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NASA, SpaceX bringing astronaut launches back to home turf

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — For the first time in nearly a decade, U.S. astronauts are about to blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil. And for the first time in the history of human spaceflight, a private company is running the show. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the conductor and NASA the customer…

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — For the first time in nearly a decade, U.S. astronauts are about to blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil. And for the first time in the history of human spaceflight, a private company is running the show. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the conductor and NASA the customer as businesses begin chauffeuring astronauts to the International Space Station. The curtain rises next Wednesday with the scheduled liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule with two NASA astronauts, a test flight years in the making. The drama unfolds from the exact spot where men flew to the moon and the last space shuttle soared from Kennedy Space Center. While Florida’s Space Coast has seen plenty of launches since the shuttle’s farewell tour in 2011 — even at the height of the coronavirus pandemic — they were for satellites, robotic explorers and space station supplies. The only route to orbit for astronauts was on Russian rockets. NASA’s newest test pilots, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, are launching from home turf with SpaceX presiding over the countdown. “Getting a chance again to see human spaceflight in our own backyard,” Behnken said. “That’s the thing that’s most exciting for me.” Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. This combination of undated photos made available by SpaceX shows astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley at SpaceX Headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. (SpaceX via AP) The cosmic-size shift to private companies allows NASA to zero in on deep space travel. The space agency is busting to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 under orders from the White House, a deadline looking increasingly unlikely even as three newly chosen commercial teams rush to develop lunar landers. Mars also beckons. “We’re building momentum toward a much more exciting future,” said John Logsdon, founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and a professor emeritus. The Russian launch site in Kazakhstan is out of the way and out of sight. Launching crews again from Florida is sure to fire up the public, Logsdon noted. Adding to the appeal is the flash generated by Musk, SpaceX’s chief executive, designer and founder who shot his red Tesla Roadster into outer space two years ago during the first flight of a supersized Falcon Heavy rocket. In a touch of Musk showmanship — he also runs the electric car company — Hurley and Behnken will ride to the launch pad in a gull-winged Tesla Model X, white with black trim just like the astronauts’ spacesuits and the rocket itself. The Dragon riders appreciate Musk’s hands-on approach. “On more than one occasion he has looked both Bob and I right in the eye and said, ‘Hey, if there’s anything you guys are not comfortable with or that you’re seeing, please tell me and we’ll fix it.’” Hurley said. In this April 10, 2020, photo made available by SpaceX, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoes final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.(SpaceX via AP) While trumpeting the return of astronaut launches, NASA is urging spectators to stay away because of the pandemic. But beaches near Kennedy are now open, and the local sheriff is welcoming visitors even though inside the space center, the number of guests will be severely limited. Among the exceptions: both astronaut wives — who have flown in space themselves — and their young sons. Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, is also going, and President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he’s thinking of attending, too. Liftoff is set for 4:33 p.m. EDT Wednesday. “It’s going to be a great inspiration to the country next week to see you two go aloft from the Kennedy Space Center,” Pence told the astronauts Tuesday. It will be just the fifth time NASA astronauts strap into a spanking new U.S. space system for liftoff — following Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and shuttle. NASA owned and operated all those spacecraft, built by contractors to NASA’s precise specifications. The commercial crew program, by contrast, calls for private businesses to handle and own it all, with input and oversight by NASA. Only three countries have launched humans — Russia, the U.S. and China in that order — making SpaceX’s attempt all the more impressive. “My heart is sitting right here,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, pointing to her throat at a news conference earlier this month, “and I think it’s going to stay there until we get Bob and Doug safely back from the International Space Station.” In this March 19, 2020, photo, astronauts Doug Hurley, foreground, and Bob Behnken work in SpaceX’s flight simulator at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (SpaceX via AP) Hurley, 53, a retired Marine, and Behnken, 49, an Air Force colonel, will spend one to four months aboard the orbiting lab, currently down to a three-man, half-size crew. They’ll lend a hand with experiments and possibly spacewalks, before ending their mission with an Atlantic splashdown, a scene not seen for a half-century. As liftoff looms, the two are hesitant to consider their place in space history. “It seems premature until we’ve pulled it off,” Behnken said. