Tech Junkie Review: Google Home Hub – the home assistant with a screen. Is it worth it?

Way back in 2014 when Amazon released the Echo, many of us questioned why we would need a talking speaker in our home.  Fast forward 4 years and home voice assistants are in millions of homes.  It’s no longer just Amazon, Google and Apple are also in the game.  Now, the newest generation of home assistances have screens and promise to do so much more!  I took the brand new Google Home Hub for a test in my home.

 

Hardware

The Google Home Hub is subtle.  It looks like a sleek white 7" tablet permanently attached to a fabric wrapped base.  That base comes in 4 different colors.  On the back you'll find a power port, a volume up/down button and a switch to turn the microphone off.  Behind the fabric are the speakers for the Home Hub.  The front of the Home Hub is mostly that 7" screen.  It's a really great looking screen that also uses an ambient light sensor to change the brightness and screen temperature based on it's surroundings.  That sensor is above the screen smack dab in the middle.  The two microphones are to the left and right of that sensor.  Otherwise, the front of the Home Hub has a really clean look.

One thing you won't see on the Home Hub is a camera.  This means there is no video calling on the Hub like you can do with the Amazon Echo Show.  Google says this was to address privacy concerns.  Personally this is the one thing that disappointed me about the Home Hub.  I think it's a missed opportunity.  In fact I wish Google would have released two models, one with and one without a camera.  Perhaps we'll see that added in Gen 2?

Google Home Hub Shines

If you've ever used an Amazon Echo or a Google Home devices then you know the basics of how this works.  You say "hey Google" and then ask a question and the Home Hub responds.  The nice thing about the screen is that those responses now have a visual side to them too.  Ask about the weather and not only does Google tell you the forecast but you'll also see an hour by hour breakdown of the day on the screen.  Ask to see pictures of maple trees and Google will show you pictures from a Google Search.  Ask if there's traffic on I-25 in Downtown Denver and Google will tell you about congestion while also showing you a traffic map from Google Maps.  It all makes sense.  In fact it makes it seem like the Google Home should have had a screen from day 1.

Home Hub Magic

This is so much more than just a Google Home with a screen though.  It does some really cool stuff that you just can't do with just your voice and a speaker.  When I said "set my living room thermostat to 65 degrees" it changed my setting on my Nest but also popped up a cool-looking interface where I could make further adjustments to my thermostat.  Cool!  When I said "show me videos of kittens on Youtube" it popped up Youtube videos with the ability to tap the screen and play them.  Also cool!  The Home Hub also connects to your smart devices including cameras and lights so you can control and access them right from the Home Hub screen.  It's all elegant and smooth by sliding down from the top of the screen or by speaking to Google.

Integrates with everything Google

The beauty of any ecosystem is how well devices can work together.  The Google Home Hub is a perfect example of that.  If you have Chromecast setup on a TV, the Home Hub can cast videos directly to your screen.  If you have other Google Home devices or a Chromecast Audio you can play music on zones or in your entire house that will be synced up perfectly.  If you use Google on your phone, your calendar and other services will be synced up with the Home Hub too.  Add an event on the Hub, it's on your phone.  Add an event to your phone, it's on your Hub.  It's all seamless.  The Home Hub also works beautifully with Nest Thermostat and Nest cameras.

Best Home Hub Yet

This is easily the best Home device that Google has made yet and if you're embedded into the Google ecosystem it's easily the best home assistant you'll find... period.  The screen looks great, the voice response is better than ever and the on-screen interaction is exactly what we should all expect in a home assistant device.  My ONLY complaint... where is the camera?  I really want to use this nice 7" screen to have my kids call home to their Grandparents in Ohio.  Oh well. Fingers crossed this comes in the next version.

The Google Home Hub is priced right at $150 directly from Google or on Amazon but if you grab this on Black Friday you can get it for $100!  You'll find that sale at Walmart or Best Buy!  It's almost impossible to pass up at that price.

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