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Hands-on review: Google Nest Hub 2nd generation

FYI, this story is more than a year old

The Google Nest Hub (2nd gen) is a great addition to the Google Home family. It's small enough that it can fit on your nightstand while having a screen large enough to see, so you always know what you've got on and what's happening around your smart home.

In this review, we go hands-on with the Google Nest Hub to see how it stacks up against other similar devices; we'll discuss what you can expect out of the product and if it is worth buying one for your home or office.

The basics - audio & screen quality

The Nest Hub’s speaker is based on the same technology as Nest Audio and has 50% more bass than the original Hub. This comes in handy when you're trying to fill a room with the sound of music, podcasts, or audiobooks. In addition, the Hub connects to services like YouTube Music, Spotify, and Apple Music.

The screen is also clear and crisp meaning it's the perfect device to watch your favourite TV shows and movies, and youtube videos on while ramping down for bed. Personally, I enjoyed using the nest hub to coach me through some bedtime stretch routines, to ensure I woke up feeling fresh and well-rested. During these tests the screen definitely didn’t disappoint. 

The device can link up to a huge number of smart home devices via the app meaning it really can be your bedside hub.

Assistant control & interface

The Nest Hub can be controlled by touch, voice, and motion offering an array of choices when it comes to interacting with the device itself. While most of the time the features work seamlessly together I definitely had a few momentary hiccups. For instance, the motion controls weren’t always obviously clear to me, so my music would stop playing a few times as I walked by the device. Now I suspect it’s due to the fact that my bedroom is a bit tight in terms of free space and my hand would often glance past the screen on the way to the en suite. 

In terms of voice control there were no major hiccups during my testing however I did find it somewhat amusing when my phone and the Hub answered me at the same time during setup. However, I didn't notice this happening anymore after the initial setup, which makes sense as the Google Home app undoubtedly communicates with the Home Hub. On the touch control side there really isn’t too much to discuss, it works like a smartphone or tablet, you touch the screen and the device reacts, nothing revolutionary there. 

The stand-out feature

The Nest Hub has a new feature that can help you have more restful nights. So many of us don’t get enough sleep, and no one likes waking up on the wrong side of the bed. 

As technology continues its march forward (and with every other person out there embracing their iPhone or Android device before bed) many companies came up with solutions involving tracking what goes on during one's night, however, personally, I find some of these devices make me sleep worse as I’m hyper-aware of anything attached to me when I'm trying to get some shut-eye. 

That’s why I’m so impressed with the Nest Hub’s sleep tracker. Sleep Sensing is an opt-in feature aimed to help users understand and improve their sleep. Sleep Sensing uses Motion Sense (powered by Soli low-energy radar technology) to analyse how the person closest to the display is sleeping, based on their movement and breathing — all without a camera or wearable. Sleep Sensing can also detect sleep disturbances like coughing and snoring or light changes in the room with Nest Hub’s built-in microphones & ambient temperature sensors. All of this allows users to better understand what's impacting their sleep.

Security and privacy

When it comes to privacy I have long since abandoned the idea that I’m not being tracked by the voice-enabled 5G GPS in my pocket I call a cellphone. With that in mind, I’m always a bit wary of apps that ask for half a dozen permissions within the first 3 minutes of setup. 

Now most of the permissions are optional so you can give as much or little way to your Home device as you like, with that in mind you want to get the most out of this product it’s best to give the permissions a read accept the ones you’re comfortable with and then put them out of mind, at least google is upfront about the data it collects and how it stores it. 

On the security front, there are rising concerns about the hacking of smart devices, giving malicious actors control over the entire smart home, however short of gaining direct access to the device or hacking your Google (if that happens you probably have bigger issues) account I don’t see a way the device could be interacted with. Even then short of getting data on my snoring there really isn’t too much valuable info stored on the Hub. 

Final thoughts

Overall I really do like this device, yes it’s a bit strange to have an AI listen in on me sleeping but at the same time, it’s bloody incredible. As a kid, I always imagined being a captain on a spaceship with my own quirky AI assistant, well with the Google Nest Hub 2nd generation, I’m one step closer to living that fantasy. 

To anyone with a connected home looking for a new addition, the device is affordable and if set up properly can bring quite a bit to the table, definitely worth checking out.

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