Google Nest Hub Max review

It’s got a 10-inch screen and promises to help you sort your busy life out but does the Google Nest Hub Max deliver?

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Formerly known as Google Home, Google Nest is a family of smart speakers and displays crafted by the tech giant. The inaugural device made its debut in the US back in 2016. However, it wasn’t until September 2019 that Google unveiled its largest smart display to date – the Google Nest Hub Max. 

Much like Amazon’s line of smart displays, the Google Nest Hub Max boasts an embedded virtual assistant primed to help with an array of tasks. Whether you want to listen to your favourite tunes, find your local weather forecast, or control your lighting, the Hub Max can oblige. 

With Google’s bold promise of delivering “big help for your busy home”, we take a look to see if the Nest Hub Max truly elevates everyday life or is merely an extravagant addition in the realm of smart displays. 

Google Nest Hub Max home screen in a kitchen settingCredit: Saga Exceptional
Google have made the Nest Hub Max to help people organise their busy homes – but does it live up to their big promise?
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Google Nest Hub Max

Luxury

Overall, this is a great smart display that can enhance your life. With pretty good sound for a visual display, the 10-inch (25cm) screen means you can easily follow recipes, do some exercise, or even catch up on your favourite shows – a plus point for any smart display. To really get the most out of it, though, you need to be firmly embedded in the Google way of life. Otherwise, look to spend your pennies elsewhere. 

Design

Usability

Performance

Value


Who’s this for?

If you use the complete Google suite of products then the Nest Hub Max will undoubtedly enhance your everyday life.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Good – and loud – music-friendly speaker
  • Simple design that will fit in with most interiors
  • Great digital photo frame
  • Only works with Google Duo for video calling
  • Google Assistant doesn’t always work well
  • Home screen could display more useful information

Expect to pay

RRP: £219 This is one smart display that is rarely reduced. However, if you bundle it up with some of the Nest home security devices, there are deals to be had on the official Google store.

Google Nest Hub Max Review method

How we test

Every smart display we review undergoes a wide array of tests. Beyond evaluating them in our Saga Exceptional testing centre – where we measure aspects such as noise output and sound quality – each smart display becomes an essential part of our daily home life for a minimum of one week. 

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During this period, we integrate the smart display into our daily routines, evaluating every facet of its performance. This begins from the setup – where we look at how easy it is to get working – and involves testing all the features, from streaming to using it to control our smart home devices. 

As the Nest Hub Max has a built-in virtual assistant, we also put this to the test to see how well it responds to our requests and what additional features it might have that could improve our daily lives. 

Google Nest Hub Max Setup

You’ll need a Google account before you can set it up

One thing is certain: you won’t find an abundance of items inside the box. It includes the hub and a power cord, and that’s the extent of it. Plugging it in is the straightforward part; configuring it for full functionality can be a bit less intuitive. 

To achieve this, you’ll require a smartphone and the Google Home app. Fortunately, even for those less tech-savvy, there’s no need to panic. The app guides you through each step of the process. Whenever we encountered a challenging aspect, there was always a “help” or “further information” button available to assist us in moving forward. 

Do you have a Google account?

If you already have a Gmail address, youre all set. However, if you dont, make sure you create one before embarking on the Hub Max setup process. Since its a Google product, having an account is essential for configuring your device and personalising your preferences.

Overall, the setup process – which includes the necessary software updates – took about 10 minutes from unboxing. However, it’s important to note that tasks like linking your streaming accounts (such as Apple Music and Netflix), adding contacts, and configuring voice and face control, extends the setup time considerably. In our case, we were ready to start using it approximately 30 minutes after opening the box. 

Once you’re set up, we recommend taking the tour. It tells you what you can do with the Hub Max, where to find settings, and how to use the touchscreen. If you skip the tour, you can always say “Hey Google, what can you do?” to see the list of features. 

