Google Nest Hub Max Review

A bigger and better Google Assistant smart display experience.

Verdict

Not just bigger than the original Google Nest Hub, the new Google Nest Hub Max is a better product all round. The larger display makes it easier to see what’s going on, although it would be nice if there were more options for playing video. Sound has been improved and the Nest Hub Max is now a decent music player in its own right. With the camera, you can now make video calls and you get Face Match for personalised results. You can also turn the Hub Max into a full security camera. The requirement for a Google Account (not G Suite) is a little annoying but if you’re looking for the best Google Assistant-powered smart display, this is the one.

Pros

  • Face Match works brilliantly
  • Can act as a security camera
  • Excellent sound quality

Cons

  • Few video playback options
  • Nest integration doesn't work with G Suite accounts

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £219
  • Google Assistant
  • 250 x 182 x 101mm
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Microphone mute, volume
  • 6.5-megapixel webcam
  • 2x 18mm tweeters, 1x 75mm woofer
  • 10-inch, 1280 x 800 touchscreen

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.
We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Free Google Nest Hub Max with Vodafone broadband Black Friday deal

Vodafone Unlimited broadband with free Google Nest Hub Max

Buy Vodafone's superfast broadband this Black Friday, and you'll get a free Google Nest Hub Max smart display bundled in. You can also choose between a minimum download speed of 25Mbps or 55Mbps, giving your internet connect incredibly high speeds

It would be easy to dismiss the Google Nest Hub Max as a bigger version of the existing Nest Hub (previously the Google Home Hub), designed to combat the threat of the bigger Amazon Echo Show. That would be a little unfair, as the new model isn’t just bigger, it’s got a radically improved set of speakers, a higher-resolution display and can even act as a Nest security camera.

Google largely nails what a large-screen smart display should be, but it’s a shame that there are limited ways of watching video.

Google Nest Hub Max – What you need to know

  • Screen quality: With impressively low reflections, the screen is easy to see from anywhere, but, close up, the 1280 x 800 resolution isn’t quite as sharp as the Full HD Amazon Echo Show.
  • Sound quality: Dual tweeters and a woofer deliver powerful audio that’s great for music or video.
  • Usefulness: The touchscreen makes this more useful than a voice-only speaker, but given the large screen I’d like to see more options for playing video.

The Google Nest Hub Max looks fantastic but it could do with a shutter for the camera

Arguably, the Google Nest Hub was the best-looking smart display, so it’s good to see that Google hasn’t strayed far from the original’s design with the Google Nest Hub Max. The main change is that the new model is a lot bigger thanks to its 10-inch display. Measuring 182 x 250 x 101mm, this smart display takes up a similar amount of space as the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen).

Google Nest Hub Max vs Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)

The Nest Hub Max (right) is similar in size to the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)

I love the material base with the floating screen sitting on top – it gives the Google Nest Hub Max a refined and grown-up look, and means that the display should fit into most rooms, from the kitchen to the bedroom.

On the rear, there are volume controls and a privacy switch, which lets you turn the microphone off to stop the Nest Hub Max from listening out for your voice. Strangely, there’s no switch to turn off the camera on the front, nor a physical shutter. Given that Google cited privacy as one of the reasons that the original Nest Hub didn’t have a camera, not having any physical camera privacy controls seems a bit of a waste here. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen and you can disable the camera, but a shutter would have been nicer.

Google Nest Hub Max rear

There are volume controls and a privacy switch but no camera shutter

The Google Nest Hub Max’s camera is more than just a webcam, it’s a full-on Nest camera and has facial recognition

Where other smart displays, such as the Lenovo Smart Display 10, had cameras, their only real use was to make video calls using Google Duo. Indeed, you can use the Google Nest Hub Max’s 6.5-megapixel camera for this, although there’s a neat trick here.

Rather than presenting a static image, the Google Nest Hub Max uses its 127-degree wide-angle lens to zoom and track whoever’s speaking. It makes it easier to stay in frame when making a video call than on devices with a static camera feed.

