However that device didn’t fully compete with the Echo Show. Mainly, it only had a 7” screen, whereas the Echo Show has a 10”, putting it in no-man’s land competition wise. Amazon has since released the Echo Show 5 which more directly competes with the Google Home Hub.
Google has since revamped their Home division under the “Nest” name, which brings us to our latest device, the Nest Hub Max (awful name if you ask me).
The new Nest Hub Max has a 10.1” display, it has speakers good enough to fill the room, and even a camera.
I won’t go too in depth with the software, as it is largely the same as the regular Nest Hub, which you can read the review for here, but I will address some key differences further down.
But first, let’s start with the hardware.
Nest Hub Max Hardware
The overall design of the Nest Hub Max is pretty much identical to the Nest Hub, just about 50% larger. It has the same floating screen pedestal design, and the same soft fabric wrapped around the enclosure that I think is neutral and fitting in a modern home.
However, unlike the smaller sibling, the Nest Hub Max only comes in white and black, or Chalk and Charcoal as they call it. Perhaps Google felt that light pink and blue were a bit much on a large device.
As with other smart display’s, the screen is the main component, and I think this is the best screen on any smart display.
At 10.1” diagonally, it’s as large as the Echo Show, and even the Lenovo Smart Display 10, though not as gargantuan as Facebook’s 15” Portal Plus. It seems that the 10” display is the sweet spot for big enough to see across the room, but not too big that it stands out awkwardly.
The main feature this display has over its competitors is the Ambient EQ light sensor. What this does is it detects the light in the room, and adjusts the color temperature of the screen accordingly.
This means that during the daytime, it will be bright and blueish/neutral, but as it gets darker and your only source of light are your home lights, it will shift the display to be more orangey so that it isn’t strenuous on your eyes.
Some phones have been doing this for years, and while it may distort the colors in your photos a little, it will still be a nicer overall experience.
Because of the larger size it of course has larger speakers. There are two speakers at the base of the Hub facing forwards, with a 3” woofer at the back providing bass.
I feel just about the same way about all speakers in smart devices, they’re perfectly adequate for nice background music and playing YouTube videos.
You could easily get away with turning these speakers up a bit to provide some tunes for a party or get together. They’re loud enough to fill a large living space without distorting the sound too much. If you plan on using it as your main speaker for music, i would recommend tinkering with the EQ in the Goolge Home app to find a nice but in no way is it going to replace any real speaker setup you have, and that’s ok.
I wrote in the initial Nest Hub review that I thought it was a reasonable choice for Google to leave out a camera. Due to the general social climate in regards to privacy and tech companies, it was a safe choice. The Nest Hub’s size made it a great device that would live in your home office or on your bedside table, where a camera isn’t of much use. I also wrote that it could be because Google has no ubiquitous video chat service to speak of.
The front of the Nest Hub Max has a 6.5MP camera up front, however one thing to note is that there is no physical camera slider that covers it, like on the Echo Show 5. There is a button behind it that disconnects the camera and microphone electronics, but those that really don’t want the camera to ever see anything will have to either trust that the disconnect switch does what it is supposed to, or cover it with a sticker.
Various teardown have shown that the disconnect switches on these devices to indeed shut off the camera when toggled, which is great because you’ll probably want to utilize the camera on the Nest Hub Max in a couple of different ways.
Firstly, it integrates with Google Duo, which is you’re unfamiliar, is their video chatting service. It’s available on any mobile device and even in Chrome browsers. I think the main issue with this is more so awareness than technical implementation, as I personally don’t know a single person that knows about Duo, let alone that uses it. I have many thoughts on the state of Google’s messaging and video services, but I’ll leave that for another time.
When I reviewed the Facebook Portal, I was impressed by the auto framing it would do while you were video calling. While you were on a video call, the camera would follow you around the room, zooming and panning, keeping you in the frame for the person on the other line.
The Nest Hub Max implements this same technology. Since this device is designed to put in a central location like a living room or kitchen it makes sense that you’ll be walking around while talking to somewhere and not just standing over the device.
Secondly, the camera on the Nest Hub Max integrates with Nest, which is Google’s smart home division. If you’re invested in the Nest ecosystem, you’ll be able to use this as an indoor security camera of sorts, allowing you to check in on your home from anywhere.
Thirdly, the camera has face detection (which the user has to opt-in to). The same way that Google assistant can differentiate voices amongst users and recall information relevant to them, the Face Match does the same on the screen.
Once set up, when I walk by the Nest Hub Max, it will pop up reminders and suggestions specifically for me, that is tied to my Google account. Meanwhile if my wife walks by, it will show information that is linked to her account.
This is definitely useful in a household where calendars and events are kept separate, so that you don’t see information that just isn’t useful to you, or if you want to keep your own information private.
Lastly, the camera can detect Quick Gestures. Right now, it’s only one gesture, which toggles play and pause on audio or video. All you do is raise your right hand in front of the screen, and it will play or pause whatever is playing.
In practice it’s a bit wonky. It takes several attempts to figure out the right sort of movement and how far away from the device you need to be for it to stop. But when it works, it works well. It’s been convenient a few times when my hands were dirty or when my mouth was full and i needed to pause whatever was playing.
Google says more gestures will be added in the future, but right now it’s kept short and sweep with just the one.
Of course, you can still control all your smart home devices from the Nest Hub Max, and the rest of the software is the same as it was when I reviewed the Nest Hub.
Google Assistant is present of course, but there’s not any unique features to really talk about. I still find Google Assistant to be the most complete voice assistant, especially with random questions and integration with my calendars and schedule. However it must be said that in everyday like timers, weather, music, etc, neither Alexa nor Google Assistant have any issues.
When I reviewed the Nest Hub my primary complaint was that it felt like a glorified photo frame at the time, due to the lack of suggestions and prompts from the device itself.
The Echo Show has options to customize the home screen with relevant news articles, trending pop culture stories, recipes, and more. Many people dislike this and turn it off altogether, whereas I enjoy it, as it prompts me to interact with the device and I get some fun information out of it.
The Nest Hub however does not have any of these options. It will pop up with “top stories” and other relevant trending topics, but you have to swipe over to see them and it’s just not quite as prevalent as it is on the Echo Show.
For those that don’t want any of that, the Nest Hub Max is definitely the device for you then. Because of the integration with Google Photos, you’ll have a constant slideshow of your pictures.
While this is also technically possible on the Echo Show, you have to sync your photos with Amazon photos, which is just another tedious process that most people just don’t want to do, nor is it really advertised much to begin with.
Nest Hub Max Conclusion
All of this brings us to the Golden Question.
Should you buy it?
There are many things to consider when deciding which smart speaker ecosystem to join, as the race is as tight as ever.
If you are an Android user then it’s a no brainer to go down the Google Home route, as your assistant and ecosystem is completely integrated from the get-go.
If you’re an iPhone user it’s less clear. I think the hardware is ever so slightly nicer on the Nest Hub Max than it is on the Echo Show, mainly due to the Ambient EQ screen. But I think it ultimately comes down to how much you want a great photo frame, or how much you want to interact with the device.
If you prefer to not have any trending topics, and just have your photos in a slideshow with your daily reminders and calendar popping up when necessary, then the Nest Hub Max will fit perfectly in your life.