Google Nest Hub Max hands-on: A great all-in-one for your smart home
The Nest Hub Max is Google's latest entrant into the smart display market. It's equipped with a large 10-inch HD screen, a Nest camera and stereo speakers. You may think it's part of the same range as the Google Home Max thanks to the "Max" moniker, but it's actually a different product entirely. The Nest Hub Max is to smart displays what the Google Home Max is to smart speakers: the biggest, most premium product in the line.
However, where the Google Home Max excels at offering premium audio, the Nest Hub Max doesn't excel at any specific part of its offering. Instead, it is designed to be an all-encompassing all-in-one device for your smart home. Confused? So were we, but we sat down with the Group Product Manager for Google's smart displays division to understand more about the Nest Hub Max.
An entry point to all of Google and Nest in your home
The Nest Hub Max is designed to be a single device that serves as an entry point to Google's entire smart home range of features. Rather than be the best smart display, or the best smart home security camera, or the best smart speaker, it's an all-in-one device that's targeting users who are just getting started with smart home products.
When positioned like this, it makes a lot of sense. At just $229, it's an absolute steal for someone who doesn't already have a smart speaker, display or a Nest camera. By encompassing all of these into one device, designed to sit in the busiest parts of the home, it offers a lot of value for this particular type of user.
Some neat tricks
Diving into the Nest Hub Max further, Google potentially has a winning product on its hands. First, there's the display itself – the 10-inch HD display isn't the highest resolution or most vibrant smart display on the market, but it's excellent for where you'll use it: in your home. Using the camera, the Nest Hub Max display also supports a new gesture that pauses or resumes playing music, a video or a TV show when you put your hand in front of it.
Beyond this, the Nest Hub Max camera also supports the same features that we've come to expect from a Nest camera including actively streaming when asked to (via the Google Home or Nest apps), monitoring for unexpected visitors and familiar face alerts. It supports the Nest Aware subscription service so you can see the recording history and acts no differently inside the Nest app to any of the dedicated cameras.
The big thing is that it's not designed to replace any of your existing Nest cameras. Instead, Google considers it to be an addition to your home that provides additional coverage rather than being a standalone security solution. Case in point, while the other Nest cameras – like the Nest Cam IQ – support night vision and can be articulated to point towards a very specific spot in your home, the Nest Hub Max camera cannot. It still has 127° field-of-view to cover a large area but it's not a replacement for your dedicated Nest camera.
The camera means that you can now also use Google's new Face Match feature, which works just like voice match except it recognizes faces rather than your voice. As part of the set up process, you can train it to recognize up to six people and once it recognizes you, it displays a neat little chat-head-style icon in the corner. Then, if you say good morning, ask for your calendar, or ask for driving directions etc, it'll deliver information that's personalized to you.
The addition of a camera means you can also use it to make Duo video calls to anyone else with Duo installed on their phone or smart display. New to the Nest Hub Max is the ability to also leave video messages, which is great if you want to surprise your family with a little heartfelt message before they get home. Thanks to Face Match, it also won't display that message on the screen unless it recognizes the recipient.
Multiple devices in one
During its keynote at Google I/O, Google referenced the Nest Hub Max as being your kitchen TV, your security camera, your smart home controller and your smart display. That's exactly what the Nest Hub Max aims to be: a single device with multiple purposes in the communal area of your home. With features like Face Match, it allows the Nest Hub Max to serve multiple people, and you can enable the various parental controls so your children can't access YouTube amongst other things.
The Nest Hub Max also introduces the new YouTube TV channel guide – a feature that is sorely missing from my Lenovo Smart Display – which lends itself to being your kitchen TV. Similarly, the ability to control all your Nest devices, access your doorbell and control any of the 30,000 compatible smart home devices, make it the perfect all-in-one controller for your home.
Security is key
One of the reasons the
Google Home Hub Nest Hub is so appealing is that it didn't have a camera. Smart displays like the Lenovo Smart Display (opens in new tab) and JBL Link View (opens in new tab) both have a camera and as such, raise legitimate questions about privacy in your home. You can disable the camera using a physical switch on the Lenovo Smart Display, but the Nest Hub had none of these concerns.
With the Nest Hub Max, Google will face the same privacy concerns that its partners have. Yes, you're able to disable both the microphone and the camera with a switch on the back which changes the LED light from green to red, but as ModernDad pointed out, you still have to trust Google as it doesn't physically cover the camera. That said, the company's transparency around what each sensor is used for, and the shuttering of the Works with Nest program should go some way to alleviate any privacy concerns.