Google Nest Hub Max video calling

The camera can track you as you make video calls

Beyond video calling, the camera here has a few good tricks. Firstly, it’s used for Google’s New Face Match technology. When you first register the Google Nest Hub Max, you’re asked if you want to scan your face with your phone, with the understanding that data is processed locally.

With Face Match, simply looking at the Google Nest Hub Max will show you personalised data linked to your account, including suggested news stories, upcoming appointments and reminders. It works brilliantly and is easier to use in practice than Voice Match, which requires you to speak before a Google Assistant device can work out what information to show.

Secondly, you can use the camera for security, adding the Google Nest Hub Max into your Nest account to work and act like any other camera in the line-up. At the most basic level, you can just monitor the camera feed. For security, the Google Nest Hub Max has a green light on the front that shows that the camera is being used for monitoring, and you get a message and a flashing green light when someone’s viewing the feed. When viewing stops, the Google Nest Hub Max shows you a message to tell you that viewing has ended.

Google Nest Hub Max camera recording light

The green light shows you that the camera is active and recording

If you upgrade to a Nest Aware subscription you get more features, including continuous recording, Activity Zones to tell the camera where you want to focus, and smart notifications that are only sent when a person is spotted. I couldn’t get Familiar Face detection to work (this feature should mean Nest sends you a notification when it spots someone that it’s seen before). It works brilliantly on the Nest Hello, Nest Cam IQ Indoor and Nest Cam IQ Outdoor cameras.

Google Nest Hub Max Nest app

With the Nest app, you get all of the security camera tools you’d expect

 

 

There’s another potential issue: to get the Google Nest Hub Max working with Nest, you have to migrate your Nest account to a Google one. That sounds easy enough, but if you use a G Suite account (paid-for Gmail), you currently can’t convert your old account to a Google one. Instead, you have to create a separate Google Account and use this. You then have to connect the Google Nest Hub Max to the same Google Account, which may mean resetting and starting over again. In short, Google has once again made it unnecessarily complicated by choosing to penalise people with G Suite accounts.

Once the camera is working, images are recorded at a resolution of 1152 x 864, which is lower than the Full HD cameras in the Nest range, such as the Nest Cam. Image quality during the day is surprisingly good, with a sharp image and plenty of detail. At night, there’s no IR option, so the picture is practically useless. Think of this as an additional security measure, rather than a replacement for a security camera.

Carpet test: Daylight image (left) vs night image (right) – move slider to compare

Related: Best security camera

The camera is also used for Quick Gestures. If you’re playing music or a video, you can look at the screen and raise your hand to pause playback; do it again, and playback starts again. It’s a neat trick that lets you quickly pause what’s going on. Quick Gestures also work with timers, letting you stop them without having to use your voice.

Google Nest Hub Max Gestures

The Google Nest Hub Max has a brilliant interface with great smart home controls and an intelligent voice assistant

The Google Assistant powers the Google Nest Hub Max. As I’ve said before, in terms of being able to intelligently understand what you’re asking, the Google Assistant is conversationally more adept than Alexa. It’s the little things that set it apart, such as being able to say, “OK, Google, weather today,” followed by, “OK Google, and tomorrow.” In this case, Google understands that “and tomorrow” means that you want to know what the weather is like for tomorrow.

You can ask for your upcoming calendar appointments, too, although you’d better be on a normal Gmail address as Google still doesn’t support G Suite accounts for this, even though Amazon does on its Echo devices. Powered by Google’s services, the results are often a lot more accurate than with Alexa, including better local business results and better search results. In all cases, the screen is used to show supplementary information, making the audible response easier to interpret.

There are cases where the screen makes things a lot easier, too. Ask for directions, for example, and the Google Nest Hub Max turns to Google Maps, showing you the results on the screen. You can also change the transport type using the touch options, to pick walking or cycling, for example, over the default driving directions.

Ask for recipes and you’ll find that the results are far more accurate here than with the Echo, with results neatly formatted to fit the Google Nest Hub Max’s screen.

Even when you haven’t asked for anything, you can tap the home screen to see an intelligently designed list of suggested content, with cards showing you top stories, YouTube recommendations and Spotify suggestions, among others.

