The Google Home Hub is smaller than I expected, and I'm not sure if I like the design. Speaker quality also leaves a lot to be desired, and it lacks support for services like Netflix. Despite its (admittedly minor) shortcomings, the Google Home Hub is easily my favorite tech of 2018.
Announced alongside the Pixel 3, the Home Hub is a smart display with a 7-inch touchscreen and Google Assistant. You can ask it for the weather and tell it to turn off lights. It's also great in the kitchen for displaying recipes. And it's a great portal for YouTube—something you can't say for the Echo Show.
If you've yet to use a smart display, you'll find the experience far better than a simple smart speaker. Adding a visual element to Google Assistant makes for a more immersive and enjoyable experience. When I ask about my morning commute, I prefer to see and hear what traffic looks like. Same goes with weather, news, etc.
I had no interest in buying the Home Hub, but thanks to a sale that cut $50 off the retail price, I got one. And I don't regret it for a second. Even my girlfriend, who could care less about technology, has fallen in love, which is a testament to the Home Hub's charming appeal.
What I love most about the Home Hub is its seamless integration with Google Photos. Once connected, the Home Hub instantly transforms into the best digital picture frame ever made. I love seeing old memories resurface every time I look at the device.
The Home Hub also works beautifully with Google's live albums feature, which will automatically add new images to an album in Google Photos. So, every time you take new pictures of a particular person or pet, they'll show up on your Home Hub. That kind of synchronicity is such a joy.
Beyond displaying photos, I like how Google paid attention to the smaller details. There's an Ambient EQ light sensor, for example, that will automatically adjust the brightness of the Home Hub's display and color temperature by sensing a room's ambient light. It's similar to Apple's True Tone display technology.
The Home Hub supports several other features, including multi-user support, integration with services such as Spotify, and the ability to control smart home devices. You can also use it to search for local business and get an answer with a map, photos, and store information.
This year has been great for new technology. Apple released the Apple Watch Series 4 and redesigned iPad Pro. Samsung, meanwhile, introduced the powerful Galaxy Note 9, which comes equipped with more features than we know what to do with.
Yet, the tiny Home Hub is the product I enjoyed the most. Even though it's not something I interact with on an hour-by-hour basis, its functionality as a digital photo frame means it has replaced the Echo Dot in my home. And the fact that it has won over my girlfriend makes it that much sweeter.