Google Nest Hub Max (2019) review
Should I buy the Google Nest Hub Max?
As a smart display, the Nest Hub Max doesn’t articulate a particularly strong argument for why you need to spent the premium. Instead, it leaves that part up to you. Because if you’re already committed towards going for something bigger, this is kinda the obvious way to go.
Price when reviewed
In Australia, the Google Nest Hub Max is priced at AU$349.
Google Nest Hub Max full review
Pitched as a beefier version of last year's Google Home Hub (review here), the Nest Hub Max features a 10-inch HD screen, stereo speakers plus all the Google Assistant functionality you'd get out of a Google Home or Google Home Mini.
The benefits that this larger form-factor bestows are fairly self-explanatory. You get more screen space. You get better audio playback. However, as with the Home Hub, you’re largely going to limited by whether or not the content you want to watch is compatible when it comes to watching stuff on it.
Likewise, if audio playback is a priority, this isn’t better than something like a Sonos One. That being said, it’s still a fairly substantial upgrade over every first party Google Home speaker short of the Max.
You also get a built-in camera. This feature is used for video-calls via Google Duo, hands-free “reactive” gesture controls and new facial recognition tech. Whenever it sees you, the Nest Hub Max will invite you to engage with it rather than just sitting there passively. Whether or not this addition is nice or creepy depends on you but, either way, it is a feature you don't get with the other Google-made smart speakers.
The Google Nest Hub Max achieves in filling the gap it sets out to address. As far as Google products go, it’s fairly straightforward. If you’re looking for a Google Home Hub with a bigger screen or better audio playback, that’s exactly what you’ll get here.
Price & Availability
In Australia, the Google Nest Hub Max is priced at AU$349. You can buy it through the following:
At its current RRP, the Google Nest Hub Max sits at the same price as the second-gen Echo Show. It’s still cheaper than a HomePod but it is more expensive than similar offerings from Lenovo.
Design & Build
The Google Nest Hub Max is one of those products that’s more-or-less exactly what it looks like. It’s a bigger and better version of last year’s Google Home Hub and the consequences of that upsizing are pretty much what you’d expect.
It’s a little heavier to hold in your hands and a little more noticeable as a piece of tech but it does produce much better sound and the benefits of having a larger, nicer display are similarly self-evident. If audio playback is a priority, this isn’t better than something like a Sonos One but it’s still a fairly substantial upgrade over every first party Google Home speaker short of the Max.
Pitched as a beefier version of last year's Google Home Hub (review here), the Nest Hub Max features a 10-inch HD screen, stereo speakers and all the Google Assistant functionality you'd get out of a Google Home or Google Home Mini.
Like those products, the Google Nest Hub Max features a fairly reliable ambient light sensor that adjusts the brightness on the screen to suit the environment around it. If you’re planning on using the Nest Hub Max as a digital photo frame, this is a great feature to have. I found it noticeably less stressful on my eyes in darker settings than the Lenovo Smart Display that I relied on previously.
The most noticeable thing that the Nest Hub Max features that you won’t find in the Home Hub is a camera, which is used for a bunch of different things but mainly allowing you to make Google Duo video calls. The camera doubles as a Nest Cam and can be used with the Nest App. It also makes for a significant contrast to the regular Home Hub, which doesn't feature any built-in cameras.
If you're already using the Nest ecosystem in your smart home, this might be a compelling way to tie everything together. If not, you can always turn it (and the microphone) off using the physical switch on the back of the unit.
Specs & Features
Screen Size: 10-inch
Screen Resolution: 1280 x 800
Dimensions: 250.1 x 182.6 x 101.23mm
Weight: 1.32 kg
Smart Assistant: Google Assistant
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 5
Ports: DC power jack
Camera: 6.5-megapixel (wide-angle)
Color: Chalk, Charcoal
To begin with the Nest Hub Max feature new hands-free gesture controls and uses facial recognition to determine different users in a similar way to the already-existing Voice Match tech. Whenever the Nest Hub Max recognises you, it’ll then offer up dynamic suggestions about things that you can use the smart display to do. For example,
On paper, this sounds kinda superfluous but, in action, it does help the Nest Hub Max just feel a little more advanced than previous Google Assistant-enabled smart displays. It feels like it's actively trying to invite you to engage with it rather than just sitting there passively.
The "Reactive" touch controls that will appear on the screen when the device detects someone approaching the speaker fulfill a similar purpose and save you a few more seconds.
While the use-cases for this kind of product are ultimately limited by both your imagination and the capabilities of the Google Assistant, there are four main uses you’ll probably find for this thing. Let’s go through them one-by-one.
Music. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys summoning music using their voice, the Google Nest Hub Max totally lets you fulfill that fantasy. Functionally, this aspect of the experience is basically the same as a regular Google Home. The main advantage you get from using the Nest Hub is that’ll it’ll sound better as a result of the beefier hardware involved. Again, it’s not as good as something more dedicated to audio playback but it’s definitely an improvement.
Watching things on the Nest Hub Max’s display is also an improvement over the Home Hub. The screens bigger, which is nice. It’s also higher quality, which is nicer. Still, as with the Home Hub, you’re largely going to limited by whether or not the content you want to watch is compatible. You can ask it to show you Twitch or Youtube content on the Nest Hub Max’s display but you can’t do the same with certain other streaming services - for example Netflix.
The most common use I personally found for the Google Home Hub and the Lenovo Smart Display was as digital photo frames. The Google Nest Hub Max isn’t too different in that regard. I found images looked significantly better but the larger size means that it isn’t going to suit some smaller vantage points. It’s less easy to squeeze onto a shelf. It demands a space of its own.
Last but not least, you can use the Google Nest Hub Max as a smart hub. As with the Home Hub, it comes with a nice interface that allows you to quickly and easily manage any smart devices. Unfortunately, it lacks any sort of built-in Zigbee hub - which means you can’t use it with any Z-wave smart tech. If that matters to you, you might be better served by opting for the Echo Show, which does feature said connectivity.
The Bottom Line
The Google Nest Hub Max isn’t bad but it is a little obvious. I get the sense that if you laid out all the features found in each of Google’s smart speaker and smart displays on a grid, the Nest Hub Max would be the inevitable attempt to fill in the gap between the Home Hub and the Google Home Max.
As a smart display, the Nest Hub Max doesn’t make a particularly strong argument for why you should pay a premium for the better option but if you’re already committed towards going for something bigger, it makes a strong case itself as the obvious choice.
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