The Google Home Hub is the latest Google Assistant in the ‘Made By Google’ stable. It adds a video component to voice control for functionality that you probably did not know you needed.
Like all things Google – its Assistant is open to all manufacturers, and there is a range of OK Google Speakers (GadgetGuy shootout here) and now Lenovo, JBL and more are introducing their video versions.
It is hard to review an OK Google speaker as they all do the same things. I won’t repeat that. You can read what it does here. It’s best to think of it as a voice-driven ecosystem that can answer questions, set alarms/timers, look up recipes, control a smart home and more. It is evolving to become a personal assistant with AI enabling it to think, or at least support your thinking.
Review: Google Home Hub
The Google Home hub is a 7”, 1024 x 600 colour touchscreen speaker an ambient light sensor and two far-field mics. It has Wi-Fi AC and Bluetooth 5 connectivity. The audio codecs include HE/LC-AAC, MP3, Vorbis, WAV, Opus and FLAC (24-bit/96KHz). Bluetooth supports SBC codec (not high-res sound). There is one mono speaker that Google calls ‘full-range for crystal clear sound”. We suspect it is the same speaker/amp as found in the Google Home.
It comes in Sand, Aqua, Chalk and Charcoal colours and costs $219. Size is 118 x 67 x 179mm x 480g. A 1.5m, 15W power charger – not battery operated completes it.
The term ‘hub’ is a misnomer as it does not have a smart home controller like the Amazon Alexa Plus. We think that this is a good thing as smart homes need dedicated multi-format Z-Wave, Zigbee, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity – let this video speaker do what it does best.
Ultra-easy. Like all Google Assistant devices, you plug it into power, open the Google Home app, it finds the device, and you are good to go. If you have not used the Google Home app before it is just as easy to set up and link to music, movies and other services.
The ambient sensor adjusts the screen light and tone so you can use it as an alarm clock at night or ramps light up if it is in a bright room.
What does a screen add to an OK Google speaker?
You can create a slideshow of selected memories from your Google Photos albums. Select one or more of the following:
- Family and friends: People and pets that you’d like to see in your photos. (this option will only show if you have face clusters in Google Photos, and the Google Photos app installed)
- Recent highlights: Your best recent images automatically. (this option will only show if you have high-quality recent photos in Google Photos)
- Favourites: Displays photos marked as Favourites. (this option will only show If you have at least four photos marked as Favourites)
- Specific albums: Select albums that you’d like to see on Google Home Hub.
- Art Gallery: Select from curated images and artwork.
- Full-Screen Clock: Choose from a selection of full-screen clock faces.
These display in the Ambient mode when it is not in use.
“Hey Google, good morning”, Hub can control the lights, music, or other smart appliances and can give you updates like your morning commute, upcoming appointments, stock prices and news. It’s also helpful when you arrive home: you can set up Google Home Hub so that “Hey Google, I’m home” means lights go on, you get your reminder to wish Mum happy birthday, Triple J starts playing on all speakers, and your fans starts in the living room. The Google Assistant allows you to create your own Routines or pick from commonly used ones already set up in the app.
Routines are a standard part of Google Assistant – having a visual interface can make it easier to set up.
Manage other OK Google devices
Swipe down to see what other devices there are and manage them. For example, if you have smart lights you can swipe down and turn them on, change colours etc.
Alternatively, you can cast music to a larger speaker – although this does a pretty good job too. An overview of OK Google compatible devices is here.
- Music Subscription: YouTube Music, Spotify, Google Play Music
- Music Free: TuneIn radio
- Video Subscription (casts to compatible TV): YouTube Red, Netflix, Stan, Google Photo
- News: The Australian, SkyNews, ABC News radio, Reuters, Huffington Post
In the case of recipes, you can ask for something specific (how to make a Pavlova) or tell it what ingredients you have, and it will suggest a recipe. You can set timers “OK Google set a timer for five minutes”.
As it is Chromecast enabled you can cast almost any content to the device. It cannot display traditional websites so all content must be voice and video compatible.
It will display news from SkyNews, Courier Mail, Fox Sports etc.
If you have a security camera (or several) linked to Google Home, it will display the live feed.
Finally, it has a broadcast option to send a message to all other OK Google devices on the network.
How does it sound?
It can get quite loud – just over 80dB.
The sound signature shows the faintest bass from around 200 to 500Hz – it is there, but it does not provide any depth.
Mids are flat (good) from 500 to 5kHz and particularly strong from 1.6 to 2.6kHz (clear voice). Treble drops off gradually past 10kHz. Overall it has a slightly better warm and sweet sound signature reminiscent of Sony speakers. Easy listening and not harsh at full volume. It would benefit from being put in a bookshelf where the bass would have a bit of reinforcement.
How does it look?
The matte 7”, 1024 x 600 colour touchscreen is fit for purpose especially as it is not really a video movie consumption device. Colours are true rather than sRGB accurate. Photos look nice. Ambient light picks the correct level of brightness.
After a week or so of use, I have yet to see any video advertisements (apart from those within various apps).
You can view your history with theGoogle Assistant in My Activity, which is accessible through the setup app and online at myactivity.google.com.You have control over your data and the power to delete history at any time.
But this is an IoT device, and you really need to ensure your home network has intrusion protection by TrendMicro Home Security and a FingBox or one of the new breed of routers with onboard security like NortonCore.
GadgetGuy’s take: Google Home Hub
As one who has embraced Google Assistant it is a useful addition, especially as it is only $30 more than Google Home speaker.