The first two things to know about the $149 Google Home Hub are: it’s small, and it doesn’t have a camera. That makes it the first bedroom-friendly Google Assistant smart display, and a super-cute competitor to Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo Show and Echo Spot. We got a chance to check it out at Google’s launch event.
We’ve seen Google smart displays a few times before. Like the Lenovo Smart Display and the JBL Link View, they feature touch screens, big speakers, and Google Assistant showing you YouTube videos, recipes, or the weather. But they’ve all been a bit hefty so far.
Enter the Google Home Hub. It’s petite! The little smart speaker has a 7-inch touch screen, comes in four colors (blue, gray, pink, and white) and measures 7.0 by 4.6 by 2.6 inches (HWD). It’ll fit into places where there isn’t a lot of space: a crowded nightstand, for instance, or a kitchen counter covered in spice bottles. (Welcome to my life.)
The single speaker is surprisingly powerful for the size. It’s rated for 80dB at one meter, and that seems spot on. It will fill a small room with sound.
There’s no 3.5mm in or out, but the Home Hub has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and it works either as a Bluetooth speaker or as a “casting” target from Android phones. I’m okay with that; the Hub feels like a standalone product or a controller for remote devices, not something that would be sitting on top of a larger speaker.
The software is the same as on the Lenovo and JBL products we reviewed, but it’s worth going over. It’s based on Google Assistant; it acts as a digital picture frame for your Google Photos when you’re not paying attention, and then wakes up to answer questions, show you recipes, control smart home devices, or play YouTube videos or Google Play Music.
Amazon has a stronger position than Google with smart home fans, so Google wanted to show off the Home Hub’s smart home prowess. The device can control 1,000 different smart home gadgets now, and has a really cool dashboard that gives you the state of your home as a whole, such as “three lights are on, the front door is unlocked, and the temperature is set to 64 degrees.” Visual menus for smart lights let you choose from all of the available color choices for each bulb. It’s a very nice control center, in that way.
The Google Home Hub isn’t quite as compelling as the Amazon Echo Spot as a bedroom alarm clock, just because the Echo Spot is so cute and tiny. But the Echo Spot has a camera, which creeps people out, and more importantly, I doubt people will be mixing ecosystems in one home. The Home Hub gives Google Assistant fans a reason not to be envious of the Echo Show.
Home Hub is available for pre-order now and comes out Oct. 22. Check back soon for a full review.