Like the Amazon Echo devices, the Google Nest Hub is meant for early adopters of technology and the ones who don’t mind the hiccups companies face at this stage.
The Nest Hub is for those who are sure they want to be locked into Google’s ecosystem in the long run over Amazon or eventually Apple’s.
When I first used the Google Home after its launch in India last year, the speaker came off as an excellent but utterly useless device for Indians. There were few smart home devices that worked with it, few services I could use, and though the Amazon Echos weren’t excellent in this regard, they did do a tad more.
But one year since, Google has closed the gap. I’m just as comfortable telling Google to turn off the lights or TV as I am telling Amazon. They both support all my smart home devices.
The fact that it now supports more devices and services alone makes the Google Nest Hub a device worth buying. In the same breath though, it’s worth pointing out that Google’s smart displays and speakers (like Amazon’s) are for early adopters who don’t mind the hiccups companies have in these stages.
This is important, because the Nest Hub is a direct competitor to Amazon’s Echo Show 5 and the two devices follow almost the same philosophy. While Google didn’t put a camera on the Nest Hub, it has a button to turn off the microphone, similar to Amazon’s shutter switch that covers the camera. The focus on privacy here is evident, with both companies noting consumer concerns about home devices listening to or recording them covertly.
That said, the display itself is better on the Google Nest Hub than on the Echo Show 5. Google’s display is slightly more vivid, which makes a world of difference, though you’ll know that only if you get to see the two devices side-by-side.
However, other than that, there’s little separating these devices. The Nest Hub takes commands via voice, has some touch controls and just a few buttons, just like the Echo Show 5. It fails to understand your voice just as often as the Echo Show 5 and responds to them successfully an equal number of times too.
The Show 5 is better for listening to music since it’s basically just louder and neither speaker really makes for a standalone audio device. Audio lacks depth and detail on both the Nest Hub and the Show 5, so you will likely want to pair these with a full-fledged speaker for music needs.
The choice really depends on two things — the fact that the Nest Hub can already understand some Hindi commands, and whether you want to be in Google’s ecosystem or Amazon’s. The Echo devices, for instance, can voice control your Fire TV Stick, while almost any AndroidTV enabled smart television will take commands from the Google Nest Hub.
That said, both are equally choppy. My Echo Show 5 fails to pause my Fire TV Stick over half of the times, while my Mi TV really only turns on and off with the Nest Hub and I need to switch to the remote to navigate Xiaomi’s UI.
Similarly, the more lights and rooms I name for my smart home devices, the more often the Nest Hub and Echo fail to recognise what I’m asking them to do. It’s really all the same here.
Some would argue that Amazon’s “skills" ecosystem (which is how it gives you various additional capabilities) is slightly more advanced, but the jokes, quick facts etc. that the Echo speakers provide contribute little in terms of utility to call them more advanced. The Google Assistant alone covers many of those skills, which brings us back to the fact that your choice will depend on whose ecosystem you want to be locked into for the long run. The Google Nest Hub costs a thousand bucks more, and if that’s not too much for you, go ahead and buy it.