The first 9 things to do with Google Home Hub

Set it up the right way and you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
5 min read

Got your hands on a new Google Home Hub ? This compact smart display is Google's latest smart speaker and display, and it can help streamline your life.

Once you've plugged it in and set it up, here are the first things to try with it.

Read more: 27 must-know tips for your new Google Home speaker

Everything the Google Home Hub can do

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1. Decide where to put it

First, figure out where in your home the Home Hub will live.

Because it doesn't have a camera, unlike the Echo Show or Facebook Portal , you may feel more comfortable keeping the Hub in a bedroom than some devices. It works well on your nightstand, showing you relevant info when you wake up, such as the weather, your calendar and traffic on your commute. The ambient light sensor dims the screen at night so it'll be less disruptive to your sleep.

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The Google Home Hub is helpful in the kitchen, but in other rooms too.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The kitchen is a great option, since the Home Hub has powerful cooking tools baked right in -- you can call up guided recipes or access YouTube instructional videos with a voice command. More on that later.

When picking a spot, also consider one of the Home Hub's most useful features: It serves as a smart digital photo frame. That means you may want to keep it in a room where you often view or share snapshots, like a family room, den or home office.

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Use the Google Home app to set up and control your Hub.

Brian Bennett/CNET

2. Download the Google Home app

The recently revamped Google Home app (Android and iOS ) is essential -- you can't complete the setup process without it. 

It's the main nerve center for your Home Hub, plus it links to other connected smart home devices. Download the software on the phone or tablet you use most. 

3. Teach the Hub to recognize your voice

Voice commands are a large part of how you interact with Google's Home devices, and the Home Hub is no exception. Google Assistant also has the power to recognize voices and associate them with individual users.

That means that when you ask about your calendar events, you'll get results from your own account. When someone else asks the same question, their results are displayed instead. You can get personalized answers to vocalized questions about your agenda, local weather, curated news reports, entertainment and other things. (However, be aware that fooling the voice recognition isn't hard.)

We have a full how-to guide on how to add multiple accounts to Google Home right here

4. Give your kids access to Google Home

For Google Assistant to give personalized info to everyone in your home, they'll need their own personal Google accounts. For kids under 13 years old, Google has created the Family Link app. It gives parents a way to create Google accounts for their young children and offers numerous parental controls. That includes blocking or allowing the use of specific apps and enabling SafeSearch (which filters out mature search results). Family Link also lets parents turn Google Assistant off entirely for specific accounts.

5. Set some downtime

There are times when the Google Home Hub can be a distraction, even downright disruptive. Kids' bedtime and family meals are prime examples. Thankfully, the Google Home app offers a way to limit access to Google Assistant across one or all Google Home devices.

Open the app, then tap the icon for your Home Hub. Next tap the gear icon for Settings > Digital wellbeing > Set up. At this point the app asks if you'd like to enable content filters, or to skip ahead. Skipping takes you to the Schedule Downtime menu screen. There you can enable custom schedules that'll turn Google Assistant on and off.

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The Google Home Hub shows video content on demand. Make sure what the kids ask for is screened appropriately. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

6. Filter content

Since the Home Hub has a screen, you can use it to watch videos on YouTube. If you want to prevent your kids from watching certain kinds of videos, you can set up filters.

For instance, you can filter out explicit video and music from search results, or block access to them altogether. You can also block phone calls, answers to questions, Google actions and games (from Google or third parties).

You have the option to limit content for everyone, or just "supervised accounts" -- ones managed by Family Link. You can set these restrictions on all devices, or single out particular ones.

In the Google Home app, go to Settings > Digital wellbeing > Set up to create filters.

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The Google Home Hub can serve as a control center for your compatible smart home devices.

Chris Monroe/CNET

7. Control your smart home

Whether you own a single smart bulb, or legions of smart home devices, your Home Hub offers a simple way to control them.

Swipe down from the top of the Hub's screen to expose the Home View menu. A row of icons and text shows categories of devices around the house. You'll find categories like "lights," "thermostats," "cameras" and "locks." Hit any of the icons to jump into basic control menus for them.

Tapping the "view rooms" button pulls up a list of your smart items, but organized by room assignment instead. The Hub will only show products and appliances you've linked to the Google Home app. You can always add more, including third-party gadgets , through the app.

From the app home screen, tap Add > Set up device. Remember to have your account info handy since the app will prompt you for it.

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The Home Hub acts as a sophisticated digital picture frame too.

Chris Monroe/CNET

8. Set up a screensaver

The Google Home Hub's killer feature is "ambient mode," particularly when paired with Google Photos .

Like a screensaver, the function transforms the display into a slick digital photo frame. In the Google Home app, select your Home Hub. Then tap Personalize ambient > Google photos > Select family and friends.

Now choose people you'd like to showcase. They should all be grouped by faces, and possibly names if you've previously tagged them in the Google Photo app.

Google Assistant then takes the "best" photos of the people you choose and builds a slideshow that will cycle through on the Home Hub screen. And, since the app recognizes faces, any new photos you take and upload to Google Photos will appear in this gallery automatically. That's what I call family-friendly.

9. Get cooking

With a Home Hub, you might not need to open a cookbook ever again. Ask it for recipes for just about anything, and it will give you step by step instructions for thousands of recipes online.

Check out exactly how it works in this slideshow:

How the Google Home Hub can help you cook a delicious meal

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The CNET Guide to Smart Living: Everything you need to know to live smarter.

Smart Home 101: How to create your own smart home.