Review : Google Nest Hub Max, the best sounding, video calling photo frame

Review : Google Nest Hub Max, the best sounding, video calling photo frame

I'm back as a Google fan boy! Yes, I needed to buy the Google Nest Hub Max to complete my Google Home family. The parcel arrived last week and my kids and I had were having fun with it over the weekend. You've probably read my review on the Nest Hub last year, so I'll be skipping some of the stuff that is already on the Google Nest Hub review.

First Impressions

Big and heavy were the first 2 words I uttered when I first picked up the parcel. I'm a sucker for bigger screen (one of my wish is to use the Wemax 4K UST projector as my TV) but I digress. The other reason I would prefer the Nest Hub Max is that it has a Nest cam inbuilt. Here's how it look beside the regular Google Nest Hub.

From the side, it looks like 10 inch tablet mounted on a bigger speaker. Duh.

The mute slider on the back (like the Nest Hub) is still there, it turns off the camera when flicked for privacy and I’m still disappointed that it is still using a custom power connector instead of USB C (seriously?).

Setup and features

I'll skip most of the UI for setting up as it is similar as the ones for the Nest Hub but I'll focus on the setup for face recognition. The Nest cam on the front would recognise you and show you your relevant information. So this is the first UI on Google Home app that require to scan your face, similar to that when you first setup face unlock on iPhone X. Ok this is the first article that I'm showing a lot of my face, but hey what's face tracking features without a face.

Google calls this feature Face Match and setting it up is an entirely optional. Google assured all of the facial recognition is done locally on the device and nothing is sent to or stored in the cloud. I take that with a pinch of salt though.


The Nest Hub Max also uses the camera to enable rather limited gesture controls. I tried to use my palm to pause when playing YouTube and Spotify, and it worked quite well especially when you don't want to shout to compete with the music that was playing on the device. It will be good if they'd also implemented a swipe left, swipe right or even custom gestures to control smart home devices.

The full-fledged Nest cam on the front allow you to use it to monitor your home and get activity alerts when you’re away. It allows live viewing and if you use the paid Nest Aware service you can do continuous video recording or even recognize familiar faces (I didn't try that though as I found it ridiculous to pay for subscription on top of a device that is not really cheap). For those who are privacy adversed, the Nest Hub Max will display a notification on the screen and blinks the LED indicator when someone is viewing through the camera and you can just mechanically turn off the camera and mic with the slider at the back.

Making a video call with the Google Duo service on the Nest Hub Max is my favourite part. With a 127 degrees camera, the video actually tracks the face, pans and zooms to keep you in frame as you walk around. This feature is especially for kids who couldn't sit still even during a video call :)

The music that comes from the 18mm tweeters and a 75mm bass driver (similar to that of a Sonos One) makes it one of the best sounding smart display. The Amazon Echo show sounds quite close when I tried it at my friend's place.

The ambient mode makes the Nest Hub Max a bigger impressive digital photo frame and I still stand by that comment I had for during the Nest Hub review. With another impressive digital photo frame, I can now set one to display photos of my boy only while the other one displays photos of my gal (in case you ask, my wife's photo is displayed when my TV is on Chromecast. Of course she gets air time on the biggest screen). The Google photos app allows you to create albums based on faces, so you can also choose which album to display the various smart displays or chromecast background.

Conclusion

It is expensive @ 229 USD if you are not a Google fan boy. It is not available in Singapore yet as we are usually 1 year slower on the tech market. There are still a lot of room for improvement for the information shown and features available as a smart display. It is a bigger, impressive digital photo frame. On a bigger screen and on ambience mode, all the photos from my Google photos looked really like a 5R-6R printed photos while the smaller Nest Hub looked more 4R-ish. I've enjoyed video call on the Nest Hub Max, most probably due to the auto-framing feature. The auto zoom and pan makes the video call looks like it is taken by a professional videographer. I didn't enjoy video call this much on other displays or tablet so well done for the Nest Hub Max Google!

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