The concept of the smart home holds a dazzle, thanks to the likes of Marvel’s Jarvis. Surveillance woes aside, the tech ecosystem has rolled out some jarringly intelligent devices this year, many of which cater to the Tony Stark in us.

So, when Google announced the Nest Hub at this year’s I/O, my initial response was excitement followed by a ‘so what?’ What would set this apart from others in this competitive market? As the name explains, the Nest Hub is literally a central unit to cohesively integrate all your smart-home devices. So how well does it pull this off?

After you’ve enjoyed the so-called ‘peel porn’ by removing the polythene plastic encasing from the brand new box, the box holds minimal paper in pamphlet form (everything is online after all), the Nest Hub sitting in a case and its two-pin 1.5-metre power cable. No frills, no fuss, no unwanted wires here.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: Depth: 2.65 in (67.3 mm), Width: 7.02 in (178.3 mm), Height: 4.65 in (118.1 mm)
  • Power cable: 1.5 m with a 15W adapter with a DC power jack
  • Weight: 16.9 oz (480 g)
  • Display: 7-inch LCD touch screen
  • Sensors: Capacitive touch, Ambient light
  • Speaker: Full range speaker
  • Microphones: 2 mic array, Mic switch
  • Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz) Wi-Fi , Bluetooth® 5.0 support

Pretty, inside and out

When we mull over smart home devices, we want convenience, we want speed, and we want zero-fuss — but we also demand a fetching design, and the Nest Hub wins here. At its fairly compact size of the 7-inch screen and light weight of just under 500 grams, it shouldn’t be a burden in a home that most likely has cinematic screens and monitors. Nest Hub, which requires to be plugged in to function, fits into any space, including your bathroom if you’re that extra… but I’d avoid that because the speaker at the rear of the device is covered in grille cloth which could get wet.

Its uncluttered display is helpful to those not necessarily standing close to the device, but wanting to read the time on its Standby screen. This is probably due to the fact that while most Google Assistant devices run on some form of Android Things, the Nest Hub is a little different, thriving on a similar system to Chromecast.

Nest Hub throws up Google Maps visualisations, plays YouTube videos, displays your music streaming feed (YouTube Music, Gaana, JioSaavn, Wynk, and Spotify) and also exhibits your daily or weekly weather forecasts. During Standby Mode, there’s also the option to have a looping slideshow from your Google Photos archive which you can customise. The screen itself is intuitive, automatically adjusting tone and brightness as per its environment’s lighting.

Representative screengrab of Google Home app linked with the Nest Hub

Representative screengrab of Google Home app linked with the Nest Hub  

Control is key

While you can vocally control the Nest Hub freely, it’s only fair to speak extensively on the Nest Hub’s life force: the Google Home app, which controls the device’s more intricate functions, on your smartphone voice with a simple “Okay, Google.” The microphone strength of the Nest Hub needs a little work, its sensitivity is quite low, so you’ll have to be in a certain range to communicate vocally with it.

If you have a lot of people at home and you want to provide Nest Hub sovereignty to a select few or just one person, there’s a Voice Recognition option, which is fairly standard for this genre of devices.

The Google Home app makes sure connecting the Nest Hub to smart-home-enabled devices in your periphery is no tough task. Pretty much all of India’s home automation brands (all part of a growing market set to be valued at over ₹30,000 crore by 2022) are optimised for Google Home. You name it, it’s ready: Philips Hue, SmartThings, Ring, etcetera. If you connect your Nest Hub to your smart-lighting like I did, it’s fairly easy to control the light intensity down to the percentage.

Representative image of one of the Nest Hub’s settings

Representative image of one of the Nest Hub’s settings
 

Now that’s all put out there, enter Nest Hub’s Routines feature, designed to help you kick off your day. It customises as per your wake-up or go-to-bed regimen: alarms, get-ready playlists, lights turned on, live traffic and weather analyses — it does it all. All you have to do is beat your own internal clock. Well, that’s an area prone to human error no known smart device can fix… yet.

Get together

Nest Hub comes equipped with Google Duo video calling. The camera above the screen isn’t super special, but at the quick command of, “Okay, Google, call Grandma!” will get your conversation going.

As a first Google Home display device, this one is a pretty decent release. The Nest Hub Max, its big brother, is a larger version with marginal differences at a glance.

Nest Hub is attractively priced at ₹9,999, a little steeper than the $79.99 Lenovo Smart Clock, but I figure you’re forking over the extra cash for the Google brand.

Google Nest Hub is available for purchase in India from today (August 26) at Flipkart, Croma, Reliance and TATA Cliq.