The Google Nest Hub is a very modest-looking device, especially when compared to some of the wacky smart displays offered by Amazon.
But we still believe that the Nest Hub is the best smart display available today. It’s got plenty of flaws, but unlike the competition, it stays true to its purpose.
The Lock Screen: No Ads or Stupid Intrusions
We believe that the most important part of a smart display is its lock screen. Yeah, you can do all kinds of fancy things with an Echo Show or Nest Hub, but it will spend most of its life sitting around and doing nothing. A good lock screen ensures that a smart display is somewhat useful (or attractive) when you aren’t actively yelling out commands or tapping all over the screen.
Amazon doesn’t seem to understand this fact. The Echo Show lock screen is a bastion for annoying nonsense, including fun facts, tips and tricks, and random recipes. And, as if things weren’t bad enough, Amazon recently introduced lock screen ads for the Echo Show—c’mon, nobody wants a billboard on their kitchen counter!
By comparison, the Google Nest Hub has an excellent lock screen. You can choose between an animated clock face, a slideshow of fancy art, or a slideshow of images from your Google Photos account. When in slideshow mode, any relevant notifications, family notes, or reminders appear in a small area on the screen, alongside the time and weather. No stupid ads or fun facts!
Additionally, the Nest Hub slideshow mode can pull from shared Google Photos albums. Your friends, family, or roommates can upload photos to this shared album, and they will automatically appear on the Nest Hub lock screen. (Echo Show products offer a similar feature, but you need to manually ask Alexa to turn on the slideshow, which ends after a few hours.)
Smart Home Control: A Great Fit for Most Homes
Like the Google Home app, the Nest Hub does a good job bringing together all of your smart home controls. Simply navigate to the “Home Control” tab to see a collection of relevant devices and routines, plus live camera feeds. Or, use a voice command to control your smart home devices.
Detailed controls appear when you select a smart home device from the “Home Control” menu. But these controls also pop up when you use a voice command. If you ask to dim a smart bulb, for example, detailed controls for brightness and color will temporarily appear onscreen.
The Echo Show’s onscreen smart home controls are actually quite nice—they’re big and easy to read, just like the Alexa app. But a ton of detailed controls, such as smart bulb color, aren’t available from the Echo Show’s touchscreen. These controls need to be accessed through voice commands, a routine, or a mobile app, which kind of defeats the purpose of a touchscreen smart home controller.
And if you own a ton of smart home devices, the Echo Show’s smart control UI can get pretty crowded. You’ll spend a lot of time scrolling through devices, assuming that you don’t sit down for a few hours and organize every device into groups, rooms, or routines.
To be fair, the average Echo Show or Nest Hub buyer isn’t a smart home fanatic. These devices fulfill several tasks—they play music and stream video, they pull up recipes and set timers, and you can even use them for video calls. But on the smart home front, Google’s Nest Hub is the king.
Other Details: Streaming, Recipes, Timers, and More
When it comes to everyday tasks, the Google Nest Hub and Amazon Echo Show are mostly on equal footing. Both devices can answer your questions, set sleep timers, pull up recipes, convert units of measurement, tell you the safe cooking temperatures for various meats, or stream your favorite video or music services. They can also make calls, drop in on other smart speakers or displays within your home, or stream video from compatible security cameras.
But there are a few areas where the Nest Hub stands out. For one, Nest Hub supports YouTube natively, while the Echo Show needs to open a browser to use YouTube—this leads to a slightly clunkier experience on the Echo Show, though it’s a minor inconvenience.
And unlike the Echo Show, which has a habit of hiding timers, the Nest Hub keeps timers onscreen until they expire. Combine this with the Nest Hub’s hands-free gestures, and it may be the better option for foodies who want a bit of help around the kitchen.
Now, the Echo Show certainly has a leg up in some areas. It integrates perfectly with Amazon products, including the Fire TV and various Amazon services. Plus, all models of Echo Show have a built-in camera for video calls or “drop-ins,” while Google customers need to buy the more expensive Nest Hub Max if they want a camera in their smart display.
We also love that the Echo Show comes in so many shapes and sizes. The smallest Echo Show displays are incredibly affordable, while the largest 15-inch can actually double as a Fire TV. If you aren’t too nit-picky, or if you’re already entrenched in the Amazon/Alexa ecosystem, the Echo Show is clearly a compelling product.
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