Review: 2021 Google Nest Hub with Sleep Sensing (2nd gen)

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Erin Lawrence

google, nest hub, 2nd gen, review, A smart home hub is becoming more popular, and companies like Google are constantly iterating them to make them more attractive and useful. Case in point; the new 2nd generation Google Nest Hub released earlier this year.  I recently received the 2021 version of the Google Nest Hub to test and review. I’ll tell you what’s new on this device, and how well I think it works.

A heads up I won’t be going into details about the basics of this device and what a smart digital assistant does. If you do want a bit more background, check out my full and detailed review of the original Google Nest Hub or the Hub Max.

What’s new with Google Nest Hub?

When it comes to the 2nd generation Google Nest Hub let’s take a quick look at what you’re getting. This is a more compact home assistant with screen, and it’s significantly smaller than the Hub Max, which I’ve also reviewed here.

This screen is 7” touchscreen and there’s three mics so the Google Assistant can hear you. A fabric-wrapped speaker forms the base of the unit. Google calls it a “Full-range speaker” but I’m not entirely sure what that means, and it’s got a 43.5 mm (1.7 in) driver.

Google Nest Hub 2nd gen: speaker & audio enhancements

Google says the new Nest Hub’s speaker is based on the same audio technology as Nest Audio and has 50 per cent more bass than the original Hub.

Since we’re on the topic, let’s dive right into sound quality.

I will say I was surprised at how good the audio quality is, for a speaker of this size especially. The speaker had great bass with a good, deep thrum, clear vocals and overall sounded pretty resonant and nicely balanced. Yes, I’d say that improvement is bass is noticeable.
I reviewed the new Nest Audio speakers not long ago and I really like them. They sounded quite good for their size, and I can say the new Nest Hub has similarly solid sound quality.

google, nest hub, 2nd gen, review, Nest Hub 2nd gen has no camera like Hub Max

One thing this device does not have— on purpose, says Google— is a camera.

Some devices — most notably Amazon’s new Echo show— touts its camera’s ability to follow you around a room, this one has no camera and that’s because Google wants to make sure you’re not freaked out or suspicious of its intentions, and that’s because they want you to put this Hub in your bedroom, and that’s because it’s got new sleep features.

One of the key features and selling points of the 2nd generation Nest Hub is Sleep Sensing, plus some other sleep-wake features. Let’s dig into what you’re getting.

Sleep Sensing on new Google Nest Hub

Sleep Sensing uses low energy motion sensors inside the Hub, not cameras, to detect things like movement or motion. It also uses its microphones to detect noise, including coughing and breathing or snoring, so you can learn what might be wrecking your rest. Light and temperature sensors can also help you evaluate the room where you’re sleeping.

You get a full report and recommendations from the Hub just by asking, ‘how did I sleep last night?’ or using the Google Fit app.

For anyone who’s worn a Fitbit or a smart watch to bed to help track your sleep patterns, you know what you get; information on how much time you slept, the quality of sleep and any notes about when you may have woken up. The bonus here is that if you hate wearing something on your wrist, you no longer need to.

This Sleep Sensing feature, by the way is optional and you do have to enable it to start using it, and Google says that’s so you’re more in control of your privacy… the Google Assistant isn’t creepily monitoring you while you sleep, by default.

The Sleep Sensing feature will tell you when you went to bed and woke up, how well you slept, when you might have been restless, gotten up, your breathing rate and note any disturbances, and if there were any light changes during your sleep, like if a light gets turned on, I suppose.

google, nest hub, 2nd gen, review, What happened when I used Sleep Sensing: 28 hour nights!

I’ll tell you about my personal experience with this feature… I set up sleep sensing and let it run for about a week.

Checking in on my data I was pretty surprised to find I was sleeping for 28 hours a day in some cases!

It was actually pretty funny to find the Nest Hub was tracking my sleep way more than I actually was ever in bed. I usually sleep for about 7 hours and for most of the week it was reading it way too high. The app doesn’t really give you any clues about why that might be (and interesting that the data doesn’t seem to think that it might be an error that I slept 28 hours and somehow correct for that).

It also did not seem to record the three nights in a row where my dog woke me up to let her out at 1:30am.

After that first week, I was pretty disappointed in the ability of the Nest Hub to track and evaluate my sleep.

