Nest Hub Max is the smart display Google should have started with

Google finally builds a smart display with a camera as it consolidates its smart home efforts under the Nest brand.

nest home hub max with nest hello
Google

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With the Nest Hub Max, Google's finally created the smart display it should have built in the first place. Announced Tuesday at the company's Google I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California, the $229 Nest Hub Max will consist of a smart display with a 10-inch HD screen and an onboard camera. It will come to market later this summer. The existing Google Home Hub has been renamed to the Nest Hub, and its price has been reduced to $129.

In the same presentation, Google announced that it has combined its Google Home and Nest product development teams. The Nest Hub Max is the team’s first product.

The Nest Hub Max isn’t a total surprise, as Google leaked news about the larger smart display and its Nest branding in a Google Store posting in late March. More importantly, however, it will be a much better competitor to Amazon’s smart displays, especially the second-gen Echo Show. It should also be a good companion for other Android-based smart displays. 

Google reportedly pushed Lenovo and JBL to incorporate cameras into their smart displays—the Lenovo Smart Display and JBL Link View, respectively—so that users could make video calls using Google Duo. So it was a surprise when Google’s first smart display shipped without a camera. And it must have been an irritant to Google’s partners when the company stressed privacy concerns as the reason to not put a camera on the original Google Home Hub.

nest home hub max google duo Google

The new Nest Hub Max is equipped with a Nest Cam for video calls using Google Duo (among other things).

Tuesday’s announcement puts Google Duo at the forefront in explaining why the Nest Hub Max has a camera. Presumably it will work with the Lenovo and JBL product lines (a Google blog post only says it will allow video calling to any iOS or Android device or on a web browser). Still emphasizing privacy, today’s demo showed a green light that glows whenever the Nest Hub Max’s camera is enabled, and it showed a switch on the back that electrically disables both its camera and microphone.

Specifically described as a Nest Cam, the Nest Hub Max’s camera offers a feature called Face Match that uses facial recognition to respond to the person currently in its field of view.

For each person in the home who creates a face model, the Nest Hub Max will do things such as present a custom itinerary for the day based on that person’s calendar, as well as reminders and messages that have been waiting for you to return. Google emphasizes that this facial recognition relies on machine learning local to the device, and that the camera data is locally encrypted and never uploaded to the cloud.

From a security point of view, the Nest Hub Max will also use facial recognition and an onboard motion sensor to send alerts if its camera detects motion or encounters a person it doesn’t recognize while it’s in “away” mode. It should integrate nicely with other Nest Cams and our current favorite video doorbell, the Nest Hello.

nest home hub max with nest hello Google

The Nest Home Hub is outfitted with a Nest Cam and will be capable of streaming video from other Nest Cams, including the Nest Hello video doorbell.

The Nest Hub Max will be tightly integrated with Google’s entertainment properties—YouTube and YouTube Music—and its camera’s facial-recognition feature will be able to make personalized entertainment recommendations depending on who is in front of the camera. The device will also operate as a digital photo frame, and users will be able to share their favorite shots with others using voice commands.

Lastly, the Nest Hub Max will support the Thread network protocol for Internet of Things devices that must operate on low power to preserve battery life, including smart door locks and sensors. It won’t be a perfect fit for the smaller Nest Hub, however, because that device lacks a camera. We look forward to getting one in for review.

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