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Google Nest Hub: A technophobe's review (and how to solve that error message)

Before I start this review of the Google Nest Hub, let me clarify my dislike for “smart things”. Yes, I do have an iPhone (though I do not use Siri on it, but who does, really?) and yes, as a writer for Home & Decor I have been introduced to many different and useful smart devices/functions. My main gripe is actually with smart ecosystems. Come on, I can switch off the lights or change the channel five times while waiting for it to understand my instructions and take action. Plus, all the buttons and the setting up — ugh! Well, I’m happy to tell you that this impatient technophobe had a pleasant experience with Google Nest Hub. Here is how it went.

Firstly, what is Google Nest Hub?

It is a smart speaker with a screen. It comes with Google Assistant. Some features include:

Home View: It can help you control other smart devices, such as washing machines and automated curtain systems.

Ambient EQ; the screen automatically adjust its brightness setting according to the lighting in the room. No more glares.

Routines; Google Assistant will read out your plans for the day

Voice Match; up to six people in the home can get their own personalised routines.

Photo Frame; you can set up a slideshow of your photos. It can also show photos according to specific albums e.g. your holiday in Paris.

Recipes; there are tons of recipes in here, mainly from food channels such as Tasty and Food Network.

News Updates; you have access to news from local sources such as Channel News Asia, The Straits Times and The Business Times.

Setting up Google Nest Hub


Customers purchasing a Google Nest Hub from Challenger, COURTS, and M1 will also get a free Google Assistant compatible Mi Home Security Camera 360° 1080P by Xiaomi.
 

SO EASY. There are literally only two things in the box: the Google Nest Hub itself and its cable. Plug it on both ends and you are done. I was relieved. The instructions and interface that guided the set up were also simple to understand. It took less than five minutes.

Speaking to Google

Out of all the smart ecosystems I have experienced, the Google Nest Hub — or rather, Google Assistant — has been the smoothest in picking up commands. I did not speak Singlish, of course, but I definitely did not have to speak slower for this truly smart device to pick up the right words. I can also see it auto-correcting and re-contextualising whenever it went a little off key. It did get tiring to start with “Hey Google” all the time but this is a minor inconvenience that comes with smart ecosystems.

Testing the Google Nest Hub functions

Note: I currently do not have any smart devices e.g. smart light bulbs, smart aircons, smart washing machines, where I am staying. As I am unable to pair them with smart devices, this review will focus on the functions unique to Google Nest Hub.

Setting the alarm clock

My command: Hey Google, set an alarm.
What it did: The alarm option came up immediately. When the alarm went off at 5.55pm, as I had set earlier, I said, “Hey Google, snooze it please.” It then responded with. “Alright, 10 minutes.”

Ordering food

My command: Hey Google, show me halal food options.
What it did: It found a few halal restaurants near me immediately. It did the same for pizza when I asked for it, too. I also tried something less obvious like, “Hey Google, I’m thirsty.” It replied with, “A drink might help. I can help find a convenient store near you.”

Following recipes (My favourite function!)

My command: Hey Google, show me recipes for apple crumble.
What it did: After pulling out a list of recipes, I selected the option from Allrecipes.com. It read out the recipes for me, which means I can work on preparing my ingredients without having to touch/dirty the device.

It can also convert ml to litres easily and, when I asked, explain how to use salted or unsalted butter. I am a cooking noob and have to refer to recipes every step of the way, so this is sure to come in handy.

The only downside was that you cannot input your own recipes; you can only use the ones it pulls for now. It can learn your favourite recipes, though, so you will have them “within reach”. I also like the prompt for next or previous instructions.

Time conversions

My command: Hey Google, what time is it in India?
What it did: It showed me the time in India. No fuss.

E-commerce options

My command: Hey Google, where do I buy smart locks?
What it did: It showed me smart lock stores near me. I live in Pasir Ris, and the store is in Yishun. I’m pretty sure there are nearer stores that sell smart locks, such as Courts Megastore in Tampines.

