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Google’s home security camera lineup was recently expanded, adding a new Nest Doorbell, an indoor camera and two Nest Cam models that are designed for outdoor use. And now we’re taking a deep dive on the $179 Nest Cam (indoor or outdoor, battery) and the $279 Nest Cam with Floodlight. They start with a battery-powered Nest Cam that can be placed virtually anywhere, and the latter pairs it with a bright floodlight that’s capable of lighting up your driveway whenever motion is detected.

And even though the Nest Cam and Nest Cam with Floodlight appear to be different, they’re a lot more alike than you’d think.

A security camera that can be put anywhere

The battery-powered Nest Cam is extremely versatile since it can be used almost anywhere and provides a clear, crisp view. You'll just pay a premium at $179.

A smart upgrade for your standard floodlight

With two bright LEDs and the same clear camera as the standard Nest Cam, the Nest Cam with Floodlight is an easy way to monitor the exterior of your home. Options from Ring are worth a look as well and undercut the Nest.

The who, what and how

Who this is for: If you’re already invested in the Nest Cam ecosystem and want to expand your coverage with the same type of camera, the Nest Cam or Nest Cam with Floodlight are both valid options. For someone who is just starting with home security cameras, it’s a good idea to include the Nest Cam options in your list of potential candidates due to their ease of setup and use, plus they include object detection at no cost.

What you need to know: Nest Cam and Nest Cam with Floodlight share a similar design, but only the standard Cam runs off of a wired connection or battery power. The floodlight will need to be hardwired into your home’s electrical writing, most likely replacing an existing exterior light. If you want more than just a few hours of video history, you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription fee.

How this compares: The Nest Cam with Floodlight sits at the upper echelon of floodlights at $279. Ring’s Floodlight Cam Wired Plus is $100 less expensive but lacks Ring’s 3D motion detection and tracking — something we couldn’t get enough of during our review. To gain that capability, you’ll need the $249 Ring Cam Wired Pro, which is still less expensive than the Nest Cam with Floodlight. The Arlo Pro 3 is another floodlight camera, but it can be powered by battery, forgoing the need to worry about hardwiring the camera. As for the standard $179 Nest Cam, there are plenty of outdoor camera options that are competitively priced in comparison. These include the $99 Ring Stick Up Cam Battery and the $129 Arlo Essential Wireless Security Camera, both of which will help you keep an eye on the outside of your house with relative ease, although you’ll lose out on object detection.

The same design is twice as nice

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It’s not entirely obvious at first glance, but the Nest Cam (battery) and Nest Cam with Floodlight are practically the same design with identical camera hardware.

The Nest Cam’s housing is off-white and fairly large. The flat end of the enclosure is where the camera is found, with a lone indicator light just above it. There’s a power connector on the bottom of the camera should you opt to use it in a wired setup, while the battery is protected inside.

Included in the box is a 1-meter power cable that’s rated for indoor use, a wall adapter and a magnetic mounting plate. Inside the camera are some very strong magnets that hold it in place. The idea is that you’ll mount the plate to a wall — inside or out — and then allow the camera to attach itself to the plate using magnets.

If you’d prefer to put the camera on a stand or connect it to power outside, you’ll need to purchase a stand or outdoor-rated cable separately. The Nest Cam Stand is $29.99, while a 5-meter weatherproof cable is $34.99 and a 10-meter cable is $39.99.

As for the floodlight, well, the camera itself is identical to the Nest Cam. In fact, it even attaches to the main housing of the floodlight using the same magnetic approach. When attached to the floodlight’s housing, there are two 2,400-lumen lights, one on each side of the camera. In comparison, Ring’s Floodlight Cam Wired Plus has two 2,000-lumen lights — and it’s very apparent when looking at the two floodlights lit up that the Nest Cam’s difference in brightness makes a huge impact. The rest of the housing holds all of the internal components of the floodlight, including two motion sensors.

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The plus side here is that it’s incredibly easy to make adjustments to the camera when you’re setting it up. Other cameras have some sort of hinge system that requires loosening a screw until you get the camera positioned where you want it, then tightening the screw while holding the camera in place. It’s entirely possible to do, but after using the Nest Cam’s magnetic mount, we don’t ever want to do it again.

