Posted on 30th November, 2018


Forget smart speakers for a second, because smart displays are shaping up as the next big battleground area for tech giants’ attempts to get inside your home.

Essentially a smart speaker with a screen bolted on, smart displays not only offer an alternative form of rich, flexible user input to voice (in touchscreen controls), but allow information to be presented in an alternative form – and that makes them an appealing prospect for anyone who finds smart speakers’ voice and audio focus a little narrow and limiting.

The upcoming Home Hub is Google’s first in-house attempt, although Google Assistant-equipped displays made by LG, Lenovo and Harman are already on the market, while rival Amazon is already onto the second generation of its Alexa Show competitor. But first attempts can be successful and, according to early reviews, the Home Hub may be the best product of its type yet.

Consisting of a 7-inch 1024 x 600 touchscreen with a fabric speaker behind it, the Home Hub has three primary functions – smart display, smart home control hub and digital photo frame – all of which it appears to pull off well.

The compact size of the Home Hub means it can be placed almost anywhere, while its screen is crisp and colourful and Google Assistant continues to be an easy to use AI-based voice assistant that many think far superior to Siri or Alexa when it comes to understanding your spoken commands and questions. The difference with a screen is that your requests can be delivered visually, whether it be a recipe shown on screen in step-by-step form, a YouTube video of your favourite sketch pulled up instantly, or the weather forecast displayed rather than spoken.

There are some potential drawbacks: the speaker isn’t really designed with music playback in mind; and you’ll need to be invested in Google’s Home smart home platform rather than Apple Homekit, Amazon’s Alexa or another rival system; there’s no built-in camera for video calls. But, given the low $219 asking price, none of these caveats sounds like a deal-breaker – and in fact, the lack of a camera is probably a plus in privacy-conscious peoples’ minds.

It's affordable, compact easy to live with. Google’s Home Hub appears to be the smart display to beat.

JB Hi-Fi currently has the Google Home Hub on special for $199, and with all purchases are offering 20% off Philips Hue lighting. Best get in quick.

Further reading: Smart Homes Discussion Forum

Rob Follis's avatar

Rob Follis

Rob Follis has been writing about tech on and off for over 40 years, is a designer, photographer, information omnivore, gadget-head, Hi-Fi afficionado, owner of far far too many things and sadly an unsuccessful app developer. A born & bred Londoner now happily living in Melbourne. Email Rob.

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Posted in: GadgetNET Integration Technology Smart Homes & IoT
Tags: philips  hue  google home