(Pocket-lint) - It's the era of smart home, with various intelligent and app-controlled devices now available for your home: from smart cameras and smart thermostats to smart lights and smart plugs. Over the last couple of years, ways to control and get these devices to talk to one another more intelligently has increased, negating the need to use multiple apps.
Google Nest Hub - rebranded from Home Hub - is the smaller one-stop-shop from Google and the natural competitor for Amazon's Echo Show. With Assistant voice-control built-in, access to YouTube – something the Echo Show doesn't have – and a great design, it's well worth the asking price for the right smart home user.
- 118 x 67 x 179mm footprint; 480g mass
- 1.5m power cable - always plugged in
- Colours: Sand, Aqua, Chalk, Charcoal
The Google Nest Hub is like a 7-inch tablet with stand and speaker built-in that offers a visual display to control your smart home world and display content, like the 10-inch Nest Hub Max. Google Assistant is integrated so you can communicate with the power of voice, action your commands via the touchscreen, or combine both.
Its design is simple and elegant with a premium finish that blends into a home environment perfectly. The soft-to-touch premium coating on the rear is just like that of the Nest Thermostat E.
Hub's small form factor – significantly smaller than the Nest Hub Max and a little smaller than the Amazon Echo Show 8 but larger than the Echo Show 5 – makes it ideal as a night-stand style device, or a kitchen-bound product. We've used ours in both the kitchen and the bedroom (which kind of makes us want two now).
The option to have Google Photos as the home screen display means the Nest Hub can act as an excellent digital photo album too, which works well – especially if positioned in a bedroom. The Echo Show allows for this feature too, if you use Amazon Prime Photos.
The Nest Hub is always wired into a plug socket so it isn't a portable device and not to be thought of as a tablet: rather it's a control point for all your smart home goodies, just like its larger sibling the Nest Hub Max. The power port sits at the rear, within the material covered speaker stand, keeping it out of the way.
There's a microphone off switch directly to the rear of the display too in order to cease the Hub from listening. As there's no built-in camera there's no privacy concern from that point of view. In the same breath that also means no video calls like Facebook Portal, Echo Show or the Nest Hub Max. We didn't find ourselves wanting a camera but those who regularly make video calls might see it as an omission.
Display and Functionality
- 7-inch touchscreen display
- Works with: Lights, Media, Broadcast, Thermostat, Cameras, Locks
- 6 months free YouTube Premium subscription
The Google Nest Hub's 7-inch LCD touchscreen sits neatly on top of the full-range speaker and stand, pretty much hiding them from view when looking at the device front-on.
The display offers plenty of vibrancy, punchy colours and text is nice and crisp. There's an ambient EQ light sensor at the top – not to be mistaken for a camera as it is on the Nest Hub Max – that automatically adjusts the screen's brightness and colours to blend into the room, meaning the display never looks too bright or out of place and photos look great.
During setup, it's possible to choose what they want the display to show when the device isn't being actively used. The options are Google Photos, which can be sorted by auto-identified person from your connected gallery; Art Gallery, which is a range of curated images and artwork; or full-screen clock, which offers a range of clock faces. There is also an 'Experimental' option that allows you to try out new sources, like Facebook and Flickr.
Swipe left to right on the display and a dimmed-down time screen (like a night clock) appears, with a tap on the clock taking you back to the main display and another tap taking you to the home screen. This home screen displays weather, date, time and an active item like top news stories, which you can then swipe to see other active items, such as Spotify playlists.
A swipe up from the bottom of the home screen offers brightness control, volume control, Do Not Disturb and access to information about your Home Hub.
A swipe down from the top of the home screen loads your rooms and devices and it's here the Nest Hub really shines. Tapping on 'View Rooms' allows you to see each of your smart home devices by room (assuming you've categorised them into a room in the Google Home app). You can then control all of these devices from the Hub itself, rather than having to open the respective apps individually. This can be done using Google Assistant too, making smart home control an absolute breeze.
Smart home devices are also categorised with Lights, Media, Broadcast, Thermostat, Cameras and Locks, if you have compatible devices within a given category. We don't have smart locks so the Lock icon doesn't appear for us, but we do have Ikea smart lights, the Nest Learning E thermostat, Nest Hello video doorbell, Nest Indoor Cam IQ and Netatmo Welcome camera, all of which appear in their respective categories, allowing for very simple, easy control all from the Nest Hub.