One drawback we encountered during setup was the relatively short length of the power cord. Fortunately, our home office, where we decided to place the Hub Max, has numerous available outlets, but if your situation differs then this cord-length limitation may affect your placement options. 

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Google Nest Hub Max Design

Dress it up with some artwork

When we first saw it in the box, the Google Nest Hub Max looked like a big tablet. And that’s what it is, essentially – just mounted on a speaker. The design isn’t flashy, but we appreciated its minimalism. This means it will fit in with most decor.

There’s also no huge bulge at the back, where the speaker is located, so it fits easily on a desk or kitchen work surface. 

Like many smart displays, the speaker is covered in fabric. This looks nice, but we worried about whether it would get dirty from food or oil splashes if kept in the kitchen.  

It’s definitely not the ugliest smart display we’ve seen, and we’re quite pleased with how it looked in our home office.

What we loved the most about it was the ability to use it as a digital photo frame, choosing either our own photos or system images. This means it looks less like a piece of tech sitting on the side and more like a lovely piece of art. You can also change the display to a clock face, with nice big and clear digits, to change things up a bit. 

Google Nest Hub Max Usability

Pretty intuitive but the assistant can be hit and miss

Google’s voice assistant, which responds to either “OK Google” or “Hey Google”, generally performed well in recognising our voices and delivering relevant content. However, we did encounter some hiccups along the way. It struggled to understand some music requests, and at one point it insisted that the language we were using (which was definitely English) wasn’t supported for commands.

Despite these minor setbacks, the assistant was mostly responsive. Impressively, it excelled in picking up quieter voices. During testing, we spoke in a whisper due to a sore throat, and it managed to understand us 95% of the time. 

The fun thing about the Google Nest Hub Max is that there are other options you can use to command it. We were particularly fond of the quick gestures feature, which allows you to pause or resume media, dismiss timers or alarms, and silence the assistant by simply using the palm of your hand. It’s almost a playful “talk to the hand” approach, but it can be quite useful if you’ve lost your voice or need to maintain silence. 

Introduced last year, Face Match adds a personal touch to the experience. When the hub recognises your face, it not only provides personalised recommendations on the home screen, but also eliminates the need for the wake word before issuing commands. Initially, we encountered some frustration with this feature, despite enabling everything in the app.

Fortunately, we found a solution on the Google help forum. We had to set our default language to English (US), and voila! It started working seamlessly. While this feature might seem gimmicky, we genuinely appreciated not having to shout “Hey Google” before every request. 

The hub isn’t only navigated via voice – there’s also the option of navigating via the touchscreen. Initially, it was a bit challenging due to various swipe gestures (up, down, left, right) but, with practice, we mastered controlling functions like volume, brightness and track selection. A standout touchscreen feature we discovered is the triple-tap magnification option, invaluable for reading content directed by your voice assistant, especially when text is too small. 

There are various ways you can stream content and the Google Assistant seems good at generic requests such as “Play me a podcast about the movies” or “Play classic music to work to”. We found it a great way to discover new audio pleasures. It’s also good at finding songs by favourite artists, the latest releases or playing radio stations. 

If spoken word is your preference, the Hub Max can read your favourite books, although they require purchase via Google Play. While some free classics are available, be prepared for occasionally robotic AI-generated narration on these. 

Lastly, the Hub Max doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. A simple “Hey Google, pair Bluetooth” makes it visible in your phone’s Bluetooth list, a convenient way to access services like Apple Podcasts and Audible, not readily available through the Google Home app. 

Google Nest Hub Max Performance

Easy-to-access content, whether audio or visual

Like the best smart speakers, the Hub Max offers multiple ways to enjoy your favourite music. Initially, it defaults to YouTube Music, allowing you to enjoy videos alongside your tunes. We also used our Apple subscription, which we preferred as it means you can ask the assistant to play certain playlists. You can also use Spotify, Deezer, Google Podcasts and Google Books. We tried all of these services and were happy with the results. 

