In line with expectations Google announced a new smart display today called the Google Home Hub. This is not the first smart display to come to market, but it’s the first to come through directly from Google. Which is important to note as it seems the design is the main selling point with this display. In other words, the Home Hub is very much a Google-looking smart display.
This is most evident in the color department as one of the primary issues with the smart displays from JBL and Lenovo is the lack of color options. Technically, Lenovo’s Smart Display is available in two options -- Bamboo or Gray -- although those colors are not really ones the user can choose from as they are dependent on the size/model chosen. Not to mention, the color only relates to the back portion of the device. As for JBL’s Link View - black is the only color option available. In contrast, Google is making its Home Hub available in four different colors and while the front panel seems to mainly be white regardless of which model chosen, it does sport a colored frame and the use of color in general is far more apparent on the Home Hub than on the other options. With the base not only color-matching the display, but also adopting more of a felt-like material similar to what's found on the Home line in general.
Color aside, the Home Hub looks a little generic as it's primarily just a display attached to a base. So there are no major controls or design points to note. Bezels are large, but not too large and the only real control a user has available is the big switch on the back which allows for deactivating the microphone when greater privacy is needed. Typically speaking, smart displays also come with another one of these buttons which also lets the user switch off the camera, but the Home Hub does not feature a camera and so the button is not included. Just the one for the microphone which is in easy reach, positioned dead center at the top of the rear plate.
Moving passed the design and the general interface and what buyers should expect the Home Hub to do does not significantly differ to what is already available on other smart displays. After all, like Wear OS, the user interface here is standardized across devices and draws on the power off Android Things and the Google Assistant to provide access to feedback from questions answered, as well as more visual-based interactions, such as follow-along recipes, and YouTube videos. As this is the same user interface found on Lenovo and JBL options, the experience was largely the same here on the Home Hub as what we’ve encountered before. Although Google is debuting a new feature on the Home Hub called ‘Hub View’ which basically acts as a shortcut dashboard for other smart home devices that might be connected to the Home Hub. Also, Google has included an ‘Ambient EQ’ feature which essentially looks to adapt the screen brightness to match the lighting in the room. Similar features are already available on other smart displays, but the difference seems to be Google’s implementation is a little more dynamic in this respect.
Overall, the Home Hub is a nice little unit for what it is. The display itself is only seven-inches and this is likely to be one of its major downsides as it’s small compared to other options, and certainly feels even smaller than it is. After all, a seven-inch display is not that much bigger than the new Pixel 3 XL smartphone which comes with a 6.3-inch display. So the images here do not really highlight just how small the display on the Home Hub is. Still, the Home Hub is arriving to market priced at just $149 in the US which means it’s only slightly more expensive than the original Google Home, making it a much better proposition. Just not quite as good of a deal as what you get with the smart displays from JBL and Lenovo.