Guides and Reviews

Most of our smart office deployment involves smart lighting, AC controls and video intercom to manage access control with Doorbird. While Doorbird is great for controlling visitor access, it is lacking in access control for registered users of the office. For this particular office, we are excited to feature and review a facial recognition access video intercom from Hikvision to manage staff access of this office.

The features of this access control video intercom has a 7 inch touch screen with a pair of 2MP camera with detection 0.3 to 3 metres. It takes 0.2 seconds to recognise a face and is able to work without any network connection. Which means if you like to have a stand alone access, control cut off from the internet, you can still use this device as the recognition engine runs on the device itself. It works like a regular video intercom like Doorbird for 2 way audio with the mobile app when it is connected to the internet.

 

We were rather impressed by the almost instantaneous recognition near, far or even with half the face. We also tried to trick it with a selfie photo without any luck as it has anti-spoof in built with a dual camera (it can tell if you are presenting it with a flat digital image).

Here's some photos of the admin pages where you can add/edit users. 

You can even set multi-factor authentication for certain users (up to 5000 registered faces). For visitors, you can also send a QR code for them to present to the camera to gain access.

  

The access control can also be setup to call another unit indoor for inter-room communications.

 

Logging of user access is rather standard for such system but this Hikvision facial recognition access can also do attendance taking. 

As a smart office system integrator, we are also able to integrate with 3rd party systems (i.e Homey) to play personalised messages on speakers upon users access or even take a snapshot of the camera image based on predefined events. 

As the popularity of facial recognition system rises for commercial usage, the cost of such system may even come down to a level where it may be applicable to home uses. While it is now available to commercial users at a reasonable price, we hope can also deploy these to some of our residential customers when it becomes more affordable in the future. Contact us to know more!

 Automate Asia Team

Read more

Most of our smart office deployment involves smart lighting, AC controls and video intercom to manage access control with Doorbird. While Doorbird is great for controlling visitor access, it is lacking in access control for registered users of the office. For this particular office, we are excited to feature and review a facial recognition access video intercom from Hikvision to manage staff access of this office.

The features of this access control video intercom has a 7 inch touch screen with a pair of 2MP camera with detection 0.3 to 3 metres. It takes 0.2 seconds to recognise a face and is able to work without any network connection. Which means if you like to have a stand alone access, control cut off from the internet, you can still use this device as the recognition engine runs on the device itself. It works like a regular video intercom like Doorbird for 2 way audio with the mobile app when it is connected to the internet.

 

We were rather impressed by the almost instantaneous recognition near, far or even with half the face. We also tried to trick it with a selfie photo without any luck as it has anti-spoof in built with a dual camera (it can tell if you are presenting it with a flat digital image).

Here's some photos of the admin pages where you can add/edit users. 

You can even set multi-factor authentication for certain users (up to 5000 registered faces). For visitors, you can also send a QR code for them to present to the camera to gain access.

  

The access control can also be setup to call another unit indoor for inter-room communications.

 

Logging of user access is rather standard for such system but this Hikvision facial recognition access can also do attendance taking. 

As a smart office system integrator, we are also able to integrate with 3rd party systems (i.e Homey) to play personalised messages on speakers upon users access or even take a snapshot of the camera image based on predefined events. 

As the popularity of facial recognition system rises for commercial usage, the cost of such system may even come down to a level where it may be applicable to home uses. While it is now available to commercial users at a reasonable price, we hope can also deploy these to some of our residential customers when it becomes more affordable in the future. Contact us to know more!

 Automate Asia Team

Read more

5 reasons why you need neutral for smart switches

Posted by Mike Lim

You can install smart switches without neutral, why do people still do otherwise when they can save cost? There's quite a number of smart switches that market themselves as not requiring neutral wire, no wiring hassle.

Xiaomi Aqara switches is one, Ufairy Z-Wave switch is another one, some of the Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO Dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano Dimmer also can be installed without neutral. In fact, there are a lot of Zigbee switches on Taobao and Aliexpress that can be installed without neutral.

