At Google I/O 2019, Google announced the rebranding of their smart home devices as Google Nest. In future, new products may be part of the Nest family, as such the current Google Home Hub is also rebranded as Google Nest Hub. There is also the bigger Google Nest Hub Max, but it’s not available in Singapore.
The Google Nest Hub is essentially a Google Mini or Google Home, but with a display. All share a common feature, which is having Google Assistant as the main core. Setting up is pretty simple, and you will need to download the Google Home app from the PlayStore. Once you open up the app it will detect the Google Nest Hub once it’s turned on, follow the steps and it will be ready in about 5 mins.
Apart from using your voice to activate Google Assistant, navigating the Google Nest Hub is pretty simple as well. Swiping down shows all of your Google Home devices. You can access like the brightness, volume, Do Not Disturb, alarms and system settings by swiping upwards. You can adjust the volume with the physical buttons at the side or using your voice. Swiping right goes to the Home Screen where you see information like news, activities and YouTube recommendations. Swiping left brings you back to the previous screen. You choose what to display like your photos or a gallery curated by Google.
As for hardware, there is a volume rocker on the back at the right side. Pressing both together for 10 secs will reset the Google Nest Hub. The Mute switch is at the top, and the Ambient Light sensor is above the display. The Ambient Light sensor automatically adjusts the brightness according to the surroundings. There isn’t any camera if you are concerned about privacy issues. The back is covered with a soft fabric that covers the speakers.
If you have existing Google Mini or Google Home, they will appear in the Google Home app as long they are in the same network. This means they are interconnected and you can do some cool things. You can broadcast a message to all devices and people can reply to your message. As of now, you can’t broadcast to specific device and the reply message will only play on the source device. For music, you can group Google Home speakers together and you can play music to a group of speakers or individually. It supports some streaming services like Spotify and Google Play Music.
The footprint of the Google Nest Hub is pretty small, can be easily placed on a side table or countertop. It has a 7 inch display with the speakers at the back. The speakers is quite big and sounds pretty loud, you can definitely hear it across the room. The sound quality is actually pretty good, but the bass is clearly lacking even after adjusting the settings.
Sometimes having an actual display has its benefits depending on the use case. For example, getting information on your next commute, I can easily check for traffic jams. Or looking at your next appointment on Google calendar, or checking a recipe from the Internet. I placed my Google Nest Hub on the TV console, so using it to watch YouTube doesn’t make sense since everything will look so small.
The Google Assistant works exactly like how you would on a mobile phone. You can ask for places to eat, get directions, and send them to your phone before you leave. Use your voice to set calendar events and sync it with calendar app on the phone. The Google Nest Hub will also show all your events on the Home Screen.
Routines are steps that the Google Assistant will do with a single command. There are ready made ones or you can customize with a different voice command. For those who have kids at home, you can set up filters so you can limit explicit music or PG videos. You can also restrict to only allow actions that are family-friendly, and also block making calls. Talking about family, you can add each member to the Google Home app and it will show personal results. You can also train voice matching so it will recognize and show the relevant results as well. If you prefer not to show at all, you can turn it off for individual devices.
To stop the Google Nest Hub from responding to commands when going to sleep, you use the Downtime feature. Once the feature is in play, only alarms and timers will work. Both Downtime and Filters settings can be customized to individual Google Home devices. You can also make voice calls with Google Duo, provided the other party is also using it.
Apart from controlling all your Google Home devices, you can integrate with more than 200 million smart devices from over 3500 brands, just like this Xiaomi camera and vacuum cleaner. You can add devices through the Google Home app, and all the smart devices will appear once successful. I can now start cleaning using my voice, or view live stream of the security camera.
My experience using the Google Nest Hub is pretty similar to using the Google Mini and Google Home. But with the added display, it’s much easier to view the information directly. One of the selling points is the seamless integration with smart devices from other brands and it’s now simpler to turn your home into a smart home.
I also experience some lags here and there and I think it can be solved in future updates. There are also some things that I couldn’t figure out; Routines are not supported although it’s shown in the app. I also can’t get ‘Commute’ card to show on the Home screen, and also I don’t see any card customization setting. It would be nice to let me choose what cards to show on the Home Screen.
I believe the Google Nest Hub will improve over time and overall it has been a pleasant experience for me. If you are looking to improve your home into a smart one, it’s definitely worth checking out the Google Nest Hub family.