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the U.S. needs its own access to the space station in order to take full advantage of the $100 billion lab — the sooner, the better, pandemic or no. When shuttle Atlantis soared for the final time on July 8, 2011, with Hurley as the pilot under commander Chris Ferguson, NASA envisioned a gap of three to five years. Ferguson now works for Boeing, the other company hired by NASA in 2014 to transport crews. Plagued with software problems, Boeing’s Starliner capsule is still a year from launching with Ferguson and two NASA astronauts. While disappointed Boeing is trailing, Ferguson said he’ll cheer Hurley and Behnken from the sidelines. The SpaceX duo will lay claim to a small U.S. flag that flew on NASA’s first and last shuttle flights, and was left on the station by Ferguson and Hurley for the first commercial crew to arrive. “Regardless of who might get there first, it’s a win for America,” Ferguson said. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is rolled out of the horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP) NASA’s commercial crew effort builds on industry’s space station shipments, now in the eighth year. SpaceX led the field with its original Dragon cargo capsules. Musk’s California-based company was also first out the gate with its souped-up, tricked-out Dragon crew capsule. Crew Dragon made its debut early last year, launching successfully to the space station with a test dummy named Ripley after the “Alien” films’ hardcore heroine. But the next month, the capsule exploded on the engine test stand at Cape Canaveral, a monumental setback. Boeing’s Starliner capsule made its premiere last December with Rosie the mannequin, but ended up in the wrong orbit. Boeing will repeat the demo this fall, on its own dime, before putting Ferguson and the others on board. Wayne Hale, a retired space shuttle flight director and program manager who serves on the NASA Advisory Council, views SpaceX’s upcoming astronaut flight as an experiment with lessons carrying over to Artemis, NASA’s new-generation, moon-landing effort. Hale and others contend SpaceX and Boeing could be flying astronauts by now if Congress had provided more funding early on. The contracts with NASA are worth billions. NASA’s inspector general has estimated the per-seat cost for SpaceX at $55 million, while the price of a Russian Soyuz seat has averaged $80 million in recent years. Boeing’s Starliner will top that: an estimated $90 million a pop. An earlier NASA test pilot, Robert Crippen, wishes at least one space shuttle had kept flying until a replacement was ready. The longest previous hiatus between astronaut launches stretched six years — from Apollo-Soyuz in 1975 to the shuttle’s debut in 1981 with Crippen and John Young. Crippen also wishes the shuttle’s replacement was more futuristic-looking and landed on a runway. The capsule has the familiar cone shape, but inside touchscreens replace the customary, countless switches. The walls are gleaming white, not dull gray. There’s even a curtained-off toilet. It has built-in escape engines designed to fling the capsule off the rocket in an emergency, from the time Hurley and Behnken strap in until they reach orbit. “This crew will have a good escape system,” Crippen said. “John and I had our ejection seats, but they wouldn’t have done much for us on liftoff,” sending them straight through the rockets’ trail of fire. A capsule is generally simpler and thus safer than a winged spacecraft like the shuttle, Hurley and Behnken noted. In terms of launch power, the relatively small Falcon 9 has far less than the space shuttle did, another layer of safety. But it’s still just the second flight of the crew capsule, and “the statistics will tell you that’s riskier than the 15th flight or 20th flight of the vehicle,” said Hurley, a former fighter pilot. At the suggestion of its technicians, SpaceX added photos of Hurley and Behnken to every work order as a constant reminder that lives — not just freight — are at stake. “I don’t think I need to remind my employees how important this is,” Shotwell, the company president, said. “They remind themselves.” The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Best Cyber Monday 2020 deals: Save now on Kindle Oasis and Paperweight, Tomorrow deals on Chromebook, Dyson, and even more deals on Monday – CNET

