Google Nest Hub Max: The value of assistants are starting to make sense

With the latest from the Google Nest Home family now available, here are some initial thoughts.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor
Image: Google

Google has integrated its Home speaker and proprietary assistant with the Nest family of products, releasing the Google Nest Hub Max on Tuesday.

As Google's Katie Morgenroth, one of the leads of the company's industrial design team based in Mountain View, said during a briefing with media in Sydney, the new device boasts a bigger display, better sound profile, an integrated Nest camera, and a lot of new functionality in the assistant that makes it appropriate for bigger spaces.  

Here are some initial thoughts of the Google Nest Hub Max.

See also: Everything we know about the Google Nest Hub Max (CNET)

Setting the device up was time consuming, but it's actually worth putting in the effort to do it properly, as the assistant -- even after 24 hours of infrequent use -- started serving up useful information. Besides, if it's done right the first time, it shouldn't need to be touched again.

As an iPhone-user, it's not too much of a different experience than if using Android; all that is needed is app real estate -- Google Home, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Photos, and Nest -- to get the most out of the device.

It's designed to be used by multiple people, with the ability to store up to six voice and face profiles. Yes, face profiles.

The hub has an in-built 6.5 megapixel camera that can be physically turned off on the device. This also turns off the microphone and cannot be overridden by software.

The camera is touted by Google as "offering on-device camera sensing features that help you personalise and control your experience based on what the camera sees, such as FaceMatch and Quick Gestures".

FaceMatch is where facial recognition comes into it -- it matched my face to show personalised settings, and also those for a friend who was also set up on the device, purely to test it out.

Quick Gestures include the ability to turn the music off by raising your hand and showing your palm like a stop sign towards the camera. This is actually useful -- definitely more user-friendly than screaming "OK Google pause" constantly over loud music until it hears you.

The camera acts as a security device, too, offering support for Nest Aware subscriptions. You can log into your Nest account while you're away to see a stream of the space in front of the camera. This is where the integration of the Nest family makes its biggest impact.

There's no denying this device is designed for a family, but it can definitely work for anyone. It has the ability to allow video calling, via Duo, and messaging, too. A Duo account is required to access this feature, however.

The camera boasts auto-framing, which automatically zooms and pans around during a call, so even if you're cooking in the kitchen, you'll be followed around.

The green light on the top of the device displays the status of the camera -- the light will blink green if someone is streaming the footage.

See also: Vulnerabilities in Google Nest Cam IQ can be used to hijack the camera, leak data

Image: Google

It looks almost identical to the Google Home Hub -- now named the Google Nest Hub-- it's just substantially bigger.

The Google Nest Hub Max has a 10-inch HD display that dwarfs the Google Home Hub, and allows for the streaming of YouTube and other services such as Stan. Morgenroth said Google is "always adding new partners".

It also allows a slide show of selected photos to be displayed, acting as a digital photo frame. Morgenroth said machine learning is utilised to pair related photos.

The hub allows for more than 200 devices from 50 brands to be integrated and controlled, including smart lighting. The dashboard pull-down menu allows for a visual over all of the connected devices.

This device was designed for use in the kitchen -- a space not exactly synonymous with being a perfect environment for listening to music, but Google made it work. Two front-facing stereo tweeters and one rear woofer creates a bigger sound that is more room-filling than the Google Home Hub.

I took the device into the loungeroom to test the sound quality as a standalone feature and the sound is clear and almost on-par with the Google Home Max.

It's definitely a step-up from the previous Google Home devices, which still serve their purposes separately. Google has done a good job of releasing a new product that doesn't wholly supersede its existing catalogue, as the sound from the Google Home Max is definitely still better for pure music listening purposes; the Google Home Mini is still the cheaper, yet still decent, alternative; and the Google Nest Hub is a more discrete Google Assistant that doesn't have the creep factor of boasting a camera.

More time is needed with the device to determine if it is everything the search engine giant claims it to be, but my initial observation is that the Google Nest Hub Max is a perfect example of where an assistant can find a place within the home in a manner that is useful.

The Google Nest Hub Max is available in chalk and charcoal colours from September 10 at Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, Officeworks, and the Google Store for AU$349 RRP. Optus will also be retailing Nest Hub Max in the coming months.

What it's like inside a life-size Google Home Max


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