Google Nest Hub is a smart speaker with built-in screen to control all compatible smart home devices. It can show photos, clock, weather forecast, recipes and play songs and videos. This device is mainly designed to be voice-operated using Google Assistant, but the 7″ touch screen display allows us to directly do a few things without voice commands.

Before first time use, we need to set up Google Nest Hub (previously known as Google Home Hub) using Google Home app in Android or iOS. Initial setup took a few minutes and was reasonably easy. Most features of Google Nest Hub can be accessed using voice command started by “ok Google” or “hey Google”. When idle, we can display photos from Google Photos, art gallery (curated images and artwork), full screen clock or some experimental sources (right now there are options to show content from Facebook or Flickr). When used as photo frame, we can choose to display weather, time and personal photo data. There is an option to show portrait photos, hide them or show pairs. It will show our photos nicely regardless of the aspect ratio of our original file. Combined with the ability to display pairs of portrait photos make this device the best digital photo frame in the market by far. To make it even better, we can choose how long a photo is displayed from 5 seconds to 10 minutes.

The screen resolution 1024 x 600 pixels clearly is not an impressive DPI spec. In fact, it’s rather low compared to most smartphones in the market today. However, this screen is designed to be positioned somewhere in the living room (or kitchen, for the recipe feature) and we would not see it from a close distance in most cases of everyday use. In my personal experience, I find the screen resolution is adequate.

There is no camera anywhere in Nest Hub. This is one of the primary reason I choose this product compared to some alternatives in the market. Microphone is located above the screen, along with ambient EQ light sensor. At the back there are buttons to adjust volume and a switch to turn off listening microphone.

Most of the time, Google Assistant understands my commands correctly without much problems. Voice match feature allows this device to differentiate the voice of some registered people. This means, if there is a command about showing calendar entry, it will automatically show the calendar of relevant person. Other people can still use the most other commands that are not specific to the primary users’ Google accounts.

For music, users can choose to use YouTube Music, Google Play Music, Spotify or Deezer. For videos, the options are Netflix, Stan, YouTube Kids and Foxtel. I failed to use Netflix to play. Apparently the options are there in Google Home app, but this specific device is not compatible with Netflix. I suspect Stan and Foxtel are the same. So YouTube Kids seems to be my only viable option for now. If we use Google Duo, we can use this device to make voice calls to other Duo users. If we use eligible Telstra plans in Australia, we can use Google Nest Hub to make phone calls to anyone, even they do not use Google Duo.

I managed to connect some of my smart home devices to Google Home. After initial setup, turning off/on some lights can be achieved by voice command, or few swipes/taps on the screen.

If a user has the Home and Work address defined in his/her Google Maps setting, the home screen would show the quick summary of everyday commute to work. This works even when the commute is set to use public transport. In my case, it is showing the next tram arrival times at the stop nearest to my house.

With the front screen capable of doing a lot of things, it is easy to forget that this device is supposed to be a smart speaker, too. I tried using Nest Hub as Bluetooth speaker and found that it is not the best use case of this device. Sure the connection is easy and stable, but the sound quality is just… let’s say mediocre. The speaker has decent quality to deliver voice sound responses, but rather poor sound for music. Some other reviews said that Nest Hub’s bigger sibling (Nest Hub Max) does better in this category thanks to its bigger speaker.

My 4 yo kid absolutely loves to talk to Google Assistant. He asks her a lot of questions, tell her to play some songs, even asks her to make jokes. I have been monitoring Google Assistant’s responses so far and they seem to be quite family-friendly, with the exception of YouTube Kids (which is infamous for allowing a lot of bad contents actually not suitable for kids). Google Nest Hub quickly becomes one of my son’s favorite “toy” in the living room. I suspect some competitions will happen later once his little sister can start talking.

Nest Hub has been one of my most exiting tech purchase in the recent years. It is something new instead of just newer model of smartphone/tablet. I absolutely love its feature as digital photo frame, especially because it finally solve the classic problem of portrait vs landscape orientation that I had with all my previous digital frames. Placed in my living room, it becomes kids’ loved tech toy because it allows him to interact before he can even read. Definitely worth my recommendation.