Nest Hub Sleep Sensing: tracking my pillows?

google, nest hub, 2nd gen, review,

The Nest Hub doesn’t recognize the problem so it doesn’t help you troubleshoot… so that I had to do on my own. My best guess was it was actually sensing the pillows on my bed and tracking that, as me asleep. So I adjusted the position of the Hub and let it run again for a few more days.

On the next night, I was up and down all night tending to a sick dog. Fortunately this time the Nest Hub seemed to be able to track me better. It seemed to know more accurately when I was awake and up and down and when I finally did get off to sleep for a few hours.

The Sleep Sensing tracks and reports a few different metrics.. let’s take a closer look:

If you ask you Google Assistant for the report, you’ll see a coloured circle with an overview of your sleep. The colour of the circle corresponds to how well you slept overall. Purple is ideal, red or pink, not so much.

google, nest hub, 2nd gen, review,

The sleep metrics look at three key features: Schedule, Quality, and Duration.

With Schedule, you can tell the app what your ideal bedtime and wake up time is and it will monitor for when you go to bed and wake up to tell you if you’re meeting those goals.

With Duration, you can see by the clock shape exactly when you were asleep and not sleeping.

Quality gives you a report about the temperature and light level in the room at the top, then makes not of any snoring, coughing or light changes and what times they occurred.

When quality, Duration and Schedule all converge for a good night’s rest, you’ll get a purple circle denoting ideal sleep.

You can also swipe through on the Hub to see a report on your breathing or Respiratory wellness, or your week at a glance.

google, nest hub, 2nd gen, review,

How does Google Sleep Sensing compare to other technology, like Fitbit Sleep Tracking?

I’ve been using Fitbit devices on and off for many years. They were among the first devices to be able to reliably track sleep and show patterns. I have found Fitbit to be pretty accurate when it comes to overall tracking, so I decided to compare the nest hub’s data to what the Fitbit sense smart watch was finding.

On the night I picked to compare, the Google Hub had me asleep for 8 hours 17 minutes, while the sense had me sleeping for 7 hours 36 minutes. The notations on when I was asleep and restless didn’t even come close to matching up. I compared another day, and the overall sleep time was a bit closer; the Hub giving me 8 hours 52 minutes while the Sense tracked 8:14. The restless periods seemed to line up a bit better too… but since the Hub doesn’t let you did into that timeline, it’s hard to say for sure.

Based on my own evaluations and experience and what I knew about how long I was sleeping and when I was getting up, I’d say the Fitbit is far more accurate at sleep tracking.

Sleep Sensing: not ready for prime time yet

Bottom line for me, from my hands-on experience, I don’t think the new Nest Hub is great at sleep tracking yet. But I like the option here and hope that it improves in future generations.

Google Nest Hub: Alarm Clock with options

google, nest hub, 2nd gen, review,

The new Nest Hub has the ability to function as a smart bedside alarm clock and smart home hub too. You can check if your doors are locked, turn off the lights and a bunch of other smart home controls. It’s actually handy having that stuff at your bedside particularly if you don’t sleep with your phone in the bedroom.

When it comes to the alarm clock features, you can set a sunrise-style alarm where the screen of the device will brighten gradually to help wake you with light, instead of jarring alarm bells.

I liked using it as an alarm clock and there’s quite a few options for how to wake up.

Overall review: Google Nest Hub 2nd gen

Overall the new 2021 2nd generation Google Nest Hub is a pretty versatile device. It’s got all the smart home and digital assistant capabilities of other home hubs, it’s a great smart home controller for the bedroom, plus it’s got a good quality speaker for adding music to the room.  I think the Google Assistant is far and away the best digital assistant out there, so that’s another plus.

The sleep sensing does take some monitoring and adjusting to get it to track correctly, it supplies a good amount of data, but I don’t think that in my experience it’s as accurate as a wearable for example. I do hope we’ll see some future updates that make Sleep Sensing more accurate.

The alarm clock is a handy extension of the Sleep Sensing features and makes it even more valuable as a bedside device, plus with no camera, you can feel comfortable about walking around naked and doing whatever in front of it, without feeling like you might end up on the dark web. Overall though, if you want a more compact home Hub this is a good choice, but if you’re getting it just for the sleep sensing, you might want to wait.

Get the new 2nd gen Google Nest Hub from Google. It sells for about $129CAD.

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