There are certain gadgets you can rely on to just work.
No fiddling around. No trial and error with setup. Follow the instructions, turn them on and boom, away you go.
In my experience, Google gadgets are like this.
Even from the first generation of Chromecast, Google has always offered the most user-friendly experience imaginable. Even creating mesh Wi-Fi networks is familiar and foolproof with Google Nest routers.
So I had no doubt using Google's latest Nest Aware home security products would be just as pleasurable.
I wasn't disappointed. Over the last couple of weeks, I've been trying out the Nest Doorbell (battery), Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery) and the Nest Cam (indoor, wired). As usual, setting up each of these devices was an absolute doddle - these days the Google Home app is all you need; just press that little plus sign at the top of the screen and follow the step-by-step directions from there.
The most complicated part of the process is decyphering the names of the devices themselves. In Google's efforts to make things appear super simple, it seems to have omitted the fact both the Nest Doorbell and Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor) can, in fact, run in a wired configuration too. But don't worry - the app will talk you through all that as well - even how high to place your doorbell and whether or not to use the angled mounting wedge included in the box.
In fact, let's start with the Nest Doorbell, as it's the most fun. Unfortunately, here in New Zealand these devices are only available in Snow (white) although luckily, my house is also white, so it looks pretty great. There's not much to see; a big camera and a big button. In fact, the button is so big, I had a few couriers miss it completely when I first installed it, trying to press the camera lens instead. This is despite the fact an LED ring around the button lights up whenever someone's within range. Oh well.
The mounting bracket is a bit fiddly at first - there's a special tool to unlock the unit from the base plate - but once you get the hang of it, it's no problem. Which is just as well as the only way to charge the Nest Doorbell (assuming you are running it on battery) is to remove it completely and plug it into the provided USB-C charger. This is a bit inconvenient, as you'll be without a doorbell for the few hours it takes to charge. On the bright side, mine is currently showing four weeks of battery left at 49%, so it's not like you're having to charge it all that often.
If you are replacing wired doorbell, this one will connect to your exisiting chime. However, for me with my battery setup, I get to use any other Google speakers I have to broadcast when I have a visitor - complete with my choice of chime. This means you can easily hear your doorbell anywhere in the house - you just need to scatter a few speakers around.
The Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor) is another typical Googley example of minimalist design; in fact, the shape couldn't be more simplified - a sphere with one flat side for the camera. Again, setup is almost autonomous through the Google Home app but the real beauty of this camera is its versatility - you can put it anywhere.
It has an incredibly strong magnet in the mounting plate which not only limpets onto the back of the camera at any angle you desire but also onto other metal surfaces like doors, gates and fences for screw-free installation.
Like the Doorbell, you'll obviously need to take the Cam down to charge for a few hours every so often - although there is a battery-saver mode that restricts some features in order to eek a little more out of each charge when there's less than seven days left.
If that sounds like too much of a hassle, there are weatherproof charging cables available in 5 and 10 metre lengths if you prefer a wired solution. Alternatively, the Nest Cam works just as well inside and there's an optional stand that charges the camera too. Oddly, this magnetic stand, while well weighted for balance, only lets you tilt the camera from horizontal downwards, so you'll have to find a high shelf to place it on.
But if you're coming inside, you may as well stick with the Nest Cam (indoor, wired) - a much smaller version which is built onto a similar weighted stand, although with this one you can rotate the camera at any angle which gives you the option of swinging it up, down or sideways.
All three of these devices offer great picture quality, surprisingly useful speakers and mics built in and have excellent viewing angles; up to 160-degree feild-of-view in the case of the Nest Doorbell. But it's the machine learning abilities of these cameras that really sert them apart. You can choose to be notified (or not) of the presence of people, animals, vehicles or any movement at all. My favourite feature is package detection via the doorbell.
Because I have a house full of people working and studying from home these days, the number of couriers coming and going has skyrocketed. The Nest Doorbell now not only tells me when someone has left a package, it also lets me know when someone has removed it - just so I can make sure it was the right someone.
A big advantage these new Nest Aware devices have over many others is the amount of on-board processing they do. This means the notifications are much more instantaneous.
These notifications can appear as short preview clips on your phone and they come through faster than just about any other camera I've used. My biggest complaint is there's no preview for the smartwatch notifications - I've tested this with Apple Watch, Galaxy Watch4 and an Oppo Watch running Google's own Wear OS - each one shows only text notifications, no preview clip or thumbnail as some other security systems do. Perhaps this is something Google might upgrade down the track.
Speaking of upgrades, there is, of course, a choice of subscription services to make the most of your new Nest Aware devices. While the notifications I've mentioned will happen regardlesss, you can actually train your cameras to recognise people with the Familiar Faces feature - this way you'll get personalised notifications when members of your household come and go. This is part of the Nest Aware subscription, along with either 30 or 60 days of unlimited cloud storage - definitely something to consider given there's no local SD-card storage option. You'll still get three hours of recording history without subscribing but that won't be much use if someone breaks in and makes off with your telly while you're fast asleep in the middle of the night.
The pricier 60-day subscription even offers you 24/7 recording - good peace of mind if you're keeping an eye on your car parked on the street, for example.
The Nest Aware subscription plans start from $9 a month and you get to try the extra features for the first month free, to see if you find them useful enough to pay for.
As clever as these cameras are (and they might just be the cleverest I've encountered yet) it all comes back to the Google Home integration - where you can access each of your Google-enabled devices from one central app. It's easy to set the devices up, easy to navigate to live feeds and video history and if Google can just nail those smartwatch notifications, the relatively high asking prices might well be worth it.