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Nest Cam vs. Nest Cam IQ: Which should you buy?

Nest Cam
Nest Cam (Image credit: Google)

Nest Cam

Google Nest Cam

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The Nest Cam is a relatively inexpensive security camera that offers continuous recording, two-way audio, and 1080p video. With a Nest Aware subscription, you can save up to 30 days of video history. However, the image isn't nearly as clear as on the Cam IQ, and it doesn't have some of the more advanced features.

Nest Cam

Simple and affordable

Continuous recording
Conversational audio
Nearly half the price
Image is less sharp than Cam IQ
No facial recognition

Nest Cam IQ

Nest Cam IQ

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The Cam IQ has all of the Nest Cam's great features, plus a 4K sensor for lossless zooming in 1080p and facial recognition for smarter motion alerts. With its built-in speaker, it can even work as a Google Assistant device. It's expensive, however, at least compared to the standard Nest Cam.

Nest Cam IQ

Smarter security

4K sensor allows for lossless zooming
Facial recognition
Doubles as Google Assistant speaker
Nearly twice the cost
Nest Aware subscription is expensive

A Wi-Fi-connected security camera is one of the best and smartest ways to protect your home and belongings. Nest is a popular brand within the field, and while its two tiers of security camera seem similar at first glance, there's a good argument to be made for picking up either one over the other.

Cost versus smarts

Nest Cam

Source: Russell Holly / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Russell Holly / Android Central)

The Nest Cam was the company's first Wi-Fi-enabled camera, allowing you to check in on your home from anywhere with your phone or computer. It notifies you immediately when it detects motion and can differentiate between humans and other moving things like animals to reduce unwanted alerts. The built-in microphone and speaker mean you can also converse with anyone nearby the camera, though it's one-way at a time, so you'll need to take turns.

With a Nest Aware subscription, you can store 1080p video history from the Nest Cam — five days worth at a time for $5 per month, 10 days for $10, or 30 days for $30 (easy to remember, right?). That pricing also applies to the Cam IQ, Nest's newer, smarter security camera with a 4K sensor and two-way audio.

That 4K sensor doesn't mean the Cam IQ actually exports in 4K; instead, you get the same 1080p resolution as the original Nest Cam with a much sharper image. You can zoom into subjects without losing much, if any, detail, and the Cam IQ will even zoom in automatically if it detects a person in its line of sight and pans the image to follow their face.

Nest CamNest Cam IQ
Video1080p (30fps)1080p (30fps)
Camera3MP 130° (8x zoom)8MP 130° (12x zoom)
Person detectionYesYes
Facial recognitionNoYes
Night visionYesYes
Weight213g357g

Speaking of faces, one of the Cam IQ's defining features is its ability to identify faces for smarter notifications. Once you've labeled a face within the Nest app, you'll see their name in consequent motion alerts, and you can choose not to be notified of familiar faces. Along with a sharper sensor, the Cam IQ supports HDR, which prevents direct sunlight from completely blowing out your image, and its improved infrared LEDs help it see better at night, too.

The Cam IQ is smarter, but the original Nest Cam is still great — and much cheaper.

Thanks to its three-micro array, you can also use the Cam IQ as a Google Assistant speaker, able to carry out all the same voice commands as a Google Home — though don't expect the integrated speaker to outperform a standalone Google Home or Bluetooth speaker.

While the Cam IQ is a much more powerful camera than the Nest Cam, it's also significantly more expensive. At $300, the Cam IQ costs nearly twice as much as its predecessor, and with bundle deals, you can pick up three Nest Cams (opens in new tab) for under $400 — by comparison, a two-pack of Cam IQs (opens in new tab) is $500.

If you value the ability for your camera to identify faces, or need the sharpest possible image, the Nest Cam IQ is easily one of the best-connected security cameras around. But there's power in numbers, and some may prefer having more cameras over smarter cameras. For those shoppers, the original Nest Cam is still a worthwhile buy.

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.