Is a 4K Baby Monitor Overkill?

We review the Nest Cam IQ smart security camera.

Henry Phillips

When the Nest Cam IQ ($299) arrived in our NYC office, I set it up in the kitchen, on a shelf overlooking the kitchen sink. For the next few days, a push notification was sent to me phone every time somebody or something (i.e., the office dog) came into the camera’s field of view: “Your kitchen camera noticed some activity.” Along with the notification, I received an email with a photo still and video of the person. It couldn’t miss. I added several of my colleagues as “family members,” so we could all experience the Nest Cam IQ, the most intelligent (and expensive) smart security camera, in the same way. And after a few weeks, we debated: is it worth it?

Personally, I had fun with the Nest Cam IQ. Maybe too much fun. I kept the camera’s live stream open on my phone, via the Nest app, and would issue verbal attacks on my colleagues: “Get out of the kitchen!” or “Watch Out!” or “You’ve entered my domain!” The camera’s built-in microphone was powerful — seven times more powerful than the original Nest Cam Indoor, according to Nest — so I’d catch my unsuspecting colleagues off guard.

Specs: Nest Cam IQ

Camera: 8MP (4K) color sensor with 12x digital zoom and enhance
Video: up to 1080p (1920 x 1080) at 30 fps
Field of View: 130-degree diagonal
Weather Resistance: indoor only
Connectivity: wi-fi

Buy Now: $299

That said, push notifications, live streaming and the ability to bark at bystanders aren’t novel traits — basically all modern home surveillance cameras do that. The Nest Cam IQ separates itself because it’s a superior gadget. Its 4K image sensor captures 1080p video and has a 12x digital zoom to capture faraway objects in great clarity. The camera can also identify familiar and unfamiliar faces with Nest’s “Supersight,” and then zoom in and track those faces while they’re in frame.

Still, the Nest Cam IQ isn’t perfect. The 4K spec is a bit of a misnomer; it only outputs 1080p video. The Nest Cam IQ is also crippled by many of the same things that plague other connected cameras. To get the premium features, like face tracking and days’ worth of video recordings (instead of hours) to double-check alibis, you need to be a Nest Aware subscriber, which is an extra monthly cost. The Nest Cam IQ will send you push notifications without the Nest Aware subscription, however, which is something many other smart cameras, including the Nest Cam Indoor, won’t do.

So, it comes down to what the 4K image sensor, intelligent tracking, and free push notifications are worth to you. If you’re happy to pay a hundred bucks over than, say, what the Nest Cam IQ costs — go for it. If not, go the more affordable route.

The Nest Cam records 4K video, but only ever outputs as high as 1080p. It uses the extra resolution to zoom, pan and track subjects without losing sharpness.

Why You Should Buy It

If you really think about the things that you use regularly, the list isn’t that long: your phone, your car, a good pair of shoes. Maybe the Reddit app. For me, the Nest is on that list, and there’s a good reason for it: kids. If you skew towards being an early adopter with tech, when it comes to your kids, there’s no resolution or solution that’s not powerful enough (same goes with diapers). Granted, it’s easy to start overdoing it (don’t get me started on helicopter parenting), but in our household, the Nest runs 24/7, 365 because it’s a convenient, comfortable way to check in on the most important thing there. Tracking dogs, facial recognition, burglars? I’ll take it or leave it. A well-designed device that reliably checks (or monitors) our child? Take my AmEx.

There are some easy surface squabbles that I get, but I can justify most of the ones that affect my use case. Recording 1080p video vs. 4k video makes total sense. Efficient and economical storage of 4k video is nearly impossible – just look at all the hapless souls who have no storage left on their iCloud or iPhone because they’ve been recording 4K video the whole time. Tying features to a subscription? I get that too. There needs to be a business model. But so long as the software and features work as reliably as they have, then I’m upgrading. Our current Nest has worked for 2 years without a hitch. I consider that $300 well spent. — Eric Yang, Editor in Chief and Founder

Why You Should Wait

I’ll give it to them. The Nest Cam IQ is probably the smartest home security camera to date. Its facial tracking is particularly neat. However, I’ve traditionally used security cameras for simple and periodic tasks like checking up on my roommates or teasing my dog (she has no idea where the voice is coming from). I don’t need the push notification alerts that let me know whoever comes into my apartment, so I shut them off after two days. I don’t even need the facial tracking. Also, the camera doesn’t even shoot in 4K, despite its 4K sensor!

If I the Nest Cam IQ was an outdoor camera, maybe that’d be a different story. (Disclaimer: it’s not water-resistant.) Just seeing my roommates or myself all day isn’t super interesting or useful. And if you were using this as a baby monitor, I’m pretty confident you wouldn’t need to recognize the baby’s face either. It just feels a little bit of overkill. Cool? Sure. But it’s not that much better or different than its competitors. — Tucker Bowe, Associate Staff Writer

Buy Now: $299

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