The Google Nest Hub is a brilliant device – let down by a slightly underpowered speaker. It features a 6 inch screen and sounds on a par with the Google Home Mini. We were therefore expecting a bigger version of Google’s screen-based Home device to deliver a better all-round performance – and it has.
In terms of functionality, the Google Nest Hub Max does everything its smaller sibling does – just bigger. It’s more user friendly when being used as a recipe book replacement in the kitchen and offers a much better experience when coupled with YouTube Music videos.
However, the Nest Hub Max also incorporates a camera and by proxy becomes a great addition to your home security setup if you have one. It can act as a standard Nest security camera with the Nest app and can be set to enable when you’re away from home notifying you of any detected motion and sending you a direct feed to everything it can see. Some may see the camera as a privacy worry – especially in a living area and there is enough control to ensure it’s only enabled when you really want it to be.
The camera also integrates with Google’s Duo video chat service allowing you to communicate via video calls with any of your Google Duo using friends (right now, that isn’t very many of them but if you’re the person everyone wants to talk to that could change!)
Replacing the 6 inch touchscreen display with a much bigger 10 inch version is an instant winner – especially when the Nest Hub Max isn’t in use and stands in as the best digital photo frame on the market. Its vibrant screen and light sensor ensures that photos on display always look the best they can. The display offers a resolution of 1280×800 which might not be the highest definition on the market but its very rare you’ll be using the screen at a distance to notice. The only thing we’d have liked to see is some flexibility on the screen angle – it matches the smaller Nest Hub angle, but on a bigger device it at times it feels a little too laid back – a modicum of tilt adjustment would have been a simple and effective solution but it’s hard to complain when it looks as good as it does otherwise.
The other big benefit of the larger screen is the addition of a much, much better speaker than the smaller Google Nest Hub – that one sounded just slightly better than the Google Home Mini, this one is better than the standard Google Home speaker – it’s not quite up to the impressive sound stage that the Google Home Max offers but it’s definitely got enough weight and clarity in its sound to make it stand out. The speaker functionality is provided via two 18mm tweeters and a 75mm bass driver and the combination offers a good balance given the limited control over bass and treble.
We’d have liked finer grain control over the volume – the current 10-step volume scale offers jumps that are too big – although this is the same across the whole Home/Nest range.
In terms of how it actually looks in your lounge, or in your kitchen, there’s little to complain about. There are a couple of colour options – the off white we’ve come to expect and a nicer, darker grey – both look great and the speaker base doesn’t look at all out of place when placed out in the open. It’s a statement device and the photo frame functionality makes it feel perfectly at home on your lounge sideboard.
While the Google Nest Hub Max is mostly interacted with via voice control there is a rudimentary touch screen OS that gives you access to smart home features and to control music playback and volume. It’s basic – certainly not a full Android style OS, and that’s an intentional decision on Google’s part. The Nest Hub range is not supposed to be a static tablet replacement so it does need tablet functionality.
Most settings will be controlled via the Google Home app on your phone or tablet – including initial setup. There’s also the Nest app that you’ll need if you’re going to use the camera for its security functionality.
We’re already fans of Google’s ever growing Assistant powered ecosystem and the Nest Hub Max is probably our favourite device so far. Combining a good quality smart speaker with a nice, vibrant and functional display is a winner.
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