Having leaked several weeks ago in all its glory, the Google Home Hub is now official. Google unveiled the display-toting smart speaker at its big New York event, marking the first Smart Display to be built by the company itself.
Google‚Äôs Smart Display initiative is still young, yet so far we‚Äôve only seen speakers built by third parties like JBL and Lenovo, all running on Google‚Äôs Android Things software and powering the Google Assistant. But the Google Home Hub is built by the Big G itself, and comes shaded with the familiar Google Home hues.
Read this: Google Home Hub review
However the main event is the 7-inch touchscreen, which essentially gives Google Assistant a face. Like the Amazon Echo Show, this visual layer makes the Assistant more helpful for things like showing the weather forecast, cooking instructions, movie times, directions etc. You‚Äôll also be able to watch YouTube videos (something you won't get on the Echo Show), view Google Photos and stream smart security camera footage from your front door. Or hey, maybe you just want to do a spot of yoga.
What‚Äôs interesting about Google‚Äôs Home Hub is the omission of a front-facing camera, given other Smart Displays have included cameras for making video calls over Google‚Äôs Duo app. Diya Jolly, VP of product management, said this was done to make users feel more comfortable. Bit of a jab at Facebook Portal and Amazon, then.
The Hub has an ambient light sensor and will automatically turn its screen off at night, transforming into a clock. There's also a downtime mode that will put Home to sleep during set hours of the day or night, and filters so parents can control the content coming through.
Smart home control
The name is also important here: Google sees this as being the hub of your smart home. The display will provide a more workable way to control things like smart bulbs (being able to select different hues on the touchscreen) or see the feed from your smart camera. There's some decent Nest integration here - you'll be able to ask Google to see the feed from your Nest Hello doorbell.
The speaker uses Google's Voice Match to tell who's speaking to it, and will deliver calendar, directions etc relevant to that person. That includes your Google Photos, but the company says the Hub will use machine learning to only display the good snaps - and keep the blurry ones away from that display.
With Hub, Google is introducing a new feature called Home View, which can be accessed with a swipe down on the display. home View gives you an overview of all your smart home devices - thermostats- cameras, locks, connected media - in one place. This is going to be available on smartphones too, so you can monitor your home remotely.
The speaker comes in four colors with a nice custom fabric back, even if it does look like someone slapped a tablet on a smart speaker.
The Home Hub follows the Lenovo Smart Display and JBL Link View, and we expect there will be more third-party speakers in the future. So think of the Home Hub as the Pixel of the Smart Display lineup. But it also has some stiff competition, as Amazon just launched its new Echo Show for 2018. With YouTube and features like Home View, can it win people over?
We'll find out soon. The Hub is available 22 October - pre-ordering from today - for $149. Google's also chucking in six months of free YouTube Premium to sweeten the deal.