It's fair to say it's taken longer for Google Assistant speakers to really take off in the way that Alexa-powered audio has, but with the Google Home Max, Google is clearly serious about making sure you can match Assistant's smarts with high-end sound.
The Google Home Max is much more expensive than other best smart speakers, but you're getting a lot more speaker for your money compared to any of the Echo line-up. That's something to bear in mind as Amazon Prime Day rolls around.
It's worth noting that this speaker now has some fresh competition in the shape of the Nest Audio speaker, which has replaced the original Google Home. It can't match the Home Max in terms of audio output, but it's pretty close, and for less money too.
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Sticking with the fabric cover and soft-touch plastic styling of the Home Mini (now the Nest Mini) the Max comes in one finish with a white body and light grey fabric, and one where both are charcoal.
We like the design, and though it’s among the biggest smart speakers so far, it doesn't feel too imposing. The Max is built to a really high quality, and has some serious heft to it.
At this size and price, the sound quality has to stand up to dedicated audio gear, as well as the audio might of Apple’s amazing-sounding HomePod smart speaker... and here the Google Home Max nails it.
The Max might be expensive, but it feels as though every pound is pouring out of the grille when you blast out your favourite songs.
Like the HomePod, the Google Home Max uses internal mics to listen to the sound it's putting out, and to adjust processing on the fly to make music sound the way it should in your specific space.
As a result, it sounds perfectly balanced, mixing detailed highs with rich, smooth bass from its twin woofers. It fills the room well, though doesn't offer 360-degree sound or a notable sense of stereo separation on its own (you can pair two as a stereo setup if you really want to go for it).
Playing on it is easy: you can ask Google Assistant, of course (it hears very well over loud music, and four subtle lights on the front show you when it's listening); use Google Cast from streaming apps, which also means it works as part of a multi-room setup; you can stream to it over Bluetooth; and you can plug an audio source in manually. That flexibility is welcome, especially compared to the lack of it on something like the HomePod.
The only minor technical issue is that the Home app you use to set it up or control settings can be slow to respond at times – but then again you don’t have to use it very much.
There are other thoughtful touches, too: the Max comes with a pad to rest it on, to help avoid vibration interference, and it can be stood upright or landscape, with the lights and controls shifting with the orientation.
If you're looking for an Assistant speaker with a real kick to it, Google has ticked all the boxes here. It's also worth looking at the competition though – especially with the redesigned 4th-gen Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Studio on the market, should you prefer Alexa as a digital assistant.