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Google Home Hub Review: Hands-on

Google finally has its own smart display, giving you another way of interacting with its handy Assistant. It's affordable and could be super helpful. Find our more in our Home Hub hands-on review.

SHOULD I BUY THE GOOGLE HOME HUB?
Google might be a little late to the smart display party but the Home Hub looks to be an attractive combination of price, design and features.
For many people, it's hard to know how much use a device like this will get until you actually have one so the affordable price semi-removes one barrier. If you're regularly finding yourself trying to prop a phone or tablet somewhere to get visual info then the Hub can probably do this and won't move or run out of battery.
We're keen to try it out properly.


PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • $149
It took a while but Google has finally introduced its own smart display which will take on the likes of the Amazon Echo Show. This tablet fused to a speaker aims to help you out by adding a visual element to the Google Assistant. Here's our hands-on review of the Home Hub.

Although Amazon is already on its second-generation smart display, Google is a little behind despite there being partner devices with the Assistant including the Lenovo Smart Display and LG Smart Display ThinQ.

The firm also announced the Pixel 3 & 3 XL, Pixel Slate and Chromecast 3 at its 'Made by Google' event.

PRICE AND WHERE TO BUY
The Echo Show 2 is £219/$229 from Amazon, so the Google Home Hub is a relative bargain in comparison since it's just £139/$149. You can order it from Google.

This is also cheaper than the Lenovo option which is £179/$199 for the smaller 8in model. The JBL Link View is $249.

If you buy and register before 31 December 2018, then you'll get six months of YouTube Premium for free.

DESIGN AND BUILD
The Home Hub is surprisingly diddy in real life, effectively a 7in tablet with medium sized bezels fixed to a small base. It's a pretty simple design, which fits in with Google's other connected home devices like the Home Mini.

The base and rear of the Hub is covered in fabric and you can choose from four colours: Sand, Aqua, Chalk and Charcoal. The first two are essentially coral and mint green.

You can control the Hub with your voice, like with other Home products, but the screen adds touch. There's not many buttons, just a volume rocker on the back along with a switch to mute the microphones.

Since the Home Hub is so small, it should make it easier to find somewhere suitable to put it – whether that's in the kitchen, on a bedside table or somewhere else.

It's typical for smart displays, but you can't adjust the position of the screen should you want it at more of an angle.

SPECS AND FEATURES
The main reason to buy the Home Hub over the other connected home devices is the screen. It's a 7in touchscreen so you can use it in a similar way to other tablets, although it doesn't simply run Android like Google's old Nexus slates.

Instead it runs a visual representation of the Google Assistant along with it's very own user interface elements. For example, you can swipe down from the top to get a menu and swipe things off to the side like on Wear OS wearables.
You might find yourself not needing to touch the display, or unable to if you're busy cooking or something. Two far-field microphones mean you can interact with the Home Hub hands-free.

Interacting with the Google Assistant is a similar experience to other devices, but you don't just get a spoken response. The screen will show you information, a video or photos depending on what you ask for.

This makes the Home Hub a better choice for certain rooms in the house, particularly the kitchen where you can make use of the display to read recipes or watch a video on YouTube showing you how to poach an egg.

It could also make a handy desk companion with its ability to keep you up to date of your schedule, the weather, traffic and plenty more info. If nothing else, it serves as a digital photo frame able to pull images from Google Photos.

The Home Hub will be exponentially more useful to those with lots of other smart home gadgets like heating and lighting. You'll be able to control compatible devices (like Nest and Philips Hue) with your voice or touch.

Custom routines are a clever way of automating things you do all the time. For example you can set a phrase like 'good night' to turn the lights off, switch the heating off and give you the weather forecast for tomorrow.

These routines have almost endless combinations and possibilities and could make the Home Hub one of the most useful things in the house. Equally you might find you rarely use it.

One reason why the Home Hub is cheaper than rivals is the lack of a camera. The bit above the display is a light sensor. This might make it more affordable but means you can't video call if that's a feature you would use.

That light sensor monitors the ambient conditions and will adjust the screen accordingly, whether it's dimming at night time or getting the correct setting for the colour temperature. It seems to work very well during demos.

This isn't battery powered so you'll need to hook it up to the mains. In terms of connectivity, it's got dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.

Inside the base is a single 'full-range' speaker, which faces backwards. The rep at Google's London event said it sits between the Mini and regular Home for audio quality but we're not so sure. Partly because the demo room was packed with people talking loudly so we'll test it in a more suitable environment.

At the event, it sounded reasonably loud but was lacking in bass. We think it might be a little below the Mini in audio prowess. We'll test it properly once we get a Hub in a real home.

SPECS
  • Google Assistant
  • 7in LCD touchscreen
  • 2 far-field mics
  • Light sensor
  • Dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Full-range rear speaker
  • 178x118x67mm
  • 480g
  • 15W
  • Colours: Sand, Aqua, Chalk, Charcoal



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