Published 2021-06-07 - 6:00 am
- Processor: 1.9 GHz quad-core 64 bit ARM CPU
- Screen: 7″ touch screen (1024 x 600)
- Control: Mobile app (Android/iOS)
- Voice control: Google Assistant
- Sensors: Google Soli motion sensor, 3 microphones, light sensor, temperature
- Dimensions and weight: 17.7 x 12 x 6.9 cm / 480 g
- Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0, power supply
- Web: google.com
One of the best things about the smart home is that you get the opportunity to feel a bit like a James Bond villain when the appliances in the house obey your slightest hint. All that is needed is a wall filled with control screens to watch with satisfaction as the plans for world domination unfold.
Google Nest Hub 2 will give you at least a taste of that. You can not control your personal nuclear missile silo from it – but in return you will not be shot with a Walther PPK in the end.
In more pragmatic terms, Google Nest Hub 2 is a smart screen that can display the status and control of all the devices connected in your Google Home. It can also show you news from the web, play videos from YouTube and Netflix, and act as a digital photo frame.
Appearance and construction
Google Nest Hub 2 is virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor from 2019, and there is nothing wrong with that. It looks impeccably beautiful: A horizontal 7-inch screen on a conical plinth upholstered in gray, black or sand-colored fabric. At first glance, it looks like a digital photo frame, but is significantly more advanced.
The device is discreet enough that it can fit into both a “modern home” and a nerd cave. On the back you will find a connection to the power socket, a microphone switch and an elongated push button to adjust the volume. Which is somewhat easier than fumbling with on-screen menus. And much easier than saying, “Hello Google, set the volume on Nest Hub to seven!”
Hear you when you are sleeping
The biggest news in the new edition of Nest Hub is the sleep sensor. Once the sensor is calibrated (by lying in bed next to the device), it can detect when you are sleeping and whether your sleep is restless. The sensor also detects if you are snoring, which can be a sign of problematic sleep.
Google’s representative emphasizes that the device only registers what you allow it to do during the setup – and that there are no people sitting at Google listening to what is happening in the bedroom. You can also turn off the microphones completely with a button on the back of the device.
I’ve been trying the sleep sensor for a few days and it works – but not nearly as thoroughly as a fitness bracelet does, as it does not detect the relationship between deep sleep, normal sleep and REM sleep. It would probably also be impossible without a sensor with physical contact. The snoring sensor feels a bit daunting, but those are the thing we do in the name of science!
Free – for now
The sleep monitoring is free for a trial period running the rest of 2021. What will happen after that has not been clarified, but integration with Fitbit, which Google bought earlier this year, may come into question. In practice, I am not impressed with the feature as it is today, as it is limited to praise or criticism for having slept well or poorly – but without useful advice to do better.
Still sounds like a clock radio
Google says in the press release that the sound quality has improved and that there is 50 percent more bass than in its predecessor. How this number is to be interpreted is not entirely clear (is it 2 dB higher, half an octave deeper – or is there 6 dB more bass, which is four times, but will be subjectively experienced as an increase of 50 percent?). Regardless of the measurement method, it is still on par with an old-fashioned clock radio! Good enough for voices, but not for music that sounds nasal and canned without top and bottom.
This may sound like a harsh judgment – and it is. But we are still seeing more and more Google Home compatible smart speakers that sound good without being expensive. Like Belkin Soundform Elite.
Although the sleep detection is technologically interesting and is built on Google’s own Soli chip, which can respond to millimeter nuances in movements, Nest Hub found space in the kitchen instead of a few days on the bedside table. Here it functions as a control center for intelligent lamps, cameras and other toys. And I’d rather hear the news and read the weather forecast while enjoying the first cup of coffee of the day than while staggering out of bed.
You can use Google Nest Hub 2 as a clock radio on the bedside table, where it can wake you up with music – and at the same time tell you how your sleep was. You can use it on the kitchen table for comic book entertainment, family photos and recipes. Or on the desk, where it gives a perfect supervillain feeling as a control panel for all the units in the house.
In terms of sound, the Nest Hub 2 does not have much to offer. I’ve heard Google Home speakers with good sound – but never from Google. However, these, admittedly cost much, much more than the Nest Hub 2. In fact, the device is really cheap as the price is equivalent to a regular tablet of the same size.