Google Nest Hub v Google Nest Hub Max: Little and large square off

Is bigger better for Google's smart displays?

Nest Hub v Nest Hub Max
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Google's Nest lineup is expanding, slowly but surely, and in some cases is doing so in literal terms. Case in point - the Google Nest Hub Max takes the smart display template set by the original Nest Hub and just dials it up.

It's bigger, and it's got cameras, but not everyone might want quite such a large display in their smart home.

The Ambient verdicts: Google Nest Hub Max review | Google Nest Hub review

But which of the two is the right choice for you? We've been living with both the Nest Hub Max and Nest Hub for a little while now, and have taken a detailed look at both models in comparison. You can also check our full reviews for each display via the links above.

Google Nest Hub Max v Google Nest Hub: Design

Google Nest Hub v Google Nest Hub Max: Little and large square off

This is one of the more straightforward comparisons we've written. There's basically one big difference between the Nest Hub and the Nest Hub Max: size.

The Nest Hub is 4.5 inches high and 7 inches wide, while the Nest Hub Max is 7.19 inches tall and 9.85 inches wide, which means a 7-inch display on the smaller version, compared to a 10-inch screen on the larger.

Beyond that, everything is pretty much shared. They've both got identical looks, with the screen projecting out from a fabric base which hides the display's speakers. You can't control the angle of the screen's tilt, though you do get a physical mute button and volume control to the rear of the units.

Read next: The best smart displays for your home

One other contrast between the two devices is that the smaller Nest Hub has a couple more options in terms of colors. You can pick it and the Nest Hub Max up in black and light grey, but the Nest Hub also has the option of a coral pink and pale green to choose from. But whichever color you go for, the bezel remains white.

We'll get into its capabilities more in our features section, but the Nest Hub Max also makes the significant addition of a camera. The bigger device's mute button also turns off the camera, but you don't get the option of a physical shutter to obscure the camera, which might put some people off.

In short, the key question in terms of the design of these two smart displays is this: how big do you want yours? If you're looking for a bigger screen, for more streaming, video calling (more on that later, too) and bigger photos, then you'll probably want the Nest Hub Max. If you'd prefer a subtler design, something you can put on a nightstand of bookcase, the smaller Nest Hub is probably the best choice.

Google Nest Hub Max v Google Nest Hub: Features

Google Nest Hub v Google Nest Hub Max: Little and large square off

Things get a little bit more distinct between the models when it comes to features, largely as a result of the aforementioned camera on the Nest Hub Max.

It's a 127-degree, 6.5-megapixel camera, and isn't just aimed at video calling. It's got facial recognition tech built in that lets you set up a few users for the Hub Max, which will recognize who's looking at it and display information accordingly. It's a little sci-fi, and a little scary, in equal measure, and it's totally optional.

The camera's wide angle is great for video calling using Google Duo, which can be done to friends and family who have the Duo app on their smartphones. When you use it, the Nest Hub Max will zoom and follow you if you move around the room, a nice touch. It's just annoying that you're limited to Duo in this regard.

Finally, the camera means that you can use the Nest Hub Max as a full-featured indoor Nest camera, to monitor your home remotely. Using a Nest account, you can set it up to detect intruders, and check in on the room whenever you need to. This is a nice bit of bonus functionality, although it's a little isolated as a Google-cum-Nest device - you can't tell Google to control Nest's use of the display, for example.

The Nest Hub Max has one other trick up its sleeve, although it's pretty limited for now: gesture controls. At the moment that means you can raise a hand to pause a track or video you're listening to or watching, but Google says more gestures will be rolled out eventually.

Both devices, meanwhile, have a range of smart home controls that you can access via Google Home View without needing the camera. To be clear, neither of these displays is an actual smart home hub - there's no Zigbee or Z-Wave radios, so it's a hub in name only. Still, though, with their attractive displays and Home View you get a quick and easy overview of your smart home's status.

Both models can also access various streaming apps, including YouTube, YouTube TV, HBO Now, Starz, and CBS All Access, plus anything you can stream via Chromecast. Sadly, that doesn't mean Netflix, though, which might be an issue for some.

Google Nest Hub Max v Google Nest Hub: Screen and sound

Google Nest Hub v Google Nest Hub Max: Little and large square off

So, that brings us to another point of contrast between the Nest Hub and the Nest Hub Max, which is the actual difference between their screens and sound quality. After all, you're buying a smart display largely to take advantage of those two facets.

The screens may be different sizes, but both are relatively similar in terms of quality. The smaller Nest Hub has a resolution of 1024 x 600, while the Nest Hub Max 1,280 x 800, and in practice they look pretty much identical in terms of sharpness and contrast.

Both displays have ambient brightness detection that works a treat, dimming the display to account for light around it, and making them excellent options as digital photo frames when you're not actively using them. This is easy to set up, with the option of a Google-curated rotation of professional images.

Sound quality is more of a contrast, though. The bigger base of the Nest Hub Max means that it can house stereo speakers, and a little woofer, too - the woofer is 75mm, and the two tweeters are 18mm.

The Nest Hub just has a single speaker, by comparison, and its sound performance really isn't up to a huge amount. It's fine for everyday use, and for talking to Google Assistant, but isn't a particularly impressive option for music.

The Nest Hub Max is better, though it still can't hold a candle to the likes of Sonos. It's got improved bass, and can go much louder before it gets tinny. If you're choosing between the two and sound quality's an important variable, the Nest Hub Max takes the crown easily.

Google Nest Hub Max v Google Nest Hub: price

Google Nest Hub v Google Nest Hub Max: Little and large square off

Unsurprisingly, there's a bit of a price difference between the Nest Hub Max, which costs $229, and the Nest Hub which is available for $129.

In a way, that makes it a simple question - is the bigger screen space, the addition of a camera, and its other features like video calling, worth it for the extra money? If you know you're likely to use your smart display to watch a lot of content, and you're also fond of a video call, that could be the difference here.

Google Nest Hub Max v Google Nest Hub: Which is better?

Google Nest Hub v Google Nest Hub Max: Little and large square off

So, we come to the end of the line - which is actually better? For us, there's no simple solution here, because the difference in size and profile between the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max is so significant.

It really depends on how you want to use the device. Are you going to be streaming music and video on the regular? If so, the improved sound quality and screen size of the Nest Hub Max make it probably a logical choice.

That said, if you're not as fussed about the video and audio side of things, and are more interested in just having an easy smart home control hub to control your devices, and don't want it to be too obvious a statement in terms of size and profile, the smaller Nest Hub beckons. It can blend into a bookshelf more easily, and still ticks most of the boxes in terms of features.

At the end of the day, both are solid smart displays, and it probably comes down to personal preference. With support from Google likely to continue for some time, you won't be left in the dust either way.



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