Google Nest Hub review: Is this sleep-tracking speaker a dream or the stuff of nightmares?

Google Nest Hub review: Is this sleep-tracking speaker a dream or the stuff of nightmares?

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Google Nest Hub review (Image: GOOGLE)

Google is no stranger to producing smart speakers with in-built screens but what it’s dreamed up now certainly takes things to a whole new level. The latest Nest Hub may look pretty similar to its predecessor but it gets one big upgrade that could have some serious benefits to your health. That’s because tucked inside this device is sleep-sensing technology that keeps watch over you at night to see how much shut-eye you are getting. The big question is, can a smart speaker really be that good at tracking sleep or is it just a bit of a creepy gimmick? There was only one way to find out, so Express.co.uk’s Technology Editor, David Snelling, popped it on his bedside table and put it to the test.

 

GOOGLE NEST HUB REVIEW

When Google’s new Nest Hub arrived in the post I was pretty excited. For some strange reason, I’ve not been getting the best sleep recently and being offered the chance to review a gadget that might reveal why my nightly rest is being disrupted was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Straight out of the box the Nest Hub looks pretty identical to its predecessor which is no bad thing as it still looks neat and elegant enough to place in even the most stylish of homes.

You’ll find a 7-inch screen and the usual speaker tucked inside the rear casing but where things are different with the 2021 model is the sleep-sensing tech.

Now before I reveal all about my bedroom antics it’s worth making the point that Google hasn’t placed any cameras inside the new Nest Hub and the company has confirmed to Express.co.uk that no bedtime data is ever sent to its servers. So, if you’re having nightmares about Google watching you when your eyes are closed then this should alleviate some of those concerns.

If you’re totally freaked out by the whole idea you can turn off sleep sensing completely – but if you’re prepared to give it a go it actually works quite well.

Google Nest Hub review

The Google Nest Hub features a 7-inch screen (Image: GOOGLE)

Not only does the speaker help send you off to sleep by dimming the screen and even playing relaxing music but when you wake from your slumber there’s a full report on just how well you slept.

Just say the words “OK Google, how did I sleep?” and the chatty assistant will reveal time in bed, how much snoring and coughing went on and if you had the recommended dose of snooze time.

There’s also a simple guide that shows how cold and light the room gets during the night which are all factors when getting a restful night between the sheets.

Google does all of this via its clever Soli sensing technology and because there’s no physical camera inside this speaker it doesn’t feel that obtrusive when placed beside your bed.

Another nice feature is the Sunrise Alarm which gently brightens the screen and plays a sound at an ever-increasing volume level. This is way better than getting a horrible shock at 6:45am when your phone alarm starts blaring out some horrible tune.

Google Nest Hub

The Google Nest Hub will reveal how much sleep you have had (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Google Nest Hub

You’ll get info on amount of time asleep at night (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

It’s all clever stuff but having used it for a few weeks I’ve been left both impressed and slightly baffled by the Nest Hub’s sleep credentials.

Yes, I’ve discovered how much shut-eye I’ve been getting, if it’s been disturbed or restful and how long I snore each night.

That’s nice to know but the problem is I can probably guess all that from my own behaviour. Without a gadget by my bed, I’m fully aware if I’ve gone to bed too late or woken up too early. My wife is also pretty good at revealing my snoring levels so I’m not sure how useful the Nest Hub really is.

It would be great if it could sense the room was too cold and pump up the heating or give you a nudge when you start snoring…but it can’t.

Google Nest Hub review

Google Nest Hub review (Image: GOOGLE)

We’d also like it if the Hub could explain why you’re not sleeping well. Is it stress, eating too late, drinking too much alcohol, bed not being comfortable enough? Again, there’s no way Google can know any of this which means its speaker can’t really offer the sort of advice that might really help make you feel less tired.

There’s also the fact that, in the future, Google might start charging for this feature with the firm saying it’s currently only free until next year. There are definitely some nice ideas on the Nest Hub but I really think there’s a way to go until this technology is must-have to pop beside your bed.

Away from the sleep sensing tech, the Nest Hub is pretty similar to the original and that’s not a bad thing as you’ll be treated to a very good 7-inch screen that displays a tonne of useful information. Ask Google pretty much anything and you’ll get an intelligent response. You can also tune into Netflix, YouTube and Disney+ content and watch the daily news reports from services such as the BBC.

Like all smart speakers, timers can be set, lights dimmed, playlists belted out and the heating ramped up just by asking Google.

Google Nest Hub review

Google Nest Hub comes in a number of colours (Image: GOOGLE)

The new sensors in the screen also allow you to interact with the speaker without actually touching it. For example, when the alarm goes off you can simply raise your hand and make the sound stop.

There’s also a nice touch for any Google Photo users with your most precious family albums displayed on the screen – a bit like a digital picture frame.

It’s all really good and the visuals on the screen really help to improve the usefulness of these popular smart speakers.

Google has also boosted the sound credentials of its latest Nest Hub with things now around 50 percent louder than before. It’s nice to see the speaker has been improved but it’s definitely not one of its strongest features with audio sounding a bit muddy and lacking any real bass.

If we had another criticism it would be the responsiveness of the screen as it does feel pretty laggy when you start trying to scroll through menus and settings.

NEST HUB FINAL VERDICT

PROS: Great smart features • Sleep tracking works well • Reasonable price
CONS: Sleep tracking may cost money in the future • Sound could be better 

There are bucket loads to like about the new Nest Hub with Google boosting its features whilst keeping the price at under £90. For your money, you get that 7-inch screen, an abundance of smart features and that ability to track your nightly sleep.

That bedtime monitoring is pretty clever as it’s done without you needing to strap any extra gadgets to your body.

Our only real issue is we’re not sure the data it supplies is going to help you get a better night’s rest.

Yes, over time you can discover if your sleep patterns are healthy and the snore monitor might explain why your partner always seems so cross in the morning but it won’t tell you exactly why your sleep is good or bad.

Maybe that will come in the future and it might need to if Google is really going to start charging users for sleep tracking next year.

At just £80 the new Nest Hub is a great little smart speaker it’s just up to you whether you’ll pop it by your bed.

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