Google’s second-generation Nest Hub is a smart display for your home and fit to be in your bedroom as an alarm clock replacement or in a living area or kitchen to have smart features at your fingertips. The Hub features a 7-inch touchscreen display, a surprisingly decent speaker and a few sensors that are used for various functions within the device’s software. This review is on the Nest Hub second-generation, but I shall be referring to it as “Nest Hub” or just “Hub” for the rest of this review.
Nest Hub 2nd Gen
I really like the design of the Nest Hub and, in particular, how the 7-inch display floats in front of the base of the device to give it less of a boxy look in comparison to Amazon’s Echo Show devices. The Hub is available in a handful of colour options, I have the Chalk colour which gives the base a white fabric surround, but regardless of what colour choice you go for the display will have white bezels – I don’t mind the white bezels at all, in fact, I quite like them, as I think that white blends in very nicely to a home environment.
The back of the display area is white plastic and features some buttons for adjusting the volume of the speaker, if you don’t wish to use a voice command to do so, as well as a hardware mute switch for the microphone. I do find the design of this very interesting and the first thing I thought of when I got the Nest Hub out of the box was how it felt like a tablet affixed to the front of a smart speaker, also what struck me was how compact the device actually is, from the marketing material I saw I thought it may be a little larger, but it turns out to be just the right size to blend into a room without standing out or looking ghastly.
The fabric surround around the base and speaker element of the Hub is a nice touch and makes the device feel more organic and fit for the home – I have really liked Google’s use of fabric within the design of their Nest products. The base is also where the barrel power connector plugs into the Hub, this is the only physical connection to the Hub, there’s no AUX output or Ethernet connectivity.
The underside of the Hub has a rubber base which will help prevent it from slipping around when you’re using the touchscreen and there are also a couple of microphones above the display so your voice can be clearly detected. These microphones sit on either side of the device’s Soli sensor which can be used for motion gestures and sleep sensing so you can understand your sleep quality – the ”Sleep Sensing” feature is currently free although it may become a paid feature next year.
It’s worth noting that there isn’t a camera on the Nest Hub, you’ll have to purchase the larger and much pricier Nest Hub Max for that – but the camera on the Hub Max can also act as a Nest security camera.
Overall, the design is very nice, and I don’t really have many complaints about it. It blends into my room nicely and looks good at the same time.
The Nest Hub features a 7-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1024×600. This isn’t a super-high resolution, but for a relatively small display that is running an OS designed for that specific form factor, it’s not the end of the world. The display itself looks great and offers good brightness, saturation and contrast.
The display features ambient sensors which adjust the brightness and colour temperature of the display to best match your environment, this helps greatly at night at making the display still be useful in a pitch-black room at night but also during the day as the daylight changes. This is probably most important at night because the last thing you want in your room is the glow of a screen next to your bed as you try to sleep, but I have to say, I’m impressed with how dim the display can get at night.
During the day, I’ve set the hub to cycle through curated galleries of fine art and satellite imagery, although you can also use your Google Photos library if you wish, and the ambient sensors make the artwork look like a detailed print – the brightness is just right for the room and it looks like I’m looking at a photo, rather than a photo on a screen.
The Nest Hub features a 1.7-inch speaker driver that offers decent sound quality for the compact form-factor of the device, although it is definitely no match for a dedicated smart speaker such as Sonos One. The speaker offers decent volume for a small room for listening to the radio or your music library via a supported streaming service, although Chromecast casting is supported also.
I was able to get listen to the speaker at around 50-60% which offered a good sound, although I’d personally listen at lower volumes as the room I have the device in is quite small. When I started to turn up the volume, I did notice some distortion when it was reaching the loudest supported levels. So, if you’re planning to crank the volume looking at a dedicated smart speaker may be a better option.
The Nest Hub runs a specific software designed for the device, so there’s no traditional Android to be seen. The software revolves around Google Assistant and supports the typical voice command functions that you can do on other devices such as the Nest Mini but with the advantage of being able to have visual cues and stream video directly on the device. I found the voice commands to work very well, and I experienced no problems with the Nest Hub being able to pick up my voice.
The software also makes the Nest Hub a Chromecast destination, so you can cast video and audio sources from compatible apps, this is particularly nice if you want to watch YouTube or Netflix in a room without the need to put a TV in there, such as a kitchen.
Navigating the Nest Hub software is straightforward, the software is primarily navigated using swipe gestures to swipe between different tabs for media and smart home control, to name a few. In some cases, I would like to see more information density at times and more customisation over the default “You” page which is driven by the assistant to feature what it deems relevant, such as appropriate smart light controls and calendar events.
Some other features I like are the sunrise clock function which will use the display of the Nest Hub to light up your room in the morning to emulate sunlight. Additionally, I found the air gestures quite a novel feature for controlling my music playback, but I did end up turning this off as I was accidentally performing air gestures – if your room is larger, I wouldn’t see this being much of a problem, but as my room was fairly small, I would usually be in front of the Nest Hub all the time which could inadvertently perform some gestures.
Overall, the software experience is pleasant for a smart display, and I think most people should be able to grasp the interface and get the hang of it fairly easily. I would personally like a bit more control and customisation over some of the layout elements so I could truly make it mine, but overall, it does a good job at making the functions that I need to perform easy to access.
If you’re looking for a compact and well designed smart display to put into your home, the Nest Hub from Google is a great choice. The design is sleek and blends in nicely and the Google Assistant performs well and I enjoy the additional contextual elements that a display can bring to a voice assistant. Of course, if you’re into the Amazon ecosystem, an Echo Show may be a better choice, but this is a good option if you’re using Google Assistant.
The Nest Hub 2nd Gen is available to purchase from Google’s online store.
The SummaryNest Hub 2nd Gen
- A pleasant design that blends into the home.
- Good looking display with video streaming features.
- Google Assistant is fast to respond and works well.
- Little to no customisation on software layout.
- Speaker distorts at high volume.
- No physical audio or network connectivity.