- Review Price: £139
Google unveiled the Home Hub smart display alongside its latest Pixel 3 smartphones and Pixel Slate convertible on 9 October. It aims to take on the likes of the Amazon Echo Show and offers users a quick and easy portal to Google’s search service and smart home services.
Privacy concerns aside, the tools are actually fairly useful and make it quick and easy to get questions answered or set up things like calendar alert with voice commands.
But with Amazon already established in the market and everybody from Facebook to Lenovo rushing to create similar products, you may justifiably wonder why you should pick Google’s over the competition.
Having had an opening hands-on go with the display, I think there are two. First, Google’s industry-leading voice and search functionality. Second, the fact it doesn’t look outright ridiculous.
Related: Google Home vs Amazon Echo
Google Home Hub design and features
On paper, the Home Hub sounds like every other smart display. It’s a screen bolted onto a speaker. But in person, it looks a lot better than competing devices such as the Lenovo Smart Display or Amazon Echo Show.
The combination of the cylinder speaker design and slim screen have the same imprint as a standard tablet sitting on a display stand. This coupled with the four soft, pastel-like colour options make it one of the only smart screens I can actually envisage myself happily leaving out in my lounge or kitchen day-to-day.
Under the hood, it also has a few nifty features that differentiate it from other Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers and displays.
For starters, the screen looks better than I remember Lenovo’s being. This could be partly down to its Ambient EQ powers. This a basic feature that works to optimise the screen’s settings to match the lighting conditions it’s in. I only got to check out the display in fairly horrid mixed lighting, but it remained legible. Icons and text were also sharp enough to read, which was a key concern after Google declined to confirm the 7-inch display’s resolution at the event.
The more interesting features for me revolve around how smart Google claims it is. For starters, it has a Google Voice Match service that’s bespoke, designed for multi-user environments, like Homes. According to Google, it lets the Hub detect and switch to a personalised profile for multiple registered users, just from their voice. What’s more, for families, the profiles can be filtered to control what services or content younger users can access.
I didn’t get a chance to set up a profile or test the feature but the speaker seemed to have decent voice-recognition powers during my brief demo. The only issue I experienced was that the relatively small speaker could struggle to be heard over the cacophony of the rampaging tech press crowds trying to test it. Though being fair, this would be an issue for pretty every much every smart speaker I’ve tested.
The Home View dashboard is the final and potentially biggest differentiator I saw. This is a single-pane-of-glass view that can be accessed by swiping down. It aims to give you complete control of every smart item in your room in a neat, easy to understand UI. In theory, this means you could do things like change each room’s temperature using your smart thermostat, or adjust volume levels on multi-room sound systems on a case-by-case basis, without having to jump between apps.
Considering how many third-party smart home services there are outside of Google’s own Nest – which include ‘thousands of brands’ including big names such as Philips Hue – this could make the Google Home Hub a great command centre for any smart home.
Google Home Hub price
If this wasn’t enough to get you excited, then you’ll be pleased to hear the Google Home Hub is very competitively priced, costing a meagre £139. By comparison, the 8-inch Lenovo Smart Display retails for £159.99.
Google Home Hub release date
You’ll be able to pick up a Google Home Hub from 22 October.
Smart displays are still a new category of product most buyers never asked for. But if any of the latest batches to arrive are going to make them a mainstream product, from what I’ve seen it’ll be the Google Home Hub.
Featuring one of the nicest designs I’ve seen, a solid set of smart home control features alongside all the perks of Google Assistant, it’s a seriously compelling little device, especially considering its competitive pricing.