"Google's Nest Hub is a great way to keep an eye on your smart home."
Simple smart home control
No camera on the device
Small size means it can be placed anywhere
Double as a digital photo frame
No camera means no video chat
Bad sound quality
The screen is too small for media consumption
This review was last updated by Digital Trends editor John Velasco on 06/30/2020.
When the Google Nest Hub (originally $ 149, now $ 90) arrived on our desk, we were surprised. It couldn't be that tiny little box, we thought. Intelligent displays (intelligent speakers with integrated voice assistants such as Google Assistant or Alexa) should have large screens, large footprints and lots of bells and whistles – right?
Google's Nest Hub has other ideas, and while it's tiny, it has some powerful features that make it powerful under the hood. In a way, its simple approach is a refreshing interpretation of the smart display – but it also feels watered down.
There is also its bigger brother, the Google Nest Hub Max. It has many of the same functions, but has a larger screen, excellent audio performance and a front-facing camera for video calls. It's also more expensive at a whopping $ 229.
Small screen, big world
With a size of just over 4.5 inches, the Google Nest Hub is comparatively small and has a 7-inch screen in portrait format, which is attached to an oval fabric stand on the back. Unlike its competition, the giant Amazon Echo Show, which has a 10-inch screen and 4-inch base, the Nest Hub takes up almost no space and can sit anywhere without taking up a lot of space. This makes it easy to fit in many parts of your home.
Unlike other smart displays, the Nest Hub lacks a camera of any kind. This is either a good or a bad thing depending on how you feel about your privacy and lack of video chat ability. The only buttons on the outside of the hub are volume up / down and microphone on / off.
In addition to the Echo Show and the Lenovo Smart Display (another smart speaker with a screen operated by Google Assistant), the size difference corresponds to the comparison of a tablet with a smartphone. The Nest Hub's small size makes it more versatile – most smart displays are designed for primary kitchen use – but it seems like a missed opportunity as the device comes with six months of free YouTube Premium. The screen is too small to be viewed for a long time.
Greg Mombert / Digital Trends
However, the Nest Hub works as a digital photo frame. If you use Google Photos, you can connect your albums to the device during setup and have photos of your choice rotated throughout the day. We loved this feature and found some long lost gems in our collection.
A function called Ambient EQ automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen so that the device fits into the room. You can also adjust the brightness manually. We also appreciate the interpreter mode, a feature that allows you to communicate with people in different languages.
Keep it real
More reviews for smart displays
We love how easy Google Home makes device setup. The Nest Hub is no different – plug it in, open the Google Home app, and follow simple instructions on both screens to get started. Depending on whether you are already connected to the Google Home ecosystem, you may need to take additional steps.
For example, the app asks if you want to set up Voice Match that automatically recognizes your voice and gives you and others around the home tailored answers. You'll also want to connect to streaming music and video services (you'll need to sign in to your accounts) and smart home devices. This is self-explanatory in the recently revised Google Home app.
In our case, we already have a Google Home device in our test house, which made the setup process as easy as connecting the device.
Greg Mombert / Digital Trends
A smart home love bond
The Google Nest Hub is best when connected to a smart home. We like the pulldown screen that allows us to instantly access and control the smart home devices that we have connected. You can still use your voice to control lights, plugs, locks, cameras and more ("Hey Google, turn on the lamp on the ground floor"), but the pull-down menu contains a clear list of connected devices and status of each.
For example, you can tap Lights and get a list of connected lights and their status, or select by room to see a list of all connected devices. You only need a few minutes to organize your devices in every room. It is a user-friendly control panel for all connected devices.
Hey Google, what does my morning commute look like?
Google Assistant works the same regardless of your smart speaker, but the Nest Hub complements your interactions by adding a screen. For example, if you want to create a video tutorial on how to cook eggs hard, just say "Hey Google, show me videos on how to cook eggs hard". You can then select from the results displayed using the touchscreen. For a Google Home Mini or Google Home without a screen, Google Assistant simply reads the instructions. This is not so helpful if you are learning visually.
The hub is a nifty way to get a snapshot of what's going on at home.
There are also other uses. If you've connected a Nest camera (or compatible camera) to the device, you can view the footage on the Google Nest Hub. We have two Nest cameras in our test house and found that viewing footage from them was a seamless process.