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family. Black Friday is here and that means we’re only a few days away from Cyber Monday. This year, more than ever, we expect Cyber Monday to be…

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This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

Black Friday is here and that means we’re only a few days away from Cyber Monday. This year, more than ever, we expect Cyber Monday to be little more than an extension of the Black Friday sale events spanning the whole month of November, and we’re already seeing some of the deals that will be available from a few brands and retailers. Now, we strongly advise against waiting for Cyber Monday. If you have your eye on something and it’s on sale for Black Friday, buy it now. There’s little chance it will be cheaper after today. But if nothing you’ve seen already for Black Friday has compelled you to pull out your credit card, here are the best deals we’ve seen so far for the Black Friday after-party that is Cyber Monday. Many of these deals actually start Saturday, but a few won’t kick in until the big Monday. Some have already begun even though they were slated for tomorrow. Grab the deals now while they’re hot!

Black Friday 2020 sales and deals

Amazon

The Kindle Oasis usually sells for $250, but you can save $75 on Cyber Monday. This ad-supported model has 8GB RAM and a 7-inch 300 ppi Paperwhite display and is fully waterproof for casual bathtub reading.

Amazon

The Fire HD 8 has an 8-inch display (the 8 is for its size, not a version number), 32GB storage and a 12-hour battery life. Usually $90, you can snag one for $55 on Cyber Monday.

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They’re usually $25, but you can snap up these handy Wemo Smart Plugs for just $15 on Cyber Monday. Use them to control anything you can plug in with Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant. About 45% smaller than the previous model, this plug won’t cover both outlets, leaving the second one free to use.

Tineco

Tineco’s A10 Spartan is a lightweight cordless stick vacuum that has a 25-minute run time and a handy trigger lock for continuous power. It easily converts from a full-size vacuum to a handheld for small cleanups. The wall charger conveniently also stores the accessories.

Amazon’s ever-popular Kindle Paperwhite comes in a handful of colors, is fully waterproof (because who knows where you’re going to want to do some reading) and, as the name suggests, has an easy-on-the-eyes Paperwhite display. The best part? The battery only needs a recharge about once every three or four weeks. It’s usually $130, but you can save $45 on Cyber Monday.

Deals starting Nov. 28

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The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are hard to talk about without comparisons to the iconic Quiet Comfort 35 II. They sound better, have more features (including Alexa and Bose AR and USB-C charging) and let you hear the world around you with transparency mode. Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review.

Hisense’s expansive 65-inch TV features a 4K LED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and DTS Virtual:X audio. The Android TV streaming video software can be controlled by voice via Google Assistant, plus it has Bluetooth and Chromecast support. 

Best Buy

You’d be hard-pressed to find a cheaper laptop. This two-in-one convertible touchscren from Lenovo is a Chromebook with a MediaTek MT8173C processor, 4GB RAM and 32GB of storage. The display is a 1,366×768-pixel HD IPS screen, and the laptop can be used as a standard clamshell, tented or flipped around into a tablet. It includes an HDMI port to output to a monitor or television and includes a card reader for photo (and other file) transfers.

Chefman

The Chefman ToastAir 6-Slice Convection Toaster Oven does double duty as an air fryer. It has a temperature range from 200 F to 450 F and includes seven presets for different baking tasks. The spacious 20-liter interior accommodates six slices of toast and most standard baking pans — you can even fit a 5.5-pound chicken without trouble.

Dyson

Dyson’s V7 Animal is good for people with pets thanks to its ability to clean up pet hair from any surface in your home. It weighs less than 6 pounds and does double duty as a full-height stick vacuum or a handheld vac for smaller messes, and runs for about 30 minutes on a charge.

Linksys

This Linksys AC1200 dual-band router is regularly priced at $90. It has speeds up to 867Mbps, four Ethernet ports for connecting to your wired devices and one USB 3.0 connection for adding external storage devices to your network.

