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Earlier this year Google launched the second generation of their Nest Hub smart display, the Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen), a combination of an entertainment device and a smart hub. It can be used for various activities, acting like a tablet that can stream entertainment like Netflix or listening to music. It can also control other smart devices such as compatible smart lights or televisions. The second generation also got an upgrade with what Google calls Sleep Sensing that will keep track of sleep metrics such as your sleep schedule, duration and quality of sleep.

screen of a cell phone: Google Nest Hub (2nd Generation) review, including how the second generation Nest Hub compares to the 1st gen and if the new Google Nest Hub is worth it. © Google Nest Google Nest Hub (2nd Generation) review, including how the second generation Nest Hub compares to the 1st gen and if the new Google Nest Hub is worth it.

Here at the Good Housekeeping Institute Media and Tech Lab, we test hundreds of smart devices such as smart security cameras, smart thermostats, smart locks and more every year. Our tech pros tested the unit to see what we thought:

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a close up of electronics: Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen © Google Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen

$69.98

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How does the new Nest Hub stack up against the first-generation model?

The second-generation Google Nest Hub has a ton of the same features and functionality that consumers loved about the first-generation Nest Hub, like waking up to a sunrise alarm to displaying Google photos and acting as a smart hub for your compatible smart devices, but the biggest upgrade to the new device is the new sleep tracking technology that records metrics such as how long you slept, respiratory rate and can give tips and recommendations based on your sleep habits.

Along with the sleep tracking upgrade, the audio was also improved. Compared to the previous Nest Hub, the second-generation's sound has more clarity and bass which makes for a better listening experience whether it's for entertainment or using Google Assistant. Google also made this newer version more affordable, retailing $50 cheaper than the original hub cost at first launch.

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Sleep sensing

The Nest Hub tracks sleep using what Google calls “motion sense” to track sleep which uses low-energy radar to detect breathing and movement, so there’s no camera which some might prefer for privacy reasons. One of the biggest pros of this sleep sensing device is that you don’t have to wear it, which means no uncomfortable watches or bands waking you up in the night. Using this technology, the Nest Hub gives an overall summary of the time you get into bed, fall asleep, duration slept, sleep schedule and the overall sleep quality. It records metrics including how many times you coughed, minutes spent snoring and respiratory rate. Over time it will tell you if you slept longer than usual and it can also record room temperature and brightness levels.

a screen shot of a computer: A summary of sleep quality which displays when you are in bed, asleep, restless, snoring, coughing and any light changes. © Jamie Ueda/Good Housekeeping A summary of sleep quality which displays when you are in bed, asleep, restless, snoring, coughing and any light changes.

While the lack of a wearable device made it much more comfortable, it wasn’t quite as accurate as we would have liked. Our Chief Technologist, Rachel Rothman, found that it struggled to accurately track between her kids coming in and out of the bed, other smart devices, ambient noise from air purifiers and coughing.

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When I tried this at home solo, I had an accuracy issue as well, but because I sleep alone it seemed better than Rothman's experience. When I woke up in the middle of the night, it was spotty on accurately tracking my time awake. However, it did seem pretty accurate at picking up quick, momentary wake-ups. It was also pretty precise at tracking the time I fell asleep, woke up and how long I slept overall.

The bottom line, the sleep sensing technology may work better for a single sleeper for an overall capture of sleep habits. It gets high marks for comfort since there’s no wearable device, but don’t expect it to be extremely precise for every metric at all times.

Alarm clock

While there are many smart alarm clocks on the market, we found this one particularly nice. It has an option for a “sunrise alarm” that will gradually brighten the screen or turn on smart lights to mimic a sunrise before the alarm goes off for a gentle wake-up. I also found the sunrise alarm with soothing sounds a pleasant way to wake up. However, on nights I wore a sleep mask or woke up when there was already some daylight I didn't find the sunrise part of the alarm as useful. I still enjoyed the peaceful sounds it played since it wasn't as jarring as my phone alarm.

