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A $499 Pixel Tablet is not a $100 Nest Hub replacement
You’re not alone if you’re a little unsure what Google’s strategy for its smart home ecosystem is right now. Shortly after killing off support for third-party smart displays, Mountain View launched the Pixel Tablet at Google I/O 2023 — a dockable large screen with built-in Google Home functionality. In other words, a smart display.
The Pixel Tablet is certainly an intriguing product, but is this the future of Nest Hubs or simply another experiment Google will have forgotten about in 12 months’ time? Either way, there’s just one problem; who wants to spend $499/€680 to control their smart lights?
Smart home gadgets should be inexpensive
Google’s Pixel Tablet is much more than a hub; that’s the whole point. So let’s get that out of the way first. It’s a portable video streaming, mobile gaming, and perhaps even a light home-office work machine. Google wants to sell you a brilliant Android tablet and a dockable station for classic Google Assistant functions, media casting, and the new Google Home app. Maybe that’s just what you’re looking for, in which case, stop reading and go hit that buy button.
However, your intended use case will determine who wins the Pixel Tablet vs Nest Hub debate, and, if you’re anything like me, much of your smart home usage revolves around checking the weather, setting timers, and streaming music. You know, the humdrum stuff that can mostly be done with a very affordable smart speaker. Smart displays, like those in Google’s Nest ecosystem, make an even better central smart home hub, providing those all-important visual elements when audible cues just won’t do.
Affordability is key for smart home hubs.
For example, I can see the temperature in all my rooms without having to ask Google one by one. Monitoring the Nest Smart Doorbell while cooking is a cinch. Not to mention the picture frame and video casting capabilities I use daily. These, and many more, are great smart home additions, many of which the Pixel Tablet is designed to do too.
Consumers are already happily paying $100, perhaps even $200, to enjoy those smart home extras. Just see the wild popularity of Amazon’s Echo series for proof that affordability is key for consumers, even if Amazon is failing to make money from Alexa. However, the Pixel Tablet costs a steep $499 (€679 in Europe), while you can obtain these same smart home features, and often more, for a fraction of the price. Unless you want the tablet features too, the Pixel Table is anywhere from double to quadruple the price of alternative products.
Pixel Tablet vs Nest Hub: Is it really an alternative?
The Pixel Tablet offers many Nest Hub staples in its docked mode via the revamped Google Home app, such as managing lights and thermostats. However, it doesn’t provide the fully-fledged smart home hub experience you might expect.
Take the Charging Speaker Dock, for instance, which does absolutely nothing without the Tablet attached to it. You can’t use its far-field microphones to issue voice commands, nor can you use its powerful speaker system to stream music. Not even via Bluetooth. Instead, you’re left with a useless hunk of plastic on your kitchen counter while someone has run off with the tablet to watch YouTube.
Likewise, the Pixel Tablet’s Chromecast capabilities are only available while docked. Want to take your casted tunes to the next room, well, you’ll have to perform the old manual switcharoo and cast to another speaker or launch a regular app. Why the dock doesn’t transform into a Nest Mini when the tablet is undocked, only Google knows.
Google informs us that the tablet lacks some popular Nest Hub features and doesn't work as a Matter hub.
We’ll need to spend more time with the device to see what else is there and what’s missing, but Google also informs us that some Nest Hub features, such as Family Bell, Family Notes, Face Match, Household contacts, and others, are absent. More disappointing for the serious smart home enthusiast, the Pixel Tablet dock doesn’t work as a Matter hub either, unlike Google’s range of Nest Hubs, Mini, Audio, and Wifi Pro router. While it’s fine for controlling Google-compatible products, you’ll still need another hub to straddle ecosystems with Matter.
But say you’re sold on the Pixel Tablet anyway and even want multiple docking points dotted around your home. Google values it at a staggering $129 on its own; that’s more than a Nest Hub ($99.99 at Best Buy) and a good chunk of the way towards a Nest Hub Max ($229.99 at Best Buy). That’s one costly charging brick. Forget the dock; just buy a Nest smart display and unlock all the extra features.
Yes, both platforms support Google Meet for calls and the Tablet can install traditional Android apps too.
Should you buy a Pixel tablet if you have a Nest Hub?
Based on our discussion so far, the answer is almost an assured no. At least, not unless you were already looking for a new tablet. With some missing features, even Google acknowledges that the Pixel Tablet is not a direct Nest Hub replacement. Rather it’s an additional product that fits into an existing home setup.
Of course, the Pixel Tablet still has merits as, well, a tablet. Its powerful Tensor G2 processor, improved video call experience, large-screen app optimizations, and crisp 11-inch display surely make this a solid Android tablet with additional smart home capabilities. However, if you’re spending at this end of the market, an Apple iPad ($449.99 at Amazon) or iPad Mini provides more raw tablet for your money.
Think of the Pixel Tablet as a tablet with smart home capabilities, rather than a Nest Hub replacement.
Google’s option fits in a bit of an awkward place then, only really providing the right level of value if you want both the tablet and only basic smart home features when docked. Admittedly, that’s a pretty niche market, but it will appeal to some, myself included.
All said and done; it’s still worth considering whether you really need the dockable 2-in-1 experience at all. After all, who in the household is going to give up watching a film so someone else can look up a recipe for dinner? A better solution; there are plenty of great affordable tablets that cost $200 or less. Combined with a $100 smart display, that still comes out well under what Google is asking for a Pixel Tablet.
Auto-framing in video calls is a nice touch
Great display, despite the fairly low resolution
Quality smart speaker, with a display
Doubles up as a smart display
Pixel Tablet FAQs
Sort of. It charges wirelessly when magnetically connected to the Charging Speaker Dock. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support standard wireless charging pads.
Yes, the Nest Hub range all have cameras, allowing for video calls. As does the Pixel Tablet.
No, the dock comes bundled with the Pixel Tablet. You can buy additional docks separately.
Google’s home products do not support Google Assistant by default. Smart Home skills can connect other Nest devices to Amazon Alexa’s home controls.
Yes, the Nest Hub includes a charging plug, and the Pixel Tablet comes with a charging dock.
You can install the Ring app on the Pixel Tablet. However, Ring does not integrate into the Google Home app fully, meaning you can’t see live video feeds on a Nest Hub.