Google Nest Hub Max review: Google's vision of the smart home future
First came the Google Home speakers, then we got Home speakers with screens, and now we've got the Google Nest Hub Max – the ultimate Google-powered smart speaker for 2019. We've been testing one of the devices out for the past few weeks to see if it deserves a place in your home.
You're probably already familiar with a lot of what the Google Assistant can do. It can tell you the weather forecast, read out the news, check your calendar, warn you about traffic on the way to work, and look up just about anything from the web (from word definitions to celebrity ages).
Add in a display, and you get more visuals, obviously. You can see the weather forecast and your calendar, and ask for YouTube videos about how to cook pasta, or request pictures of the New York skyline.
The display does more than that though – it shows playback controls if you're listening to music or podcasts through the speaker, so you can skip tracks and pause the audio with a touch on the screen, rather than relying on your voice all the time.
On top of that the Google Nest Hub Max doubles up as a Chromecast device – you can cast video and audio to it from a bunch of apps on your phone, whether you want to listen to an audiobook, or watch a movie. Most popular media apps on iOS and Android now support the Chromecast standard, so it makes the Nest Hub Max much more useful.
You might want to queue up one of your playlists from YouTube, for example, or catch up with a show on Amazon Prime Video, or stream something from Plex. Netflix is the only big omission, because it's rather picky about what it considers a display suitable for watching content on, and the Google Nest Hub Max doesn't qualify.
There's more. The device can be used to make video and audio calls via Google Duo, and gives you access to all your smart home devices with a few taps (as long as you've added them to the Google Home app on your phone first). It can even double up as a Nest security camera, so you can view the camera feed from your phone from anywhere.
That embedded camera is one of the big differences between this and the standard Nest Hub, besides the size. If you're more concerned about possible privacy implications rather than streaming videos, the Nest Hub and its 7-inch display might suit you better.
So that's a quick overview of what the Google Nest Hub Max can do – what's it actually like to use? Slick and intuitive, in our experience. You can tell some real thought has gone into the hardware and software design of this device, and it's good enough to convert you to believing in Google's vision of the smart home (if you had any doubts).
There are impressive touches everywhere, like the way the Nest Hub Max can recognize your face and offer to read you the morning news (this optional facial recognition can also be utilized to make sure no one else in the family can get at your calendar and photos).
Speaking of photos, it makes a fantastic photo frame, either using curated pictures from the web or your own Google Photos. Viewing footage from Nest cameras around the home works really well – it's a lot of fun being able to check in on the porch and the back garden with just a few taps on the screen.
The 10-inch, 1,280 x 800 pixel screen is bright and sharp, and the stereo speaker system (two 18-mm, 10-W tweeters and one 75-mm, 30-W woofer) gives you more audio oomph than you would expect. Okay, it's not Sonos-level quality, but it can fill a room easily, and has enough audio fidelity to please most people – it's certainly a lot better than the audio you get from a Google Nest Mini.
With an elegant design, premium build quality, excellent visuals and audio, and on-board software that keeps on getting more intelligent with each passing day, the Google Nest Hub Max really is a fantastic bit of kit – perhaps the best device Google makes at the moment. It does so much, and does it so well.
You can buy the Google Nest Hub Max now from US$229, direct from Google and other retailers. The light gray chalk and the dark gray charcoal are the two color choices you've got for the speaker fabric around the back of the device.
Product page: Google Nest Hub Max