Google Nest Hub Max review: The best Google Home in all but name

Google Nest Hub Max review: The best Google Home in all but name

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The Nest Hub Max is the first Google smart display with a HD resolution (Image: Google • Express Newspapers)

GOOGLE NEST HUB MAX – £219 (as tested)

  • FOR – Subtle but premium design • Excellent sound • Vibrant display • Built-in Nest Cam • Google Assistant is extremely capable
  • AGAINST – Display bezels are very noticeable

Things have changed for the Google Home. The smart speaker series has now adopted Nest branding, at least partially.

Last year the Mountain View firm launched the Google Home Hub, its first smart display. The hardware boasts the same built-in Assistant functionality as standard Google Home devices but also included a touchscreen that showed contextual information, and allowed users to watch videos from YouTube, and more.

Earlier this year, Google announced it would rebrand the Home Hub to the Nest Hub in an effort to unify its connected home devices – which include the hugely-successful Nest security cameras and smart thermostats that it acquired in January 2014 – under a single brand.

However, Google Nest Hub Max does much more than just adopt new branding. The device is the best example of how good a connected home device can be when Google and Nest work harmoniously together.

In fact, we’d go so far as to say this is the best smart home product you can buy. Full stop.

Design and display

You’d be forgiven for thinking the Google Nest Hub Max is just a larger version of the regular Nest Hub. The device flaunts a plastic and fabric exterior that is subtle but premium.

This time around the hardware totes a larger 10-inch display compared to the 7-inch panel offered by the standard Nest Hub. While the added screen real estate is fantastic, it’s the higher resolution that really makes it more pleasing to use.

The Nest Hub Max is the first Google smart display with a HD resolution. Yes, that’s right, the regular Nest Hub only had a resolution of 1024×600.

The higher pixel-count, combined with its larger size, were the two primary reasons we found ourselves streaming a deluge of video content on the Hub Max. The entire experience of watching video is more immersive than on Google’s smaller offering.

While the Hub Max’s display quality is great, the huge bezels that surround it leave much to be desired. Whether you pick up the chalk or charcoal variant of the device, the border around the screen is white, meaning it’s almost impossible not to notice.

On the back of the Hub Max you’ll find a switch that allows the device’s camera and microphone to be turned off manually. This will surely be a welcome feature for anyone that is cautious of their privacy.

For those that just want to turn off the smart display’s front camera, a software toggle exists to disable this singularly.

Google Nest Hub Max review

The Google Nest Hub Max is noticeably larger than the regular Nest Hub (Image: Google)

Performance

While the Google Nest Hub Max looks very similar to its little brother, it outperforms it across the board.

By far the hardware’s biggest improvement comes from its speaker setup. The Nest Hub Max boasts two tweeters and a woofer that combine to deliver punchy and loud sound.

Most importantly, the audio offered by the Hub Max is not muffled or distorted when listening at high volumes, something we found to be true with the regular Nest Hub.

Once again, the Nest Hub Max runs a proprietary operating system from Google that is simple enough to get your head around.

Owners can use gestures to unlock the device and access a range of card-like options that perform certain functions, like your most recently viewed YouTube clips, a shortcut to resume the latest playlist you’ve been enjoying, and detailed information about the other smart home gadgets in your home.

The cards displayed by the Hub Max will change based on context and time of day. For instance, at night time the device will offer to play “relaxing sounds” to put you in a soothing mood before you go to bed.

Google Nest Hub Max review

While the Hub Max’s display is great, the huge bezels that surround it leave much to be desired (Image: Google)

Of course, the product can perform a number of other functions, such as stream video, music and provide food recipes.

Google’s smart display also has a number of other nifty features worth shouting about with our favourite being the ability to showcase an image library from Google Photos when it’s not in use. This function, in particular, has let us relive many a cherished memory during our time with the device.

Better still, the entirety of the device’s features can be leveraged using your voice à la Google Assistant.

By far the biggest reason the Hub Max stands a cut above its smaller brother, is because of its 6.5-megapixel front-facing camera.

Not only does the sensor allow users to make and receive video calls and messages, it also means the Hub Max can recognise the particular face of a user and adjust its feed and alerts accordingly.

This means the product will highlight different news stories, YouTube videos and routes to work depending on who’s in the field of view at the time.

Unlike front-facing cameras on competing devices though, the sensor offered by the Nest Hub Max has a huge ace up its sleeve – it also doubles as a Nest Cam. That means owners can use the Google smart speaker to monitor their home when they’re away using the Nest app.

Google Nest Hub Max review

The Google Nest Hub Max comes with an array of smart home functionality (Image: Google)

For those unfamiliar, Google’s Nest app is free to use on Android or iOS smartphones and provides a real-time feed from the Nest Cam on the device.

Owners also have the ability to scroll through clips where activity has occurred during the day. Those that want to see more can subscribe to Google’s Nest Aware service that allows up to 30-days of continuous video history to be viewed.

Nest Aware comes in three subscription tiers – one that provides five-days of video history viewing, another for 10-days and a final option for 30-days. These plans cost £4, £8 and £24 per month respectively.

Overall, we found the Nest app simple and intuitive to use – the Hub Max itself was always extremely good at noticing activity and sending us notifications alerting to such instances.

It’s worth noting that when the Nest Hub’s camera is being viewed by an individual, a prompt will appear on the device itself alerting anyone at home to the fact. We think this is another great addition that ensures privacy is at the forefront of the device.

Google Nest Hub Max review

Google Nest Hub Max has a front-facing camera that allows for video calling (Image: Google)

Price

The Google Nest Hub Max costs £219 and we think it’s worth every penny.

Ugly bezels aside, the Hub Max boasts a gorgeous screen, a laudable array of smart home features and, of course, a built-in Nest Cam that should offer some peace of mind when you’re away from home.

What’s more, its price tag is exactly the same as the Amazon Echo Show – although the latter does throw-in a £15 Philips Hue lightbulb to control the lighting in your home with the smart home gadget – which offers a similar array of functionality but lacks the security element that makes Google’s offering so tantalising.

This is also the same reason we’d recommend the Nest Hub Max over Lenovo’s 10-inch Smart Display. And although Google’s smaller Nest Hub seems like a tantalising prospect for its £119 price, we think the extra £100 is worth paying for the superior screen, sound, and additional features on the Hub Max

The Google Nest Hub Max comes in two colours, chalk and charcoal.

Google Nest Hub Max review

Google Nest Hub Max’s front camera doubles as a Nest Cam (Image: Google)

Verdict

Simply put, if you’re in the market for a smart home device, the Google Nest Hub Max is the one to get.

Its exhaustive list of functionality, impressive sound quality, and built-in Nest Cam make it the most complete screen-boasting smart home gadget we’ve ever tested at Express.co.uk.

Sure, it might not be called the Google Home anymore, but the Nest Hub Max shows the US firm’s connected home series is better than ever.

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