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Google Nest Hub Max review: Putting the Echo Show on notice

The Google Nest Hub – originally called the Home Hub, but since rebranded – realised Google’s vision for a smart display. But excellent as it is, it always left a question hanging: why so small? 

The Nest Hub Max addresses that size issue, keeping a similarly cute design but in a larger 10-inch display form. The Max also adds a built-in Nest camera, better sound capabilities and more features, including gesture controls.

Design

  • 10-inch display, 16:10 aspect ratio, 1280 x 800 HD resolution
  • Dimensions: 250.1 x 182.6 x 101.23mm / Weight: 1.32kg
  • Physical switch for microphone and camera activation
  • Finishes: Chalk / Charcoal

The Google Nest Hub Max is designed, in the style of the original, to minimise the footprint. That once again sees a display mounted on a fabric-covered pedestal. Everything has been scaled up, of course, but it retains the overall aesthetic of the original device, which we love.

It comes in Chalk or Charcoal colours. We have the Chalk on review, as you can see in our pictures, which is quite the looker.

Yes, it loses that super-cute factor that the smaller model has, but at the same time the design is more efficient than some of its competitors – such as the JBL Link View and Lenovo Smart Display. The Nest Hub Max provides a natural counterpoint to the larger Echo Show, too, but the design is better overall, with a narrow stance provided by its stand for a cleaner result.

It looks excellent on our kitchen worktop, though it’s worth mentioning that we have a relatively large kitchen so the Nest Hub Max doesn’t feel too imposing. Those planning to place the Nest Hub Max in a smaller room should consider how much they want the device to stand out.

The Nest Hub is certainly a more discreet option, offering many of the same features without standing out as much, but the 10-inch HD display on the Max means the larger device is much more convenient for viewing across the room.

The display is lovely, offering great vibrancy, punchy colours and plenty of brightness. Like the smaller model, it has an Ambient EQ light sensor to adapt the display brightness to the room’s surroundings.

The large display makes it ideal for things like YouTube videos, casting that episode of 13 Reasons Why from Netflix that you want to catch up on while cooking a lasagne, streaming your Arlo Baby camera, or using the device as a digital photo frame. Everything looks fantastic.

There’s a white bezel surrounding the display, punctuated by the camera top and centre – a feature the smaller Nest Hub lacks. Like the smaller model, physical volume controls and a physical privacy switch are both present on the rear, and the privacy switch will disable both the microphone and the camera on the Nest Hub Max. We’d rather it was a physical privacy shutter like on the Lenovo Smart Display, for added piece of mind.

It’s also possible to disable just the camera by swiping up from the bottom of the Nest Hub Max’s screen if you want to keep the microphone on. When the camera is on there’s a green LED light to let you know. When someone is watching the feed – with your permission, of course – the LED will blink and there will be an on-screen notification too.

Features

  • Google Assistant
  • Compatible smart home device control
  • Duo video calling
  • Face Match / Gesture support

The great thing about Google’s smart displays – including JBL and Lenovo, which run on the same software platform – is that they are all based on Google Assistant, so the experience across these devices is very much the same.

Unlike Android phones, there’s no skinning and changing the user interface; Google very much stays in control and the user interface is excellent – easy-to-use and simple to navigate. You can read our Google Home tips and tricks to help you navigate the interface on your Google Nest Hub Max to get the most out of it.

It means you get the many of the same features across all Google’s smart display devices, including excellent control of compatible smart home devices through Google Assistant, as well as on the smart display itself. We loved this about the Nest Hub and the experience is just as good on the Max, if not better on the larger display.

You can also read or hear news alerts, read or hear translations in Google’s Interpreter Mode, as well as stream any compatible smart home cameras – like Arlo or Nest – on the smart display, among plenty of other features.

But until the Nest Hub Max, there were a couple of differences between Google’s own smart display (Nest Hub) and third-party devices, in that the rivals devices offered built-in cameras. With the Max, Google also introduces a built-in camera, meaning it too delivers that experience.

