Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen) Review: Sleep Sensing is Neat, But Free Trial Only

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Earlier this month, Google unveiled its second-generation Nest Hub, which now comes with Sleeping Sensing plus improved audio compared to its predecessor.

The Nest Hub (2nd gen) gets 50% more bass than the original, plus leverages the same audio technology found in last year’s Nest Audio (read our review here). As for the Sleep Sensing features, they are powered by Google’s Soli low-energy radar tech, to track your sleep when the device is at your bedside table.

We recently had the chance to spend some time with the Nest Hub second-generation, so here’s our quick review of these new features.

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Unboxing the Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)

The second-gen Nest Hub has the same design as before—you won’t be able to notice any differences unless you’re looking carefully. Inside the box, you’ll find the Nest Hub itself, plus a power cord with an AC adapter (same as before).

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But the slight differences can be seen when you place the latest Nest Hub next to the original—the first-gen has an orange-coloured bottom:

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As we get in closer, you can notice the new “edgeless floating glass display” as Google explains, on the second-gen Nest Hub on the left. The fabric holes are also larger on the newest Nest Hub as well, while the mute switch on the back no longer has a ‘mic’ icon etched in.

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Here’s the view from the back—Nest Hub second-gen on the left, while the original Nest Hub is on the right. The display’s area and bezel on the new Nest Hub are slightly smaller compared to its predecessor:

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Setting Up the Nest Hub

If you’ve set up a Google smart device before, it all starts with the Google Home app. It’ll add the Nest Hub to your account, set up Wi-Fi and more—it’s all very straightforward and simple to do. There was a software update to install during the process and it installed fairly quickly.

Sleep Sensing is opt-in, and if you want to use it, you’ll need to have personal results and proactive health and fitness results enabled, along with Motion Sense. Plus, you’ll also need web and app activated turned on in your Google Account. Google already knows everything about me—what’s the harm in revealing my sleep data as well?

Testing Out the Improved Audio

Yes, the second-generation Nest Hub sounds much better than the original. With both bass and treble set to the max 10 setting, listening to the same song on the Nest Hub second-gen versus the original is night and day. The speaker on the original Nest Hub really was lacking any sort of bass whatsoever. So now the Nest Hub can fill a room with sound better, and while decent, it’s not at the level of a Sonos speaker, however.

Gestures for Control are Helpful

If you have your Nest Hub in the kitchen, using Google’s Soli tech and Quick Gestures to play/pause media is very handy, especially if you’re following a video recipe while cooking. Quick Gestures can also start and stop music by placing your hand in front of the smart speaker and gesturing forward. These gestures are also used during Sleep Sensing to trigger a snooze ‘button’ with your hand by waving.

Testing out Sleep Sensing

As for Sleep Sense, in order for the feature to work you need to have room on your bedside table, where the Nest Hub is about an arm’s length away, and can be level with the top of your bed. This is so the low-energy radar can detect your motion and breathing, to determine when you hopped into bed and when you went to sleep. The same goes for waking up as well.

Google says Sleep Sensing cannot detect bodies or faces, while if enabled, it can track coughing and snoring. The Nest Hub will also track changes in light and temperature to try to determine what impacts your sleep. The company says this is achieved without the need to wear anything on your wrist, with all data available for review inside the Google Fit mobile app.

For now, Sleep Sensing is free as part of a trial until 2022, when the feature will turn into a paid service as part of a Fitbit Premium subscription. Now, it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to pay for Google to monitor your sleep.

With these details ironed out, we first calibrated Sleep Sensing for the first time, following its instructions to lay down, so it can determine if our placement was good enough for sleep tracking. After that, you can set your sleep and wake up time for Nest Hub to know when you should be asleep.

After the first night of sleep tracking, here was the information presented to me within the Google Fit app, which provides more details than the Nest Hub.

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You get a quick summary on ‘how you slept’, followed by duration details of your time in bed, such as how long you were asleep for and also how long you were in your bed not sleeping, followed by an efficiency rate.

Next, you’ll see your set sleep schedule, which shows you exactly when you got into bed, plus the time in bed before you finally decided to put your phone down and fall asleep, then also the time you got up and how long it took you to get your lazy butt out of bed.

As for the quality of sleep, you can see disturbances such as snoring and coughing and changes in light in your room, if applicable (blackout blinds ftw). You can also see your average heart rate and respiratory rate.

How helpful was this data? Well after a few days I learned I need to go to bed earlier and get more quality sleep. Now would I pay for sleep tracking next year, when it becomes part of a subscription? No, as it’s not that important to me, plus I don’t want to have to always have a Nest Hub facing me while I sleep.

Here’s what the Nest Hub will show at night, when you have Sleep Sensing enabled. It will display ‘Sleep Sensing active’ on the screen, plus there’s a bed icon in the top right corner. If you bring up the menu from the bottom, you have quick access to disable Sleep Sensing, with one tap.

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Nest Hub (2nd Gen) is Still a Nest Hub at Heart

Aside from the new speaker with more bass and Sleep Sensing, the second-generation Nest Hub still has features the original can do, which includes being one of the best digital picture frames for your Google Photos, plus lets you stream Netflix, Disney+ and of course YouTube.

The Nest Hub can also control your compatible smart home products (it’s a must-have if you own Nest cameras or a Nest Hello doorbell), while Google Assistant remains the best virtual assistant out there.

When it comes to setting reminders, Google can do it much better than Apple’s Siri. If your house is littered with Google smart speakers, and you have an iPhone and Apple Watch, it is impossible to miss a reminder, as it will pop up across all displays and include audio.

Should you buy a second-gen Nest Hub or stick to the original Nest Hub, which can be found for $30 cheaper at select retailers? If you value some bass in the speaker and plan on using the Nest Hub in the kitchen, new Quick Gestures make controlling media a breeze. Sleep Sensing is there if you choose to pay for it next year after the free trial ends.

The Nest Hub has already reached its second-generation, while Apple is still asleep when it comes to releasing a smart speaker with a display, but that may change soon.

Google’s second-generation Nest Hub is available in a new colour this year, Mist, joining Chalk (that’s the one we tested), Charcoal and Sand, priced at $129.99 CAD, available at retailers today and from Google’s online store.

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