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Google Nest Hub Max initial review: Putting the Echo Show on notice

The Google Home Hub – now rebranded to Google Nest Hub – realised Google’s vision for a smart display, but always left a question hanging: why is it so small? 

The new Nest Hub Max addresses that, keeping the cute design, but now offering a 10-inch display. We had the chance to get some early hands-on time with this smart display prior to its availability on 15 July. 

Efficiency in design 

  • 10-inch display, 16:10, HD display
  • Chalk or Charcoal

The Nest Hub Max is designed, like the original, to minimise the footprint. That once again sees a display mounted on a fabric covered pedestal. Everything has been scaled up, but it retains the overall aesthetic of the original device. 

It will come in Chalk or Charcoal colours and it’s a great looker. Yes, it loses that super-cuteness factor that the smaller model offered, but at the same time the design is more efficient than some of its competitors, like the JBL Link View or the Lenovo Smart Display.

google nest hub max

There’s a white bezel on both models, now punctuated by the camera top and centre, with volume controls on the rear and a physical privacy switch on the back that will disable both the mic and the camera. 

The Nest Hub Max provides a natural counterpoint to the Echo Show and the design is better overall, with that narrow stance provided by its stand for a cleaner result. 

The new display means that this is a much more convenient device for viewing across the room. That makes it ideal for things like YouTube videos, or casting that episode you want to catch up on while doing something else. We haven’t had enough time to evaluate its performance against the Lenovo Smart Display – which has the best quality display to date – but first impressions leave us with no concerns.

Camera unlocks a range of new features

  • Fully-functioning Nest camera
  • Enabled Duo video calling
  • Gesture support
  • Face Match

The great thing about Google’s smart displays is that they are all based on Google Assistant and the experience across these devices is very much the same. Unlike Android phones, there’s no skinning and changing the user interface – Google is very much staying in control. 

But there are a couple of differences, in that rivals have offered cameras, which now joins the experience on the Nest Hub Max. That camera, on a basic level, enables Duo calling as you’d expect. Duo is a great service because it is cross-platform, so you can call Android or iOS users, without the limitations imposed by Apple’s FaceTime.

google nest hub max

The camera is smart, so when you’re in a call, it will focus on the action, able to zoom in and make sure that you’re in the frame. If you’re making a call and moving around, it can track and follow you. We’ve seen this in a demo and it seemed really smooth and effective.

There’s something else smart that the camera will do and that’s Face Match recognition. Like Voice Match, this will allow Google Assistant to recognise your face and give you a personalised experience. That means that when you approach the Nest Hub Max, it will be able to serve you your calendar, for example.

The service will support up to six people, so it can be tailored to cover the whole family, but this isn’t designed as a security features – it’s not using 3D scanning, it’s a simple 2D imaging process for convenience only.

google nest hub max

You’ll have noticed that the name has changed on this Google device. The incorporation of Nest is more than just fancy branding, because that camera is a full Nest camera too. That means that it can form part of your home security, it offers a great wide-angle view and if you’re a Nest Aware subscriber, you’ll be able to have it recording and alerting you when it spots an intruder. 

While Nest functions will need Nest Aware to work, it will also allow a drop-in function, so you can keep an eye on home if you want to. 

Finally, the camera also enables gestures. This will let you pause and play music and videos without having to use your voice or physically touch the display. We’ve seen this demoed and haven’t had the chance to test it in action ourselves, but it adds convenience – if you’re cooking and need to pause, you should be able to do that by showing the camera your hand.

Bigger size means more size for speakers 

  • 2.1 speaker arrangement

One of the primary functions of smart speakers has been music playback. With smart displays finding a natural place in the kitchen, they’re becoming a primary music device and replacing kitchen radios. 

Amazon realised that with the Echo Show and boosted the music offering and Google now has the chance to do the same thing. This larger Nest Hub Max has more space in the base for better sound performance, with a 2.1 speaker arrangement.

google nest hub max

We’ve listened to some sample music and it certainly sounds rich enough for music listening in the background, the sort of thing you’d do while cooking. We can’t honestly say how it compares to other devices – the JBL Link View is especially good in this regard – but first impressions are good.

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