Why do we want to make life difficult and prefer a neutral solution when we can help customer save cost? Here's 5 reason why:

1. Protect your LED lights and drivers from damage

The reason every smart switch needs a neutral wire attached: it needs to stay powered all the time. The neutral wire does this job exactly. It allows the switch to stay powered even when the light is off. The switch uses the neutral wire to return the current back to the DB (mains) when the switch is off.

Base on the reason above, so how do switches that do not require neutral overcome this law of physic? They return the current via the switch wire, through the LED light/drivers, into the neutral in the ceiling and back to the DB (mains). Sounds viable right? This would mean that when the switch is at the off state, there is a small current flowing (sufficient to power the switch and yet not sufficient to power the lights ) running through your LED lights/drivers. Typically a Zigbee, Z-Wave switch require 1W or below so we assume 1W of current is constantly running through your lights/drivers.

Now if your lights/drivers are on/off type (non dimmable), you are constantly under powering them. Under powering an electrical appliance typical causes damage over time. Some of the low power bulbs, i.e 3W may flicker even if the switch is off because 1W of current is quite significant for a 3W light. You might even notice some of the low power lights are actually on at night when the switch is off! 

 2. Electronics in LED drivers degrade over time

You may experience having your switches and lights work perfectly well right after installation. However, after a while your LED drivers may degrade over time and become sensitive to that small current and start flickering.

3. Smart switch without neutral is technically a dimmer switch

This is also the reason for Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano dimmer can work without neutral. These switches/modules maintain power by cutting the current up to the minimum just like you dim a dimmer to minimum. This works better for dimmable lights/drivers as they are built to work under small current. In some cases, low power dimmable lights might still light up the bulb when the switch is off, just not as badly as a on/off light. Which brings us to the topic of bypass.

4. You may need to use a bypass

Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano dimmer, you can install a bypass at the light to increase the load of your lights so that a small current doesn't power up your lights. For Ufairy switches, they also have a bypass that synchronise with the state of the switch so that when the switch is off, the current goes thru the bypass instead of through the lights/drivers. These are inherently additional point of failures which can be forgotten after installation. If you ever change switches or brands down the road, you might wonder why there are still issues with a new switch as these bypass are made for the specific brand only. You will eventually incur cost of installing or removing the bypass.

5. It only works for wireless technologies that uses low power transmission

If you had already noticed, there is no wifi smart switches that do not require neutral. If there is, please read the technical details. This is because wifi takes higher power compared to Z-Wave and Zigbee and thus will introduce a higher current through your lights. It doesn't make technical sense to build one because it will definitely power up your lights/drivers in off state.

Conclusion

With all these considerations, we do not want risk having customer experience such teething issues down the road. There are so many different quality of lights and drivers in the lighting market. They degrade and respond differently to that small current thus there is no way we can guarantee a stable installation with no neutral smart switches.

So far, we are assuming all smart switches are of the same quality, but take Xiaomi Aqara non neutral switches for example, they fail so much that the Singapore distributor/reseller reduce the warranty to 7 days and stop stocking them all together.

Like we always tell our customers, going for smart switches without neutral is like weight management without regular exercise. It only works temporarily and doesn't last. 

Automate Asia Team

This article is part of Series of articles to start your smart home journey, the smart Singaporean story

Read more

You can install smart switches without neutral, why do people still do otherwise when they can save cost? There's quite a number of smart switches that market themselves as not requiring neutral wire, no wiring hassle.

Xiaomi Aqara switches is one, Ufairy Z-Wave switch is another one, some of the Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO Dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano Dimmer also can be installed without neutral. In fact, there are a lot of Zigbee switches on Taobao and Aliexpress that can be installed without neutral.

Why do we want to make life difficult and prefer a neutral solution when we can help customer save cost? Here's 5 reason why:

1. Protect your LED lights and drivers from damage

The reason every smart switch needs a neutral wire attached: it needs to stay powered all the time. The neutral wire does this job exactly. It allows the switch to stay powered even when the light is off. The switch uses the neutral wire to return the current back to the DB (mains) when the switch is off.

