Google Nest Hub (2nd gen) review: The new Nest Hub is a yawner

If it ain’t broke, don’t repair it. That appears to be the thought behind the second-gen Google Nest Hub, which—at first look, anyway—might simply be mistaken for the unique. This new Nest Hub retains the primary’s slim, fabric-covered base and “floating” seven-inch show, together with onboard Google Assistant, a horny, easy-to-use interface, loads of video, music, and different leisure choices, and a few of the finest dwelling automation performance you’ll discover in a wise show.

Appears like a yawner, proper? Effectively, that’s actually true relating to the Nest Hub deux’s main new characteristic: Sleep Sensing, an opt-in characteristic that enables the show to observe your sleep with out the necessity for a wristband. Powered by a tiny, built-in radar, the Nest Hub can really sense your respiratory as you slumber, and it’ll provide you with detailed experiences about your sleep historical past and high quality. Fairly cool, however Sleep Sensing feels very very like a piece in progress, and we’re additionally involved about Google’s hints that it’d cost for Sleep Sensing performance (both some or all of it) sooner or later.

Now, we had been—and nonetheless are—massive followers of the first-gen Nest Hub, which has continued to enhance over time because of frequent software program updates. And because the new $100 Nest Hub solely prices $10 greater than the unique (which really value $150 at launch, previous to a sequence of reductions), we’d heartily advocate the newer show to first-time patrons, together with those that have little interest in Sleep Sensing. However do house owners of the unique must improve? To seek out out, let’s dig into the small print.

Design

At first look, the second-gen Nest Hub appears to be like equivalent to its predecessor, with the identical large, cloth-covered base, a seven-inch show that (because of its intelligent design) appears to drift, and a white removable energy twine. Additionally unchanged (cosmetically, not less than) is the ambient mild sensor embedded within the high bezel of the show, flanked by a pair of far-field microphones.

This overview is a part of TechHive’s protection of the most effective good audio system and shows, the place you’ll discover opinions of the competitors’s choices, plus a purchaser’s information to the options it is best to think about when searching for such a product.

google nest hub 2nd gen edgeless display Ben Patterson/IDG

Among the many second-gen Nest Hub’s beauty modifications is a brand new, easier-to-clean edgeless glass design.

Look intently, nonetheless, and there are a couple of delicate variations. Measuring four.7 x 7 x 2.7 inches (HxWxD), the brand new Nest Hub is a couple of millimeters taller and deeper than the unique, and at 19.7 ounces, it’s almost two ounces heavier. The show has a brand new edgeless glass design for simple cleansing, and now you can order a “mist” model of the Nest Hub along with the unique chalk, charcoal, and sand flavors.

General, I used to be pleasantly stunned how small the Nest Hub regarded in individual (I’m extra used to the bigger, bulkier Nest Hub Max), and I had no hassle inserting it on my crowded bedside desk. In distinction, my Amazon Echo Show 5 has a barely bigger footprint, regardless of its smaller five-inch show.

google nest hub 2nd gen on bedstand Ben Patterson/IDG

The Nest Hub and its seven-inch show match fairly properly on my cramped bedside desk.

As with the primary Nest Hub, the up to date model lacks a built-in digicam, which a) means you’ll by no means have to fret about it snooping in your bed room, and b) guidelines out video chat (as I’ll focus on later within the overview).

Setup

When you situate and energy up the show, a “Arrange Nest Hub” will robotically seem within the Google House app for iOS and Android (assuming you’ve put in the app and have a Google account, in fact). Faucet the button, and Google House will step you thru the method of including the Nest Hub to your private home wi-fi community. Getting the show related to Wi-Fi took a couple of tries for me (I saved getting a “Couldn’t hook up with Wi-Fi” error), however the third time was the allure, and I had no additional connection points.

After making the Wi-Fi connection, you’ll must navigate a thicket of privateness notices and disclosures masking options comparable to Voice Match (which permits Google Assistant to acknowledge your voice for personalised search outcomes), Fast Gestures (which, as I’ll quickly describe, lets the display screen react to easy hand gestures), and the brand new Sleep Sensing characteristic (which I’ll cowl a little bit later).