If you want to control your smart devices, the Home View option works brilliantly. A quick swipe down from the top of the screen brings up Home View, which lets you control your smart devices using touch rather than your voice. For lights, this even means controlling colour and brightness alongside simple on/off controls. And I love the fact that the Google Nest Hub Max knows which room it’s in, so it displays a shortcut to turn off any local smart lights that you have.

Google Nest Hub Max smart home control

Neatly, if you use your voice to, say, turn on a light, the touch controls appear on screen for fine-tuning the experience – for example, dialling up the brightness or changing the colour of the lights.

Routines can be triggered from the Home View section, too. Google Assistant routines are powerful, although it has to be said that Alexa has slightly more powerful options. Alexa still has a slight lead on device support, too.

The Google Nest Hub Max has a great screen for video but few options on what to watch

Google has used a high-quality 10-inch screen here with a resolution of 1280 x 800. That’s a little lower than the Full HD display that Amazon has used in the Echo Show. Close up, you can tell the difference, with the Google Nest Hub Max making text and images look a touch softer. Step back and the differences between the two are harder to see.

Google has fitted an ambient light sensor to the screen, letting it adjust the colour temperature and brightness of the display based on the ambient light. This tech, called Ambient EQ, works brilliantly, and the Google Nest Hub Max’s screen is always easy to read under all lighting conditions. The display isn’t overly reflective, either.

You can set what you show on the screen and even pull in albums from your Google Photos account. Well, you can if you have a regular Gmail account, as this feature doesn’t work with G Suite accounts.

A screen this size should be ideal for watching video but the options are quite limited. YouTube is built in, but there is no integrated support for other players. Google has built in Chromecast, but the options are strangely limited: you can watch BBC iPlayer content by casting from your phone, but you can’t do the same thing with Netflix, which is just weird. There’s also no support for Amazon Prime Video, which the Amazon Echo Show does have.

Google is definitely missing a trick here and I’m hoping it updates the Google Nest Hub Max with more support for other video players soon.

Sound quality is excellent from the Google Nest Hub Max

If there’s one area that I can’t complain about, it’s sound quality. Google has fitted dual 18mm 10W tweeters and a single 75mm 30W woofer. The result is louder, more dynamic and more powerful sound than on the slightly weedy Google Nest Hub. There’s a great deal of balance, too, with the bass not overpowering and a fairly wide soundstage that delivers on detail.

The presence and capability on show here make the Google Nest Hub Max ideal for playing music in smaller rooms, and you won’t be reaching for another speaker immediately. Of course, it’s not perfect and high volumes can overwhelm the system a little, with a touch of distortion. It’s a minor complaint and the Nest Hub Max is a long way ahead of its predecessor.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Free Google Nest Hub Max with Vodafone broadband Black Friday deal

Vodafone Unlimited broadband with free Google Nest Hub Max

Buy Vodafone's superfast broadband this Black Friday, and you'll get a free Google Nest Hub Max smart display bundled in. You can also choose between a minimum download speed of 25Mbps or 55Mbps, giving your internet connect incredibly high speeds

Should I buy the Google Nest Hub Max?

The Google Nest Hub Max is a step up from the original in almost every way. The larger screen and more powerful audio make it a better-rounded device for entertainment, although it’s slightly disappointing that you can’t stream more video services to it.

It’s the camera that really changes things, turning the device into a functional security camera and giving you that extra bit of peace of mind. Well, provided that you don’t have a G Suite account that is; if you do, then getting the Nest side working becomes far more of a struggle than it should be.

As with previous smart displays, the Google Nest Hub Max slots into your home effortlessly and makes particular sense if you’ve got other Google Assistant smart speakers and compatible devices, such as the Nest Hello doorbell.

If you’re largely an Amazon Echo household, the Echo Show is still a better choice for you and that model lets you watch your Prime Video content, too. Amazon still has a slight advantage when it comes to the smart home, with more powerful Alexa Routines, better Sonos integration and slightly better overall device support.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

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