The Home Hub is Google's first own-brand smart display, combining Google Assistant, advanced smart-home control and a digital photo frame into a neat and tidy package. Google isn't the first to market with smart displays. Amazon's Echo Show put the company's Alexa on a screen a year ago, while Google Assistant smart displays made by Harman, Lenovo and LG were released a few months ago. But Google's Home Hub is slightly different. Firstly, it doesn't have a camera on it, which Google goes to great lengths to repeatedly tell you in the hope you will find it less creepy and feel more comfortable putting it in places like your bedroom.
The second-generation Echo Show is better than the first in every respect, ranging from its industrial design to its audio and video performance. It's the best smart display today, but that could change as soon as tomorrow if Google announces its own smart display and it turns out to be great. Sonos, meanwhile, still has the best smart speakers for music (the Sonos One and the Sonos Beam). While the second-generation Echo Show is powered by the same system-on-chip as the first-generation Echo Show (a quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8350), the new model is outfitted with a larger, higher-resolution display; better loudspeakers; a more attractive enclosure; an integrated ZigBee smart home hub; and even the option for hardwired ethernet. Alexa is also becoming a better digital assistant, a development that will improve every Echo model.
Google's latest smart display is larger and can recognise your face for proactively showing you personalised information making it just that little bit smarter than competitors. The £219 Nest Hub Max is Google's second own-brand smart display and is essentially a super-sized version of the excellent original Home Hub (now renamed Nest Hub). But where the Nest Hub is a veritable bargain at £119 or frequently much less, the Nest Hub Max is a different proposition at a little under twice the price. A bigger screen is definitely better for viewing from across a room. The 10in 720p HD screen is bright, crisp enough at normal viewing distances and has Google's ambient EQ colour tone system so that photos on it look very much like printed photos, not displayed on an overly white and clinical LCD screen.