New Google Nest Hub Max review

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Erin Lawrence

google, nest, hub, max, speaker, screen, smart, review, how to, nest cam, video, audio, quality

This season we’ve seen a flurry of new smart home hubs, control centers, smart speakers and digital assistants. Google and Amazon are absolutely owning the market when it comes to these voice controlled home helpers, making versions in every size, shape and configuration, with speakers, with and without screens, and with digital displays. The latest is a premium version of the Google Nest Hub; a bigger, bolder Google Nest Hub Max.

What is Google Nest Hub Max?

Google’s Nest Hub Max is a smart speaker with display. It’s everything you love about the Nest Hub (released earlier in 2019) and the Google Assistant which supplies personalized help, answers from Google, control for your connected home and more. This version adds a bigger and more powerful speaker, larger 10″ screen and Nest Hub Max’s built-in Nest Cam features help you keep an eye on your home while you’re away. It can control your smart home gadgets with voice control, and the Hub Max is AC powered so it’s always ready to respond to you.

Let’s check out the two key features and how they stand up.

Sound quality: Google Nest Hub Max

I’ve had the original Google Home Max speaker in my living room for a couple of years and love it. It sounds great, it blends into my space and it’s got all the Google Assistant smarts. The Hub Max is a bit smaller, so I was curious about how it would sound.

Google says Hub Max’s stereo speakers were custom built to deliver full stereo sound, with a powerful rear-facing woofer.

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Listening to music is did indeed sound great—easily just as good as the original. The audio is clear, crisp and vibrant, and it’s gets plenty loud. There’s no noticeable bent towards the low end or the high, no raspiness or tinniness. ION short it’s a really great sounding speaker.

Video Quality: Google Nest Hub Max

Nest Hub Max’s has a 10-inch HD screen. you can watch YouTube videos just by asking or use the built-in Cast functionality, and you can stream from over a thousand apps to your Hub Max, essentially creating another streaming TV in your home.

The screen is definitely bright and beautiful. It’s got an ambient light mode that adjusts the screen brightness so that it blends into the room and never looks like a glaring TV set. I personally find it kind of small to watch TV on, but in a kitchen or a bathroom it might do the trick for you.

You can also choose what it displays, from artworks, to photography and even your own photos in a slideshow.

google, nest, hub, max, speaker, screen, smart, review, how to, nest cam, video, audio, quality

How is Next Hub Max (10″) different from Nest Hub (7″)

Before we get into the features, let’s take a quick look at the differences between original Nest Hum and Nest Hub Max.

Original Nest Hub has no camera, while Nest Hub Max has a Nest Cam built in. You can use if to making video calls or watching over your home.

The size difference is obvious; you’ve got a 7″ screen on the Hub and a 10″ screen on the Hub Max. The Hub Max also has a larger stereo speaker, and price is also a factor: Nest Hub $169, Hub Max $299

What can a Google Hub device do in your home?

Control smart home devices with voice

One of the greatest features of the Google Assistant is its ability to talk to almost any smart home gadget (with the exception of competitor Ring video doorbells and cameras I’m nonplussed to say). You can call out commands to adjust your lights, the thermostat, lock the doors, close the blinds, or adjust your music.

Use the built in Nest Cam camera to see what’s happening

If you don’t have a camera in the house like a Nest Cam, you can use the front facing camera on the Nest Hub Max for surveillance and monitoring. You’ll need to get it set up first and that’s not super obvious.

Open the Google Home app. At some point you should be prompted to Set Up Nest Cam at the top of your screen. If you see this pop up, great! Just click it to get started. Mine only came up after I initiated a Google Duo video call to the Hub Max.

Once you click on Set Up Nest Cam, you’ll link the camera to your Nest app account. After that you can access the camera feed from the Google Home app or via the Nest app.

google, nest, hub, max, speaker, screen, smart, review, how to, nest cam, video, audio, quality

Google Nest Hub Max, with original Google Home Max behind it.

Make video calls with Google Duo

I’m still hoping to come around on Google Duo. Initially I wasn’t super jazzed by the ability to make video calls on yet another app or device, but if you’ve got family overseas, this is a nice way to connect with them, minus huge bills.

Google Duo is essentially a video calling app that uses the built in camera. You’ll need to set this feature up on the separate Google Duo app and you’ll need to give it your mobile phone number, which I wasn’t pleased about.

Annoyingly, I can’t use my phone from my office to call into the Hub Max at my house. It’s just not possible. But you can use the Home app to view the camera, and enable the microphone, though that doesn’t create a two-way call where you can see eachother.

