I instantly fell in love with the Home Hub after Google unveiled the small smart display last fall. The seven-inch screen fits perfectly both on my bedside table and on my desk right under my monitor.
Then Google went and rebranded the line and introduced a larger, Nest Hub Max.
At first glance, the two Nest-branded smart displays look identical — other than the Max’s larger 10-inch display. But when you take a look at the top of the frame, you will spot a camera.
This hardware feature was purposely left off of the smaller Nest Hub because Google did not want users to worry about their privacy. This decision was important because the company was marketing the device as something that could sit in sensitive areas such as in the bedroom.
After getting a limited hands-on with the Nest Hub Max, I am sold on the camera and the features it introduces. But if you ask me, the smaller Nest Hub also needs the camera. Here’s why.
Google Duo usage would go up
As I mentioned above, I have one of my Nest Hubs sitting under my desktop monitor. Most of the time, it is not doing anything other than displaying the time and flipping through photos. But its location is ideal when I want to Google something with my voice quickly.
But one thing I gave up when I moved away from the Lenovo Smart Display was Google Duo support. For some, this isn’t a big deal, mainly if they use it in their bedrooms. But for me, I have these smart displays scattered around my home, and I would appreciate the video calling capability.
Duo is one of Google’s messaging apps that I actually use. No matter what device I’m on, I can quickly video call my girlfriend, brother, or a random friend who is signed up for the service.
Including a camera and Duo to the next-gen Nest Hub would also be a benefit for Google. By getting the most-affordable smart display into more people’s homes, Google has customers who could be talked into signing up for the video service. It’s a win-win.
Gestures alone makes the camera worth it
One of the most cheered-for announcements at Google I/O was the ability to silence alarms and timers on Assistant speakers and Nest Hubs by just telling them to stop. There’s no more shouting “Hey Google” before telling it to shut up.
The Nest Hub Max gets a similar quick-stop feature that is only possible because of its camera. Whether you’re watching a show on YouTube TV or listening to a song on Spotify, you can mute all audio by raising your hand in front of the smart display. An example of this can be seen above.
Again, I use my Nest Hub in my office and tend to use it for media consumption while working. If I need to pause whatever I’m listening to or watching, I have to tap the display, look for the pause button, and tap the button. This action takes time and can be inconvenient.
Face Match makes the small screen feel personal
Google introduced Voice Match back in 2017 for the Home speakers. By setting up the voice recognition feature, users could authenticate themselves and get personalized responses from the Assistant. Alongside the launch of the Nest Hub Max, Google is enhancing this feature with Face Match.
Voice Match is inherently flawed in my opinion
Voice Match is inherently flawed in my opinion. While I have had a relatively smooth experience with the feature, it does tend to fail if I’m talking from across the room or if I adjust my tone. With facial recognition — at least on phones that I’ve used — there is a higher success rate.
With my usage, I would much rather look down at the Nest Hub and have it know who I am. No longer would I have to speak out loud to get the personalized results that I might be looking for.
The camera will never come to the Nest Hub
I honestly do not expect Google ever to add a camera to the small smart display. For one, look no further than the original Home smart speaker. That device was released almost three years ago, but Google has been in no rush to update the hardware.
But most importantly, the Nest Hub is the company’s privacy-focused smart home device. You can have access to the visual Assistant almost anywhere in your house without having to worry about a camera staring at you.
As I outlined above, there are clear benefits of the upcoming Nest Hub Max’s camera. For that reason, I will likely (begrudgingly) spend $229 to buy one for my office. The smaller form factor is still ideal in my books, but you rarely can have your cake and eat it too.
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