Bowflex

This deeply discounted Bowflex treadmill features a 7.5-inch full-color LCD console that displays information like distance, resistance and even calories you’ve burned in real time while the hand grip monitors your heart rate, and it includes Bluetooth connectivity as well. It’s powered by a 3.75-continuous-horsepower motor that drives a 20×60-inch tread belt. You can incline up to 15 degrees.

Cyber Monday deals starting Nov. 30

HyperX

On Cyber Monday only you can save $40 on the HyperX Cloud Flight S Wireless Gaming Headset. It features 7.1 virtual surround sound and a 30-hour battery life with Qi wireless charging.

David Carnoy/CNET

CNET’s David Carnoy calls the Tribit StormBox Micro “one of the best-sounding pocket-size speakers I’ve heard.” Usually priced at $40, this speaker is fully waterproof and offers 8 hours of battery life. Read our Tribit StormBox Micro review.

Marseille

The Marseille mClassic is a plug-in dongle that promises to upgrade the graphics of your Nintendo Switch, original Xbox, PlayStation 3 or other legacy console by upscaling them to 1440p resolution.

Nixplay

Usually $260, you can save 15% on the Nixplay Seed Wave 13.3-inch Wi-Fi Digital Picture Frame from Cyber Monday through Dec. 6. It’s a wide-screen HD digital photo frame with a pair of built-in Bluetooth speakers. You can pair your phone, tablet or PC to stream music through the frame while displaying your favorite photos.

Linksys

The Linksys MR8300 is a tri-band router that promises to deliver speeds up to 2.2Gbps throughout your home. It has a four-port Ethernet switch built in and you can extend the wireless network by adding a Velop Mesh Wi-Fi node anywhere in your home.

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Black Friday 2020 phone deal: The OnePlus 7T hits an all-time-low $300 – CNET

The OnePlus 7T features, among other things, three rear cameras. Angela Lang/CNET This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family. In the old days, OnePlus made bargain phones. With the arrival of the OnePlus 8…

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The OnePlus 7T features, among other things, three rear cameras.
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This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.
In the old days, OnePlus made bargain phones. With the arrival of the OnePlus 8 earlier this year, however, the company moved squarely into the premium category. No more bargains, then? Actually, here’s one: For a limited time, and while supplies last, B&H has the unlocked OnePlus 7T for $300. That’s the lowest price I’ve seen; previous deals had it $100 higher. You can choose between the glacier blue and frosted silver colors.Compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile networks, this phone isn’t even a year old. It’s notable for its lightning-fast processor, three rear cameras, smooth 90Hz screen and in-screen fingerprint reader. It comes with Android 10 right out of the box. Alas, there’s no wireless charging, which is a deal-breaker for me.

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I learned all that and more from reading CNET’s OnePlus 7T review, which you’ll want to read as well. At the time, $600 seemed like a pretty good deal for a phone with such high-end specs. Now it’s $300 less.Even so, the OnePlus 7T faces stiff competition from the newer likes of the Apple iPhone SE ($399), Google Pixel 4A ($349) and Samsung Galaxy A51 ($399). But, wow, this brand has legions of devoted fans, so if you’ve been waiting for a good deal to come along, this is it.Your thoughts?Read more: The best Black Friday phone dealsRead more: The best phones for 2020

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First published earlier this year. Updated to reflect new availability.   Read more: All the latest OnePlus couponsCNET’s Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on tech products and much more. For the latest deals and updates, follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and check out our CNET Coupons page for the latest promo codes from Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon and more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page.

