Google's latest Nest Hub is an interesting device. As a smart speaker, it's fine. That is, it's not as nice as other options in the same price range, but the sound quality is reasonable for a small speaker with a screen on it. On the other hand, as a screen you can interact with, it's--well--also fine.
Meaning, it's not great. Its big brother, the Google Nest Hub Max is more capable--and more importantly, faster. This version is a little slower than what you would hope for in a device you can use to do things like check the weather, play music, or control other smart devices in your home.
It's that last purpose where you'll notice it most, since no one wants to ask their Google Assistant to turn on the lights and have to wait a few seconds to find out if it heard them, and understood. By then, you might as well find the switch.
All of that said, for $99, there is something the Nest Hub is very good at: tracking your sleep. Although, before you spend $100 on it, there are two questions you should probably ask. First, is tracking my sleep something I should be doing? And if it is, what's the most effective and accurate way to do that?
If you answer yes to the first question (which you should, for reasons I'll explain in a moment), the Nest Hub is definitely a contender. Then again, it is from Google, which means there's another logical question: Whether it's something you want in your bedroom--which is definitely where the Nest Hub is designed to live, and where it excels.
It excels because it has an advantage over much of the competition in that it isn't something you have to wear. I've worn an Apple Watch Series 6 since it came out, another device that boasts its ability to track your sleep. It does a good job and, compared with previous versions, I do like the fact that the better battery life means that it's something you can wear all night.
Still, if I had to choose, I'd rather not. One reason is that the band I prefer to wear (a Nomad leather band) isn't the most comfortable to wear at night. Yes, it's simple enough to change the band every night, but who wants to do that?
I've heard plenty of people say that they don't need a device to tell them when to go to bed--they're an adult, after all. They'll do what they want, when they want. Except, adults in general are notoriously bad at getting enough sleep. There are probably a lot of reasons for that, but most people don't have a way to quantify it--which means they aren't solving the problem any time soon.
That's a shame because sleep is one of the most important things you can do to be more productive. Seriously, it's almost impossible to be at your very best when you're tired and overworked. Unfortunately, for most people, the myth of doing more gets in the way of actually accomplishing more, which is a far better measure of productivity.
As for the privacy aspects, the Nest Hub notably does not have a camera. Google says it uses Soli, which is basically a tiny sensor that uses radar to detect movement. For tracking sleep, the Nest Hub only monitors your breathing and movement, and translates it into an algorithm that it detects as sleep.
I used it for a little over a week and compared the results to my Apple Watch. found that the Nest Hub was very reliable. More importantly, it helped me see how often I actually got to bed and went to sleep when I wanted to.
In the same way that stepping on a scale every morning is one of the most effective ways to lose weight, staring at data about how much you sleep can help you get a better night's sleep. At the very least, it can motivate you to stick to a routine, which is an important place to start. If it does, it just might be the best $99 you spend all year.