When it comes to smart home assistants, Google is king. It's snappy, conversational, and able to help with a plethora of requests. But in the past the speakers within which Google lives haven't had the best sound quality.
Enter: The Google Home Max. With two 4.5" woofers and two custom tweeters, this was made to be the Loud Boy of the Home lineup. And man, does it deliver.
Off the bat, the Max is a beautiful, sleek piece of technology. It's smooth and rounded, looking plain and pleasing all at once. It doesn't draw attention to itself, thus won't ruin the look of a room, but is stylish enough to be prominently placed if that's your wish.
Four round lights shine through the fabric to indicate that the Max has heard your command and is thinking. It's a clear and simplistically beautiful way of letting you know that things are happening - which is important for quelling the frustration of waiting for a response from something without a face.
It can be placed horizontally or upright atop a thin rubber base plate that attaches magnetically. The placement of the base changes the orientation of the lights - a small detail that feels refined. And it's nice to think the base will help protect both the Max and whatever it's sitting on.
When placed horizontally (my orientation of choice) the touch controls sit on top. Here you can slide up and down to adjust the volume, or tap to play/pause music. Although we're here for the voice controls, it's a darn good thing the touch controls are there. Because this baby can get loud.
By loud, I mean really loud. Deafening. I'm scared to put it to full volume again.
As a studious, thorough reviewer, I unwittingly uttered the words, "Hey Google - set volume to 100%," from across the room while listening to some tunes.
As soon as the volume increased, I screamed. Me, a grown woman, screamed at this blast of noise.
I began yelling, "HEY GOOGLE PAUSE MUSIC. HEY GOOGLE SET VOLUME TO 20%. HEY GOOGLE STOP. PLEASE STOP," as I ran across the room to try and end the pain.
But Google could not hear me anymore. She continued blissfully - pumping tunes and being the life of the party. Mercifully, I could bring the volume back to human levels with a simple swipe of the top touch controls.
Part of me thinks full volume could be acceptable if I was more emotionally prepared, but like I said - I'm too scared to try again.
Despite what this story would suggest, I do find that the Max does a good hearing me even when music is playing or I'm down the hall. She does have more difficulty when placed in the kitchen and I'm in the adjoining room, even if the distance is comparable.
I also find the Max hears me better when I'm facing her - even if I'm a bit far away. Though I usually have fine enough luck if I raise my voice above 'polite' conversational level and into 'talking in a loud bar' conversational level.
Google Assistant also allows you to be casual and conversational, and she is similarly quite relaxed in tone.
She can link to a few different music sources, and stream directly from them. It's so delightful to be able to say, "Hey Google play my 'country' playlist" and have that bad boy delivered directly to my ears. It's something Siri cannot do, and I shall never forgive her for it.
If you play with Google Assistant long enough, you'll discover that it's full of fun Easter Eggs, games and tricks. One of these is Lucky Trivia - and it's pretty fun!
There's just one problem. When it comes to being a trivia host, Google Assistant is god damn brutal.
One of the coolest features is Smart Sound. The Max uses its microphones to listen to calculate the sound reflections in any given space and adjust the EQ for a more balanced sound.
It's not aiming to create The Listening Experience To End All Others - just give your music a little extra edge and sound better no matter where you place the Max. And it works well, I was rather impressed.
I tried my Max in a few different locations, included butted right up against a wall. At first you could hear that the bass was over pronounced and mushy, but as the song continued to play it evened out.
It gave a nice, balanced sound. It's not a high end audio system, but it's not trying to be. It sounds great and is perfect as a way to play music in your home - which I do constantly.
But the Max isn't just a music machine - it can also link up with a plethora of other smart devices. I have an Origin Home HQ, which you can link to the Max. It doesn't seem to utilise all the components, such as the temperature sensor, but I can control the Philips Hue in the bedroom.
It's definitely cool, but I wouldn't say it's useful. The process is slow. I can ask Google to turn the light on as I'm walking down the hall, and it still won't be on by the time I reach the bedroom. It's almost futuristic living.
The Max can give you traffic and weather information, add things to your shopping list, and set alarms. But for every magic moment where it gives me exactly what I want from an imperfectly worded request, there's an instance where it seems unable to answer what seems like an easy question.
For example, if I type into Google, "Which Pokemon type is good against water" it pulls the information from the world wide web and provides an answer without requiring me to click through to a website. But if I ask Max the same question it's unable to answer.
Despite my on-the-go Pokemon needs being unfulfilled, the Max is a sweet bit of kit. It's my favourite way to play music in the house, and it looks a treat. I don't think smart home assistants are a must-have, but if you're getting one anyway the Max is, in my opinion, the most useful.
- A sizable speaker with Google Assistant built in.
- Smart Sound automatically EQ's the speaker for the best sound no matter where you place it.
- Maximum volume is very loud.
- In-built microphones pick up your commands adequately, but not flawlessly.