When I said I wanted to buy a black bag online, it responded with, “I don’t know how to help with that. I asked it to show me Zalora, and I was given the Zalora office and warehouse address near me. It says it is unable to show me www.zalora.com, as “I can’t show a website on my screen. Please use a computer.” Fair enough, this is not a tablet.

Asking about Amy Poehler and Donald Trump

My command: Hey Google, who is Amy Poehler?
What it did: Google Assistant read out to me Amy Poehler’s profession, what she is known for, and showed me some photos. However, although I followed the prompts for me to see more photos/more information on the photos shown, it responded with “I am still learning.”

I then asked to see Amy Poehler’s interviews and it prompted me with “Best Amy Poehler interviews for Parks and Recreation”. When I agreed, it responded with "To get help with that, you'll need to give me some more information. You can do that in the Google Home app."

I was also given the same error message with these commands:

“Hey Google, play Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.”

“Hey Google, why is the sky blue?”

“Hey Google, what’s the latest update about Donald Trump?”

Other Google Nest Hub roadblocks (Help!)

Showing me photo frame mode

When I’m thinking of the next command, it goes to photo frame mode. There are no obvious buttons on screen for me to get to the previous page (to me, anyway). I asked, “Hey Google, show me the previous page” but it didn’t work so I had to repeat my commands. This brought me to the page I was previously on, but it was a little tiring. The only time I didn’t encounter this was when I had the recipes on, which is where staying on a page matters most, I guess.

Youtube and calls

When I said switch on Youtube, it prompted me to link to Chromecast. I don’t have one, so I ignored this.

When I asked Google to make a call for me, it prompted me to set up the settings on the Google Home app. The app says that to set up video calling, the receiver must also have a Google Duo app. How many apps do I need? I thought this was to unify everything into one place? I left it at that.

The Google team shared with us some fun commands to try out, such as asking information on giraffes or singing Happy Birthday. It worked for the most part, and it was cute to hear a pig oinking and a cat meowing. However, whenever it involves a video, I received the error message: “To get help with that, you'll need to give me some more information. You can do that in the Google Home app."

How to fix this error message: "To get help with that, you'll need to give me some more information. You can do that in the Google Home app."

Here are two options I've found:

Troubleshoot Google Nest Hub using these instructions: https://support.google.com/googlenest/answer/7382500

or

Watch this video: 

The latter was more helpful and straightforward. Basically, the Youtuber suggests enabling one function under the Activity Controls section in the Google Home app: the Web & App activity. It worked for him and many others, according to the comments section.

However, it did not work for me. I even enabled the rest of the buttons, such as Location History and Voice & Audio Activity. It still did not work.

As I am not good with smart devices, I am chalking this up to inexperience. Perhaps I did not set up certain functions properly. I asked the PR team for a helpdesk where users can bring their devices over for some support. While there is no such option yet, the next best thing would be to receive a call from the Google Nest Support Team. All you have to do is fill in this form and a specialist with call you within a minute. FYI, their call may come from an unrecognised or international number.

Final thoughts

It was not as annoying as I thought it would be, as the device picked up and understood my commands easily — yay! There are no lags, and the audio and images are clear and crisp. The command suggestions are also intuitive.

This is definitely not your go-to device if you need in-depth explanations about a topic or public figure. But for a quick check while you are having a casual conversation? Quick and easy.

While the screen was a great addition, the new Photo Frame feature is not particularly impressive. Nice to have, though.

I was not able to test its syncing capabilities with smart devices, but I did see it work smoothly at the press demo. You may think this is pretty obvious, seeing that we were with brand experts. But as I’ve seen other products lag in similar situations, I am really impressed with how smart the Google Nest Hub is. I don’t see why it shouldn’t work as well in your own home and when paired with other devices.

The biggest issue for me personally is the syncing, which resulted in many error messages. Frustrating, but I think once that is sorted out, your experience will be fine.

As a technophobe, I can safely say that the product is relatively easy to use. It’s definitely a helpful buddy to have around the house! Not too expensive, too. I would purchase it. How about you?

Google Nest Hub is available in Charcoal and Chalk. You can purchase it through M1, Challenger, Courts and the Google Store. It retails for $189.

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