You can also answer the Nest Hello video doorbell on the Nest Hub with bidirectional communication. We don't have Nest Hello in our smart home, but we like the idea of having an extra space to monitor movement at the front door.
Greg Mombert / Digtial Trends
Since Google Assistant is already connected to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps and other Google platforms, the integration into what we already use is seamless. For example, when we set up the Nest Hub, Google already knew us from our account and usage. Therefore, calendar reminders and the morning commute view were automatically displayed on our home screen. If that scares you, you can adjust what you see.
Ok google, play music on a better speaker
The Google Nest Hub also works as a home hub, but has some shortcomings. The sound quality is the biggest disappointment. It ends up between Google Home and Google Home Mini, and that's not outstanding. It is not loud and bass and treble are missing to make listening a pleasant experience.
The loudspeaker is not loud and the bass is missing to make listening pleasant.
In contrast, the Amazon Echo Spot and Echo Show offer a louder sound and a richer music experience. We understand and respect that Google wanted to keep the device simple, small, and affordable, but it's a missed opportunity not to provide at least adequate sound. Audiophiles, or anyone who appreciates a reasonably decent sound, must pick another speaker.
The other disadvantage we pointed out earlier is the screen. It's just a little bit smaller than we would like. Even an inch would help us enjoy the YouTube videos that we can't access on Amazon devices due to a continuing feud between the two technology giants.
Try these new features
Watch Netflix shows and movies
Recently, users can now watch all of their favorite Netflix shows and movies on Google's smart displays. All you have to do is say, "Hey Google, open Netflix." From there you can choose what you want to see. If there's anything specific, just say "Hey Google, play Queer Eye" to start streaming right away.
Improved voice match support
Did you know that Google Assistant can send personalized information to multiple people around the house? Google Assistant can now support up to six person voices with Voice Match on a smart speaker or display, so you only get relevant details that concern you.
Adjust the sensitivity of "Hey Google"
In busy or noisy areas, the Google Assistant may start up accidentally. If you want to adjust the sensitivity when the wake-up phrase "Hey Google" is spoken, you can now do so through the Google Home app.
wash your hands
It is more important than ever to make sure that you wash your hands properly, especially if the pandemic continues to spread. The Nest Mini offers a brand new feature to help children. They just say "Hey Google, help me wash my hands" and a melody will play from there for 20 seconds to give them an adequate time to wash their hands.
Find your keys
Isn't it annoying if you've left your keys somewhere at home while you're late for an appointment? With Google Nest Mini, you can track them down using any of Tile's Bluetooth trackers. To track them down, just say, "Hey Google, where are my keys?" From there, Google Assistant reports the last known location.
Google offers a one-year limited warranty on materials and workmanship for the Google Nest Hub.
The Google Nest Hub has a lot to offer. We appreciate the focus on smart home controls, the pull-down panel and the functions for digital photo frames. We also appreciate the lack of a camera for those who are concerned about privacy.
We wish Google had made the screen and sound a priority. With free YouTube Premium, it feels like a missed opportunity. At $ 90, however, this is an affordable price for better smart home control.
Is there a better alternative?
It depends on what you are looking for. If you're looking for an introductory smart speaker without a screen, check it out Google Nest Mini ($ 49) or Amazon Echo Dot with watch ($ 60). Both are enough. If you need the video call screen, the Lenovo $ 100 Smart Display 7 is a better choice. However, if you really want the full package, you can pay the additional cost for the Nest Hub Max ($ 229).
If you're interested in Amazon Alexa voice technology, the Echo Show ($ 230) is a great option with a built-in smart home hub, 10-inch screen, and excellent sound. If you're looking for a smaller smart display, consider the Echo Spot ($ 90), which is for a bedside table or desk.
How long it will take?
You can expect Google and Google Assistant to stay here. Google will continue to update and improve Google Assistant technology through firmware updates. However, we cannot guarantee that Google will not introduce another smart display later.
Should you buy it
If you're looking for an affordable smart screen with Google Assistant that focuses on controlling smart homes, buy the Google Nest Hub – as long as you can do without video chats. If you can't, consider the full-featured Nest Hub Max, which also acts as a Google Nest Cam, or maybe an Amazon Echo Show if you prefer Alexa.