August 26, 2019 9:55:07 am
The smart home revolution is slowly rolling into India. And thanks to the the big push from Google and Amazon, we now have affordable and accessible controllers in the form of smart speakers that let you take the reins of the plethora of smart plugs, bulbs, cameras and lights. In fact, months after the first Echo Show series devices launched in India, Google Nest Hub is here at a starting price of Rs 9,999, thus well and truly ushering in the era of smart speakers with displays.
The Google Nest Hub has a 7-inch LCD touch screen, a speaker at the bottom, two microphone array, WiFi and Bluetooth support with Chromecast built-in. It does come with a button at the back to turn off the mic and ensure the device cannot listen to you. There are also physical buttons to increase/decrease the volume. Compared to the Echo Show 5, there’s no camera on the Nest Hub, which Google says is to ensure more privacy for customers.
The Nest Hub is compact, which is an obvious advantage when one is trying to find a place for a new device in the home. The 7-inch screen, while it might seem like something small is large and bright enough to watch videos on. I didn’t keep the display brightness at maximum, and even regular YouTube videos appear sharp on this screen.
The smart display speaker can sync with your Google Photos app and display them, thus turning into a very smart digital photo frame. You can choose the layout from the Google Home app on your phone, though sometimes vertical photos do look odd when displayed on the horizontal screen. You can have two photos in the vertical format displayed side-by-side, though you will have to tweak the settings in the app. The Google Home app will also let you have a simple clock if that’s what you prefer.
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The ambient lighting sensor on the display ensures that the screen’s brightness is based on the lighting environment in the room, it works very accurately. I had no difficulties connecting the Google Home to WiFi on my home, and syncing with the Home app on a Pixel 3 XL and my iPhone XS. What I did have trouble with was getting Google Nest Hub to listen to me and I am convinced the Assistant is slightly deaf.
There were a number of times when I found myself shouting across the room to have a command heard by the Google Assistant, especially when music was playing on the speaker. I’m not a soft-spoken person as several people have pointed out, so it was frustrating to keep repeating myself, even when the device was placed very close to me on the bed.
Trying to make a Google Duo call from the speaker was impossible. All I got in response was ‘Sorry, there’s a glitch’ and ‘I’m sorry, I could not verify your voice.’ In fact, I got the latter several times, which was frustrating.
But it was not all bad with the Google Nest Hub. Google Nest Hub can be used for a lot more functions than just listening to music or seeing your Google Photos displayed on the screen. It can help you control compatible devices like AC, TVs, set-top-boxes, smart lamps, plugs, etc.
It worked smoothly, when it came to streaming video from the Mi camera in my house, though you will have to sync the Mi Home Account to the Google Home app and grant it access. It also managed to control the Mi LED smart bulb accurately.
For ACs and TVs, you will need to buy an extra smart home infrared WiFi remote hub, which once linked to the home appliance can be controlled by the Google Assistant. Of course, the WiFi remote hub needs to be compatible with Google Assistant, though most such devices in the market work with both the Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.
Keep in mind that some of these third-party plugs and hubs require you first download their app and sync the device, and then grant Google Home access to it. This is a little bit of a back and forth between apps.
The Nest Hub worked smoothly with the AC in the bedroom when it came to turning it on and off. I also set up a routine where when I shouted ‘I’m leaving’ ensured that the Nest Hub turned off the AC in the remote. For the AC, you can also decide on modes from the speaker as well and change the settings, temperature.
Routines, like for when you are leaving home, can be customised from the Google Home app itself and you can add or remove tasks that Google should carry out. For instance, you can set routines for good morning and bed-time where the Google Nest Hub should carry out particular tasks.
Nest Hub also come with a Digital Wellbeing feature. You can set a time period for bedtime during which it won’t respond to you. As an alarm this is loud for sure, but I could not get the alarm to stop just by shouting ‘stop’ and I had to drag myself out of the bed.
One major use case for this is in the kitchen. Those who prefer to watch recipes while working in the kitchen will find the Nest Hub useful in that context. But I did notice that search results on recipes are restricted. When I asked the Nest Hub to find a particular Nigella Lawson Chocolate Fudge Cake recipe, it kept showing results for a different cake from Nigella.
I would have preferred the search results to be more varied since with some recipes I prefer going to official websites. For now, Google has said it will partner with players like NDTV Food, Veg Recipes, Archana’s Kitchen, etc to show recipes. You can add a recipe to a cookbook as well and have Google Nest Hub read out the ingredients.
For music and entertainment, Nest Hub is a pretty solid device. It supports YouTube Music, Ganna, Saavn, Spotify and Wynk Music. With Spotify, you can see your daily playlists, though for some reason the app on Nest Hub kept showing some random playlists first rather than the ones I regularly listen to on the service.
As a speaker I found the Nest Hub to be quite loud, and peppy enough to listen to music in a single room. One problem though was when it came to accuracy of search results and this happened at times because I was relying on Spotify as the default app for music, which is a problem since India has a limited library.
When I asked the Nest Hub to play the song Raspberry Beret by the artist Prince, it would reply in the affirmative, but then go on to play something else with a similar title or album name. This happened a number of times. It was only when I asked the Nest Hub to play the song on YouTube Music did the right song finally play. So if you are relying on the Nest Hub for your music and entertainment, make sure you mention the service which would you prefer. Being specific with the smart speaker is very important to get the right results.
Should you get the Google Nest Hub?
The Nest Hub is a capable smart speaker, which can be effective for controlling various smart devices in your home. The fact that this has a display will make it appealing to more users given there’s a lot more you can do here and see. It certainly performed the smart functions for other connected devices accurately. But there are some rough edges as I found out. The audio calling was a dud. Plus you have to be really specific with some commands.
At Rs 9,999, I would say the Google Nest Hub is for users who have had some experience with smart speakers and other smart home devices. The Nest Hub works well for someone who requires that something extra to control their smart setup at home.
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