how wide the horizontal field of view is. (A mounting wedge is included in the box to adjust its viewing angle for different entrances.) The Nest Doorbell can record 960 x 1280 pixel video at up to 30 frames per second and has both night vision and HDR capabilities.

Like the new Nest Cam, the Nest Doorbell includes up to three hours of event video history out of the box, but you can subscribe to a paid plan for longer storage (you can’t get 24/7 video history on the Doorbell, however). One of the biggest benefits for the original Nest Hello was how quickly it provided notifications or a live feed on a Nest Hub smart display after the bell was rung compared to other video doorbells — we’ll have to see if the Nest Doorbell maintains that performance when running on battery power.

The Nest Doorbell can be preordered starting today, August 5th, with shipments expected to begin on August 24th.

The new cameras fill some obvious gaps in Google’s smart home lineup and make it more competitive with Ring and others that have had floodlight cameras and battery-powered doorbells for years now. The lower prices also make the cameras more accessible than before, though they aren’t nearly as affordable as the cameras available from Wyze and other smaller brands.

But if you’ve got a smart home that centers around the Google Assistant, cheaper budget cameras or Ring products won’t work as well for you and you certainly won’t have as cohesive of an experience as you’d get with Google’s own devices. We’ll see just how good that experience is when we get a chance to review the new cameras in the near future.