Google Home Max: Big and loud

After some time with Google's biggest, loudest, and most expensive smart speaker, here are some initial thoughts.

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Google Home Max is a $399 smart speaker that combines high-end audio features with its Google Home platform powered by Google Assistant.

I will have a complete review after the holidays but I thought it worthwhile to share some of my first impressions after using Home Max for a few hours.

Setup was a breeze

After unboxing the Home Max and connecting it to power, setup was done in the Google Home app on my iPhone X. The app automatically found the speaker and walked me through the setup process. A couple taps and a software update later, I was able to start talking with Google Assistant.

Four indicator lights are centered on the speaker, indicating volume level and when it has been triggered by the "Hey Google" or "OK Google" wake phrases.

Love the fabric front

google-home-max.jpg
(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

The fabric on the front of the Home Max is a look I really like from Google. Similar to the new Amazon Echo, it's a more refined, less industrial look, and it blends in easily with typical home decor.

It's... big

It's hard to compare the Google Home Max's size to any of Amazon's Echo devices, or Apple's HomePod. Measuring in at 13.2 x 7.4 x 6.0 inches and weighing 11.7 pounds, this is a smart speaker you need to make room for.

Thankfully, it can be placed horizontal or vertical, making it a bit easier to squeeze into a tight spot on your kitchen counter of an already full shelf.

Even the Alexa-equipped Sonos One, which pumps out quality sound, is dwarfed by the Home Max.

And loud

With the added size comes impressive sound. I need more time testing the Home Max before I can say one way or another if it beats the Sonos One, but my initial thoughts are that it's on par with it.

As with Apple's HomePod, Home Max will auto-adjust its equalizer for best audio performance based on its placement and layout of the room without the user doing a thing.

The microphones can hear really, really well

Part of what makes a smart speaker "smart" is the ability to use voice commands for a myriad of things. However, if the microphones can't hear you -- especially when music is playing -- then there's little point.

The microphones on the Home Max isn't hard of hearing. Even with the speaker at 80 percent volume, I don't have to yell the wake command to trigger Google Assistant. I tested a few different times by talking softly with music blasting away and Home Max was still able to hear me.

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