Base on the reason above, so how do switches that do not require neutral overcome this law of physic? They return the current via the switch wire, through the LED light/drivers, into the neutral in the ceiling and back to the DB (mains). Sounds viable right? This would mean that when the switch is at the off state, there is a small current flowing (sufficient to power the switch and yet not sufficient to power the lights ) running through your LED lights/drivers. Typically a Zigbee, Z-Wave switch require 1W or below so we assume 1W of current is constantly running through your lights/drivers.

Now if your lights/drivers are on/off type (non dimmable), you are constantly under powering them. Under powering an electrical appliance typical causes damage over time. Some of the low power bulbs, i.e 3W may flicker even if the switch is off because 1W of current is quite significant for a 3W light. You might even notice some of the low power lights are actually on at night when the switch is off! 

 2. Electronics in LED drivers degrade over time

You may experience having your switches and lights work perfectly well right after installation. However, after a while your LED drivers may degrade over time and become sensitive to that small current and start flickering.

3. Smart switch without neutral is technically a dimmer switch

This is also the reason for Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano dimmer can work without neutral. These switches/modules maintain power by cutting the current up to the minimum just like you dim a dimmer to minimum. This works better for dimmable lights/drivers as they are built to work under small current. In some cases, low power dimmable lights might still light up the bulb when the switch is off, just not as badly as a on/off light. Which brings us to the topic of bypass.

4. You may need to use a bypass

Z-Wave modules such as FIBARO dimmer 2 and Aeotec Nano dimmer, you can install a bypass at the light to increase the load of your lights so that a small current doesn't power up your lights. For Ufairy switches, they also have a bypass that synchronise with the state of the switch so that when the switch is off, the current goes thru the bypass instead of through the lights/drivers. These are inherently additional point of failures which can be forgotten after installation. If you ever change switches or brands down the road, you might wonder why there are still issues with a new switch as these bypass are made for the specific brand only. You will eventually incur cost of installing or removing the bypass.

5. It only works for wireless technologies that uses low power transmission

If you had already noticed, there is no wifi smart switches that do not require neutral. If there is, please read the technical details. This is because wifi takes higher power compared to Z-Wave and Zigbee and thus will introduce a higher current through your lights. It doesn't make technical sense to build one because it will definitely power up your lights/drivers in off state.

Conclusion

With all these considerations, we do not want risk having customer experience such teething issues down the road. There are so many different quality of lights and drivers in the lighting market. They degrade and respond differently to that small current thus there is no way we can guarantee a stable installation with no neutral smart switches.

So far, we are assuming all smart switches are of the same quality, but take Xiaomi Aqara non neutral switches for example, they fail so much that the Singapore distributor/reseller reduce the warranty to 7 days and stop stocking them all together.

Like we always tell our customers, going for smart switches without neutral is like weight management without regular exercise. It only works temporarily and doesn't last. 

Automate Asia Team

This article is part of Series of articles to start your smart home journey, the smart Singaporean story

Read more

The answer to these questions may have been answered in several articles online, we'll try to answer this question in Singapore context. Z-Wave and Zigbee has been around in many years and will still continue to dominate for many years.

It used to be that we only have to choose between Z-Wave or Zigbee when deciding on the smart home hub. As multi protocol hub such as SmartThings and Homey appeared, it eliminated that need to make that choice. In recent years, there've been increasing number of wifi based smart home devices touting the benefit of not requiring a hub. Almost every new smart home devices work with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, over wifi. Even devices such as smart locks or even motorised blinds would have a wifi bridge and work with the various voice assistants. So should we simply throw Z-Wave and Zigbee out totally? Here's the considerations that you have to make.

How many Apps would you like to use?

You have an app for Philip Hue, another for Ambi Climate, another for your Samsung smart lock, and not forgetting another app to control your Somfy blinds. It is true that you can voice control all of them with your Google Home but you still have to go to each of them to set your schedules and most of the time they don't talk to each other through Google Home. There be some wifi devices that cover a few aspects such as lighting and IR blaster for AC within 1 single app. But what if you like to control that new Dyson fan in the bedroom?

A hub based solution allows you to control, create scenes or schedule across different devices on Z-Wave/Zigbee/wifi devices on a single app. However, if you can live with multiple apps, only have a few aspect to manage or only use voice control, you can consider going for wifi based solution.

