Mobiles & Tablets

Google Nest Hub Review: Control everything around your home

Mala Bhargava | Updated on August 26, 2019 Published on August 26, 2019

Google Nest Hub

The Google Assistant comes home in this smart speaker complete with screen

Every Android user knows that the Google Assistant is used as much at home as on the go. Except that it’s a nuisance to always have to pick up the phone.

At home, it’s the Google Home Hub that turns out more fun to use. Now it has a screen all its own in another avatar called the Google Nest Hub, launched earlier in the US and now brought into India.

The Nest Hub is in direct competition with Amazon’s Echo Show 5, being in the exact same category of smart speakers with screens. It’s also the same size. But the two rely on entirely different ecosystems and so they have their own uniqueness.

A little art

Google Nest Hub

 

The Nest Hub looks like a tiny tablet mounted on a speaker base that sticks out the back. It has rounded corners to look more comfortable and comes in either white or black or rather Chalk and Charcoal, to sit around looking quite nice in any room without dominating it like say, a television would.

And so it doesn’t clash with anything,, it doubles up as a very nice photo frame. When it’s not doing anything, the Nest Hub can show you a clock (boring, despite different clock faces) or display your photos.

For this, you can set it to show specific albums or themes such as photos of your holiday or just cycle through the lot. There’s also an option of displaying featured photos and art work (including street art) that looks really nice on that screen — almost as if it’s been printed out and put into an actual photo frame. If you dial down the brightness, it’s somewhat nicer and less electronic, but you could also do the usual Google things with this little device, putting the assistant at your command to ask all manner of information.

Quiz it about the weather and you’ll see the visualisation as you would on a phone but with some added thundery sounds if it’s going to rain. I’m waiting for the day such devices start showing real time visuals of the city to supplement weather info. You can search for things online —though this is not a browser — and ask about traffic, restaurants, movies, etc. You can also ask for the news and if the source supports it, see supporting video.

You have to set your news sources from the app or you could end up with irrelevant or outdated content. One of the more touted uses for the Hub is to plug it in on the kitchen counter and call up recipes to cook along with.

One thing the Nest Hub will do quite instantly is take you straight to YouTube and any videos you or music you ask for. It isn’t very great as far as speakers go — it is, after all, just a little thing, but it could have had a little more bass and oompah to it, which would also mean it would have to be a bit heavier, though that would have been welcome as it sits in one place.

The best way to use it as a speaker is to connect it to something else and use use the streaming services to listen on a bigger unit. Many sources are supported including Spotify and Gaana. You can even play Amazon Prime Music, but that is through their app. If you’re connected to another larger speaker and ask a question, the Hub will answer rather than blast out the answer from the other speaker — a nice thoughtful and smart touch.

 

The Nest Hub also supports multi-room speaker groups, in case you have several of them strewn around. You can also use it to cast on to devices that have Chromecast.

With all the controversy over being watched in the privacy of your home, Google decided to skip the camera on this device altogether. Here, the Echo Show 5 actually has done the smarter thing by including a physical slider that just blocks out the camera’s eye when you don’t want it. At least that leaves you the option of video calling. On the Nest Hub, you can use Duo to call someone and will see them but they won’t see you. In this case it’s easiest to just voice call with Duo. There is a mute button in case you don’t want it to always listen.

Control panel

 

Using the Nest Hub is very easy. Voice command, of course, but also single swipe to get to cards of relevant information and tap the screen to select stuff if you want. It’s the combination of one-glance, voice and touch that makes this gadget interesting to use. You can see all your calendar, agenda, etc, but not things like Gmail because the Hub could be used as a family device and not be tied to just one person although it voice-matches with different users.

One great use-case for the Nest Hub is for the control of smart home devices. Today you don’t really have to rely on a built in smart home bridge for most devices. Whatever you want can also be automated using smart plugs or kits like Oakter.

Without too much cost you can bring practically anything into the smart home ambit and use the Hub as a control panel for the lot — by voice, or touch. The best is when you can use it to create ‘Routines’ which is a series of actions connected to a single command such as “Good night’ to turn off lights, turn on a camera in another room, and play soothing music for sleep.

Google Nest Hub
  • Price: Rs 9,999
  • Pros: A fun device with multiple uses, nice looking, specially when set to show photos and art
  • Cons: Sound quality lacks bass, no camera so no two-way video calling, a little expensive

Published on August 26, 2019
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