Conversely, if I’m at home, i can ask the Hub Max to call my husband… it’s just a one-way initiation by the looks of it. Maybe that’s for privacy?

google, nest, hub, max, speaker, screen, smart, review, how to, nest cam, video, audio, quality

Camera Quality: Nest Cam on Hub Max

The camera is pretty good quality. It’s a 6.5-megapixel camera with 127-degree wide field of view and auto-framing. It will actually track you as you move around the space during a Duo video call.

Even in low light, the camera still looks good and you’d easily be able to identify anyone in the video.

google, nest, hub, max, speaker, screen, smart, review, how to, nest cam, video, audio, quality

Customize your user experience with Face Match

The new Nest Hub Max has a feature called Face Match. This allows you to have a customized experience when using the screen. If you allow Google to read and map your face, the camera will recognize you when you step up to it, greet you with a Hello Erin on screen, and it’ll display your daily calendar, for example.

I couldn’t find any settings for it where I can adjust what it shows me, so I’ll have to spend some more time with this feature.

With Assignable Reminders, and Face Match technology, you can also ask the Assistant to create reminders for your partner or roommate to do things like pick up the groceries or walk the dog. You can set these for certain times, but it doesn’t as I first thought, remind them when it recognizes their faces.

If you have a Google Pixel Phone, you can set location-based reminders with a specific address or landmark. For example, if you want to remind Claire to pick
up flowers—and you don’t know the exact time she’ll be going shopping—just say, “Hey Google, remind Erin to pick up flowers when she gets to the City Hall C-Train station.” The Assistant will then create a reminder that will pop-up for when the Assistant recognizes that I’ve arrived at the Ferry Building.

google, nest, hub, max, speaker, screen, smart, review, how to, nest cam, video, audio, qualityUse Gestures on Google Nest Hub Max

The new Hub Max lets you use gestures to control the device if you’re standing near it. This feels a bit redundant since the whole raison d’etre of these devices if to make them voice controlled and hands free. But what do I know? Now you can hold up your hand to stop the music, or wave a hand to skip, but of course you have to be standing in front of the camera. You’ll also need to enable Camera Sensing inside the Google Home app or during set up to make this work.

The gestures feature seems to only work with some apps, like YouTube. I couldn’t get it to work with Google Play Music. Just hold your hand up for a second and it will pause. Put your hand up again to resume it.

google, nest, hub, max, speaker, screen, smart, review, how to, nest cam, video, audio, quality

Disable or enable Quick Gestures

Make sure your mobile device is on the same network as your Nest Hub Max.On your mobile device, open the Google Home App.From Home, tap your Nest Hub Max  Device settings Recognition & Personalization. Toggle Quick Gestures on or off.

What can Google Assistant do?

If you’re new to the smarts speaker-digital assistant market, you might be wondering what having one of these devices in your home can really do .

There’s a long list of what the Google Assistant can do for you, and all you have to do is say, “OK, Google…”

  • Do information searches and answer questions like you might otherwise type into google
    Watch or listen to media like radio, YouTube, news briefs etc.
    Get news, weather, sports, business, traffic info on screen
    Set timers, alarms
    Translate
    Do math & conversions
    Control your smart home; adjust thermostats, lights

Google Home is your own music curator concierge, too. Ask it to play you a genre of music and it will automatically put something on thanks to Google Play Music. You can also ask for things like soothing ocean sounds as well as rainforest noise for that spa effect, and the Assistant will deliver.

I talk to my Google Assistant devices all the time. It’s just so much easier to call out instructions, than to fuss with my phone.

Getting quick answers from the Hub about things like measurement or recipe conversions, a quick check of the weather or other instant information is quite handy. I was also surprised and impressed by how often the device was able to help me. I know sometimes with Siri you’ll simply get a, “sorry I did not understand your request” response. I would say 99% of my requests to the Google Home device were answered and resolved.

google, nest, hub, max, speaker, screen, smart, review, how to, nest cam, video, audio, qualityOverall review of Google Nest Hub Max

Overall I’m a fan of the Google Assistant ecosystem at home. The Assistant is smart and more than capable of helping with any request. I love the smart home control I get, and the screen and the speaker are both high quality for watching video or listening to music.

The addition of a camera on this device gives added options for home surveillance which is a nice added bonus.

I did find the need for three apps to use with the Nest Hub Max a bit much; needing Google Home, Nest app and the Duo app, not to mention the Google Assistant app for various tasks seems like overkill. Perhaps as Nest becomes more absorbed into Google that will change and become more centralized.

Overall, I like the Google Nest Hub Max and think it’s a capable, handy and fun device that looks and sounds great.

It sells for about $299CAD (the smaller 5″ Hub is about $169) from Google’s website or any number of retailers like Best Buy.

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