When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
- The second-generation Google Nest Hub compact design that's perfect for a nightstand.
- Upgrades from the older model include a better speaker and sleep tracking.
- It doesn't have a camera, making it ideal to use a smart alarm clock.
Thanks for signing up!
Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you're on the go.
The second-generation Google Nest Hub is one of the best smart displays for anyone set up with Google's ecosystem. The compact, cameraless display can act as a hub for your smart home devices and give you access to Google Photos and Google Assistant, and offers a few more tricks that make it worth its price tag, especially when it's on sale.
In addition to upgrading the speaker, Google added automatic sleep tracking, which works extremely well. Those same sensors also support hands-free gesture controls, which, while limited, is a convenient feature for basic functions.
While we found the display too cramped for working through recipes, making the unit generally too small for kitchen use, it's perfect for a nightstand. It feels like that's what Google was going for: A camera-free smart screen that can act as the alarm clock of your dreams. After many weeks of testing, we can confidently say it's worth the buy if you're looking for a smart alarm clock.
The same sleek design with some important upgrades
The second-generation Google Nest Hub looks pretty similar to its predecessor, with just a few minor tweaks that make it more aesthetically pleasing. Namely, there's no more outdated-looking outer bezel, and the newer unit is a smidge taller.
Another change is that it's made from 54% recycled plastic, a sustainability move we greatly appreciate. A new third microphone also helps the device pick up sound better.
The 7-inch HD touchscreen offers the same vibrant, clear picture as the first-gen Hub. And you can use the multitasking display as a photo frame (by syncing with Google Photos), clock, or the charming Google weather frog background. A quick flick to the left switches your screen view, giving you access to various functions like smart home controls and detailed weather data.
Watching videos is a fluid, pleasant experience, and that's in big part to the gorgeous display that automatically adjusts brightness and color levels via an Ambient EQ light sensor, also present in the original unit.
In terms of smart home integration, Google has you covered with thousands of compatible devices. Smart-home controls differ depending on the device, but brightness and color options were available for Philips Hue and LE LampUX bulbs. If you have a compatible camera, you can view a video feed.
Better sound thanks to improved bass
According to Google, the second-gen device boasts 50% more bass than the original. In testing, podcasts and Spotify playlists sounded great on the new full-range, 43.5-millimeter diameter speaker.
But while it's an improvement over Google's first-gen Hub, don't expect the sound of the Nest Hub to compete with premium speakers from Sonos or Bose. You can also still connect your favorite apps to the device (e.g., Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu).
That said, if you're having trouble falling or staying asleep, you can ask Google Assistant to play ambient or white noise or other sounds like fireplace crackling, ocean waves crashing, and forest noises. You can do the same for waking up in the morning.
Quick Gestures are a pleasure to use but need some work
The biggest upgrade the second-gen Nest Hub has over the prior model is the use of Google's Soli chip, a miniature radar sensor that can be used for gesture sensing. The Soli sensor's ability to detect motion and proximity is quite convenient. Using quick gestures to play or pause media, snooze alarms, or stop timers is fluid, fun, and a neat party trick.
Tapping the air in front of the unit when music is playing will stop it, and swiping does away with timers and alarms once they go off. Your hand needs to be pretty close for the gestures to work.
But while gestures are great for controlling media, alarms, and timers, we wish for more functionality. Working through a recipe when your hands are full of egg wash seems like the perfect opportunity to use gestures. Voice control isn't as quick and intuitive as glancing at a screen, especially when juggling multiple ingredients.
A scrolling gesture would greatly improve the overall kitchen experience with the Nest Hub. It's more user-friendly than with the screenless Google Home, but the process is still a bit clunky.
Sleep Sensing is an outstanding feature
You can use the second-gen Nest Hub in any room of your home. But this compact smart device was really built with bedroom use in mind.
It makes a great morning assistant, helping you wake up by slowly brightening the screen (you can also opt for an audible alarm to sound) and giving you the rundown of the day ahead, including weather data and any appointments you've set up in your Google calendar. Deep sleepers may not wake up with the screen lighting up alone, which doesn't seem as bright as traditional sunrise alarm clocks.
The new Hub also comes with sleep sensing. The Soli-powered feature tracks your sleep, detects your breathing, and keeps tabs on disturbances like snoring. Setup takes mere seconds. Just lie in bed on top of any blankets, breathing normally, making sure to place the device as indicated on your nightstand, and you're all set for sleep tracking.
During testing, the device performed about on par with a sleep-tracking Garmin Fenix 6s, guessing sleep and wake times within minutes of the wearable device. Like most sleep devices, the longer you use it, the more accurate the data, but we were shocked at how quickly it got things right. On one of the first nights of testing, it detected reading on a Kindle as time in bed but not asleep.
Unlike a wearable, the hub picks up sounds like coughing and snoring, factors that might impact your sleep quality. If both you and your partner snore, the device might not be sophisticated enough to tell the difference. Google notes that if you have kids, pets, or other family members who wind up in your sleeping space, that can affect the data, too.
While we still trust the Garmin Fenix 6s more for its sleep insights and appreciate that it uses sleep data to provide training recs, the hub offers impressively accurate sleep tracking for a device that's not on your wrist.
Overall, sleep sensing is an impressive addition, especially for those who've never thought much about their sleep before, but there's a catch. Google notes that this feature won't be free forever. In 2024, users should expect to pay extra for sleep sensing as the brand integrates it into its Fitbit ecosystem.
Since the Google Nest Hub is geared towards bedside use, there isn't a camera like with many other smart displays. That means you can't use it to video chat, but it might make you more comfortable than having to remember to close a camera shutter on the device.
For those worried about privacy with the sleep tracking, Google says that audio picked up during the night stays local to the device and never gets sent to the company. You also have the ability to customize your sleep settings for more privacy. You can also manually turn off the mic on the device itself. There's a physical button on the back of the device, and a glowing light on the front lets you know it's off.
We like that Google Assistant doesn't automatically keep your voice recordings. You can also enable "guest mode," which will automatically delete recordings and activity. If you want to delete your past questions and requests, you can do that in your Google account or ask the Assistant to delete the last thing you said.
Should you buy it?
Typically on sale for less than $100, the second-generation Google Nest Hub is worth buying for the original slew of features alone, but the improved sound and addition of gestures and sleep sensing make it even more worthwhile.
That said, if you already have a first-gen Hub, you might not want to scramble to buy the newer version unless you don't mind paying a premium for sleep sensing after 2023. And if you prefer a kitchen assistant to a bedroom one, consider the Google Nest Hub Max, which boasts a bigger display and built-in cameras.
Steph Coelho is a freelance writer and homebody with a passion for home and kitchen goods. She's always on the hunt for the best home and kitchen gadgets and is determined to help people sort the treasure from the trash. As someone who works from home 365 days a year, she's well versed in how to make a space feel cozy and comfortable for every activity on her to-do list. Steph is currently based in the Montreal area, where she lives in a 70s-style bungalow with her husband, two dogs, and a parrot named Felix. Say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org or @seestephrunmtl on Twitter and @frontyardharvest on Instagram
Read more Read less