We loved the Google Home Hub for its modesty and discreetness. The Google Nest Hub Max is an entirely more curious beast.
Sure it’ll play nice with all your other smart accoutrements - but now with a built-in Nest camera studded onto its forehead it’ll keep an eye on your home and really, er, get to know you.
The 10in screen works in harmony with Chrome and third-party apps, and will throw up lovely Google Photos from your summer holidays and allow you to video call pals abroad - so although some might be wary of a camera in the kitchen, it could be a whole heap more useful.
You can even control it with a wave of your hand – which is sometimes more preferable than yelling at your smart assistant when you want some calm about the home.
It's a smart security camera, a smart home hub and it's vying for as much attention as your dog with its keen appetite to entertain.
Will all of these extra features and larger screen persuade you to clear away some Kilner jars to make space on the kitchen counter? Or is trying to do everything and more a recipe for disaster?
We went hands-on to find out...
Design: Beef strog-on-and-off
The screen has jumped from 7in to 10in with the Nest Hub Max. The larger tilting screen doesn’t appeal to us just yet – but maybe it’ll come in handy when you’re on a video call to a group of relatives having Christmas Dinner or celebrating the end of Ramadan.
Also that bigger size means better speakers. Stereo speakers too – and we can vouch the sound is a huge improvement.
Like all the Google products – as far as home assistants go - it looks friendly and stylish with a fabric base, curved edges all over, and is available in chalk and charcoal. We can’t really fault the overall design and are glad Google has kept it simple. There are two buttons: a volume rocker and the other is an on/off switch.
The tilted screen gives the impression it’s floating, and one feature we really like is the display’s ambient EQ light sensor which adjusts depending on the environment.
It looks like a parent Google Home Hub and acts like one too. That camera with a 127-degree field of vision sits bang in the centre of the top of the display and that’s going to bring about mixed feelings.
There is a privacy mode, and when this is selected, an amber LED dot will signify that both the mic and camera are switched off.
Features: Full House
It seems this device wants to do it all. - keep you entertained when you’re at home and keep an eye on everything when you’re out.
Google Duo is the company's video communication app and will allow video chinwags to Android and iOS users. It’s hands-free too. So if you need to call your mum for advice and you’ve got bechamel sauce all over your mitts, you can holla Google.
An impressive feature which the new camera inroduces is auto-framing whereby the camera will follow you around the room whilst you're on a video call. We saw it in action and it looked as if there might be a small video crew in the kitchen zooming in on the action – it's given us ideas to make a budget Ready Steady Cook when we eventually get a review sample.
It’s getting up close and it’s getting personalised. Voice Match means Google Assistant will recognise your voice and your face too. And when it detects an individual, it’ll show you potential useful information like your weekly calendar or a traffic report.
Face Match is opt-in, so if you want to unlock that feature it’ll have to be done manually. There’s no 3D face mapping here – so it relies on 2D image recognition.
Aside from all the nice trimmings like Quick Gestures - allowing you to pause songs and reduce volume by waving your hands around - as well as posing as a glorified digital photo-frame, this device is the centre of your smart home. Home is where the hub is, right?
The homeview dashboard should show you everything you need and work seamlessly with smart lights, speakers, kettles and whatever other home devices you’ve managed to get into a pair of smarty pants.
And like a loyal Home Assistant it readily responds to “Hey Google...”. Working from one dashboard for an entertainment system is mighty handy – provided your TV and speakers are compatible, we’ll be finding out more about that later.
The camera adds loads of new ways to communicate but it’s really pulling its weight in the security department. Provided you have a Nest account, simply load up the app on your smartphone and you can see what’s going on at home. You can track event history, enable Home and Away assist and will get a notification when your cat knocks that Fabergé egg off the shelf.
Google Nest Hub Max Initial verdict
It’ll be a guardian when you’re not in the house and an entertainer and communicater enabler when you’re in it. It seems like the Google Nest Hub Max has too much on its plate.
The transparency Googe has promised with privacy mode is important and a vital consideration. The larger sized screen is off-putting but the array of new features seem to justify it.
There's a lot to chew here: Gesture controls, face tracking on video calls, as well as all the connectivity abilities we know Google does excellently - and on top of all this it's a bona fide security cam too.
If this 10in floating screen can do all of that, and have the user interface to make it all a breeze - and we'd certainly like it to - then we will eat our hat, scarf, tie and toupee.
We’ll make a final call when we get one to move into our home for a while. We've already cleared all the Kilner jars to make some room.