Once smart home devices are linked to the Nest Hub and categorised in a 'room', you can ask Nest Hub to turn down the lights in the kitchen, show you the front door (if you have a Nest Hello), turn up the temperature, show you the kids' bedroom, and so on. As you would expect, Nest devices are better integrated than third-party devices in that you don't need to tell Nest Hub the specific device name. But third-party devices work well too: you'll just have to say, "show me the Netatmo camera view" instead of just "show me the living room" when using voice.
Unlike Amazon, Google Nest Hub also offers YouTube access. It's an ideal pairing and a current loss for Amazon for sure (although Show does offer a browser-based semi workaround).
Hardware and Specs
- Works with Android, iOS, Mac, Windows and Chromebook
- Wi-Fi & Bluetooth support
- Google Assistant
- 80dB speaker
The Google Nest Hub works across a range of platforms and it offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, though it requires a Wi-Fi network to function. Unlike Amazon Echo Show or Echo Plus, the Google Nest Hub doesn't have built-in Zigbee support, which means you'll still need the various manufacturer apps for initial setup. For example, if you have Philips Hue smart bulbs, you'll need the Philips Hue hub and app to enable control and access through the Nest Hub.
The Echo Show and Echo Plus don't require input from Philips at all – ask them to search for devices and it would find the Philips bulbs, or any compatible ZigBee products and be able to control them. It's an omission that Google could have offered, but it's not a massive issue, as you don't really need the manufacturer apps unless you're after more complex control – such as setting a different mood on your Ikea lights.
Google Nest Hub is compatible with numerous smart home devices, but its list isn't quite as comprehensive as Amazon's Alexa. More and more manufacturers are hopping on the Google train though, so the Home Hub will only get better as time goes on. It's worth checking your existing smart home products are compatible before you invest though, otherwise Hub is limited in purpose.
In terms of sound, the full-range 80dB speaker is more than adequate, although not ground-breaking - the Nest Hub Max is more substantial as you would expect. The Nest Hub's speaker is everything it needs to be in a product of this type though.
Software and Google Assistant
- Google Assistant built-in
Google Assistant is very good at conversation and with the power of Google search it often provides detailed answers to your voice-based queries.
Voice commands can also handle routines, actioning multiple steps with one command. For example, "Ok Google, Good Morning" could see your lights turn on, the weather read out, your calendar for the day detailed, your thermostat adjusted and music start playing. It works seamlessly and it is great – but if you don't know where to look, it would take a while to discover (to access routines, you have to go into the profile section of the Google Home App, then into more settings, then into Assistant, then you'll finally find it – it's a lot of clicks for a feature that should be easier to find). You can read our Google Home tips and tricks for more help.
As we've lightly touched upon, the choice now is down to which system you're invested in: Amazon Alexa (not found here: go see Echo Show) or Google Assistant (as built-in on the Nest Hub)? These main two voice-control assistants are fighting for smart home dominance.
Add the Nest Hub to a couple of Google Home Minis around your home and compatible smart home devices (especially Nest devices) and you have a brilliant system, and a very smart home. The same applies for the Echo Show and a couple of Echo Dots or Echo Spots though, so it really is about which system works better with the devices you have or want.
The Google Nest Hub brings the smart home experience to life for the whole family. It is for the heart of home, where multiple members of the household can query and request actions, while doubling-up as the smartest digital photo frame out there, aside from its larger brother - the Nest Hub Max.
When Hub launched, it made perfect sense following the company's acquisition of Nest. With a wider portfolio of connected products available to buy, having a hub to control everything from was a logical next step.
Well, assuming you're the right user. Hub is only sensible if you've got ample smart home products, aren't already invested in Amazon's ecosystem and don't want to use it for video calls. If you do but you still want Google, it's worth checking out the larger Google Nest Hub Max with its built-in Nest camera.
Google Nest Hub would be a fantastic addition to any smart home. We absolutely love it.
Google Nest Hub Max
It's larger and more expensive, but the Google Nest Hub Max offers everything the Nest Hub does, along with a built-in Nest camera (for security and video calls), better sound, and a larger screen.
Amazon Echo Show 8
The Amazon Echo Show 8 might not have YouTube, but it does have a camera and can do video calls. If you're invested into Amazon, Alexa and Echo then this is the logical choice for you – despite its sightly larger size. There's also the smaller model to consider in the Echo Show 5 if you want Alexa on a similar scale to the Nest Hub.
Lenovo Smart Display
The Lenovo Smart Display was announced before the Nest Hub as the first Google Assistant device to take on the Amazon Echo Show. It has the same software as the Nest Hub in a different design so if you don't like the Google design, you might prefer this one. It will come in 10-inch and 8-inch options.
This article was orignally published in October 2018 and has been updated to reflect new features and the market.