It’s all in Google Home

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Just like the Nest Doorbell and the Nest Cam (indoor), every software aspect of the outdoor Nest Cam models is handled in the Google Home app now. Google is slowly transitioning away from the Nest app (like it did with the Google Wifi app for its mesh Wi-Fi systems).

That means you’ll need to install the Google Home app on your phone, sign in to your Google account and complete the initial setup process in the Home app. You’ll also use this app to watch your camera’s stream, receive alerts, manage alert settings and hold two-way conversations.

Installing the Nest Cam (indoor or outdoor, battery) is a breeze once you decide where you’re going to place it. Next, you’ll follow the prompts inside the Home app to connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi network, give it a name, update its software and set up motion alerts.

Let Google install it for you

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The Nest Cam with Floodlight uses a hardwired connection for power, which can be intimidating for some — and we can’t blame you. The floodlight has to be hardwired to your home’s electrical system, so you’ll need to be comfortable removing your old floodlight and connecting the new one to your existing wiring.

If you don’t feel comfortable messing with electrical wiring, you can spend an extra $99 to have Google hire a local installer on your behalf. You just need to select the install option at checkout if you’re purchasing directly from the Google Store, or you can add on installation if you bought the Cam from another retailer by visiting this Google website.

We ran into an issue when installing our floodlight review unit that exceeded our skill set. We booked an installer through Google’s system and the experience was great. The installer arrived on time, fixed our issue and completed the installation in about an hour.

Nest Cams have all the smarts

Both of these Nest Cam have the same camera chops. A 1080p HD camera with HDR and night vision, and a 130-degree field of view are all packed into a weather-resistant housing.

The video clips captured on both cameras are clear and crisp, and look just as good as what we experience on the Nest Doorbell or the indoor Nest Cam. That is to say, you’re able to identify whoever — or whatever — is in the frame, with plenty of detail and color.

The lights on the Nest Cam with Floodlight are very bright, so much so that we don’t really like looking at them; it hurts our eyes. The motion sensors on the floodlight are also very sensitive, in a good way. We routinely trigger the lights from about 60 feet away with very little movement. If it’s too sensitive for your setup, you can adjust it (we currently have ours set to high).

Outside of a new look, Google revamped the smart features here. All Nest Cams can now identify people, packages, cars and animals for free. Previously, you needed to pay for Nest Aware, the company’s subscription service that provides cloud storage and other features (more on this in a minute) for $6 a month.

During our testing, we adjusted our settings so the cameras would look for and start recording whenever any motion was detected, regardless of the object. We turned off alerts for motion, vehicles and packages but left notifications on for animals and people.

By curating the type of alerts we received, we were able to only get the information we cared about, while the camera was still recording the clips that we could possibly want to view in the future. This granular approach of being able to record for all activity but only alert for specific activity is something we wish all smart cameras offered.

You can also set activity zones where you want the camera to actively identify movement or an object while ignoring the areas outside of that activity zone.

We previously touched on Nest Aware, the optional subscription service for Nest Cams. For $6 a month, you can add as many cameras as you want to your account. You’ll get 30 days of event video history and alerts for familiar faces. For $12 a month, you get all of those same features, plus 10 days’ worth of 24/7 video history.

Without a Nest Aware subscription, you’ll give up alerts for familiar faces, and event video history will be limited to the last three hours — which isn’t a very long time. We recommend signing up for the $6-per-month plan, if for no other reason than you can go back to the previous 30 days of event history should you need a clip.

Bottom line

The Nest Cam (indoor or outdoor, battery) and Nest Cam with Floodlight are both viable options for anyone looking to keep an eye on the outside of their home. The floodlight is plenty bright, and the cameras on both models are clear enough for normal use.

For someone who needs a camera that can be mounted anywhere on the outside (or inside) of your house, the standard Nest Cam makes the most sense. The battery makes it easy to monitor your home without needing to rewire anything. Alternatively, if you have an old floodlight that doesn’t do much more than turn on the lights, it’s time to upgrade to a smarter floodlight.

However, if you don’t want to put Google cameras in or around your home, or you’re already invested in another ecosystem of smart security cameras, check out Ring’s product lineup, including the Ring Stick Up Cam Battery or the Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Plus, along with several different cameras and a monthly subscription that’s competitively priced.