Smart speakers have been around for a couple of years now. And now, tech companies are pushing the boundaries of form factor and usability with the addition of new features. A little over a year ago, Google introduced the Google Home and Home Mini smart speakers powered by the Google Assistant. After introducing the Google Nest Hub in the US last year, it is now available in India. It is a smart speaker with a 7-inch LCD touchscreen display. I’ve been using it for a little over two weeks and here are my thoughts.

What is Google Nest Hub?

Well, as I mentioned above, it is a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker, with a display. This means it can do everything from telling you the time, weather updates, upcoming appointments and setting alarms. You can even play your favorite music from apps like Spotify, Gaana and Google Play Music among others.

Now, with the addition of a display, you can ask Google Nest Hub to play videos on YouTube, as for Map directions, top stories of the day and more. All this will be displayed on the screen. Of course, like other smart speakers, you can even control your IoT devices. And thanks to the display, you can even view who’s at the door (provided you have the camera and security configured). Ok, having all these features are fine, but do you really need the Google Nest Hub? Let’s first talk about the design and performance before I answer that for you.

Google Nest Hub Design

The Nest Hub looks basic, but comes with an ergonomic design. Upfront, you have a 7-inch LCD touchscreen display that is pretty bright and had a good color reproduction. Just above the screen there is an ambient light sensor, which automatically adjusts the screen brightness based on the lighting in your room. There are two far-field microphones on both sides to hear your voice commands. The mics are powerful enough to hear you from a distance of about 5 feet. But if music is being played at full volume, you need to go a little closer to give the commands.

Turn to the back and you have a toggle switch to turn the mic on and off. On the left, you also have the volume rocker to increase and decrease the audio output. The audio quality is good and loud. I just wished it was slightly louder. Moving down, there is a small port on the right for connecting the power cord. Just like the Google Home and Home Mini, the back has a fabric coating, which gives it a consistent look and feel.

There is no built-in battery, so the speaker will need to be connected to a power source 24/7. And of course, Wi-Fi internet connectivity is also a must for it to function. 

User interface

Well, most of the things like asking for directions, weather updates, and more, is handled by voice commands. But there are other tasks where you will need to use the touchscreen interface. A swipe up from bottom reveals shortcuts for brightness and volume controls. This is followed by do not disturb mode, alarm clock and Settings shortcut. Similarly, swiping down from the top lets you access Routines, Media and Broadcast.

Swiping from the right to the left reveals top stories from Google News, followed by YouTube video recommendations and Spotify playlists. You also have card to explore all features (commands) that are supported by the Google Nest Hub. Lastly, swiping from left to right acts as a back button. And when in the lock screen mode, swiping from left to right turns on the “always-on” ambient clock. Overall, I found it easy to use. Even my mother and father who are not tech-savvy, have got the hang of how to navigate, so it’s not that complex. 

Performance

I’ve been using the Nest Hub as my desk clock. I like looking at it, as it shows me photos from Google Art gallery. Then I set it to Google Photos, where I get to see photos from my recent trips, my family and more. When playing a YouTube video on laptop or phone, I get a cast button, which then plays the video on the Nest Hub. All this is flawless.

Then we come to commands, like saying “Hey Google, Good Morning.” When connected to a Pixel device, it takes to phone off silent mode, then tells you the weather update, followed by upcoming meetings and birthdays. It also gives you a glance at your commute to work. Sadly, it wasn’t able to take my paired Galaxy Note 10 Plus off silent mode. Similarly, saying “Good Night” puts the phone on silent mode, offers weather update, upcoming meetings and sets an alarm for when you want to wake up.

I don’t have any smart things – bulbs, fans, lights or thermostat, so I couldn’t test that part. There are a bunch of other things it can do, like convert units, get trivia, check movie showtimes, get information about plans and animals. You can ask for recipes and how to cook, play audiobooks and more. But one of the interesting things I found was where it can play calm and soothing music, like ocean sounds, or relaxing music.

I even tried making voice calls by simply saying “Hey Google, call Mom” and it initiated a Google Duo call. I had absolutely no issues with the audio quality, but only thing I missed was a camera, which could have enabled video calling as well. But otherwise, the Google Nest Hub is a very capable smart speaker.

Should you buy the Google Nest Hub?

The Google Nest Hub is a lifestyle product and not a mainstream necessity. In the future (some 5 years from now), these devices may be very common in every household. But today, it’s a product for early adopters. Whether you have a smart home or not is a different thing. Even if you don’t, it doesn’t matter.

With the integration of Google Maps, YouTube, Photos, Spotify the Google Nest Hub an interesting smart speaker with a display at Rs 9,999. Alternatively, there is Amazon Echo Show 5, which comes with a front camera too. It is available a little cheaper at Rs 8,999. Then there is the Lenovo Smart Display at Rs 14,999, and Smart Clock at Rs 5,999.