That camera, on a basic level, enables Duo calling as you’d expect. Duo is a great service because it’s cross-platform, so you can call Android or iOS users, without the limitations imposed by Apple’s FaceTime. 

The camera on the Nest Hub Max is smart, so when you’re in a call, it focuses on the action and zooms in to make sure you’re in the frame. It’s meant that when on a video call to our partner, we could move around our kitchen and the camera would track and follow. It’s really smooth and effective in action and a brilliant feature to have on board.

The Nest Hub Max’s built-in camera also enables Face Match recognition. Like Voice Match, this allows Google Assistant to recognise your face and give you a personalised experience. It means that when you approach the Nest Hub Max, it serves you your personal calendar. The service supports up to six people, so it can be tailored to cover the whole family (unless you have a huge family), and it’s very easy to setup, but it isn’t designed as a security feature – it’s not using 3D scanning, it’s a simple 2D imaging process for convenience only.

The camera also enables gesture controls. This lets you pause and play music and videos by simply raising your hand to the camera, meaning there’s no need to use your voice or physically touch the display – great for when you’re cooking. It’s a great convenience feature that we used much more than we initially expected. We’d love to see more controls added in the future, such as swiping your hand to skip a track, or the ability to answer a Duo call.

Nest Cam functionality

  • Fully-functioning Nest camera
  • 6.5-megapixels
  • 127-degree field of view

Obviously you’ll have noticed this is a Nest device. It’s not a ‘Home’ product as per the original. The incorporation of Nest is more than just fancy branding, because the built-in camera on board the Max is a full Nest camera and definitely one of the reasons to buy this device. That means the Max can form part of your home security, offering a fantastic wide-angle view and a brilliant picture quality.

We have Nest cameras elsewhere in our home so the Nest Hub Max is a perfect fit for our home’s ecosystem, but even if you don’t have those extras then the built-in camera is great for keeping an eye on whatever room you place the Max in, allowing you to ‘drop in’ and have a look at what’s happening at home – even if you’re out.

It’s worth mentioning that those who do have Nest will need to migrate their Nest and Google accounts in order to setup and use the Nest Hub Max’s camera. Once you do this, you can’t go back, which means Works with Nest functions, like IFTTT, won’t work any more.

To get the most out of the built-in camera, you’ll also need a Nest Aware subscription – which you can read more about in our separate feature. A subscription will allow you to have the Nest Hub Max recording to offer continuous video history, as well as alerting you when it spots an intruder, close-up tracking, the ability to setup activity zones, and the ability to save clips and time lapses. If you don’t subscribe to Nest Aware, you’ll still be able to drop-in, so you can keep an eye on home in real-time rather than through recordings.

The built-in camera on the Nest Hub Max doesn’t offer familiar face detection, like the Nest Cam IQ, but it is capable of distinguishing between a person and an animal, for example. It also doesn’t have the same night vision capabilities as the Nest Cam IQ. 

Sound performance 

  • 2.1 speaker arrangement
  • 2x 18mm 10W speakers
  • 1x 75mm 30W woofer

One of the primary functions of smart speakers is music playback. With smart displays finding a natural place in the kitchen, they’ve become a primary music device, often replacing kitchen radios. 

Amazon realised that with the Echo Show and boosted the music offering for its follow-up. And Google has done the same thing with the Nest Hub Max. The larger device has more space in its base for better sound performance than the original.

The Nest Hub Max delivers great volume and it certainly sounds rich enough for music listening in the background – the sort of thing you’d do while cooking. At the higher volumes, it is quite bassy and vocals are drowned out, so it doesn’t offer the same quality sound experience as the Sonos One, for example, but it is significantly superior to the smaller Nest Hub.

We’d recommend sticking around volume six or seven – at volume 10 it distorts a little too much for our liking – but otherwise the Nest Hub Max is powerful and offers decent enough sound for those after a speaker, security camera and smart display all rolled into one.



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