If keeping track of all the personal assistants isn’t hard enough then wait for the coming year. It will be more of the same but with a twist, smart displays are joining the fray. Google Home with a screen is here, it’s called the Google Home Hub and I’ve been giving it a whirl for the last week.
I recently looked at the Amazon Echo Show which saw Alexa jump first out of the barrier, but now I find myself in front of the tiny 7-inch Google Home Hub. You know that catchy song “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash and localised by our own Slim Dusty? Well if I could coin a song about the number of smart devices in my home it would have the same ring to it. Incidentally I do have a Ring doorbell, sadly not available on this device because it’s owned by Amazon.
The Choice is Clear.
The Google Home Hub will set you back $219, whereas the speaker only Google Home costs anywhere between around $130 – $190 depending on where you go. So before I go on, it’s already a no brainer.
Google Assistant is a clever cat, why wouldn’t it be given the vast resources to draw on. I’ll freely admit that I’m an Apple fanboy but frankly there’s a lot of duplication when it comes to controlling my devices via voice command between the two brands.
But I consider the Apple HomePod to be way too pricey and clearly skewed towards music lovers. Apple HomeKit is still a bit of a closed shop as well. Google Home and even the Mini have largely ruled my house for some time now. However, the Google Home Hub isn’t sitting front and centre in my house, in fact it’s hard to really call it a hub given the size. So instead I’ve found it to be the perfect beside companion, from a purely tech point of view of course.
Do I Need This?
Yes. First of all, it rocks as a flip style alarm clock, which can be set as the standard backdrop. It’s also a great way to check on your Google Calendar and the current and future weather at a glance. You can ask it for directions, see the map pop up and have them sent to your phone.
Thanks to a built in Chromecast it’s possible to cast to your TV or even to the Hub itself, although watching content on a screen this size is unlikely. However those who buy one before the end of 2018 will receive a free YouTube Premium subscription, so cast away! An effective Ambient EQ light sensor does a great job at matching colours to suit the environment. The display itself is crystal clear, without being full HD given the 1024×600 pixel LCD display.
The smallish rear speaker that acts as a stand produces a solid soundtrack but is certainly not for blasting out tunes all day. The microphone does a very good job at picking up requests from afar, even from our adjoining bathroom.
It can also serve as a rolling photo album, via Google Photos which is a nice touch. One purpose I’d never use it for is its exceptional ability to walk you through recipes, only because I don’t have it in my kitchen. The step by step process joined by a visual representation of the ingredients is excellent. Given it’s a touchscreen, there’s no need for repeated “Hey Google” commands, you simply click the next ingredient tab or even skip ahead to the cooking instructions. For example, I can tell you there’s 30 steps when it comes to making the humble lamington. Fact.
But the whole idea of this product is mostly to control all of your devices. Mainly lights and cameras in my case. Ok even the kettle. It’s my dawn and dusk companion, aside from my wife of course. It lets me see what’s in store for the day ahead, see via Nest if that really is the garbage truck tipping over our bins again, turn all the lights on thanks to Philips Hue, find out if my son actually is asleep or plotting to get out of the cot via Baby Arlo and finally simply tell me the time.
I love it and given the price, it will wipe out Google Home pretty quickly. There are no apps or even a browser to speak of like the Echo Show, but I don’t see why these smart displays need to mimic a tablet anyway. But there’s some bad news if you just have to have the best. Lenovo’s new Smart Display with Google Assistant is on a whole other level. But as someone once said, I’ll have more to say about that later.