This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.
The Google Home Hub is a smart speaker with a screen. It looks like a small tablet with a thick base (where the speaker is). I had the opportunity to try one out from my friends over at Verizon. It is a great controller for your smart home just like the other Google devices: Google Home, Google Home Mini and Google Home Max; you would probably even compare it to Amazon’s Echo Show which is the Amazon Echo with a screen.
The device itself has a 7” touchscreen display with a light sensor and far-field microphones to pick up your voice from across the room. As I mentioned, the base is a full range speaker. It does not have a camera, so video calling can only go one way, but that also feels less obtrusive and Google was definitely looking out for our privacy on this one. On the back of the device is the power cable (it must be plugged in), volume buttons, and a mute control for the mic…for when you want privacy from your digital smart speaker.
The hub can do all of the normal digital assistant tasks like play music, track your shopping lists, share your calendar, do timers and alarms, etc.
Compared to my Google Home Mini, I like that there is a screen which visually shows information on the questions I ask such as the weather forecast or my calendar for the day; the hub still speaks a response, but also displays results on the screen for anything that you ask.
I chose to set it up in the kitchen as I generally like to use timers and it was recommended to use for cooking where you can see cooking examples from sources like YouTube. What I found I did not do was use it to control smart home features like lights and such as it was not in a central location for me to do so.
The coolest feature for me was that it operates as a digital picture frame when not in use and pulls in my photos from Google Photos. The light sensor gauges light and adjusts the brightness on the screen. I found that pictures looked fantastic with rich colors and great contrast.
The Home Hub also allows you to play YouTube TV, if you subscribe to the streaming service, and that makes it into a little TV you can watch on. I found it fun to put the news on in the kitchen while I was cooking, but with the screen at only 7 inches, I couldn’t see myself going out of my way to watch on the small screen.
With its Home View feature, you can see all of the devices that are connected to the hub in your smart home. This makes it easy to turn devices on and off both via voice and touch on the screen. However, as I mentioned for me, the voice control is in the wrong place and would need to be more central in my home.
At the current sale price of $129 (normally $149), the Google Home Hub is a fun device, but not a device I feel that I need to run out and buy. If I didn’t already have others hubs, I would definitely consider it in order to control all of the various smart devices in my home.
Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through www.gadgetguymn.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.