Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen): Now With Sleep Tracking
PC Magazine|May 2021
The original Nest Hub was a perfectly capable smart display, but as Google’s only model, it felt a bit lacking compared with Amazon’s Alexa-powered lineup.
ANGELA MOSCARITOLO

The second-generation Nest Hub improves on its predecessor with a feature you won’t find on any other smart display: sleep tracking. Thanks to its built-in Google Soli motion-sensing chip, the 7-inch Nest Hub can accurately track your sleep and breathing when placed on a bedside table. Though it still lacks a camera for video calls, it offers several other upgrades, including 50% more bass for improved audio, a Quick Gestures feature that lets you pause or play content by waving your hand, and a machine-learning chip that caches your common commands for faster response times. Offering tremendous value for the price, the second-generation Nest Hub earns our Editors’ Choice award for Google Assistant smart displays.

GETTING TO KNOW THE NEW NEST HUB

At $99.99, the second-gen Nest Hub is debuting at a lower price than its predecessor, which arrived in 2018 as the Home Hub at $149. Google later renamed that model the Nest Hub and lowered its price to $89.99. The company also offers the Nest Hub Max ($229), which features a 10-inch touch screen, a webcam for video calls and home monitoring, and stronger audio, but no sleep-tracking abilities.

The new Nest Hub stands out for its Soli motionsensing chip, which allows it to track your sleep when placed on a nightstand. The new Nest Thermostat also features a Soli motion sensor, so it can automatically turn on the screen when you walk in front of it.

The addition of sleep tracking marks Nest’s first foray into the health and wellness space, a move that makes sense given that Google also owns Fitbit. While the Sleep Sensing feature is available on the new Nest Hub for free until 2022, you might have to pay extra for it after that. The feature could eventually be included with Fitbit Premium memberships, but Nest is still working that out, a spokesperson says. The company is also currently exploring other ways to integrate experiences with Fitbit.

Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)

PROS

Tracks sleep and breathing. Intuitive interface. Excellent smart home controls. Google Assistant responds quickly. Compact design.

CONS

Might attribute co-sleeper’s coughing/snoring to you. No camera for video calls.

BOTTOM LINE

With the ability to track your sleep in addition to all of the voice control capacity of the original, the second-generation Nest Hub smart display is an ideal bedside companion for Google Assistant users.

In terms of aesthetics, the second-gen Nest Hub offers a few small upgrades compared with its predecessor, including a new edgeless display (the front is a single sheet of glass, making it easy to clean) and a slightly more compact design at 4.7 by 7.0 by 2.7 inches (HWD). It retains the original’s lovely 7-inch, 1,024-by-600 touch screen and 5.4-by-2.4-inch oval base.

The Hub comes in chalk (light-gray), charcoal (darkgray), mist (mint-green), or sand (tannish-pink), colors that match the new Nest Thermostat. Nest sent me the mist version, and I love how it looks on my bedside table, especially with Google’s curated image library set as the screen saver. You can also set it to cycle through your own images stored in Google Photos or display the time in full-screen mode with your choice of clock faces.

The new Nest Hub is a bit bigger than the Amazon Echo Show 5, which measures 3.3 by 5.8 by 3.2 inches and has a 5.5-inch, 960-by-480 display. An even smaller alternative is the Echo Spot, which has a globe-like design measuring 4.1 by 3.8 by 3.6 inches and a 2.5inch, 480-by-480 display.

It’s a bit disappointing to see that the new Nest Hub still doesn’t have a camera for video calls. The company says this is intentional for privacy reasons, so people will feel comfortable putting the device in their bedrooms. I appreciate that, but the Echo Show 5 has a privacy slider that should alleviate those concerns for most and would be nice to see here.

SETTING UP AND NAVIGATING THE 2ND GEN NEST HUB

Setting up the new Nest Hub takes only a few minutes. Just plug it in, download and open the Google Home app on your phone (for Android or iOS), tap the plus sign in the upper-left corner, select Set Up Device > New Devices and follow the on-screen instructions.

During the setup process, the app asks whether you want to enable Quick Gestures, a new feature that lets you control the Nest Hub with hand motions instead of having to touch it. With Quick Gestures enabled, you can wave your hand in front of the display to snooze your morning alarm. In testing, this feature worked perfectly and is incredibly convenient when I’m still half asleep in the morning and want a few extra minutes of shut-eye. If you keep the Nest Hub in your kitchen, you can use Quick Gestures to pause a cooking video when your hands are dirty.

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