Keeping an eye on your sleep habits without actually watching you in bed, the 2nd-generation Google Nest Hub smart screen walks a fine line in terms of privacy.
A smart alarm clock is one of the most practical uses for a smart screen, yet understandably the bedroom is the place where people are most likely to object to an internet-enabled camera.
Google aims to solve this dilemma with the 2nd-generation Nest Hub. It follows on from the original Google Home Hub (later renamed the Google Nest Hub). Like other Google devices, the Google Nest Hub brings the talkative Google Assistant to life. There’s a mute switch on the back when you need a little more privacy.
Unlike the larger 10-inch Nest Hub Max, which is designed to sit in the living area, the standard Nest Hub lacks a built-in camera.
This hasn’t changed with the 2nd-generation Google Nest Hub; it still lacks a camera. The big upgrade is a Soli radar motion sensor (first seen in Google Pixel smartphones). This adds gesture support, such as the ability to raise your hand to pause the music. This sensor also offers the option of monitoring your movements while you sleep to check whether you’re getting a good night’s rest.
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At 7 inches, the Nest Hub’s screen feels a bit big for a bedside companion. While the design aims to minimise its footprint, it still takes up a considerable amount of precious real estate on a small bedside table.
Personally, I favour the more compact 4-inch Lenovo Smart Clock on my bedside table (in Amazon land, you might look to the Echo Show 5). Lenovo’s little smart screen also brings Google Assistant to life, even if it lacks some of the Google Nest Hub’s advanced features.
I think the 7-inch Google Nest Hub is a good size for the kitchen and living areas, while the hefty 10-inch Nest Hub Max is a bit too big for most spots around the home.
That said, after a few days at your bedside, the 7-inch Google Nest Hub starts to grow on you. For starters, the larger screen makes it easier to read the time in the middle of the night without reaching for your glasses.
Come morning, sound quality is also a significant step up from your typical small bedside clock speaker – which you’ll appreciate if you wake up to music each morning. That said, it’s not really designed to rock a room, and you wouldn’t rely on it for entertainment.
The Google Nest Hub’s ability to double as a digital photo frame during the day is also handy, even if you only get to appreciate it for a few minutes at the start and end of the day. The screen has almost the exact dimensions of a standard 10x15cm photo print from the chemist (that’s 4×6 inches in the old money).
Google Nest Hub (2nd gen) Specs
7-inch 1024×600 pixel touchscreen
177.4 by 69.5 mm footprint
120.4 mm height
558 gm weight
Single speaker – 43.5 mm driver
Ambient light sensor
Radar motion/sleep sensor
802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) Wi-Fi
Four colours: chalk, charcoal, aqua and sand
Google Assistant running on the Nest Hub offers all the functionality you’d expect from a Google smart speaker, along with a few bonus features thanks to the built-in screen.
For starters, the Nest Hub has the ability to both show and tell you things. For example, ask about the weather, and Google Assistant tells you about today while the screen shows you the extended forecast for the rest of the week. Ask for recipes, and it will show you the steps. Check on your daily commute time, and you’ll see a map.
The touchscreen also lets you silently access your smart home controls. This can be more practical late at night than quietly asking Google Assistant to turn off the lights and having her shout back at you (Google Assistant could learn from Alexa’s whisper mode).
Alexa fans will find a few Echo smart screens well-suited for the bedside table. There’s no smart screen in the Apple ecosystem. Instead, iPhone owners might want to run a smart alarm clock app and place their phone in an upright charge cradle.
One major improvement from the 1st-gen Nest Hub is the ability to watch streaming video services, which is handy for late-night viewing in bed. There’s support for Netflix, Stan, Disney+, Foxtel Go, YouTube and some catch-up services.
The Google Nest Hub is also Chromecast compatible, meaning you can stream audio or video to it from your computers, smartphones and tablets. You can also stream audio to it via Bluetooth.
That said, the bedside table isn’t necessarily the most comfortable and ergonomically sound location for viewing. You might prefer to watch Netflix on a mobile device or bedroom television (perhaps linked to a Chromecast with Google TV dongle).
The Google Nest Hub also makes for an excellent photo frame. It’s easy to load up photos via the Google Photos app. The screen produces a bright, vibrant image with excellent horizontal and vertical viewing angles. The light sensor adjusts the brightness and colour temperature, plus it automatically dims the screen when you turn out the lights for bed. The screen copes well with glare.
Another use for the screen is to ask to see the live view from your Nest security cameras or Nest Hello doorbell. This is handy if something goes bump in the night.
Google Assistant lets you broadcast house-wide announcements or send them to a specific speaker. It’s a handy way to let everyone know that dinner is almost ready.
The Google Nest Hub also supports Google Duo audio calls to people outside your home. Obviously, you can’t make video calls because there’s no camera.
You can also make traditional phone calls via the Google Nest Hub, but only if your smartphone is signed up with an eligible Telstra mobile service.
The Google Nest Hub is quite flexible when it comes to setting alarms. Thankfully you can set the alarm/timer volume separately from the music volume, plus you can ask to be woken by music. There’s also a sunrise alarm which slowly makes the screen brighter. For more complicated requests, try integrating them into your Good Morning routine and making it part of the alarm.
The big-ticket upgrade with the Google Nest Hub 2nd-generation is sleep tracking. At first glance, it’s pretty basic, especially if you’ve used a wearable or smartphone app to track your sleep. Dig deeper, and you might find some useful insight.
Ask Google Assistant, “How did I sleep?” and the onscreen chart is light on detail – telling you what time you went to bed, what time you rose and the quality of your sleep. Tapping for more details reveals when you were asleep, restless, awake or out of bed. You can also see how many times you coughed, your breathing rate and how many minutes you spent snoring.
If you want to dive deeper, you need to use the Google Fit smartphone app. It can tell you how long it took you to fall off to sleep. Even then, you won’t see a full graph showing the peaks and troughs of light and heavy sleep. Unlike some smartphone apps like Sleep Cycle, you can’t set the alarm to wake you when you’re at the top of a sleep cycle, so you feel more refreshed.
Nor can you listen back to your snoring to better judge if you might have respiratory issues at night. Meanwhile, the Google Fit app doesn’t let you add notes regarding each night, which would be helpful if you’re tracking your sleep to resolve sleep issues.
The primary goal of the Nest Hub’s sleep tracking features seems to be to tell you whether you’re going to bed too late, so it can hassle you to get to bed earlier.
Apparently, sleep sensing is only in “free preview” until at least the end of the year, perhaps destined to tie into the FitBit services. It would be hard to justify paying for sleep sensing alone.
The Google Nest Hub has a lot to offer, whether you’re looking for a bedside alarm clock or a smart screen to place elsewhere in your home. Google Assistant is extremely handy, and the screen makes for a fantastic digital photo frame.
While it’s a great smart screen, the sleep tracking features are a little light. If you’re serious about monitoring your sleep and you’ve tried other options, you might be underwhelmed by Google Nest Hub’s capabilities.
Would I buy it?
For a living area like the kitchen bench? Yes. For the bedroom? Yes, but only if I was sure that it wasn’t too big for my bedside table.
Google Nest Hub
Whether you're looking for a bedside alarm clock or a smart screen to place elsewhere in your home, the 2nd-generation Google Nest Hub smart screen is a winner. But its sleep tracking features are a little light.