For the past two weeks, I’ve been spying on my cat.
My surveillance tool of choice? The Nest Cam, a new home security camera from the company best-known for the Nest smart home thermostat. Nest, a division of Google, acquired home security camera company Dropcam last summer. The Nest Cam is essentially a revamped version of that firm’s Dropcam Pro.
If you’re in the market for a home security camera, the Nest Cam is a great option. For $199, you get a well-designed device that records high-definition, wide-angle video and offers solid night-time performance. It also allows you to check in on your homestead from your work computer or phone. The device’s stand is sturdy. Setup was more or less a cinch—the Nest Cam connects to your home Wi-Fi network—though it took me a while to learn how to get around Nest’s app. Certainly longer than the 60 seconds Nest says getting oriented will require. The biggest downer on the hardware side is the Nest Cam’s power cord, which can be cleverly hidden if you work at it, but I found no great solution for stuffing it away while also keeping the camera in a spot that offered a decent vantage point.
So those are the basics. But let me be clear: I’m not in the market for a security camera. There are plenty of great reasons to want something like the Nest Cam. Maybe you’re anxious about getting burgled (I’m not). Maybe you’ve got kids to check in on (I don’t). Maybe you’re suspicious about that cleaning crew you hired (I don’t get paid enough for this to apply).
Still, I wanted to review the Nest Cam, so I found one pretty good application for it: Seeing what my cat (Ella, short for Nutella) does all day when I’m not around. And it turns out she does exactly what I’d do if I didn’t have to earn a living playing with gadgets—sleep 90% of the time, eat the other 10%. I know she didn’t move very much because I got very few of the Nest Cam’s motion alert push notifications on my phone, though she got a little less sleep than usual as I took to bugging her with the Nest Cam’s built-in microphone:
If you decide to get a Nest Cam, you’ll probably also want a monthly subscription to Nest Aware, the company’s cloud-based video storage system. Starting at $10/month, Nest Aware automatically records 10 or more days worth of video from your Nest Cam. The saved videos offer timelines that make it easy to see when something in your house made a move or a sound. If you’re getting a home camera for security reasons, Nest Aware makes it much easier to ensure you’ll have the right footage to give the police a hand, should that need ever arise.
Still, after a few weeks of testing, I tucked my Nest Cam back in the box. My cat didn’t seem to mind being watched, but I did. And that’s what I wound up doing—spying on myself. Sure, you can turn the Nest Cam off when you’re home, or unplug it altogether. But I forgot to do that more than once, only to later find footage of myself that had been recorded and uploaded to the cloud without my realizing it.
Living in New York City, it’s a fair bet my movements are already being caught on camera most of the day. I’ve got no problem with that when I’m in public. But at home it’s different. My apartment is a safe space where I should be free of prying eyes and ears—even ones I install myself. For me, having a home security camera felt like the wrong step in the privacy-versus-security tradeoff, especially considering the mounting evidence that just about anything connected to the Internet is ultimately hackable.
But for readers who find the benefits outweigh any negatives, the Nest Cam is a great choice for a home security camera.