The smart home landscape has evolved since the first Google Home hit the scene. Countless device makers have baked support into their tech, and as such, the need for a good but practical smart speaker is ever more important. Since Google first announced the potential of a Google Home based device with a screen, I was interested. Now, many months and a new name later, the Nest Hub is here, and it is one of the best smart speakers I have used to date.
Now let’s get this out of the way, the Nest Hub and the Echo Show are very similar devices, each working in different systems. At 10.1 inches, the Echo Show is a much more imposing device within a living space. While the screen is great to throw on a video or play recipes, it does take a fair amount of counter space to achieve this goal.
In contrast, the Nest Hub, at 7 inches of screen real-estate, blends perfectly into any living room or kitchen setting. The simple styling and colouring Google have opted to use for the device make it easy to place and forget it is not part of your standard decor. The slew of colour options available (Chalk, Charcoal, Aqua, and Sand) all work to add subtle splashes of colour to the standard living space, combined with a small footprint and clean rounded lines, and aesthetically, Google has a winner on their hands.
The Nest Hub sits much smaller than you would think by looking at it in pictures. It is only 178.5 x 118 x67.3mm with a 7-inch 1024 x 600 resolution display with a pixel density of 169.5ppi. Sitting next to the second generation Echo Show, it looks positively miniature, especially due to the minimal, curved style Google has used for this smart home device.
Google has worked hard to make the Nest Hub work in a person’s living spaces first and foremost. The included ambient light sensor works to adapt the screen’s colour temperature and brightness to match its surroundings. To put it bluntly, it works far better than I would have thought possible. After setting up the Nest Hub in my living room for testing, I often did not notice it, unless I wanted to call upon it. The fact it blends so well into the living space makes it feel more a part of the home, as opposed to something that stands out, disrupting the natural flow of the living space.
Under the hood of the Nest Hub, Google has packed all the latest features you would want from a smart speaker in 2019, including Bluetooth 5.0, Google Assistant, and Google Cast support. The Nest Hub also has two far-field microphones, a large robust speaker, and a mute button for the privacy-focused users out there. It should be noted that the Nest Home does not feature a camera, so unlike the Echo Show, it is—clearly—not a great choice for video calling.
Moving on to the sound, while it may not set the world on fire, if you like some music as you cook or just want something for background noise, the Hub has you covered. That being said, it is lacking when compared to many smart speakers currently on the market. While it blows the sound of the Google Home Mini out of the mater, it does not have the depth or richness of sound you can find on the Google Home and does not come anywhere close to what you can expect on the Google Home Max.
When compared to the Echo Show 2nd Generation, the Nest Hub simply did not have the volume or richness and depth of sound to compare. I am not a fan of the rear-facing speaker on either smart device, but that being said, the Echo Show just has more impact to the sound, especially when you want your tunes a little louder than background noise.
This limitation comes even more into focus when you realize you can use cast support to the Nest Hub. While not everything will work (notably Netflix, which I could not get to cast to while testing), what does work was a joy and easy to get going. YouTube seems the ideal use case for the screen on the Hub. From throwing recipes and cooking videos up, to just throwing on the latest news video, the Nest Hub was easy and a joy to work with.
Should you want to avoid the casting situation, the Google Assistant will pull up videos from YouTube for you. Ask it for a video for a recipe, and the Hub will display something it finds from YouTube. It will also tap into Nest cameras along or any Google service you can think up from Maps to Music, making it a very useful assistant. In fact, as much as I love what Amazon is doing with Alexa, at this time the Google Assistant, thanks to Google Services, is simply more useful and capable.
And as with any smart device, should you have Philips Hue bulbs or any number of smart home devices, the Nest hub, thanks to Google Assistant, will work with all of them. Yes, there are a few devices that only work with Alexa, but that list is getting smaller every day. In testing, there were no smart devices I could find that did not work in some regards with the Nest Hub, and that is great to see.
The need for Smart Displays is still debatable. While they add a useful new screen to your home, most of what they do can be done on any smartphone, and serve as a more robust device when not using it to cook with. That being said, during my time with the Nest Hub, I have found it a very capable addition to my home. From turning off smart devices to pulling up videos and recipes, the Nest Hub managed to settle itself into my daily routine very handily.
Beyond anything else, the Nest Hub works as a central point to your smart home. If you are looking to bring your living space to the 21st century, with new lights, some smart appliances etc. and rely on Google Services, there is no better option than the Nest Hub. While there are a few things I would like to see addressed in a second revision, the Nest Hub is a fantastic device and one that will work its way into your daily routine in no time.