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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Great looking screen
Accurate voice control
Manual microphone silencing switch
Screen is a little small
No ports for connecting offline media
The Google Nest Hub is an impressively capable device, whether you’re looking for a hub for your smart home, a digital photo frame, or a compact wireless speaker.
It seems like every day our devices are becoming smarter, our lives more dependent on internet connectivity. This added layer of digital complexity has led to the rise of AI assistants to help us bring a bit of order to the chaos. However, the Google Nest Hub is more than a simple digital assistant—it is a digital photo frame, powerful speaker, and a miniature television crammed into one compact device.
The Nest Hub is a remarkably good looking device, with lots of rounded edges and no sharp corners. The white bordered 7” screen lends a brighter tone to its appearance, and the grey, cloth-textured base contributes to the overall design ethos of a device that is intended for the living room and not some dark, remote computer den. This gentle aesthetic even extends to the softly curved power adapter.
In terms of durability, while you won’t want to get it wet or drop it, it’s no fragile flower. We appreciated the heft of the device, heavy enough that you don’t have to worry about it tipping over. It’s also small enough that it’s not hard to find a good space for it, with a power cord long enough to not impede placement.
For just $129, the Google Nest Hub packs plenty of bang for your buck.
One thing we didn’t like was the omission of any ports; you can only connect via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and this limits some of the Hub’s potential. A USB and/or an SD card reader would’ve been a nice addition for offline file display.
The Nest Hub features two far-field microphones located on the upper edge of the screen, and between them is an ambient light sensor which the Hub uses to detect and match the light in a room. We particularly appreciated the inclusion of a mechanical switch for disabling the Hub’s microphones—an excellent option for when you desire extra security and privacy.
After we plugged it in, the Nest Hub immediately instructed us to download the Google Home app, and the prompt to download the app popped up automatically once our phone (a Samsung Galaxy Note 9) detected the Nest Hub nearby. From here the setup process was largely automated, though the complexity of setting up the device will vary depending upon how many services and devices you wish to connect, and how much you want to customize things. By using the data from our phone we were able to skip the tedious tasks of logging into Wi-Fi, our Google account, and other connected accounts.
With even the smallest screens now often boasting display resolutions of 4K, it seems odd to praise the quality of a device that offers less than even the 1080p of FullHD. However, we were immediately impressed by the color and contrast of the Nest Hub’s 7” display. Photos appear vibrant and lifelike, and videos were more enjoyable to watch than on some TVs and PC monitors that we’ve tested. Viewing angles are excellent, text is crisp and clear, and we never noticed the comparative lack of resolution
We were very impressed by the quality of the speakers tucked inside the Nest Hub. You could be forgiven for mistaking the powerful, high definition stereo sound it’s capable of producing for stand alone speakers. We listened to our favorite classical cello music, punk rock, and even a bit of Mongolian heavy metal, and the Nest Hub consistently produced powerful bass tones and excellent mids and highs. Whether listening to music or watching streaming video content, the Nest Hub is remarkably competent.
We never experienced any issues with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity while using the Nest Hub. Of course, powerful connectivity is both expected and necessary in a device that aims to be the hub of your connected house.
Though clearly powerful and competent, the Nest Hub’s software is clearly designed for simplicity, ease of use, and compatibility with other devices. Though it has a touchscreen, most commands are only possible via voice control. As we found, this is no hindrance given the remarkable voice recognition technology present in the Nest Hub. It can even be trained to recognize different people by their voices.
Whether listening to music or watching streaming video content, the Nest Hub is remarkably competent.
As a digital photo frame, the Nest Hub presents you with several different options—it can display your photos from your Albums on Google, display photos from Google’s own collections of art, or display a customizable clock face. These options work very well, but unfortunately, unlike other digital photo frames, there is no onboard storage or method for displaying your photos from your collection of offline media.
The true versatility of the Google Nest Hub’s software really shines through when you begin to connect media services like Spotify, and your other devices such as TVs, light bulbs, and other connected electronics. This connectivity turns your Nest Hub into a Swiss army knife of technology, and a convenient way to take control of your digital world using only voice commands. We did find that while voice commands usually work flawlessly there are some occasional screwups. While Testing the Hub we got into a few arguments with its AI voice and friendly, but borderline passive aggressive, tone.
For just $129, the Google Nest Hub packs plenty of bang for your buck. Between its powerful versatility, excellent screen, and top notch speakers, the Hub provides value well beyond its humble price tag. However, keep in mind that this is not a standalone device. It requires a computer, phone, or tablet to function, and even more smart devices and subscription services to fully realize its potential. Those extra expenses can add up fast.
If you’re looking for a device that’s not so connected and has a much larger screen, then you may want to consider the Aluratek 17.3” digital photo frame instead. The screen isn’t as good as the Hub’s, nor are the speakers, and it’s more expensive despite its cheaper build quality, but if all you want is a digital photo frame it might be more appropriate.
The Google Nest Hub provides exceptional versatility and value.
The Google Nest Hub is not only a jack of all trades, it’s a master of them, and the potential master of other devices and services should you choose to connect them. Even if you only take advantage of a few, or even just one of its many functions, it does each of them so well that it more than justifies its asking price.