The use of virtual assistants and smart speakers has been gaining popularity for quite some time already, and many of us rely on them as the home’s nerve center in everyday usage. Once it has been integrated into everyday life, it’s really hard to go back. Google recently announced the second generation Google Nest Hub and we had a chance to review it. Is the new Nest Hub any good? Read on to find out!
- ✓Automate your daily routines
- ✓Your home is prepared for 2021!
- ✓No camera
- ✓Integrated Soli chip
- ✕Does not support Amazon Prime Video
- ✕Google Assistant still has trouble understanding different accents
Google Nest Hub 2 in a nutshell
In the race between artificial intelligence and virtual assistants, Google certainly ranks among the first. Google Assistant is one of the most used virtual assistants worldwide, especially since it is present in almost all Android devices. However, it is still far from offering a natural conversational experience. Yes, Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, does fare better when it comes to simulating a conversation with another human.
However, optimizing your home routines is close to perfection with the introduction of the new Nest Hub, available at a very affordable price of $99. This latest generation home control device has undergone considerable hardware optimization and added a number of sensors, all the while making sure that your privacy is not intruded upon by omitting a camera.
If you own a Nest mini but have always wanted to expand the possibilities of a virtual assistant with a display, the Nest Hub is a great option. If you don’t already own a smart speaker and are thinking about getting one, the Nest Hub is an even better option compared to the Nest mini.
The display offers possibilities but continues to be restricted
The Google Nest Hub 2021 features a 7-inch display with a 1024 x 600 pixels resolution, mounted on a full-range speaker with a 43.5mm driver. The entire device tips the scales at 558 grams, with dimensions measuring 177.4 x 120.4 x 69.5 mm. It goes without saying that the Nest Hub is not something that is meant to be as tiny as the Nest mini, and it boasts of a touch of class by using a similar fabric exterior. According to Google, the case is made out of 54% recycled plastic.
Overall, the Nest Hub’s design is reminiscent of a tablet that has been positioned on a stand. However, you cannot adjust the screen position – something that might peeve potential buyers off. The bezels are considerably noticeable, but they are there for a good reason – to cater to the motion, light, and temperature sensors. At the back, there is the volume button and a switch to turn off the microphones. We have a total of three microphones that, when turned off, activate a red led light at the top of the screen so that you know of its status.
You should know by now that display quality isn’t the highlight of the Nest Hub, right? While the speaker does feature a display for controlling functions and media consumption, the goal here isn’t to replace your television. Most of the time, I used the new Nest Hub in the kitchen, a place where the speaker makes all the difference for me.
You will plug in the 1.4m long power cable at the back. I strategically positioned the device near my work area in the kitchen so that I can easily follow recipe instructions and, of course, enjoy my favorite TV series while cooking or washing dishes. Thankfully, this part of my home has a couple of easily accessible power sockets that helped me out tremendously.
In addition to the power outlet, you’ll need to position the smart home assistant in a place with good Wi-Fi coverage, where some of us might consider investing in a signal repeater.
Regarding the Nest Hub’s display, it is clear that you will have a number of new possibilities when it comes to consuming media, which was not possible with the Nest mini. However, the image and video quality is not the main highlight of this device. This also does not mean that we have a poor quality display – far from it. For everyday activities, the display of the Nest Hub is more than enough to watch videos on YouTube and your favorite Netflix series.
Google Assistant still needs some polishing
One of the big requirements when using Nest Hub apart from having a good Internet connection and a power source is, of course, to use it in conjunction with the Google Home app. Basically, it only works when you have a connected compatible smartphone (Android or iOS). After setting up the Nest Hub in a few minutes (it was really easy and intuitive to do so), you are now able to control your Environments and device groups via your smartphone. Everything else can be added from your smartphone, ranging from lamps to smart appliances.
And it’s through routines that you teach it to automate your actions. For example, when you say “good morning,” a series of actions will be triggered based on a pattern or your routine customization. In addition, you can make calls to any contact on your list using Google Duo and make an announcement to the whole family using the Broadcast feature as well as other smart speakers located around the house.
There’s a huge amount of functionality built into Nest Hub, as well as a host of entertainment options. You can watch videos on YouTube, listen to your favourite podcasts using Spotify or Google Podcast, and remain abreast with the latest news from your major newspapers and magazines. Of course, how can we forget the ability to watch almost any streaming service?
Yeah, one of my biggest frustrations about Nest Hub is that you can’t watch Amazon Prime Video series because it is not supported. While Disney+ and Netflix are pre-loaded, to miss out on its biggest competitor in the smart screen industry as a streaming partner seems like a pretty big selling point for Amazon Echo Show, don’t you think so?
Another point of frustration regarding the Nest Hub is the almost daily confusion that results because of the lack of voice commands recognition due to the user’s accent, ending up with totally different actions. This problem is not just confined to Google Assistant, but virtually all of the other virtual assistants remain unable to understand more complex phrases or different accents well.
I used the Nest Hub in English, bearing in mind that my native language is Portuguese and I live in Germany. So, when asking for directions, it becomes almost impossible to obtain an accurate reply because of my pronunciation of the street names or nearby shops. The same happens when I ask it to make calls or play the album of a Brazilian artist, for instance. In this matter, Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, works better.
