Google Nest Hub Max review

You might think you know what the Hub Max is capable of, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Google Nest Hub Max
Overall Rating 4 out of 5
The Nest Hub Max can do more than you might think, but it can be a tricky gadget to find a home for.

Our verdict

The Google Nest Hub Max is a great device in the right home. It does a little bit of everything: music, movies, recipes, reminders and can double as a security camera. But how many of these features and functions do you need?

What we like

  • Decent audio quality
  • Capable display
  • Security camera feature
  • Great value for the price

What could be better

  • Audio is a bit muffled
  • Limited videocalling apps

The Google Nest Hub Max is a jack-of-all-trades smart home gadget that will either offer a lot of convenience or reside as a glorified speaker in the corner of your living room. In fact, your success with the Next Hub Max may come down to where in your home you set it up.

At the start of our time with the Hub Max we took a cue from Google’s product images and set up the Hub Max in the kitchen. It’s useful in the kitchen; you get the weather in the mornings, and you can listen to music or a podcast while you cook. You can even ask Google Assistant to show you recipes to follow along with.

Move it to the living room and it is primarily a music player. Sure, it can stream video through a number of services like Netflix, Disney+ and YouTube, but so can the 60-inch TV across the room. Positioned next to a comfy chair and you’d be happy to make video calls to family using the large screen, and depending on the layout of your home, the Hub Max could play security camera too.

The size of the Google Nest Hub Max means it would dominate your bedside table, but its utility could make it a handy bedside companion. It can wake you up with an alarm, brief you on the things you have in your calendar and read you the news. In the evening, you might jump into bed, tell Assistant to turn off your smart lights and then ask for the sound of waves crashing against the shoreline.

These are all things that the Hub Max can do. The question is, which of them do you want a smart screen to do for you? You probably have devices that can do all of these things. The Hub Max simply converges all of these things into a single unit.

Google Nest Hub Max for music and video

For many, the primary use of the Google Nest Hub Max will be as a screen and speakers to watch videos and listen to music. And for this purpose, the Hub Max is pretty good value.

The screen is 10-inches in size, which makes it about the same size as most tablets, though it is worth noting that the screen is not detachable. The display is HD resolution (1200 x 800 pixels) which is considerably lower than most smartphones these days, but it really doesn’t make much difference when you look at it. The image is a little soft up close, but it does the job.

We did find that the display struggles when you look at it from off-centre. The rich, vibrant colours dim and when viewed at an angle, which challenges the idea that this is a screen that people can crowd around and watch together.

The audio quality is really solid, but a bit too muffled to really blow us away. The speaker configuration includes a built-in subwoofer, which offers nice thumping bass, but you lose clarity with the higher frequencies. Still, it’s a great speaker for the price.

Alternatively, we found the audio quality in the Google Nest Audio speaker to be better, and of course, you won’t have to pay extra for the screen (about $200 extra).

Uses for the Google Nest Hub Max you might not think of

Beyond the basics, the Google Nest Hub Max is capable of more than just playing music and videos. A lot of this comes from there being a video camera on the front of the screen. A 10-inch screen and a video camera probably gets you thinking about video calls, right?

We’d love to say that the Hub Max is a great device for video calls, but at the time of writing this review, the only service you can use for calls is Google Duo. No Skype, No Whatsapp, No Zoom. We wouldn’t expect it to make Facetime calls to Apple devices, but a few more options are essential for future software updates.

For what it’s worth, video calling with the Hub Max is fine. After stepping a couple of friends through the process of setting up Duo we managed several calls, all of which worked fine.

More interesting is that the Hub Max can double as a Nest security camera and would be a great addition to a current Nest camera setup. You can access a live stream from the camera using the Google Home app on your phone, and if you’d like to save your recordings you can sign up for a Nest Aware subscription (from $9 per month).

If all of this talk about cameras makes you nervous then you’ll be glad to know that there is a switch on the Nest Hub that disables the camera altogether.

Verdict

The Google Nest Hub Max performs each of its many functions well: some better than others. It’s a device that has so many uses that it is hard to define exactly who would make the most use of it.

It is a capable kitchen companion to be sure. It has kept me company on many a busy afternoon of slicing and dicing. The speakers are great for podcasts and casual music listening.

It also makes a great photo frame. I have it set up to cycle through photos of my family stored on Google Photos and it is a wonderful way to start the day.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy watching long-form videos on the Hub Max, but this is mainly because I have TVs scattered around my home. But under different circumstances, you might find that this capable 10-inch display is the perfect screen for curling up in bed and watching Bridgerton.