The Nest Hub Max is an excellent smart home device
I have a small condo in New York City, and I have a Lenovo Smart Display. Condo rental rules mean I can't mount my Nest Cam IQ to the ceiling or in any place that covers the entryway to my apartment, other than next to my Lenovo Smart Display on the kitchen island. When we first heard rumors of the Nest Hub Max, I was super excited by its potential and having used one briefly, I want one. It's the perfect device for my needs. Living on a high floor in a building with a doorman and generally rather good security means I don't need a dedicated security camera, unlike my last place which was on the ground level of a sketchy part of San Francisco.
The reason I want a Nest Hub Max? It's a great all-in-one device. I often use my Lenovo Smart Display to watch videos while cooking or to watch YouTube TV while in the kitchen and the Nest Hub Max does both of those better thanks to the new YouTube TV guide – which will eventually come to any Google Assistant smart display – the new gestures and of course, the better audio. The stereo speakers are not on par with the Google Home Max, but they are more powerful than the speakers on the Lenovo Smart Display or any of Google's other smart speakers and displays.
For me, the Nest Hub Max is the perfect all-in-one device for my needs, but whether it works for you depends.
Should you buy the Nest Hub Max? Yes, No, and Maybe
Yes, if you don't have any of these products
If you're new to Google Assistant, or just getting started with your smart home, the Nest Hub Max is the perfect entryway to Google's smart home ecosystem. It provides ample coverage to protect your home, can be personalized for multiple people and allows you to make Duo video calls, or leave video messages for your loved ones. It's also a great way to control all of your smart home devices, and acts as a TV for places like the kitchen where you may not want, or need, a large screen.
No, if you want it to replace your existing Nest products
This is crucial – if you were hoping to replace your Nest camera with the Nest Hub Max, and have it act as a dedicated security solution we don't recommend buying the Nest Hub Max. It'll definitely do a good enough job but if you have the need for a dedicated security solution, we would also get a Nest camera for the various things it can do that the Nest Hub Max can't.
Maybe, depending on what products you already have
This is where most people will need to make a conscious decision based on their needs. If you have the Nest Hub (formerly known as the Google Home Hub) and have been wanting a larger display for a communal area, the Nest Hub Max is a perfect replacement. Similarly, if you have another smart display and also need an additional security camera or better audio, the Nest Hub Max is a great product.
Overall, at a price of just $229, the Nest Hub Max is an incredibly compelling all-in-one smart home device. It doesn't do one particular thing better than the rest, but the value it offers is outstanding considering a Nest camera can cost upwards of $200, and a Nest Hub retails for $129. Combine the two and save $100? Sign me up!
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Nirave Gondhia has been writing about the mobile industry for over a decade and began his career selling and fixing phones in the UK. He's used every flagship smartphone over the past five years and carries at least two phones at all times - currently, he's using the iPhone 11 Pro, [Samsung Galaxy Fold and Motorola RAZR. Say hi to him on Twitter at @nirave.
Does the Nest security camera feature require an added monthly fee from Nest Aware? Since it's already been stated that it cannot replace a dedicated camera, I would hope there is no monthly fee connected to it for it to work (and store clips in the cloud).
From what I understand the security camera feature will work just a regular Nest cam would. If you don't have Nest Aware, you can still look at live feeds but you would need Nest Aware if you want continuous footage backed up in the cloud along with intelligent alerts
DJLee is correct! It'll work absolutely fine without Nest Aware but to store clips, or view anything that isn't live, you'll need a Nest Aware sub!
Important to note, in the Google keynote is was explained that the off-button for the camera electrically/physically disconnects the camera and mic. So, even if the entire device were hacked, there is no way to re-enable the camera through software. Only disadvantage is both the camera and mic are operated by a single switch, so you can’t disable only the camera and keep the mic on.
That's a very good point. I believe I do mention it disables them which amounts to the same thing, but I'll add some clarity! I'm also not very happy about the mic and camera being intrinsically linked together like this, so even if you want to turn off the camera, you won't because you'll lose the entire Assistant part of it. I wonder if it's possible to operate them independently via the on-screen controls 🤔
There is always the black tape technique, will hide the camera and still give you the use of the microphone