Google recently announced the release of their first smart home device, with a screen. It forms part of their connected home devices, which include their range Google Home speakers and Chromecast devices. Amazon came out with their smart display some time ago, with the ‘Echo Show’, and they have just announced their revamped, 2nd gen version. The Home Hub is almost £100 cheaper than the latest Echo Show, but what does that mean, what’s it missing, if anything, and is it any good? We’ve got one, we’ve been using it and here are our thoughts.
– 7″ LCD touchscreen display
– Ambient EQ light sensor
– Far-field microphones
– Full range speaker to the rear
– Pair with other Google devices for multi-room sound
– Bluetooth 5, Google Assistant & works with Android, iOS, Mac, Windows
Although it comes with a 7″ display, it’s overall form factor is quite small. The size and shape of the display resemble your typical tablet, and it’s mounted on a fabric base in such a way, it almost looks like the screen is floating. The fabric base has the full range speaker built into it, along with the power inlet. The screen is touchscreen, with most, if not all controls available via the screen, but there are also buttons for volume control & microphone mute, to the rear of the screen. At the top of the screen, is the ‘Ambient EQ’ sensor, which is a light sensor that will dim the display, in dark situations. However, brightness is fully adjustable to suit your needs and/or the environment. Also at the top of the screen, there isn’t a camera. Unlike the Echo Show, the Home Hub doesn’t have a built-in camera, so while you can make video calls, the person you are calling, will not be able to see you. Why is this? Google has said it’s to comfort customers about privacy in their own homes, after growing concern about how secure cameras on smart devices really are.
Setting up the Home Hub was a breeze and took next to no time at all. When you initially boot up the Hub for the first time, it will direct you to install the Google Home app onto your smart device. Once you have downloaded the app, you can sign up or log in, using your Google account and then locate the option to ‘add new Google device’, or something along those lines. The app will then search and find the Hub, to which you can begin pairing the Hub and your account, together. Once set up is complete, the Hub will run through what it can do. At any point, you can say ‘Ok Google, Tell Me What You Can Do’ and it will run you through the features again.
You will need to keep the app on your smart device if you want to add any third party devices to the Hub, and also change some settings. Those third-party devices? There are literally hundreds of them, ranging from big brands that you’ve probably heard of, to smaller ones that you won’t have. The most popular and commonly used, other than Google-owned applications, are, Spotify, Deezer, Nest, Philips Hue, Lightwave, nVidia Sheild, D-Link and so on.
Full list: Google Home Hub Partners
The hub performs very well. The screen is vibrant & clear, and the brightness can be adjusted to suit your situation. The automatic dimming also works very well and I left this setting on for the duration of the trial. The screen is responsive to touch, either pressing and sliding in any direction. Tap the screen to get the home page up, swipe right to browse the options and slide down from above to access media or cameras.
The far-field microphones do an excellent job of picking up your voice from across the room, it even picked me up when I wasn’t in the room. The only thing I think that needs to change is to the drop the ‘ok’, no need to say ‘Ok Google’, everytime you want to speak to the hub. If you’ve used Google Assitant before, you know the drill. There are many, many commands, tasks, questions you can ask Google and will answer verbally & on screen. I challenged Google many times, always coming up with accurate results.
A key feature to the Hub is its ability to play YouTube videos on screen. It’s a great feature when you’re in the kitchen, wanting to follow a recipe or to keep the kids occupied with a programme. I found searching for videos tricky on screen, there are limited options and it is far easier to verbally search for a video than just browse the site. Video quality is good, it’s unclear what the resolution is but it looks to be 720p or better.
Lastly, the audio quality, for both music and videos, is good, but it won’t blow you away. The audio is clear and can get quite loud, although quality does get lost somewhat at the higher volumes. There is an EQ available within the settings, so you can adjust it if you wish. It’s more than adequate for videos, and low volume music playing, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a party.
The Google Home Hub comes in at £139.99, while the new gen Echo Show costs a whopping £219.99. Both devices have a colour touch screen, but the Show is larger. Both have a built-in speaker, but the Echo is slightly louder. The Hub will play YouTube videos, while the Show will play Prime Videos. But the biggest difference is the Show’s built-in camera and ability to video chat with others via another smart device.
The Google Home Hub is a great first attempt at a smart home device, to include a screen & Google Assistant, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. In some area’s it lacks, but in others, it shines and I would recommend the Hub to anyone who is first starting out in the smart home devices, or a student, always wanting to ask questions.