In summary, the second generation Nest Hub is functional, but still has some kinks that need to be ironed out. Depending on your mood at that point in time, it can be a cause of constant irritation. However, at the end of the day, there are far more benefits than problems with the new Nest Hub. The automation of daily routines is the biggest gain that you can expect from this device, where waking up in the morning and being able to make a piping hot mug of coffee using just a voice command is worth every penny invested.
Second generation goodness with optimized hardware
Google has equipped the Nest Hub with a more powerful processor than its previous generation, where it boasts of the company’s very own Soli technology. The Soli chip is a radar that can capture movements and gestures, converting them into commands that have been pre-programmed into the software to be interpreted as actions. So we don’t just have voice or touch commands to play with here, but gestures as well. This is extremely useful when it comes to pausing videos and podcasts when your hands are wet or they are a little bit too preoccupied with something else.
At first, I was startled to realize that as soon as I entered the kitchen in the morning or evening, the assistant would promptly activate the screen with a “Good morning!” or “Good evening” greeting. It was then where I understood how it noticed my presence through the motion sensors, activating the appropriate greeting function after that. This did cause me a certain degree of discomfort at first, but since it is technology, I wound up getting used to it eventually.
In addition, we also have the Connected Home over IP (CHIP) or Matter standard, which connects the smart display with other smart devices from a wide range of manufacturers including lamps, blinds, televisions, door locks, security systems, and Wi-Fi routers.
In my review, I used the new Nest Hub with Philips Hue and LE WiFi Smart bulbs, Gosund outlet adapters, a Sony Smart TV, and a Nest mini. Everything worked extremely well, with the time between voice command and action happening in a matter of milliseconds. Here, the Nest Hub offered a great experience.
Finally, one of the unique selling points of the Nest Hub is the sleep monitoring feature known as Sleep Sensing. By placing the Nest Hub 2021 beside your bed, light and motion sensors are able to identify changes in lighting and degree of movement to offer sleep quality reports. Personally, I don’t see myself using the smart display in the bedroom, as I prefer to use Xiaomi’s smart wristband, the Mi Band 4, to perform such an analysis.
However, if you don’t want to use a wearable when sleeping but would still like to know more about the quality of your sleep, the Nest Hub offers such a feature. Unfortunately, it’s not as accurate as the data that the Mi Band 4 picks up. Also, it must be said that the use of Sleeping Sensing is associated with the Fitbit Premium service and, because of this, you will have to pay a monthly fee to use it – something that more budget-conscious users might want to avoid.
Regarding the privacy of such data generated by Sleep Sensing, all the processing is performed locally, so nothing is passed over to the cloud. This data can be removed at any time via the Google Fit app.
The addition of the Soli chip to the Google Nest Hub allows you to perform gesture controls that control media and even regulate the thermostat based on the surrounding change in temperature (unfortunately I wasn’t able to test this function), which is a great addition to the hardware as it expands its functionality. However, Sleep Sensing feels more like a marketing collaboration with Fitbit than an actual feature you want to see on a smart device control center. But still, the new Nest Hub deserves to be among the best in its class.
Bass improved by 50%, but is there a point?
Just like the display quality of the second-generation Nest Hub, the audio performance isn’t spectacular. According to Google, this smart display features an improved speaker, capable of reproducing bass at 50% higher quality than its predecessor. However, the first generation Google Nest Hub was nothing much to shout about in the first place when it comes to audio, so this improvement seems to be more of a marketing tool than a marked improvement.
Yes, you will be able to listen to music at a high volume, capable of even annoying your neighbors depending on the size of your apartment and where the Nest Hub is positioned. My kitchen is rather compact, so the volume and audio quality were good enough for my needs. When walking around the house, I was able to follow the podcast content and morning news being played back without any issue.
The important thing to understand here is that the Google Nest Hub is not a premium audio quality smart speaker. If you want something with better sound, you would have to opt for a smart speaker like Nest Audio. However, the Nest Hub at $99 does a good job.
Detailed hardware specifications
Google Nest Hub 2
|Specifications||Google Nest Hub (2nd generation)|
|Companion app||Google Home|
|Dimensions and weight||
|Colors||Chalk, Charcoal, Sand, Mist|
Is the Google Nest Hub any good?
The second generation of Nest Hub is quite the performer, bringing about a number of features that optimize your daily routine at home and while being cautious enough not to trample on your privacy. Google Assistant could do with some improvement when it comes to understanding different accents, especially when the selected language is a second language, such as English in my situation. Also, the fact that it does not offer support for Amazon Prime Video is a poor choice.
Last year, I used the Amazon Echo Show 5 and Amazon Echo Show 8 for a long time, and although they are good devices and offer the integrated Alexa assistant, the second generation Nest Hub offers a better hardware experience. For those using an Android smartphone, the integration between Google’s services is also more seamless, just like YouTube Premium and YouTube Music.
However, despite using wearables to quantify information from exercise practices, sleep, and measuring vital data, I chose not to use Nest Hub in the bedroom. Not least because the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 works better for me when it comes to sleep tracking considering how it provides a fairly accurate result.
Moreover, being able to optimize the controls of my house lighting, media services, and even appliances has made my day more efficient and helped me disconnect from my smartphone a little bit more, which I consider as a gain in quality of life.
So, what are your thoughts on a smart home control system? Do you own one? Would you be open to using the Sleep Sensing feature of the Google Nest Hub? Share your opinion with our community in the comments section below.