We Tested out the Google Home Hub so You Don’t Have To

We Tested out the Google Home Hub so You Don’t Have To

A Bit of Background on the Google Home Hub One of the first things I had the Home Hub was make a phone call to my Dad -- who, when I explained to him all the things the device could do, likened it to a circus juggler. The Home Hub is one of the latest hardware products released by Google. The next step was to add video capabilities to these smart speakers, most of which were already equipped to do things like set alarms, play music and podcasts, answer questions, and complete online shopping transactions. Now that these smart speakers would be built with screens, they could also do things like play videos, show photos, and visually display the user's calendar. The Google Home Hub is one such video smart speaker -- and the one that this piece will focus on. What the Google Home Hub Can Do Once I finished the rather quick process of setting up the Home Hub, I wasn't sure what to do with it. "OK, Google," I said. Here's a video of what happened when I had it play some music from Migos, how it sounded when I put the volume on the highest setting (which can be done by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, or using a button on the back), and how well the sound carried when I walked a little further away from the speaker. Google, for instance, uses its Assistant voice AI to power numerous pieces of "smart" hardware: phones (the Pixel), accessories to support smart TVs (the Chromecast), and smart speakers (the Home and Home Hub) -- just to name a few. She'll use it to follow recipes, make phone calls, and listen to music, all at the same time.

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“What do you get for the friends and family who have everything?”

Ah, yes. Nothing screams, “Happy holidays!” quite like the annual conundrum of figuring out what to get for our loved ones. As someone who writes about tech, that question, for me, usually comes in the form of, “But what is my mother going to do with this [insert-name-of-newly-launched-gadget-here]?”

This year has been no exception to the flurry of newly-released products from the all-star lineup of tech companies. Some released new phones. Others released new video calling devices. And some seemed determined to position virtual reality headsets as the gift to give this holiday season.

But there was one device in particular that caught my attention more than others, and that I was particularly curious to try. And that device, ladies and gentlemen, was the Google Home Hub.

So, to help tackle your tech-gifting-to-do-list, I took the Google Home Hub for a spin. Here’s how it went, and my verdict of where it stands on this year’s list of tech gifts.

A Bit of Background on the Google Home Hub

One of the first things I had the Home Hub was make a phone call to my Dad — who, when I explained to him all the things the device could do, likened it to a circus juggler.

But evidently, Dad had beaten me to the punch, and already did some of his own research on the Home Hub. There was just one problem, he said: “Everything I read assumed that I understood all of the technical vocabulary, and I still don’t understand what it does.”

So, it might be worthwhile to take a few steps back.

The Home Hub is one of the latest hardware products released by Google. It’s one the company’s “smart” devices; that is, it uses artificial intelligence (AI) to voice commands that are spoken to it by users.

That AI is often named as a branded voice assistant: the digital persona that powers many smartphones, for example, to answer user questions. On Apple devices, for example, it’s Siri. On Google hardware, it’s simply named Assistant.

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Google Assistant

A few years ago, these voice assistants made the leap from smartphones to smart speakers — one of the first of which was the Amazon Echo, a smart speaker powered by Amazon’s voice assistant named Alexa.

From there, many other companies began making smart speakers powered with their own voice assistants — such as the Google Home, powered by Assistant, and Apple HomePod, powered by Siri. (Here’s what happened when I tried using all three.)

The next step was to add video capabilities to these smart speakers, most of which were already equipped to do things like set alarms, play music and podcasts, answer questions, and complete online shopping transactions. Now that these smart speakers would be built with screens, they could also do things like play videos, show photos, and visually display the user’s calendar.

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The Google Home Hub, on display in my kitchen

The Google Home Hub is one such video smart speaker — and the one that this piece will focus on.

What the Google Home Hub Can Do

Once I finished the rather quick process of setting up the Home Hub, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. It was a Sunday morning. I was pre-coffee. And I was hungry.

“OK, Google,” I said. “Show me some vegan recipes.”

Ta da! And show me recipes, it did — not all of them vegan, however.

For a search like this one, the Home Hub only appears to display recipes for which it’s able to dictate a list of ingredients one-by-one — and recite the instructions step-by-step, pausing after each one and…

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