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Google Home Max Review

The Google Home Max has arrived in the UK, but should you spend £399 on it? It's a huge lump but it will blow your socks off. Find out why in our review.

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • $399
Google's trio of smart speakers are now all on sale in the UK, with the largest take a while to arrive. If you want a lot more power, to put it lightly, then the Google Home Max is the one to go for. Here's our full review.


PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
So far, the Google Home speakers have been pretty affordable. The regular version is £129/$129 and the Home mini is just £49/$49.

It makes some sense that the Max is a lot more, but we were hoping that it wouldn't be quite as high as £399/$399. That makes it more expensive than the Apple HomePod which is £319/$349, but cheaper than the equivalent Sonos, the £499/$499 Play:5.

You can buy the Home Max directly from Google or from John Lewis.

DESIGN AND BUILD
As the name suggests, the Home Max is the beast of the three Google smart speakers. It's combatively huge compared to even the regular Home, let alone the mini. The size, and 5.3kg weight, means you'll want to check it fits before placing an order. It’s similar to the Sonos Play:5.

One thing we like is that the Max, despite its size, has the rare ability to be used it two difference orientations. A rubber mat attaches with magnets so you can move it between essentially landscape and portrait.

We like the rounded wedge shape design which is pretty minimalist and comes in just two colours: Chalk and Charcoal so isn't as colourful as its smaller brothers.

Like the mini, four LEDs hide behind the fabric front and light up when you're interacting with the speaker. There's actually more than four as the lights will stay horizontal if you change the orientation of the speaker.

There's a long touch sensitive bar on the top that looks a little ugly, but this is actually a sticker indicating the controls. It's for playback control and volume adjustment. This also adjusts with the orientation so in portrait, sliding your flinger downwards will reduce the volume.

It's frustrating that the touch control doesn't allow you to skip track with a double tap, it's only for pause and play. So you'll need to use your voice or connected device.

At the back is a microphone switch for privacy (it shows orange when the mic is disabled) and ports for power, 3.5mm aux and USB-C. The latter might seem odd but can handily be used to charge a phone or for an Ethernet dongle should you want a wired internet connection.

FEATURES AND SOUND QUALITY
The Google Home Max might live up to its name in physical size, but at least it also matches up when it comes to oomph and sound quality.

Inside the rigid shell are two 4.5in drivers and above each sits a 0.7in custom tweeter. Between them, they handle the entire frequency range from bass all the way up to high-end. And they do so very well.

Bass is particularly impressive, partly, due to the main drivers large 22mm excursion. In other words, the distance they can travel and move more air, which is required for lower frequencies. The response isn't overly bass heavy, though; it's rich and warm without overpowering.
The mid-range and top-end are certainly not forgotten about and are equally impressive. Listen to a track like Hello by Adele and not only will the bass blow you away, her vocals come through loud and clear and the cymbals are bright and pure.

If the tuning doesn't suit your taste then you can adjust the EQ (bass and treble) from the Google Home app.

Max is an appropriate name for the speaker when it comes to overall power. During our testing we barely managed to get over 50 percent volume for fear of disturbing an entire office. This thing goes extremely loud and with minimal distortion so you could easily use it for even a large house party. Google says it's 20 times more powerful than the regular Home and you can make your parties even better with multi-room if you have other Home speakers.

One thing to note is that the speaker doesn't operate in stereo when you switch the orientation to portrait. When upright, the Max pumps out sound in mono instead. To be fair, there isn't exactly a noticeable stereo field when it's in landscape – since the drivers are so close to each other - so you'll have to buy two and pair them for a proper stereo experience.

The Max has a feature similar to Sonos Trueplay which tunes the speaker based on its environment and surroundings. It's called Smart Sound and supposedly works within seconds of moving the speaker. Since we can't switch this on or off we can't say how well it works, but the Max did sound good no matter where we put it.

As mentioned earlier, there are more options than simply streaming music over Wi-Fi. You can connect via Bluetooth (simple ask the speaker to go into pairing mode) or plug a device, a turntable even, in using the 3.5mm jack.

As you know, this is a smart speaker like the other Home products and has the Google Assistant built-in. Six far-field mics mean that you can still get the speaker's attention when music is playing, although perhaps not during a house party.

As well as playing music from a range of sources (Google Music, YouTube, Spotify, Deezer etc - full list here), you can use the Assistant to answer questions or control compatible smart home devices around your home like Philips and Nest. You can also set up Voice Match so it can recognise up to five other people for personal services and playlists.

SPECS
  • Google Assistant
  • 2x 4.5in drivers
  • 2x 0.7in tweeters
  • Dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi
  • 6x far-field mics
  • Touch panel
  • Quad-core ARM processor
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB-C (charging or ethernet adapter)
  • 3.5mm aux input
  • Chalk or Charcoal
  • 337x190x154mm
  • 5.3kg

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