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Nest Hello review: The security camera I've always wanted

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As any introvert will tell you, the doorbell can be a source of great anxiety. If I'm not expecting someone, there are only so many reasons for the doorbell to ring. I don't want anything to do with most of those reasons, so it's highly desirable to know what's going on out there before I open the door. I've used various security cameras for this task, including most recently the Arlo Pro 2. None of them have come close to the speed and ease of use you get with the Nest Hello.

This camera offers superb video quality, speedy operation, and clever wiring support. As a bonus, Nest Hello has tight integration with Google devices and services. However, it is expensive and does very little without a monthly Nest Aware subscription.

Specs

Camera 1600x1200 with HDR Field of View 160-degrees Night Vision 850 nm LEDs Audio Microphone, speaker Power 16V AC 24V AC; requires a 10VA transformer and wired doorbell Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz or 5GHz Local storage No Cloud storage No free storage, $5 for five days, $10 for ten days, and $30 for 30 days

The Good

Video and audio quality The Nest Hello captures excellent video day and night. The HDR capability means you get useful video even when the sun is shining directly into the camera. At night, you can make out objects just as well as during the day. Audio is clear and loud on both ends as well. Snappy performance It only takes a second to load up the Hello video stream, making it feasible to check who's at the door and chat with them. Google Home and Assistant integration Your Google Home will automatically announce when someone is at the door. You can also control the Hello with Assistant like other Nest cameras. Compatibility This video doorbell should work with almost any wired system.

The Not So Good

Lack of installation hardware There's only a wedge to tilt the Hello left or right. Nest really ought to include one that can tilt up and down as well. Pricing The camera is a little spendy at $230, but you also need to pay for Nest Aware every month. Without that, the camera doesn't even save any video. Design and setup

The Nest Hello is a "tube" shape with a glossy black face and white sides. The button at the bottom has a glowing ring around it. This serves as a way to indicate recording status and to help people press the button instead of the camera lens, which is at the opposite end of the body.


Nest Hello review: The security camera I've always wanted
Nest Hello review: The security camera I've always wanted
Nest Hello review: The security camera I've always wanted

If Nest is good at anything, it's figuring out ingenious ways to add smart features to your home without completely ripping out the "dumb" parts. Like the Nest Thermostat, the Nest Hello installs over top of your existing doorbell system. It works with most existing low-voltage doorbells―all you need is a wired doorbell and a transformer that supplies at least 16v of power. Even my very old doorbell wiring is enough for the Nest Hello.

Installation doesn't require any complex electrical work, so you can probably do it yourself as long as you're certain you have a compatible system. Just replace the old doorbell with the Nest and add the indoor chime connector to your wiring between the transformer and chime itself. You'll probably want to do this at the chime end so you can hide the hardware inside the housing.


Nest Hello review: The security camera I've always wanted

You can screw the doorbell mounting plate directly to the exterior wall if it's flat, but there's also a mounting wedge that tilts the doorbell a few degrees left or right to ensure it's pointed right where people will be standing. Weirdly, Nest only offers this one mounting bracket. If you're mounting the doorbell on siding like I did, you ideally want to tilt the camera down a bit to compensate. You'll have to rig something up on your own because of Nest's oversight.


Nest Hello review: The security camera I've always wanted
Nest Hello review: The security camera I've always wanted
Nest Hello review: The security camera I've always wanted

Getting the Hello connected to your Nest account is a snap. Just scanthe QR code on the back before you lock it into the mounting bracket. The app guides you through testing to ensure it's working properly with your system.

Video and quality

The Nest Hello has far and away the best video quality of any home security camera I've tested. It films 1200p video, which is a bit taller than other security cameras. The square video helps capture the full height of your porch area (with a 160-degree viewing angle) to ensure you can see people even when they're standing close to the doorbell. I get a great view of the Amazon delivery guy throwing my packages like a frisbee. Video lag is short―under two seconds.

The high resolution is only part of the appeal, though. The Nest Hello also supports HDR video capture, and it looks amazing . Placing an outward-facing camera on your house can be problematic if it faces east or west. That means the sun will shine directly into the camera in either the morning or evening, rendering it mostly blind from lens flare. Even with the sun shining directly into the Nest Hello, you can still make everything out.


Nest Hello review: The security camera I've always wanted

Direct sunlight is no problem for Nest Hello.

At night, things look almost hyper-real with the combination of HDR and IR night vision. The video is still crisp with almost no artifacting. Street lights can cause some lens flare issues on lesser cameras, but the Nest's HDR video renders everything perfectly.

When someone presses the Nest's button, they get a chime noise on the outside that's separate from the chime in your house. If you want to chat with them, the audio quality is superb, and the minimal lag makes it feasible to carry on a conversation. I do this often and I'm still amazed at how well it works. You can use canned audio responses, too.

App and features My feelings on the Nest app are a bit complicated. While it's not an objectively good app, it's worlds better than most other home security apps. I don't like Nest's default "Spaces" view because you have to scroll so far

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