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I also really enjoyed the clock's ability to detect changes in light in the room and adjust the face brightness on its own automatically to just the right amount of brightness. Even with all the lights off, I found it bright enough so I could see the time but not so bright I couldn't fall asleep.

Quick Gestures

The Quick Gestures feature lets you play or pause a song or video, stop a timer or snooze an alarm by waving your hand. It works by using the built-in motion sense technology that detects your hand moving without the use of a camera.

It takes a few practice runs to get the hang of using it because you need to wave your hand in a specific way. At first, I was trying to play and pause a song using a motion as if I was waving bye to someone and it didn't work well. However, after a few minutes of waving my hand around, I discovered that it works best by using your hand, palm open, almost as if you're high-fiving the device. There isn't an instruction manual (though I later discovered there's a demo in the app) and it's not intuitive so I found it frustrating at first but after figuring it out, it's very easy to use. I did notice that with timers or alarms I could wave my hand more haphazardly and it seemed to work, which was nice when I was half asleep and wanted to snooze my alarm without having to think about how I was waving my hand

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a hand holding a cell phone: Using the Quick Gesture feature. © Jamie Ueda/Good Housekeeping Using the Quick Gesture feature.

I found this feature useful in the kitchen when I was cooking and had food on my hands and didn't want to touch the device to pause something. Yes, I could also use voice control to do the same thing, but the gesture control is a bit faster to react. This feature really shines in the bedroom: When I was half asleep, it's nice to be able to wave my hand to snooze rather than fumbling to find the snooze button or shouting commands at the device. This would also be nice for those that sleep with someone else as it's less disturbing to wave your hand.

Smart hub functionality

This device can also act as a central hub to control other smart devices like smart lights, televisions, locking doors or changing the thermostat, all of which can be done on-screen or with voice control. We found it to work well with compatible devices and also worked well to cast from our smartphone to the device. It also works with Nest video doorbells and cameras, so you can see your live feed with a voice command and speak with whoever is at the door, which comes in handy if you're in another room and not near the door. The one downside we found to this device is the voice control was not as instantaneous as we would have liked. After saying a voice command, there was a slight pause before the action took place, but the pause is so slight it's not a deal-breaker.

Entertainment and organization

  • Streaming: When not using this as a smart hub, it can be used for many entertainment purposes such as watching Netflix shows or YouTube videos. It also streams most music services like Spotify or Pandora, all of which we found to work seamlessly when we tested the device.
  • Calendar: If you need help with organization, Google Assistant can be synced to view your schedule on-screen or aloud.
  • Reminders: The Nest Hub can also set timers, reminders and alarms, which we especially liked while cooking recipes or remembering to change the laundry.
a close up of a sign: Stream Netflix, YouTube music or videos and more. © Jamie Ueda/Good Housekeeping Stream Netflix, YouTube music or videos and more.

Other things the Nest Hub can do

  • Digital picture frame using a slide show that you set up or the default pictures in the device
  • Broadcast messages and chat across the house to other Nest speakers and displays
  • Make audio calls to other users who have Duo, Google's video calling app
  • Make restaurant reservations by using voice commands to find and call a restaurant
  • Leave notes for others at home to see later by using Google Assistant to dictate a note that will display on the screen

Do you have to pay for a subscription with the Google Nest Hub?

No, but certain subscriptions may be required for additional items like Nest Aware or certain content such as Netflix. Also, according to Google, the Sleep Sensing feature is currently included as a free preview until next year, after which a paid subscription may be required.

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Is the Google Nest Hub worth it?

If you're new to the smart hub world and own other Google or Google compatible smart devices, this is a great starter device with many features such as sleep tracking and entertainment, on top of being a central hub for smart devices. It's worth noting that this doesn't have a camera which is better for those that want more privacy, but if you want to make video calls, you should consider the Google Nest Hub Max instead.

For those that already own the first generation Nest Hub, it may or may not be worth the upgrade depending on your needs. If the new features such as sleep tracking or better audio aren't important, then it's probably better to wait until the next generation. However, if you find these new features useful or need a second smart display then it will be worth the upgrade to the second-generation device.

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