In case you resolve to permit the Nest Hub to trace your sleep (Sleep Sensing is a purely opt-in characteristic), you’ll be prompted to “train” the show the place you sleep in the course of the preliminary setup course of. On-screen directions let you know the place finest to put the Nest Hub: roughly inside arm’s attain and ideally in your bedside desk, quite than on the foot of your mattress or in your headboard, and dealing with you. You’ll then be requested to lie nonetheless—and alone—in your regular sleeping place whereas the Nest Hub’s diminutive Soli chip (mainly a miniature radar) will get a way of the place you’ll often be in mattress. As soon as the calibration course of is full—it solely took a few minute for me—the Nest Hub will have the ability to monitor your actions in mattress whereas screening out co-sleepers.

The Nest Hub may even ask if you wish to see snapshots from Google Photographs on its show, an possibility I extremely advocate. You may choose an current photograph album if you want, however Google may also create an auto-updating album with any household, pals, or family members that you choose. The Nest Hub can show a pair of portrait-oriented pictures side-by-side (which appears to be like manner higher than merely blurring the left and proper sides of a single portrait pictures, as Amazon’s Echo shows do), and it’s good sufficient to border individuals with out cropping their heads off.

google nest hub 2nd gen main Ben Patterson/IDG

The Nest Hub can pair portrait-oriented pictures collectively quite than blurring the left and proper sides of a single portrait picture.

Lastly, the Nest Hub’s Ambient IQ characteristic, which robotically adjusts the show’s colours and brightness relying on the ambient mild within the room, does a wonderful job of constructing your photos appear to be printed pictures quite than illuminated digital pictures. While you mix all these options, the Nest Hub (just like the Nest Hub Max) turns into among the finest—and smartest—small digital photograph frames round.

Interface and controls

Like the unique Nest Hub and the bigger Nest Hub Max, the brand new Nest Hub has a bodily mic mute swap in again of the show (the swap additionally turns off the digicam on the Hub Max), whereas a slim rocker alongside the correct rear of the display screen helps you to regulate the amount. Helpfully, a small LED within the high show glows if the mic-mute swap is engaged.

google nest hub 2nd gen rear Ben Patterson/IDG

The Nest Hub’s mic mute swap sits on the again of the show, close to the highest.

Sliding in from the correct facet of the Nest Hub’s show reveals a horny tabbed interface that permits you to browse the show’s numerous features and informational screens, from Climate and Wellness to House Management and Communication. You can even swipe up from the underside of the display screen to alter the show brightness, regulate the amount, or entry different settings.

Apart from tapping the show, you may as well management the Nest Hub utilizing Fast Gestures, or hand gestures that you just carry out with out touching the display screen. On the Nest Hub, which means you can also make a tapping gesture within the air to play and pause music, to dismiss an alarm, and even to shush Google Assistant. (The Nest Hub Max helps Fast Gestures as properly, besides as an alternative of tapping the air, you maintain your palm up within the air.) Powered by the identical Soli chip that enabled the Nest Hub’s Sleep Sensing characteristic, Fast Gestures makes it straightforward to work together with the Nest Hub with out touching the precise machine or addressing the Assistant, though it’s possible you’ll end up pausing your tunes unintentionally if you happen to’re gesticulating throughout an animated dialog (it’s occurred to me greater than as soon as).

Google Assistant and good dwelling management

After all, the way in which you’ll often work together with the Nest Hub is thru Google Assistant, an more and more succesful and educated voice assistant whose speedy solutions are partly because of the show’s new machine-leaning chip (additionally discovered within the Nest Audio and Nest Mini). Backed by Google’s treasure trove of data, the Assistant can reply a variety of esoteric questions, in addition to dole out climate experiences, verify your schedule, set reminders and alarms (together with “dawn” alarms that step by step increase the brightness of the display screen), and skim the information.