Wifi is too congested in Singapore

Especially for Singapore where you use your mobile to scan for wifi hotspot, you'd probably see at least 20 SSID in the list. Some areas of your home might encounter interference by your neighbour's wifi signal causing some wifi devices to not work properly there. You can probably put in a powerful UniFi access point to dwarf your neighbour wifi signal or they can do the same in return. Zigbee might encounter the same issue as it is running on 2.4Ghz. You will not get the same interference with Z-Wave because it is running on a sub 1Ghz band with better wall penetration (lower frequency passes through wall better).

Can you accept that automations doesn't run when you lose your internet connection?

Most schedules and scenes on wifi smart home devices are stored in a cloud. When internet is cut or wifi is down, all your scenes and automation will fail. Then again, internet services in Singapore are generally stable, even if there is downtime, it shouldn't last even a day unless there is major destruction of internet infrastructure. If the fault lies in your own router, you'd probably run out to get one in your heartland mall immediately. The sad truth is, wifi is like water to most of us these days.

There is less interoperability/integration on Wifi

Wifi smart devices usually just works with Google Home and Alexa at most. They do not actually work across different brands. For example, a wifi touch switch cannot be programmed to turn off everything (other Wifi smart devices in the house). You cannot make a motion sensor from Philip Hue shut down other smart devices in the house when it detects no motion for more than and hour.

In a hub based smart home, take Homey for example, you program a Z-Wave switch at your entrance to turn off all other smart devices in your house including stopping the music playing on your Sonos. Of course, some wifi based smart devices allow you to use IFTTT to talk to devices from another manufacturer.

Battery powered Wifi sensors/devices is a joke

Wifi and battery can not be used in the same sentence except for this one. That is why for smart locks, even if there is a wifi option, it always come in the form of a wifi bridge. The lock speaks bluetooth to the wifi bridge. There are some motion or door sensors that runs on wifi but by the time they wake up from event, connects to wifi to report motion or opening of doors, 5-7 secs would have passed.

 

Your Z-Wave/Zigbee device can still be reused even when the company is gone

Wifi devices are mostly could dependent. In the event that the cloud services is gone with the company, you are likely to be left in the wild. For Z-Wave/Zigbee devices, your concern should be the hub as it presents as a single point of failure but you are likely to be able to use it with another latest greatest Z-Wave/Zigbee hub.

 

It is easier to start your smart home on wifi

As wifi chip are generally cheaper than Z-Wave and Zigbee chip, the prices for Wifi devices will be lower. As such, if you just like to try out smart home, wifi is definitely the way to go due to the lower cost and you do not need to invest in a hub just to try things out.

If you are a home owner who simply want something basic and affordable to control your home with app and voice control without much sophistication. Wifi will be a good choice.

So how?

Our advice is, go for wifi devices if you like something basic such as lighting and aircon mobile and voice control. You simply have to make sure your wifi is strong with good coverage. It is simpler to manage for the less tech savvy.

Go for hub based Z-Wave/Zigbee solution such as Homey if you like to future proof your home as it provide more integrations for future expansion, less chances of signal interference. Geeks and more tech savvy home owners would appreciate this solution more.

Automate Asia Team

This article is part of Series of articles to start your smart home journey, the smart Singaporean story

Read more

The answer to these questions may have been answered in several articles online, we'll try to answer this question in Singapore context. Z-Wave and Zigbee has been around in many years and will still continue to dominate for many years.

It used to be that we only have to choose between Z-Wave or Zigbee when deciding on the smart home hub. As multi protocol hub such as SmartThings and Homey appeared, it eliminated that need to make that choice. In recent years, there've been increasing number of wifi based smart home devices touting the benefit of not requiring a hub. Almost every new smart home devices work with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, over wifi. Even devices such as smart locks or even motorised blinds would have a wifi bridge and work with the various voice assistants. So should we simply throw Z-Wave and Zigbee out totally? Here's the considerations that you have to make.

How many Apps would you like to use?