Playing your favourite radio stations is also a breeze: a simple “OK Google, play Radio 2” gets the job done, albeit with occasional longer-than-desired delays. 

Regarding sound quality, it’s decent but leans toward a bass-heavy profile, especially with pop music. Thankfully, you can adjust the audio settings to fine-tune the bass and treble, which does help to enhance the sound. 

One of our product testers, Mark Wyndham-Jones, summed it up nicely, noting that “the sound is acceptable for an item designed more as a visual aid”. Classical music and spoken word content particularly shine on this smart display, with clear vocals. 

This is probably the loudest smart display we’ve tested. In our lab tests, it measured 100.2dB when playing country music on the highest setting. That’s equivalent to the noise of a motorbike! We’re not sure Dolly Parton was meant to be played that loud.

The sound also becomes distorted at high volumes. We found that levels 3-5 are the best for listening to music. If you do put it on too loud, you can just yell “OK Google, turn it down by five” to get to a more manageable level. 

As a smart display, it features a 10-inch (25cm) HD touchscreen, suitable for casual viewing. While it’s not a massive UHD TV, it suffices for activities like catching up on 30-minute shows on Disney Plus or Netflix, or following exercise videos on YouTube. One drawback is the reflective screen, which can show reflections – and since it’s fixed, there’s no tilting option to mitigate this issue.  

Google Nest Hub Max Extras

Don’t forget your smart home devices

The Hub Max is designed to seamlessly connect with other Google Nest products, but we successfully integrated it into our Hive smart home system by configuring the settings in the Google Home app. This allowed us to control our lights, heating and hot water effortlessly. 

One notable addition to the Hub Max is its camera and microphone, which can serve as a monitor for various purposes, such as keeping an eye on a child, enhancing security, or even checking in on pets. Once set up, accessing the live feed is straightforward through the Google Home app. It’s essential to position it optimally, as it lacks mobility, but we found that the 127-degree-wide field of view effectively covered our smaller room. 

Its standout feature, however, is its role as a digital photo frame. At a price point of £219, there might be more budget-friendly options solely for this purpose. Nevertheless, the Ambient EQ feature dynamically adjusts the display’s colour temperature and brightness to match the room’s lighting conditions, which made all our photos appear stunningly lifelike – akin to physical prints – whether the room was lit or in darkness. 

In addition to enhancing our daily routine with radio stations and music, we frequently utilised the Hub Max’s routine feature. These are automations set up in the app, triggered by specific phrases. For instance, saying “Hey Google, good morning” activated our morning routine, providing local weather updates, a cheerful joke, and switching on our preferred radio station.

Setting up routines in the app proved straightforward. We also established a routine for when we returned home, triggered by “Hey Google, we’re home”, instantly turning on our hallway lights. This is a great additional feature, one that will work well if you need reminding to do something constantly – such as, in our case, watering the plants or taking tablets. 

Despite its sizeable screen, the Hub Max disappointingly couldn’t fulfil its potential for video calls. It only works if all parties have the Google Duo app, which deterred some of our contacts from adopting it. While linking a Zoom account is an option, we encountered persistent error messages during our attempts, rendering this feature impractical. 

Google Nest Hub Max Value

Good value compared to other similar displays

The Hub Max, priced at £219, stands as one of the pricier options in the smart display market. Its appealing 10-inch (25cm) HD screen is a definite draw, but to truly maximise its potential, you need to be fully invested in the Google ecosystem.  

However, it is £40 cheaper than the Amazon Echo smart displays of the same size. So, if you’re looking to save money and you’re already a Google fan, the Hub Max is a great choice. 

Google Nest Hub Max Competition

Other larger smart displays

While the Google Nest Hub Max boasts a larger screen, there are other smart displays in the market that offer expansive viewing options.  