Google Assistant on the Nest Hub may also take cost of your good dwelling units. Whereas the Assistant lacks the near-ubiquitous assist that Amazon’s Alexa enjoys (greater than 100,000 good devices assist Alexa, versus about 50,000 for Google Assistant), the Assistant isn’t any slouch within the good dwelling division.

google nest hub 2nd gen smart home Ben Patterson/IDG

Google Assistant on the Nest Hub doesn’t assist as many good dwelling merchandise as Alexa does, nevertheless it’s making fast progress.

Like Alexa, Google Assistant works with many of the high good dwelling manufacturers, from Philips Hue and Wyze to August and Roomba, and it lets you create routines that carry out a mixture of duties when triggered by a voice command, a set time of day, or enter from one other good machine (comparable to a movement sensor).

The Nest Hub may also work intently with (unsurprisingly) Nest thermostats, cameras, video doorbells, and different dwelling safety units—so, for instance, you’ll be able to simply ask Google Assistant for extra warmth within the basement, or to indicate you who’s standing in your entrance doorstep.

Lastly, the Nest Hub comes with a Thread radio much like the one within the Nest Hub Max and the brand new Apple HomePod mini. Backed by Apple, Google, and Samsung, Thread is a low-latency, low-power IoT protocol that might properly take off within the subsequent few years. For now, nonetheless, solely a handful consumer-oriented Thread merchandise can be found (together with some good lights from Nanoleaf and good plugs and door/window sensors from Eve), and at the moment, the Nest Hub’s Thread radio is dormant (as is the one within the Nest Hub Max). Thrilling although it might be (for good dwelling lovers, at any fee), the Nest Hub’s Thread assist is, at this level, purely tutorial.

Communication

Like its predecessor (and as I beforehand famous), the brand new Nest Hub lacks a built-in digicam, which is each a very good factor and a foul factor. On the plus facet, the Nest Hub’s lacking digicam means there’s no likelihood the show is watching you within the privateness of your bed room. On the unhealthy facet, the Nest Hub can’t do video calls just like the Nest Hub Max can, nor can it double as a Nest safety digicam (one other Nest Hub Max trick).

That mentioned, you can make voice calls on the Nest Hub through Google Duo, permitting you to speak with anybody who has the Google Duo app on their telephone or desktop. You can even name different, particular person Google audio system in your house or broadcast messages to all of them concurrently (“meal time!”).

The Nest Hub could make calls to telephones and landlines as properly, however you’ll want to attach the show to a supported provider first; right here within the U.S., your decisions are restricted to Google Fi or Google Voice. In distinction, Alexa Now’s Echo units allow you to make free telephone calls to anybody within the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, no provider required.

Music, video, and Chromecast

The Nest Hub comes outfitted with a single, 1.7-inch full-range driver, so it will probably’t be anticipated to knock anybody’s socks off from a sonic perspective. Nonetheless, Google reps have boasted that the brand new Nest Hub’s bass response is 50-percent higher than its predecessor, and the show does certainly pack a strong pinch given its dimension and single-driver design.

I spent a good period of time casting lossless tunes from Qobuz to the Nest Hub through Chromecast, from Carlos Kleiber’s electrical dwell efficiency of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony to Ciara’s irresistible “Stage Up,” and I used to be pleasantly stunned by the Nest Hub’s peppy, dynamic audio. The show is completely satisfactory for listening to music, however you’ll must stage up (nod to Ciara) to a beefier speaker—comparable to, say, the wonderful Nest Audio—if you happen to actually wish to benefit from the music.

Talking of Chromecast, the Nest Hub is a Chromecast machine, which suggests you’ll be able to forged each video and audio to it from a variety of supported apps. Apart from casting from an app, the Nest Hub natively helps Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Paramount+, Sling, and Starz, permitting you to tee up movies through voice command (“Hey Google, play The Crown on Netflix”). The Nest Hub additionally has an ace up its sleeve so far as movies are involved: YouTube, a video service that isn’t obtainable (not natively, anyway) Now’s Echo good shows.

google nest hub 2nd gen media Ben Patterson/IDG

The Nest Hub and Google Assistant assist a variety of video and music companies, together with YouTube, Netflix, Disney+, Spotify, YouTube Music, and Apple Music.

