When it comes to Mother’s Day gifts things can be a bit hit or miss, but pictures of kids and grandkids are always a slam dunk hit. The Google Home Hub, with its beautiful picture mode and ease of use, is a perfect gift for mom.
A quick note before we dive in: Yesterday announced the Google Home team is merging with Nest and the Google Home Hub is now known as the Google Nest Hub—we don’t make the name changes, we just report them. Nobody but Google itself has updated their storefronts to reflect the name change yet, however, so for the purposes of this guide (helping you get a good Mother’s Day gift before this Sunday) we’ve stuck with the old name. If you happen to see the “Nest Hub” you’re looking at the same product, though. Back to our “Buy a Hub for mom!” argument.
The start of our search for the perfect Mother’s Day gift was driven by a few ideas we’d picked up over years of Mother’s Day gifting. First, almost all moms love photos—photos of their kids, photos of their grandkids, even photos of their grandpets. It’s almost impossible to go wrong with photos as a gift.
Second, almost all digital picture frames are pretty cruddy and suffer from a host of interface and usability issues. Many of us on staff had given digital picture frames as Mother’s Day (or birthday or Christmas) gifts to our moms over the years but inevitably found them lacking.
Either they didn’t have a cloud-based service and we were stuck updating them with SD cards (which, spoiler alert, never happened) or if they did have a cloud-based service it was just inconvenient to use or we forgot all about it.
Third, and not directly related to digital picture frames but related to Mother’s Day gifts in general, many Mother’s Day gifts are of fairly limited utility. There’s nothing wrong with getting your mom flowers or a book she wants, but a bouquet is not exactly a gift that keeps on giving. Call us overly pragmatic, but we like giving useful gifts.
The Google Home Hub was our 2018 Product of the Year pick for a pile of good reasons and many of those reasons directly overlap with the issues we just outlined. Here’s why we think a Home Hub is the perfect Mother’s Day gift.
First and foremost, the Google Home Hub is an absolutely amazing digital picture fame. We keep every single Home Hub in our home and office and the slideshow mode because it’s just so damn good at it.
Unlike the digital picture frames you’re likely familiar with (and may have even gifted in the past) the screen on the Home Hub doesn’t look like a cheap computer monitor panel, has a high enough resolution that the pixels are undetectable even at a close viewing distance (and certainly undetectable at normal viewing distances), and—this is the real magic—sports and automatic dimming mode that makes it look like an actual photograph and not a digital screen.
There’s really no way to convey that last bit adequately in words or photos. It’s such a significant effect that if you put a Home Hub in your house and use the photo mode, you’ll continually find yourself forgetting that it’s a screen… that’s how much the dimming mode makes the photos look like actual photographs in a picture frame.
Great looking photos are only part of the equation though. Where the whole “Let’s get mom a digital picture frame!” plan falls apart is on the backend. You start off with the best intentions: you carefully pick out some photos, dump them on an SD card, set the picture frame up, and tell mom “Next time I’ll visit I’ll bring a new SD card with new pictures!” and then that never happens. Five years later you find the picture frame in a box somewhere with the same photos on it like some sort of time capsule.
The Hub completely solves the updating-is-a-pain problem. All you need to do is create one or more photos albums using Google Photos (a completely free service) and you’re in business. (If you’re not already using Google Photos, by the way, you really should. It’s an incredibly easy way to backup and manage your photos.)
You can keep it simple and create a single folder like “Mom’s Photos” or you can add multiple albums over time. If you make a monthly highlights reel or curate photos from special events like Easter or ballet recitals, you can easily add those folders too—if you need help getting things set up, we have an excellent tutorial on our sister-site How-To Geek to get you up and running.
Better yet, you can use a shared folder so your siblings and family members can add photos too. This way even if one of you forgets to update the folder for a while, somebody else surely will.
Finally, you can manage the entire thing from your phone. Mom wants the weather displayed? Doesn’t want it displayed? Wants the display to dim at night? Doesn’t want it to dim at night? Using the Google Home app on your phone you can preview the slideshow, make changes, and otherwise easily manage the device.
The previous two points—how great it looks and how easy it is to update and manage—are selling points enough in our book. For our purposes, we’d buy a Home Hub to give to mom as a photo frame based on that alone.
Where the Home Hub blows any competition in the niche out the market, however, is all the additional functionality. Even if ol’ mom never wants to do anything else with it but use it as a photo frame, it can display the time and weather right on the screen in the corner.
If she wants to do a little bit more with it, she can interact with it using simple commands including asking it about the weather, trivia, movie times, and a whole plethora of extra basic functions included with the Google Assistant.
Beyond that, you can dig a little deeper and give mom so much more than just photos and weather updates. With the Home Hub you mom can listen to (or even watch) news reports, enjoy podcasts, stream music, and all in a way that is really accessible even for somebody who wouldn’t normally sit down at the computer and mess around with podcasts or even consider signing up for a Pandora account.
The Home Hub really hits all the sweet spots. It displays photos beautifully. It’s easy to update to display fresh photos (and more than one person can update the photo directory). Even better, it’s useful for so much more than just looking at photos of the grandkids. With a little luck and a little coaching, you might find that your mom loves listening to podcasts as much as she likes looking at photos, and maybe she’ll even want some smarthome accessories to go with the Hub.
You can hit the button below to buy it directly from Google, but if you’re scrambling for a good last minute gift and need it in your hands right now, you can always buy it from Best Buy or Target and select local pickup.