You have an app for Philip Hue, another for Ambi Climate, another for your Samsung smart lock, and not forgetting another app to control your Somfy blinds. It is true that you can voice control all of them with your Google Home but you still have to go to each of them to set your schedules and most of the time they don't talk to each other through Google Home. There be some wifi devices that cover a few aspects such as lighting and IR blaster for AC within 1 single app. But what if you like to control that new Dyson fan in the bedroom?

A hub based solution allows you to control, create scenes or schedule across different devices on Z-Wave/Zigbee/wifi devices on a single app. However, if you can live with multiple apps, only have a few aspect to manage or only use voice control, you can consider going for wifi based solution.

Wifi is too congested in Singapore

Especially for Singapore where you use your mobile to scan for wifi hotspot, you'd probably see at least 20 SSID in the list. Some areas of your home might encounter interference by your neighbour's wifi signal causing some wifi devices to not work properly there. You can probably put in a powerful UniFi access point to dwarf your neighbour wifi signal or they can do the same in return. Zigbee might encounter the same issue as it is running on 2.4Ghz. You will not get the same interference with Z-Wave because it is running on a sub 1Ghz band with better wall penetration (lower frequency passes through wall better).

Can you accept that automations doesn't run when you lose your internet connection?

Most schedules and scenes on wifi smart home devices are stored in a cloud. When internet is cut or wifi is down, all your scenes and automation will fail. Then again, internet services in Singapore are generally stable, even if there is downtime, it shouldn't last even a day unless there is major destruction of internet infrastructure. If the fault lies in your own router, you'd probably run out to get one in your heartland mall immediately. The sad truth is, wifi is like water to most of us these days.

There is less interoperability/integration on Wifi

Wifi smart devices usually just works with Google Home and Alexa at most. They do not actually work across different brands. For example, a wifi touch switch cannot be programmed to turn off everything (other Wifi smart devices in the house). You cannot make a motion sensor from Philip Hue shut down other smart devices in the house when it detects no motion for more than and hour.

In a hub based smart home, take Homey for example, you program a Z-Wave switch at your entrance to turn off all other smart devices in your house including stopping the music playing on your Sonos. Of course, some wifi based smart devices allow you to use IFTTT to talk to devices from another manufacturer.

Battery powered Wifi sensors/devices is a joke

Wifi and battery can not be used in the same sentence except for this one. That is why for smart locks, even if there is a wifi option, it always come in the form of a wifi bridge. The lock speaks bluetooth to the wifi bridge. There are some motion or door sensors that runs on wifi but by the time they wake up from event, connects to wifi to report motion or opening of doors, 5-7 secs would have passed.

 

Your Z-Wave/Zigbee device can still be reused even when the company is gone

Wifi devices are mostly could dependent. In the event that the cloud services is gone with the company, you are likely to be left in the wild. For Z-Wave/Zigbee devices, your concern should be the hub as it presents as a single point of failure but you are likely to be able to use it with another latest greatest Z-Wave/Zigbee hub.

 

It is easier to start your smart home on wifi

As wifi chip are generally cheaper than Z-Wave and Zigbee chip, the prices for Wifi devices will be lower. As such, if you just like to try out smart home, wifi is definitely the way to go due to the lower cost and you do not need to invest in a hub just to try things out.

If you are a home owner who simply want something basic and affordable to control your home with app and voice control without much sophistication. Wifi will be a good choice.

So how?

Our advice is, go for wifi devices if you like something basic such as lighting and aircon mobile and voice control. You simply have to make sure your wifi is strong with good coverage. It is simpler to manage for the less tech savvy.

Go for hub based Z-Wave/Zigbee solution such as Homey if you like to future proof your home as it provide more integrations for future expansion, less chances of signal interference. Geeks and more tech savvy home owners would appreciate this solution more.

Automate Asia Team

This article is part of Series of articles to start your smart home journey, the smart Singaporean story

Read more

Starting a smart home journey in Singapore is confusing and extremely so if you are not very tech savvy. As a consumer, you probably started by going to Google, punch in the terms "Smart Home Singapore" or "Home Automation Singapore".



Not only you are presented with an entire list of companies that offer smart home products and services. From companies aggressively paying for ads to list themselves on Google, to companies that have done quite a bit of market education, thus appearing naturally in the listing.