The Nest Hub integrates with such streaming music companies as Spotify, Deezer, Pandora, YouTube Music (no shock), and Apple Music (sort of shocking), which suggests you may give Google Assistant instructions like, “Play Taylor Swift on Pandora.” There’s no integration with the likes of Amazon Music, Tidal, or Qobuz, nonetheless, though once more, you’ll be able to forged tunes to the Nest Hub through any music app that helps Chromecast.

Sleep Sensing

The Nest Hub makes for an distinctive good show primarily based solely on the performance I’ve already lined, however the second-gen Nest Hub comes with an intriguing bonus: its new Sleep Sensing characteristic.

With assist from its presence-sensing Soli chip (which already comes outfitted on the Nest Hub Max however is new to Google’s smaller good show), the Nest Hub can monitor your sleep each by sensing your motion in mattress whereas additionally listening for loud night breathing and coughing utilizing its built-in microphones. In accordance with Google, the Soli chip is so delicate that it will probably detect your chest transferring as you breathe out and in in mattress.

The fantastic thing about Sleep Sensing on the Nest Hub is that it will probably monitor your slumber with out the necessity for strapping on a wristband, comparable to a Fitbit or an Apple Watch. Certainly, one in all my largest beefs with utilizing a Fitbit to trace my sleep is that too typically, I neglect to put on it to mattress (typically as a result of it’s sitting in its charger), and when that occurs, you lose an evening of sleep monitoring. With Sleep Sensing, however, you don’t want to recollect something; all you could do is slide in mattress and go to sleep.

While you get up within the morning, you’ll be able to faucet the Sleep Sensing icon within the top-right nook of the Nest Hub’s show to get a abstract of your earlier evening’s sleep, or you’ll be able to simply ask, “Hey Google, how did I sleep final evening?” The abstract will let you know how lengthy you slept for, if you went to sleep and if you wakened, and what number of “disturbances” there have been in the course of the evening.

google nest hub 2nd gen sleep duration Ben Patterson/IDG

The Nest Hub’s Sleep Sensing characteristic provides you with a abstract of the earlier evening’s sleep, together with how lengthy you spent in mattress and the way a lot of that point you had been really sleeping.

Digging into the small print, the Nest Hub will present you precisely how lengthy it took you to get to sleep and whether or not you bought into mattress and wakened on time (primarily based on a sleep schedule that you just enter in the course of the preliminary setup course of). It’ll additionally present you precisely if you—or somebody, anyway—was loud night breathing or coughing, in addition to whether or not there have been any sleep-disrupting mild modifications. After gathering a few week’s value of sleep knowledge, Google Assistant will begin providing sleep ideas if you happen to’re having hassle getting a restful evening’s sleep—for instance, she may recommend that you just attempt going to mattress earlier.

So, in regards to the loud night breathing and coughing. The Nest Hub was reporting that on some nights, I used to be loud night breathing for as much as two hours, which sounds a little bit a lot (I imply, sure, I snore, however not that a lot, absolutely). After I requested Google (the corporate, not the voice assistant) whether or not the Nest Hub’s microphones might mistake the snores and coughs of a accomplice or co-sleeper with these of a tracked sleeper, I used to be advised that Sleep Sensing “might at the moment course of and attribute these sounds as sleep disturbances to you.” Future updates, I used to be advised, may assist Sleep Sense to higher “exclude close by noises out of your coughs and snores,” the Google rep added.

google nest hub 2nd gen sleep quality analysis Ben Patterson/IDG

The Nest Hub’s Sleep Sensing characteristic can let you understand how typically coughing and loud night breathing disrupted your sleep, however it might have hassle differentiaing your coughs and snores from these of a co-sleeper.

