It’s been almost a year since Google first introduced us to the 7-inch Home Hub, since renamed ‘Nest Hub, but time marches on in the tech industry and now we have the Nest Hub Max, a bigger version with a few new features.
The Nest Hub Max is priced at $349, a fairly large jump up from the Nest Hub which sells for $199 – but for the difference in price you’re getting a bigger 10-inch HD resolution display, more (and better) speakers, and a built-in camera.
The Nest Hub Max is simply a larger Nest Hub, both have a floating display affixed to the cloth coloured base. It’s still got a compact footprint despite the larger screen, but has additional weight that makes it seem more stable on the bench.
Google Nest Industrial Designer Katie Morgenroth said the compact footprint is intentional making it easier to fit the Nest Hub Max easier to fit into corners, with the Chalk (light grey) and Charcoal (black) helping to achieve the effect of not looking too ‘techy’.
There may be other colour options similar to the Aqua and ‘Sand’ coloured Nest Hub models down the track Katie said, but there’s nothing to announce for now. Still, the classic black or grey looks great.
The cloth covering is similar in texture to those found on couches, and other soft furnishings in your house achieving the effect of blending into the background of your home. Like the Nest Hub the cloth is easy cleaning meaning it’s designed to be wiped down – but it’s definitely not waterproof, so be warned.
The display, now updated to a 10” HD (1280×800) resolution, is bright when it wants to be, but fades into almost nothing using Google’s Ambient EQ at night. You can slightly adjust how bright, or how dim it is in the background – but it’s a good display, easy to read and videos look good.
The larger panel also makes it easier to access all your smart home devices in the swipe down ‘Home View’ panel. The large display makes it easy to tap on things, and swiping across to see your calendar, notifications and more is easier too.
The 10-inch display is an obvious target for playing videos on, and you can play YouTube videos, or even Chromecast Stan to it – but frustratingly not Netflix. You can’t play Netflix on the Nest Hub either, and frustratingly there’s no news on that front from Google either.
The display will show a clock when in use, its simple and it works.
What the Nest Hub family will display is the Live Photo albums. This is a feature which just about sells itself for anyone with a good collection of photos stored in Google Photos. Configuring the albums is easy in the Photos app, select the faces of who you want in there and some beautiful memories featuring those people start showing up on the display in no time.
A big new feature of the Nest Hub Max is the camera built into the bezel above the screen next to an LED status indicator for the camera and some microphones. Fear not privacy advocates, it (along with the mic) can be disabled simply by flicking the switch on the rear.
There’s also a volume rocker on the right hand rear of the display allowing fast access to lower the volume when Google Assistant inevitably replies to you in an almost obnoxiously loud volume. You can also mute the volume, or turn the camera off from the control panel (swipe up) if you want to.
We’ve been asking Google about changing the reply volume since the Google Home was launched, and to be fair they’ve made some progress on that front. Google Assistant will now answer with a discreet chime to confirm the command when you ask it to turn the lights off at night, but Google Assistant still won’t make the logical leap of replying at a volume similar to how you address it – fix it Google!
Those speakers sound great though, far better than the smaller model. The Nest Hub Max now has a pair of 18mm 10W front-facing tweeters and a 75mm 30W sub-woofer and the quality is about that of the Google Home.
As a ‘hub’ the Nest Hub Max fits nicely into the kitchen which is generally considered the hub of most homes.
The Nest Hub Max looks good in the kitchen, and functionally it’s a good match. You can find recipes by asking the Nest Hub to search for them, even finding local options from Woolworth, or taste.com.au, and of course you can set timers by voice if your hands are dirty.
Feature-wise, the Nest Hub Max is relatively unchanged to the operation of the smaller Nest Hub, though the inclusion of a camera changes the dynamic of the Nest Hub into something more functional.
First, the Nest Hub Max now recognises you when you walk into the room using what Google calls ‘Face match’, which you set up in the Google Home app upon plugging the display in.
It’s important to note that Google doesn’t consider Face Match a security feature, more a convenience feature. Once it recognises you, a small icon with your Google avatar appears in the top right and you get a personalised greeting before Google Assistant starts to display reminders, commute info, calendar, news and more on the display.
All these reminders are good, but I have one bone to pick: the YouTube recommendations. While they match what is on the recommended section in my YouTube app, surely it would be more logical to display any new content from my subscriptions first – I mean the Nest Hub does have a nice display to watch those videos on.
The camera also introduces basic gesture control. Hold your hand up while playing music or a video to pause, and then hold it up again to stop. The gesture worked solidly every time I tried it which is promising, but I’d love to see more like maybe wave gestures to skip tracks etc.
Having a camera on-board means the Nest Hub Max can now do two-way video calls (the camera-less Nest Hub can only see who you’re calling if their device has a camera) using Google Duo.
While I use Duo, it’s not a ubiquitous choice for video calling. There’s more people using services such as Skype, but you can’t change that and there’s no plans to offer users a choice at the moment either.
As a Nest branded product, the camera in the Nest Hub Max works as a Nest Cam now.
This means you can activate the camera from the Google Home app for free, but if you want more advanced features like the ability to recognise people, or movement you’ll have to stump up for a Nest Aware subscription. You get a 30-day Nest Aware trial to see if you like it, but after using it for a few days I’m not sure I’ll follow through on that.
Do you need it?
After a week of use, the Nest Hub Max has become a real feature in our Kitchen.
The design team are right. The Nest Hub Max blends into the background for the most part, but when you do notice it, it looks great.
Functionality wise, the camera adds a lot to the Nest Hub experience. I enjoyed seeing the greeting as the camera recognised me, and being presented with personalised information.
The Duo integration is a pain point with my wife still having issues using Duo calling – but I seem fine. Again, letting users pick their video conferencing service would help fix this.
I found the Quick Gestures a bit of a novelty, but the Nest Cam integration is so smart. I don’t think most people will need a subscription, but talking to the family, or checking out what the family pet is up to while you’re away is a great option.
The larger screen adds more to the Nest Hub usability, but lack of Netflix will potentially be an issue for some people. Still, just accessing your smart home devices, or checking your schedule is easier on the larger display.
All up, the Nest Hub Max has been a welcome new addition into our home, I love the camera, bigger screen and better speakers. It looks like I’ll be lining up to buy one when they go on-sale on the 10th of September for $349 from Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, Officeworks and the Google Store– and Optus in the coming months.