Every one claims to do the same few things, "best", "leading", "trusted". You started to call or visit them, every one offers different technology at different price points.


On the other hand as you surfed the forums, you saw brands like Philips Hue, Xiaomi, Samsung Smart Things, Google Home and Amazon Echo. Now when you felt you are probably getting a better idea, you got to know terms like Z-Wave, Zigbee, RF, Wifi each have their own pros and cons.

Finally you probably also read up the wiring involved for your new dream home. Some technologies require you to do full house rewiring while other requires pulling of neutral. Ideally you like to not do any additional wiring to save cost but it seems inevitable for stability.

 



Seems like the more you dig the more confused you get. We hope to offer you some insights to the smart home market in Singapore at least through our very own eyes, learning from customers throughout the years since 2012. Through this series of articles, we hope to walk you through some of the considerations that other smart home owners have made. This is kind of a smart home mind map where one consideration leads to another.

Articles in this series are some of the questions our customers usually ask, we tend to be technology agnostic because smart home solution is never one size fits all. There are smart home solutions for techies as well as for dummies. While some are made for DIY and some are designed for you to keep going back to the in$taller.

1. Which smart home technology should you adopt? Z-Wave, Zigbee or Wifi?

2. You can install smart switches without neutral, why do people still do otherwise when they can save cost? 

3. Smart home industry in Singapore? Who are the players and how do I choose?  [Coming soon]

4. Are all touch switches built equal? I'll just choose the dirt cheap one, right?  [Coming soon]

5. Do I still need smart switches when I'm going to use Philip Hue throughout the house? [Coming soon]

6. To Hub or not to Hub? Do we still need a smart home hub? [Coming soon] 


If you like please bear with us while we churn the articles out. They may not be written in the above order, we may also have a sudden urge add something. Alternatively, you can simply contact us to have a chat to answer your specific considerations.

Automate Asia Team

Read more

Starting a smart home journey in Singapore is confusing and extremely so if you are not very tech savvy. As a consumer, you probably started by going to Google, punch in the terms "Smart Home Singapore" or "Home Automation Singapore".



Not only you are presented with an entire list of companies that offer smart home products and services. From companies aggressively paying for ads to list themselves on Google, to companies that have done quite a bit of market education, thus appearing naturally in the listing.

Every one claims to do the same few things, "best", "leading", "trusted". You started to call or visit them, every one offers different technology at different price points.


On the other hand as you surfed the forums, you saw brands like Philips Hue, Xiaomi, Samsung Smart Things, Google Home and Amazon Echo. Now when you felt you are probably getting a better idea, you got to know terms like Z-Wave, Zigbee, RF, Wifi each have their own pros and cons.

Finally you probably also read up the wiring involved for your new dream home. Some technologies require you to do full house rewiring while other requires pulling of neutral. Ideally you like to not do any additional wiring to save cost but it seems inevitable for stability.

 



Seems like the more you dig the more confused you get. We hope to offer you some insights to the smart home market in Singapore at least through our very own eyes, learning from customers throughout the years since 2012. Through this series of articles, we hope to walk you through some of the considerations that other smart home owners have made. This is kind of a smart home mind map where one consideration leads to another.

Articles in this series are some of the questions our customers usually ask, we tend to be technology agnostic because smart home solution is never one size fits all. There are smart home solutions for techies as well as for dummies. While some are made for DIY and some are designed for you to keep going back to the in$taller.

1. Which smart home technology should you adopt? Z-Wave, Zigbee or Wifi?

2. You can install smart switches without neutral, why do people still do otherwise when they can save cost? 

3. Smart home industry in Singapore? Who are the players and how do I choose?  [Coming soon]

4. Are all touch switches built equal? I'll just choose the dirt cheap one, right?  [Coming soon]

5. Do I still need smart switches when I'm going to use Philip Hue throughout the house? [Coming soon]

6. To Hub or not to Hub? Do we still need a smart home hub? [Coming soon] 


If you like please bear with us while we churn the articles out. They may not be written in the above order, we may also have a sudden urge add something. Alternatively, you can simply contact us to have a chat to answer your specific considerations.

Automate Asia Team

Read more

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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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!

Source

 

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