I additionally observed that the Nest Hub—initially, anyway—wasn’t getting a bead on my respiratory fee, displaying solely a splash for my RPM (primarily, your breaths per minute whereas at relaxation). After I requested about this, the Google rep prompt I attempt recalibrating the Nest Hub. I did simply that, and the following morning I did, certainly, get an RPM studying. (I common about 10 to 11 breaths per minute, which apparently means I’m a giant snorer in spite of everything?)

Now, Fitbit customers might discover some holes within the Nest Hub’s report of 1’s nightly sleep. For instance, the Nest Hub received’t let you know how a lot REM sleep you bought, nor will it tally your “deep” and “mild” sleep. After all, provided that Google now owns Fitbit, it’s seemingly that Google will likely be seeking to plug a few of these holes, maybe solely on the Nest Hub facet or possibly by some mixture of Nest Hub Sleep Sensing and Fitbit sporting. For now, although, your Sleep Sensing outcomes will look totally different than these you’ll get from an Apple Watch or a Fitbit. In case you’re a devoted Fitbit person, be ready for change.

So far as privateness goes, the Nest Hub pops up a notification on the display screen every time anybody approaches to allow them to know that Sleep Sensing is energetic. For its half, Google goes to nice lengths to level out that “uncooked” knowledge about your sleep by no means leaves the Nest Hub. All of the Sleep Sensing processing is carried out on the machine itself, and solely the outcomes—how lengthy you slept, the standard of your sleep, etcetera—are despatched to the cloud, permitting you to overview your sleep knowledge on the Google Match cell app.

google nest hub 2nd gen sleep notification Ben Patterson/IDG

The Nest Hub will pop up a notification every time anybody approaches that Sleep Sensing is energetic (assuming you’ve enabled it).

Every morning, you (and/or your co-sleeper) will get the choice to delete the small print of the earlier evening’s sleep, and you’ll at all times nix some or all of your sleep knowledge if you want. And relying on how creeped out you’re by the Nest Hub’s Sleep Sensing skills, you’ll be able to disable a few of them (for instance, coughing and loud night breathing evaluation) or flip off Sleep Sensing fully.

Another factor about Sleep Sensing: whereas it’s at the moment free, it might not be for for much longer. Google says it’s providing a “free preview” of Sleep Sensing by the tip of the 12 months for Nest Hub customers. What occurs after that’s considerably nebulous. Throughout an internet briefing, Google reps famous that they’re “actively exploring alternatives” with Fitbit, which gives a paid Fitbit Premium service for $10 a month. So whereas Google hasn’t confirmed that customers will in the end need to pay for Sleep Sensing, the corporate is not less than mulling the thought.

Backside line

Outfitted with Google Assistant-powered good dwelling management, a variety of leisure choices courtesy of Chromecast, and terrific photograph body performance, the brand new, $99 Nest Hub makes for a fantastic buy if you happen to don’t have already got a wise show in your bedside desk, and assuming you’re already investing (otherwise you’re prepared to speculate) within the Google Assistant ecosystem. And because the second-gen show is a scant $10 greater than the not too long ago discounted (and now discontinued) authentic, you’ll be able to consider the Nest Hub’s nascent, completely elective Sleep Sensing potential as a cool bonus—except Google decides to start out charging for it.

Do house owners of the first-gen Nest Hub must improve? That relies upon totally on how you are feeling about Sleep Sensing. In case you suppose the Nest Hub’s new Sleep Sensing functionality is an absolute should, then positive, go forward and improve. However if you happen to’re solely so-so on Sleep Sensing, there’s no want to exchange the unique Nest Hub. It packs just about each essential characteristic that’s within the new mannequin save for Sleep Sensing and Fast Gestures (that are good, however not all that essential), and it boasts the identical terrific design, apart from the few beauty modifications I’ve talked about.

And whereas the brand new Nest Hub’s audio is marginally higher that its predecessor’s, it’s not sufficient of an enchancment to warrant coughing up for the improve. The identical may be mentioned for the presence of a Thread radio. Whereas it’s been in growth for years, it’s very early days for that protocol by way of retail merchandise that may make the most of it.

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