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Google’s Nest Hub smart display is still great – CNET

Editors’ note, Oct. 30, 2020: The Nest Hub debuted as the Google Home Hub in 2018. Google changed the product name in May 2019 to Google Nest Hub. The Nest Hub has been an Editors’ Choice winner since it launched, and it remains one of our favorite smart home products here in 2020. The review below…

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Editors’ note, Oct. 30, 2020: The Nest Hub debuted as the Google Home Hub in 2018. Google changed the product name in May 2019 to Google Nest Hub. The Nest Hub has been an Editors’ Choice winner since it launched, and it remains one of our favorite smart home products here in 2020. The review below has been updated to account for new competition from Amazon’s Echo Show smart display line. The Google Nest Hub may be small, but it’s surprisingly useful in lots of ways, from organizing your smart home to walking you through a complex recipe, to finding you a place to eat if your cooking efforts fall short. The small gadget is made mighty by the great Google Assistant, and the line is blurry between where the actual hardware of the Google Nest Hub shines and where the digital Google Assistant does all of the heavy lifting. That differentiation might not matter for your buying decision. The Hub, at a newly reduced price of $90, down from $130, is a smart display that combines the functionality of a voice-controlled smart speaker like the original Google Home with a touchscreen you can use to look at pictures, watch videos, browse recipes, control your smart home and more. Read more: The best smart displays of 2020If you’re a fan of Google and want a Google-centric smart home, or if you just like the idea of a smart speaker with a screen and want to try one out for displaying photos at home, or for the step-by-step recipe guides, I recommend the Google Nest Hub. The seamless touch controls and intuitive voice commands will even help the tech-phobic members of your family get used to it. The differentiation between hardware and software becomes much more important if you’re able to spend a little more and you’re willing to consider third-party smart displays alongside this Google-branded one. Google added a newer, bigger smart display called the Nest Hub Max, which has a 10-inch screen and a built-in Nest Cam with unique features including gesture control. Both Lenovo and JBL have recommendable 10-inch smart displays with Google Assistant built in and most of the same features as the Nest Hub. Read more: The best Google Assistant and Google Home devices of 2020Unlike most of the other smart displays, the Nest Hub doesn’t have a camera, which might be a negative for some, but privacy-minded folks will appreciate its absence. Otherwise, it offers all the same features as the other smart displays for a reasonable price. The Google Nest Hub is a cute, useful gadget, and an even better value now than it was when it debuted. 
What the Google Home Hub lacks in size, it makes up for in substance
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Good things in small packagesThe Google Nest Hub is tiny. It sort of looks like Google stuck a thin, 7-inch tablet onto a Google Home Mini smart speaker. It’s simple — a screen and a stand covered in fabric.It has two forward-facing microphones on a bezel surrounding the 7-inch screen. The middle dot between the mics is an ambient light sensor, not a camera. On the back of the Nest Hub you’ll find a switch that mutes the microphone and buttons for controlling the volume, and that’s it. If you want to do anything else with the Nest Hub, you’ll need to use its touchscreen or give it a voice command. That’s an ambient light sensor, not a camera.
Chris Monroe/CNET
You can pick from four colors for the fabric — chalk, charcoal, aqua and sand. We tested the chalk model, but all four colors are otherwise the same and all cost $90. You can buy the Google Nest Hub at Best Buy, Walmart, Target and other electronics retailers as well as online via the Google Store. (See here for the UK and Australia.)Google bundles a six-month trial of YouTube Premium with the purchase of a Nest Hub. The service costs $12 (£12, AU$15) a month after the trial ends and allows you to listen to YouTube’s music library without ads. The four color options for the Google Nest Hub.
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An entertainment hubYou don’t need a subscription to watch ordinary YouTube videos on the Nest Hub. You can search for them by voice and scroll through the options with your voice or with touch. YouTube gives the Google Nest Hub an advantage over the Amazon Echo Show. Google pulled the rights to the streaming site from Amazon’s competing smart display over a dispute in 2017. You can watch YouTube on the Echo Show, but only via a browser, which doesn’t respond to voice commands.Videos also look surprisingly crisp on the petite 7-inch screen. If you have a subscription to YouTube’s live TV service — YouTube TV — you can watch live TV on the Hub as well. It certainly won’t replace your main TV, but again, the picture looks good, so this feature could come in handy if you want to watch the news in the morning while you make breakfast.

