I’ll get right to the main reason you’re reading this review: The Google Home Max has amazing audio quality. It has a large speaker that is strong and dramatic. It is clear throughout, deep and heavy at the bottom, and well-balanced throughout. Its voice is much louder and better than I had anticipated. When I was trying it, I kept hesitantly pushing the volume down because it makes such a wallop, despite my desire to turn it up.
However, because the Google Home Max does so much more than just play music, I can’t evaluate it solely on the basis of sound quality. It is a Google Assistant-equipped smart speaker. You can talk to it just like you could with the Google Home and Google Home Mini before it, and it will connect your voice commands to all of Google’s different services and ecosystems of devices.
You may instruct it to perform a variety of tasks, such as performing web searches, controlling your Nest thermostat, playing a film on a Chromecast-compatible TV, or starting up your reggaeton Spotify playlist. It is worth $400 because of these added features (plus, if you’re a Google fan, it is worth it). Yes, it is a party machine. But it also functions as a voice-activated remote control for all the gadgets and information around you.
Sincerely, the aesthetic design is extremely dull; it is a grey glob covered in a wool-like material. (So yet, there are only two color options: light grey and darker charcoal.) Since it allows the speaker to fit into any setting, which is probably the purpose, the design’s seeming blandness and lack of inspiration might be seen as a feature.
The Home Max is about the size of a Sonos Play:3, and it has two configurations much like that speaker. You may either leave it lying flat, where the four front-facing drivers create a stereo image, or you can tip it up vertically, where it operates in mono. If you purchase two Maxes, you can run them as a stereo pair by tipping both of them up vertically.
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Once they have wirelessly paired with one another, you can position them on either side of a turntable or (cough) a CD player to create a setup that is similar to a standard home radio. You can effortlessly attach the rubber base to whichever side of the Max speaker you wish to place on your table or shelf because it magnetically attaches to the speaker’s body. It’s a cute little addition.
Ready to Play
I allot 20 to 30 minutes for setup for each smart speaker I review. But this gadget took less than five to get going. I didn’t have to download anything to my phone because it use the same software as the other Google Home devices. Additionally, the Assistant already has all of my information because my phone is a Pixel.
It already has connections to my Spotify, Google Play Music, and YouTube accounts recognizes my voice, sees my calendar and knows where my home and workplace are (which is necessary for traffic reports). No passwords needed to be entered by me. After a few taps in the app, the speaker woke up, and I told it, “OK Google, play The Daily podcast.” When I was listening to the program on my phone 10 minutes earlier, The Max picked up right where I left off.
I asked “OK Google, what’s my commute look like,” and the Assistant directed me to check my phone for a full map after telling me (via the Max) how long it would take and how congested it would be. The notification appeared on the Pixel’s screen, and there it was. Later, when I asked it to start playing Spotify, it immediately resumed where I had left off (Echo & The Bunnymen, Crocodiles).
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That is the power of Google’s Home products: seamless integration of all the services you use, with the Assistant acting as the all-around escort, gathering data streams and bringing them to you wherever you are at the time. However, iPhone enthusiasts are undoubtedly reading this and sighing. They have a valid excuse. On iOS devices, Google Assistant is accessible, but it’s not the built-in voice platform.
Siri is still available when you press the iPhone home button. Therefore, the Max may not provide iPhone users with the same warm, futuristic feeling. Yes, iOS users may still ask Google’s speaker to play music, use it as a smart-home manager, and talk to it. It will still respond enthusiastically to all of those requests. The amazing sensation that all of your devices, from your phone to your computer to your speaker, are all connected to the same brain is something that technology cannot contribute to. While it can summon information and cue up media, it cannot add that extra layer of state awareness.
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The Google Home Max is a worthy upgrade for your home audio setup if you want a great-sounding speaker and you’re already all-in on Assistant—whether you run Android, manage a small battalion of Google Homes, or take the extra steps to chat to Google on an iPhone. When combined with the Assistant’s almost terrifying usefulness, the $400 investment in Max’s functionality and sound quality is definitely worth it.
Look elsewhere if you owe money to another cloud-based domestique, though. Even if the Max sounds great, you can only fully benefit from it if you and the Assistant get along. Consider one of the less expensive Home speakers if all you want is an Alexa substitute. Purchase the Sonos One speaker instead. It currently has Alexa, but in a few months, it will also have Google Assistant. The Sonos One actually costs only 50% as much as the Max. Get two if you want to.