Google’s Home Max is the latest addition to their line of smart speakers. This new smart speaker system comes with a steep price tag of about SGD525. This puts it in direct competition up against Apple’s recently released HomePod. The Home Max has been positioned as a premium smart speaker providing an impeccable listening experience while offering the feature of a smart AI system, Google Assistant.
Standing at 336.6 x 190 x 154.4 mm and weighing in at 5.3 Kg the Home Max is a pretty huge and hefty speaker. Roughly the size of a large watermelon shaped box, the Home Max looks clean, minimalistic and not too flashy, coming in 2 neutral colors of chalk or charcoal. The front of the speaker is covered in a fabric mesh while the rest of the speaker is in plastic. Although the colors of these two materials blend in seamlessly with each other, the size and neutral colors make the speaker seem blocky and a little bit of a drab to some. Atthe front of the speaker, there is a row of 4 indicative led dots in the middle, similar to those of the Home Mini (Google’s entry level smart speaker). This row of lights indicates when Google Assistant has been activated. The front of the speaker has no buttons, unlike the Home Mini. However, there is a touch bar on the top of the speaker, which is simple and intuitive to use, slide left and right for volume control and tap the middle to play/pause. Given that the Home Max does not really have any obvious form of indication which is the right way up when in ‘landscape mode’, Google did implement a neat little feature that plays a notification, indicating that the speaker is in the wrong orientation when it is placed upside down.
Along the back of the speaker, at the bottom left corner there is a slight indentation. In this indentation you can expect to find a power cable port, a mute switch (turns the mics on the Home Max off, so it is not listening to you), a USB-C port that outputs power and lastly an audio jack for audio input. The Home Max sits on a removable rubber mat which acts as an isolation pad, that helps prevent the speaker from causing whatever surface it sits on to rumble.
The interior of the speaker is simply amazing, boasting dual 4.5-inch woofers along with dual 0.7-inch tweeters diagonally above each tweeter. This gives the Home Max the ability to produce stereo audio, when in ‘landscape mode’, which is a feature that no other smart speaker in the market has.
If you for some reason have 2 Home Maxes, you have the option of setting them upright in ‘portrait mode’ and pairing them up, which will turn each Home Max into a channel for stereo audio for an even more immersive listening experience. However, in my own personal opinion pairing up 2 Home Maxes for a stereo system may be a bit of an overkill. The Home Max by itself is already ridiculously powerful, 20 times more powerful than the speakers on the Google Home. This allows the Home Max to play music at ridiculously loud volumes, although at such levels distortion may occur.
Apart from the powerful speakers, the Home Max has a couple of mics lined around the walls of the system. These mics allow for the Home Max to hear your commands from across the room, even when music is playing. Another feature that the mics are used for is what Google is calling ‘smart sound’. In its essence, ‘smart sound’ eliminates the effect of low frequency resonance, which overpowers everything in the room when the sound bounces of the walls. By analyzing the acoustics of its relative surroundings, such as the distance of the closest wall, the Home Max is able to make adjustments so that certain frequencies, such as the bass, are not overpowering due to the resonance.
At its core, the hardware of the Home Max is not the best on the market as compared to the Apple HomePod. However, the Home Max is able to produce a rich and beautiful sound nonetheless, better than all other Google home systems.
Onto the software of the Home Max. The Home Max being powered by the Google Assistant, basically does everything that the original Google Home can do;
- Ask it to play music (From any music player: Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Music)
- Ask trivia questions
- Set Timers
- Check the weather
- Interact with smart home devices (control Philips Hue bulbs etc.)
- Control any TV connected with Chromecast
These are just some of the many things that the Google Assistant is able to do. The Google Assistant is arguably the best home AI assistant on the market, far superior to Siri on the HomePod.
The Home Max also has a supporting app, which is used to adjust majority of the settings and to start the pairing process. The app can also do things like adjust the bass and treble of the Home Max’s programmed equalizer.
The Home Max, essentially it is a Google Home system with really good audio. However, if you already own a good high-end speaker that is better or equivalent to the Home Max, I would not recommend purchasing the Home Max. Rather than buying the Home Max to replace your current speaker system, you can make your speaker system ‘smart’ for a fraction of the price. This can be achieved by attaching a Chromecast Audio and a Google Home Mini to your existing speaker system, then set the Home Mini’s default audio output to your speaker system and you are all set. This will only cost about 20% of the price of a Home Max.
If you are looking for a good smart speaker system, a great home AI assistant and don’t already have a set of good speakers, I would highly recommend getting the Google Home Max, for its beautiful audio and its industry leading AI software.