The Nest Hub Max: Best Smart Display for Your Kitchen or Living Room

Rating: 8.5/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $229
Two pictures of an adorable dog on the Nest Hub Max smart display.
Josh Hendrickson

The original Nest Hub (formerly Google Home Hub) is so fantastic, we called it the Product of the Year. Now, Google is back with the Nest Hub Max—a bigger and better take on the device.

Here's What We Like

  • Bigger, better display
  • Bigger, better sound
  • Camera is useful

And What We Don't

  • Still too hard to return to recipes
  • Hardware switch kills the camera and microphone

Here at Review Geek, we love the Nest Hub. The ambient screen is gorgeous, especially when combined with Google Photos. It perfectly integrates with your smarthome gadgets, and the voice assistant is also incredibly handy.

But at just seven inches, the screen is small. It’s perfect for your nightstand or office desk, but not so great for your living room if you sit across the room on a couch. At a distance, you lose some of its best screen-related features. The Nest Hub Max has solved this by adopting a bigger screen. While 10 inches might not seem like much, it makes a big difference, and it keeps everything we love about the Nest Hub (with one exception).

The Nest Hub Max also adds a camera, which brings in new features the original Nest Hub can’t match.

Hopefully, you don’t mind cameras in your home. Google takes an all-or-nothing approach to that, whether the camera and microphone are both on or off. But more on that later.

A Proactive Smart Display

One of the best features of any smarthome is voice commands. The ability to control your lights, plugs, thermostat, and more with your voice is something you don’t really need, but can’t live without once you have it.

A proactive smarthome is even better! When it anticipates your needs and turns lights on and off for you, it feels magical.

A dog in the main frame, and a profile photo of the author in the upper-right corner of the Nest Hub Max screen.
When the Nest Hub Max recognizes you, it displays your photo in the upper-right corner. Josh Hendrickson

The Nest Hub Max demonstrates that magic, in part. It includes an integrated camera and face-matching technology. After you train it to recognize you, it works for you and anticipates your needs. When I walk in the kitchen or living room in the morning, the Nest Hub Max sees me, greets me, and shows me my calendar, weather, and news. I don’t do or say anything beyond looking toward it.

I want to emphasize “toward it” as the camera uses a pretty wide angle. Often, if I’m making breakfast, the camera spots me and pulls up all that information, which is incredibly convenient. Other times, the photo slideshow continues, but a large banner notification appears with a few important bits of info, like my next calendar appointment.

The camera can also double as a security camera. This requires a Nest Aware camera subscription, which currently operates on a “per camera” basis. However, Google announced that starting in early 2020, one subscription will cover every Nest Cam you own, which will be helpful.

It Sounds Better, Too

The other benefit of moving to a bigger screen is it provides more room for the speakers. Thankfully, Google took advantage of this and upgraded the Nest Hub Max’s speakers in a major way.

The Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub side-by-side.
The Nest Hub Max is noticeably larger than the original Nest Hub. Josh Hendrickson

The Nest Hub Max is much louder than the original Nest Hub. The original is good enough to listen to when you’re right next to it, but the Max can fill your living room with music. It sounds good, too, with decent thumping bass and acceptable mix.

It won’t replace your surround system, nor will it stand up to dedicated smart speakers designed for the audiophiles (like Sonos or Echo Studio), but for the average person, it’s more than good enough.

Perfect for Your Living Room or Kitchen

Let’s address the elephant in the room. In many ways, one of our favorite features about the original Nest Hub was its distinct lack of a camera. This afforded you a sense of privacy and trust—something that doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with products from large corporations. You can safely put a Nest Hub in your bedroom and not worry about a camera hack.

A ReviewGeek YouTube video on the Nest Hub Max.
Watching YouTube is much better on the larger screen. Josh Hendrickson

The Nest Hub Max has a camera that does come with privacy concerns; however, it’s intended to be used differently. The Nest Hub is a smart display for your bedroom, but the Nest Hub Max is the smart display for your kitchen or living room. It’s the display you can see from across the room, and if you want to watch YouTube or get some recipe help, the larger screen is an immediate benefit

The recipe feature could use some help, though.

Room for Improvement

For a device so perfectly aimed at your kitchen, the Nest Hub Max is still a tiny bit lousy at recipe management. When you find a recipe you like, it works well. The steps are clear, concise, and you can navigate entirely by voice—after all, you don’t want to touch a screen with flour-covered hands.

The problem is, you can’t save recipes, nor can you easily go back to one. On one occasion, I chose a recipe I liked, started cooking, and had to stop in the middle. When I came back, I couldn’t find that recipe again; I had to use my iPad to find one that was similar enough to the original to continue.

The back of the Nest Hub Max, featuring a slider switch.
A single hardware switch controls both the cameras and the microphones. Josh Hendrickson

That’s a software issue, though, and Google can fix that. Unfortunately, my other major complaint is a hardware issue. You might like the Nest Hub Max’s size, but hate the camera. The good news is, you can flip a switch and disable it. The bad news? When you flip the switch, it also disables the microphone. It’s all or nothing, and, frankly, that’s frustrating.

Google could have (and should have) added a slide cover for the camera, and a dedicated switch to disable the microphone. If this concerns you, my recommendation is to stick with the original Nest Hub—it doesn’t have a camera, so problem solved!

For everyone else, the Nest Hub Max is a great choice for a smart display in your living room, kitchen, or any other larger room. It’s bigger and better than the original Nest Hub, which was already a fantastic device that outclassed Amazon’s devices, like the Echo Show.

If you want a smart display for the “communal rooms” of your home, this is the one to get—nothing else can compete.

Rating: 8.5/10
Price: $229

Here’s What We Like

  • Bigger, better display
  • Bigger, better sound
  • Camera is useful

And What We Don't

  • Still too hard to return to recipes
  • Hardware switch kills the camera and microphone

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »

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