Otherwise, you can watch streaming videos through services such as HBO Max and, as of this summer, Netflix. As with any of Google’s smart speakers, you can also issue a voice command to the Hub to start streaming Netflix on any of your TVs with a Chromecast streamer or Chromecast built-in. You have plenty of options for listening to music on the Hub as well. Other than YouTube music, you can sync your account for Pandora, Spotify, and Deezer. You can also set any of those services as your default, so Google Assistant will search there first when you ask it to play a song. Once you start playing music, you can use the Google Home app to customize the speaker equalizer settings if you want a little more bass or treble. You can also add the Nest Hub to speaker groups with other Google Assistant smart speakers or speakers connected to a Chromecast audio streamer. If you don’t like the sound quality of the Nest Hub, you can also set another speaker as your default and it will automatically start playing music on that device instead of through its own speakers.Smaller hardware, smaller soundFrom left to right, the Lenovo Smart Display, Google Nest Hub and JBL Link View.
Chris Monroe/CNET
You might not like the sound quality of the Nest Hub if you’re an audiophile. It’s fine if you want to listen to background music, but it’s not particularly loud or crisp. Unfortunately, the sound quality isn’t in the same league as other smart displays such as the Amazon Echo Show or the JBL Link View. In fact, the sound quality is more on par with Google’s smallest smart speaker, the Google Home Mini, which still beat the Nest Hub in our tests. Thankfully, the Hub’s microphones held up better under scrutiny. The Nest Hub understood my voice commands from across the great room of the CNET Smart Home. It even heard me from an adjacent room as long as I had the door open. It also fared well over background noise while I stood in the same room. Expect to need to speak up if you’re playing loud music, but that’s standard for any smart speaker. The second-gen Amazon Echo Show heard me more often from a greater distance, but the Hub’s mics are on par with those in the smart displays from Lenovo and JBL. A versatile personal assistantYou can issue a wide variety of voice commands to the Google Nest Hub. Plug it in and set it up on your Wi-Fi using the Google Home app, then, thanks to the built-in Google Assistant, you can ask Google Nest Hub any question you’d ask the original Google Home.As we saw on the Lenovo Smart Display and the JBL Link View, Google Assistant makes good use of the touchscreen with helpful visuals after you ask a question. Check the weather, and you’ll see illustrations of the forecast for the week. Search for local restaurants and you’ll see pictures of nearby places. You can use the Google Nest Hub to find a place to eat.
Chris Monroe/CNET
You can then scroll through the options and tap one for more details. Google will even show you how to get there on a map and send the directions to your phone. This will work automatically if you have an Android phone and it works on Apple’s iPhones too, as long as you have the Google Assistant app installed. You can also make calls with the Nest Hub. Since Google Assistant can recognize your individual voice, it can find numbers from your phone’s list of contacts and dial. The recipient will even see that it’s you calling. You can make video calls with the Hub too, but you’re limited to using Google Duo — Google’s mobile app for video chats. Since the Nest Hub doesn’t have a camera, you’ll be able to look at the recipient but they won’t be able to see you.

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You can always swipe right on the screen to go back a page, or swipe up for quick settings like volume and brightness. You can’t download apps or browse the web as you could on an ordinary tablet, but all of the content of the Google Nest Hub is meant to be visible from across the room. Other helpful features include routines, which are customizable grouped commands that allow you to play videos or podcasts, get directions to work and turn on your connected lights with a simple command like “good morning.” If you control your smart home with a voice command, you’ll see your device pop up on the screen. Change the temp of your thermostat, and you’ll see buttons and sliders to tweak the temp further or change the mode. All of these features are the same on all of the Google Assistant-equipped smart displays, and my favorite feature of both the Lenovo Smart Display and the JBL Link View has made its way intact to the Google Nest Hub. Search for a recipe by voice, or find one in your phone and send it to your display. Google Assistant will read the ingredients and directions out loud and you can see them listed on the screen.

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