• Thu. Oct 20th, 2022

Price: €99 from Google Store

May 4, 2021

Price: 99 from Google Store
Pros: much improved sound quality, relatively good value
Cons: Google may start charging for its headline sleep sensing feature
I was a little lukewarm about Googles Nest audio speaker when it launched last year. I have no such feelings about its new Nest Hub smart screen speaker. Not only is this a big improvement on the first generation Nest Hub, but it can legitimately compete with standalone non-screen speakers in kitchens or workspace rooms.
Its main pitch, though, is as a bedside smart device. This is because its headline upgrade is an ability to tell how youre sleeping through new radar sensors.
The basic idea is that you put the seven-inch screen speaker on a bedside table or surface no more than two or three feet from your head. You set it up so that the screen is broadly facing in your pillows direction with nothing in front of it and roughly on the same level.
Having used it for two weeks, I have found it to be roughly on par with various smartwatch sleep sensors I use. That is to say, it slightly but never wildly overstates my sleeping time.
This is for two reasons. First, it doesnt have a camera to try to verify the assumptions coming from its motion sensors and it limits its microphone to very narrow purposes. (We can all probably understand why Google made this choice.)
But mainly, the whole system seems to rely a lot on whether youre motionless or not.
While this is broadly assumed to be indicative, its far from foolproof. For example, there were some evenings when I was quietly looking at my phone for 30 minutes. The next morning, the Nest Hub told me I had been asleep at that time. Other times, I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and took at least ten minutes to get back to sleep when I returned, but the Nest Hub thought I had started snoozing right away.
To be fair, it never gets it wildly wrong. While it might say I slept nine hours, my own assessment would not be that I slept less than eight hours.
Googles Nest Hub (2nd Gen) tells you how you slept the night before. Photo: Adrian Weckler
Googles Nest Hub (2nd Gen) tells you how you slept the night before. Photo: Adrian Weckler
When you wake up, it gives you a recap of how you slept (I mostly got restful) as well as some individual metrics such as how many times you coughed, how many minutes you snored and a breakdown of sleeping versus just being in bed.
Theres no heart rate data but it does give you a respiratory rate per minute.
You can also see this information on your phone (incorporated with other things like steps and calories) if you download Googles Fit app.
The Nest Hub only focuses on one person, so you wont get a two-fer out of it with your partner.
Also, there is one potential catch down the road with this sleep functionality Google may start charging you for it later this year as it integrates more fully with Fitbit (which it recently brought).
Even if this is the case and you dont want to subscribe, there is enough other stuff in the Nest Hub to justify its purchase price.
I was genuinely surprised by how much better the audio on this one compared to the last version. Google says its a 50pc upgrade and you can certainly hear it. While its not quite at the level of Googles standalone Nest speaker (99) or Amazons Echo (99), it easily matches the Dot and mini versions of those devices. Honestly, thats more than good enough for what this sets out to do.
, Apple Music Thankfully, there are also a lot more services integrated into the Nest Hub 2nd Generation than when the first version launched. You can watch Netflix, Disney Plus or YouTube on its seven-inch HD display using the usual hey Google voice control. You can also listen to Spotifyor YouTube Music in the same way.
And you can pair any other audio source, like a phone, laptop or tablet, over Bluetooth if you just want to use it as a speaker for your music or podcast.
Its sensors dont just facilitate sleep detection, but also allow wireless hand gestures, mainly to stop an alarm or pause and play whatever youre watching or listening to.
And, as with most Google hardware, you can control a lot of your smart home setup (lights, security cameras and the like) directly from the screen.
So its easy to see how this makes a really decent kitchen smart screen speaker (while cooking) as an alternative to a bedroom smart device.
Google has really stepped up the quality of what you get for your 99 here.
Its a rare example of it matching, and possibly overtaking, Amazon on a smart screen speaker.