Google Home Hub review: Does this smart display outclass the Amazon Echo Show?

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  • January 12, 2019
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Google Home Hub review

Unlike Google’s other Home products, the Hub comes with a 7-inch touchscreen (Image: Google • Express Newspapers)

GOOGLE HOME HUB – £139 (as tested)

  • FOR – Adorable design • Laudable Assistant functionality • Works great as a digital photo frame
  • AGAINST – Display quality is not the best • Seven-inch panel feels slightly too small • Speakers sound tinny at high volumes

Design and display

Unlike Google’s other Home products, the Hub comes with a 7-inch touchscreen that not only differentiates the hardware aesthetically, but it also adds a new layer of context and interactivity for users to enjoy.

The panel plays host to an entirely new operating system that has not been seen on previous Google hardware.

Although the software looks incredibly similar to Android Things offered on products such as the Lenovo Smart Display, it is actually a modified version of Google Cast.

However, it is worth noting the Home Hub’s panel only offers a resolution of 1024×600, meaning when viewing closely you can certainly make out individual pixels.

Besides its underwhelming quality, the screen can get admirably bright and does offer good viewing angles.

Large white bezels surround the display and appear extremely prominent, especially if they are contrasted with dark colours on the panel itself.

Google Home Hub review

The Google Home Hub is a capable smart display overshadowed by its most immediate competition (Image: Google)

Moreover, the light colour of the bezels means both the front-facing microphones and ambient light sensor are both vastly noticeable.

While the implementation of a white border may suit some, we personally would have preferred if the Home Hub came in a darker colour that did a better job in hiding not only the bezels themselves, but also the other technology housed on the front.

It really needs to be emphasised just how small the Google Home Hub is; the device looks miniature next to its most prominent rivals; the Amazon Echo Show and 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display.

The minuscule form factor of the Home Hub is one of the reasons the hardware is abundantly adorable.

However, the small nature of the product does mean viewing some content is more difficult, resulting in the owner having to get closer to the Hub overall in some instances than competing products.

The back of the Home Hub is a melding of plastic that feels cheap and a premium-feeling fabric material that has long been a signature of Google smart devices.

The rear of the product also houses physical volume buttons and a microphone mute toggle.

Google Home Hub review

The Hub’s operating system boasts an incredibly simple and intuitive interface (Image: Google)

Performance

The Hub’s operating system boasts an incredibly simple and intuitive interface that is one of its most compelling features.

When the hardware is in standby mode it can perform two functions; display the time or images from your Google Photos account, essentially turning the product into a digital picture frame.

The latter feature is certainly the most appealing and frequently attracted our eyes to a great memory, experience or loved one.

Once the user has unlocked the device they are presented with a list of cards that can be tapped to perform certain functions.

The first set offers a list of suggested features based on context, that means if it is night time for instance the Home Hub will offer suggestions to play “relaxing sounds”, tell you the weather for the next day or set an alarm for the following morning.

A swipe to the left reveals a blue card that gives a more detailed list of everything the built-in Google Assistant is capable of.

Google Home Hub review

Google Home Hub is the American tech giant’s latest smart speaker entry (Image: Google)

Finding nearby restaurants, food recipes or a video from YouTube are just some of the functions that be activated here.

Food recipes in particular are a commendable feature that, combined with the Home Hub’s small size, make the device a superb kitchen companion.

Although the software in question does not allow the user to save their own recipes, it does offer a list of suggestions with instructions that will be read out loud by the Google Assistant.

Moreover, because the entirety of the Hub’s operating system can be navigated with voice commands, it means you do not have worry about getting messy hands on its display.

Overall the Google Assistant provides mostly the same functionality on the Hub as on other Home products, however its usefulness is certainly elevated significantly by the implementation of a screen for prompts and more detailed information.

One of the most disappointing elements of the Google Home Hub is certainly its single speaker that sounds lacklustre at high volumes.

The Google Home Hub can get relatively loud, but the device is certainly outclassed by the likes of the Amazon Echo Show and Lenovo Smart Display that certainly offer vastly superior setups.

While Amazon and Lenovo’s offerings can completely replace the need for a separate Bluetooth speaker, the Google Home Hub certainly needs the added assistance in order for it to have a hope of packing an audio punch.

Google Home Hub review

The Lenovo Smart Display and Amazon Echo Show are the Hub’s biggest rivals (Image: Google • Lenovo • Amazon)

Price

The Google Home Hub retails for £139, making it the most expensive device in the product line if you exclude the very premium Google Home Max.

The hardware is certainly the most feature-packed when compared to either the standard Google Home or the Google Home Mini thanks to its 7-inch display.

But when the device is compared to the Lenovo Smart Display that offers an extremely similar operating system, Google Assistant functionality and a more premium design, it is hard to see why anyone would choose the American tech giant’s offering unless they are making their purchasing decision on sheer price alone.

The Lenovo Smart Display comes in an 8-inch and 10-inch version, both of which look and sound superior to Google’s smart display.

And while the cheapest version of Lenovo’s product comes in at £179.99, we certainly believe the added premium is worth the extra charge.

Moreover, the Amazon Echo Show similarly boasts a more appealing design and offers commendable audio.

The American retail giant’s speaker does cost over £230 but, just like the Lenovo Smart Display, justifies its price tag.

Verdict

The Google Home Hub is a capable smart display overshadowed by its most immediate competition.

While the device certainly offers an adorable design, great software and the tech giant’s signature Assistant built-in, Lenovo have managed to offer a finer product for just over £40 more.

That means the Home Hub is ultimately only appealing for those looking to kit out their home with futuristic technology on a budget and not enthusiasts looking for the most capable smart display around.

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