Amazon Echo Show 15 

This Echo features an impressive 15-inch (38cm) screen, resembling more of a television than a typical smart display. It’s designed for wall-mounting, but you can opt for an adjustable tilt stand if you prefer surface placement.

With built-in Fire TV, it offers a wide array of content for your entertainment needs, making it an ideal choice for the kitchen or as a secondary TV. Its generous size also serves as an excellent organisation tool, displaying weather forecasts, notes, calendar appointments and more for the entire family on a single screen.

Featured product

Amazon Echo Show 15

RRP: £269.99

Amazon Echo Show 15

Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd generation) 

If your preference doesn’t lean towards Google products, the Echo Show 10 is an excellent smart display option. Similar to the Nest Hub Max, it provides access to various streaming services, connects with smart home devices, and can function as a digital photo frame.

What sets it apart is its 10-inch (25cm) screen designed to follow your movements. Whether you’re on a call or whipping up a recipe while moving around, the screen will always remain within view. 

Featured product

Echo Show 10 (3rd generation)

RRP: £259.99

Echo Show 10 (3rd generation)
Read our Amazon Echo Show 10 review

Google Nest Hub Max Final verdict

A good choice for Google fans, but not a must-have

We found the Google Nest Hub Max to be a useful addition to our household, but it’s not the “big help” that Google makes it out to be. If you’re fully invested in the Google ecosystem – with a Google phone, calendar, Nest products – then the Hub Max is the smart display for you. It can help you stay connected to your loved ones and keep you organised. 

However, the Google Assistant was a bit hit and miss for us. It sometimes misunderstood our requests or showed us something unrelated to what we asked for. The Face Match technology was exciting, and we hope it’s something that all smart displays will eventually offer. It was nice not having to shout “Hey Google” before every request. 

Overall, the Hub Max looks nice and has pretty good sound for a visual display. If you’re a Google fan, it’s definitely worth considering. But it’s not a must-have for everyone. 

Recommended

Google Nest Hub Max

Luxury

Overall, this is a great smart display that can enhance your life. With pretty good sound for a visual display, the 10-inch (25cm) screen means you can easily follow recipes, do some exercise, or even catch up on your favourite shows – a plus point for any smart display. To really get the most out of it, though, you need to be firmly embedded in the Google way of life. Otherwise, look to spend your pennies elsewhere. 

Design

While the Google Nest Hub Max isn’t the most exciting when it comes to design, the minimalist feel means it can fit into any decor without looking too out of place.

Usability

The Google Assistant can be a bit hit and miss, but the Face Match technology is a nice touch, which removes the need to shout out “Hey Google” before every request

Performance

For a visual display, the sound is impressive, and the size of the display means you can even catch up with your favourite shows comfortably.

Value

Cheaper than the same-size Amazon Echo Show – if you’re looking for a larger smart display, this offers value for money, especially if you use all of Google’s products.


Who’s this for?

If you use the complete Google suite of products then the Nest Hub Max will undoubtedly enhance your everyday life.

Our likes and dislikes

  • Good – and loud – music-friendly speaker
  • Simple design that will fit in with most interiors
  • Great digital photo frame
  • Only works with Google Duo for video calling
  • Google Assistant doesn’t always work well
  • Home screen could display more useful information

Expect to pay

RRP: £219 This is one smart display that is rarely reduced. However, if you bundle it up with some of the Nest home security devices, there are deals to be had on the official Google store.

Google Nest Hub Max Specs

Release year 2019
Dimensions 8.3cm x 25cm x 10cm (7in x 10in x 4in)
Weight 1.32kg (3lbs)
Power Mains Power Input
Screen size 10in (25cm)
Screen resolution HD, 1280 x 800
Internal speakers Stereo Speakers – 3-inch Woofer
Wi-Fi 802.15.4 (at 2.4 GHz) thread support Wi-Fi
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5
Smart Home support It connects to most smart home brands including Arlo, August Home, Eve Energy, Eufy, Hive, Nest, Philips
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Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her

Published:

Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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