Technology

Should you buy… the Google Nest Hub Max?

Google tackles the smart home with video chat and security in its latest household device.

Google is having another stab at the smart home with a brand new smart display packing some notable differences.

It’s physically bigger than before and now features a camera, but does it have enough to compete with the likes of Amazon’s Echo Show?

Design

Google Nest Hub Max (Jamie Harris/PA)
(Jamie Harris/PA)

The Google Nest Hub Max does not look much different to the previous Google Nest Hub (formerly known as the Google Home Hub), with a display sitting on a fabric-covered pedestal.

There is one big exception, and that is in size. The Nest Hub Max looks like a large tablet, with a 10in display, compared with 7in on its predecessor.

It’s also HD this time round, so the overall viewing experience is improved and allows users to see what’s going on from a greater variety of positions in the room.

Like the smaller model, it has an Ambient EQ light sensor to adapt the display brightness to the room’s surroundings.

An ambient EQ light sensor is used once again to adapt the display’s brightness on the environment.

Features

Google Nest Hub Max
(Jamie Harris/PA)

The Google Nest Hub Max offers all the smart features one would expect for those who have smart devices around the home, such as lighting controls – this is nothing new.

What is new is the camera, opening the hub up to a whole new range of uses, particularly video chat and security.

With its large display, it acts as a convenient way to take a video call when busy in places like the kitchen.

There is also a hand gesture detection feature which allows users to push their hand in front of the camera to pause videos, and do the same action again to resume it. Though handy for those preparing food with messy hands, this feature did not detect hands every time in testing.

Faces are easily set up within the Home app, providing each individual in the household with their personalised information, including calendar notices, saving users from even needing to use their voice.

The hub’s integration with Nest means you can use it as a security camera to check everything is fine at home while away on a smartphone, however, owners will need to pay for a subscription to make use of the full set of security features.

A Nest Aware subscription provides access to 24-hour continuous recording, alerts when a person is detected, the ability to save clips and time lapses, as well as setting up activity zones – this service ranges from £4 to £24 per month, depending on how much video history is desired.

Privacy

Google Nest Hub Max
(Jamie Harris/PA)

Privacy is obviously a big concern of late, and increasingly so with the introduction of a camera, therefore a physical button which switches off the camera and mic is available on the back of the Nest Hub Max.

While welcome, it might have been better to have separate off buttons for the camera and mic, as some people feel more uncomfortable with visuals than voice.

The current set-up means one person can switch it all off, but the next person who enters the room may have the minor inconvenience of stepping into a room using their voice to speak to the Google Assistant, only to discover it is off.

Facebook Portal’s camera cover to physically block the lens seems like a good idea around such issues.

Verdict

The Google Nest Hub Max is a good progression from its predecessor, making full use of the possibilities of a camera, while keeping voice central to the experience.

At £219, it’s reasonably priced, though some buyers may be disappointed that additional security features come at a monthly cost.

Google still needs to improve the Home app to make it simpler to set up different users, as at present it feels rather drawn out.

Overall, the Google Nest Hub Max is a step in the right direction for the smart home.

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