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Why the Nest Hub Max still rocks as a kitchen TV

Saturday mornings, more often than not, begin with the following things in the following order: Coffee. More coffee. Premier League football. More coffee. Pancakes.

A French press takes care of the caffeine. Alton Brown is employed on the pancakes (it’s all about the buttermilk). As for a TV in the kitchen, it’s 2023 — we can do better. Like Mr. Brown, I loathe the unitasker and have had a Nest Hub Max on the counter since it was released in September 2019.

Nest Hub Max in the kitchen.
The Nest Hub Max is the perfect size for the kitchen — though you might have to put up with getting kitchen gunk on it. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

It’s definitely getting up there in age, and there are newer options available — such as the Amazon Echo Show 15, which recently got an update to become a nearly full Fire TV device and has proven itself to be a worthy addition to the kitchen. And we don’t have any idea if or when a new Next Hub Max is coming — but it also found itself with an update to add the Matter smart-home standard at the end of 2022, so it shouldn’t be put out to pasture anytime soon.

Here are but a few reasons why it’s still worth considering a Nest Hub Max for your kitchen.

Start with the ecosystem

This is still one of the more important criteria when it comes to tech purchases, from TVs to phones to everything in-between: what ecosystem do you plan on utilizing the most? And you don’t have to stick to just one. My family uses Apple devices now, including Apple TV. But there’s no small display-centric device from Apple as yet (that’s a big miss).

But we do also use Google for a lot of things — with YouTube TV as our live TV provider. That in and of itself should make the decision to go with the Nest Hub Max a near no-brainer. And since it’s a Google joint, it’s also nearly seamless for YouTube videos. That takes care of what are probably the two biggest content sources in my house.

Light controls on the Next Hub Max.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

We also have a smattering of Nest cameras around, including the doorbell. Should someone ring the latter, it’ll automatically pop up on Nest Hub Max screen. No promises that I’m going to answer while making pancakes, but at least I’ll have the option.

Other Nest-centric accessories like my Nest Thermostat are just a couple taps away (or, yes, by voice), which is helpful. And anything else that works with Nest works fine here, from my Philips Hue lights to my Wemo switches.

Really, though, it’s mostly about the live TV and just how well things work with each other. If I want to watch the Premier League game, I just tell the Nest Hub Max to turn to USA or NBC or whatever channel the game is on. It’s the same for anything else I want to watch in the morning — Formula One is another good early-morning option.

The hardware is still fine

Kitchens are weird places for televisions. In the old days, you’d need a cable outlet in addition to wall plugs. Few of us have a lot of room to spare in a kitchen, so being able to eliminate one of those things (the cable outlet) is a blessing. Then there’s the matter of where to put this thing in the first place. You have but one option — on the counter. No having to decide whether to wall-mount it, or buy extra hardware to put it on a stand, both of which are concerns for the Echo Show 15. Plus it’s smaller, so it’ll fit in more places.

The 10-inch touchscreen is fine. It’s perhaps nothing to write home about, but then again, considering it’s a secondary-type display and not, say, your main television, the 1280×800 resolution is excusable. I don’t need HDR in the kitchen. And mine is close enough to the stove (and my kids) that it’s always got some kind of mess on it. More than three years in and it just takes a simple wipe with a damp rag to clean up. For the screen, anyway. We’ve gotten stains on the speaker grille that are unsightly in pictures, but aren’t anything I notice during the day.

Photos on a Nest Hub Max.
The Nest Hub Max is a brilliant digital photo frame if you also use Google Photos. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Then there’s the 6.5-megapixel camera. I don’t make video calls — ever — so apps like Google Meet (and Duo before it) and Facebook (not supported anyway) are all moot. But I do rather enjoy the camera sensing feature. My Nest Hub Max knows when it’s me looking at it (or talking to it) and adjusts things accordingly. I don’t have to use the “Hey, Google” wake word for some basic features, like setting a timer to make coffee (though that feature actually works a little too well — I’ve set it off by whispering to a different device in a different room).

Like the screen, the stereo speakers in the Next Hub Max are just fine. I don’t need the best. I don’t need Dolby Atmos or anything. I just need to be able to hear things over the din of the kitchen.

And it has one leg up over the Echo Show 15: no remote control required. How does a remote even make sense in 2023? On the very rare occasion that I can’t figure out how to do something by voice, I just grab my phone.

It’s a numbers game

Another reason to consider the Next Hub Max simply comes down to the numbers. YouTube TV has more than 5 million subscribers as of June 2022, which was the last time Google gave updated numbers. Since the service has a strong marriage to the hardware, it’s a pretty easy choice.

But what if you don’t use YouTube TV? Hulu With Live TV is the next biggest live streaming service at 4.4 million subscribers. Sling TV follows that at more than 2 million. Both of those apps — really, all streaming apps — support Chromecast, which means it’s just a couple taps to get pretty much any video app onto the screen. That’s another tick missing from the Echo Show 15 column.

And that’s not to say that any of the streaming services wouldn’t work great on something like the Echo Show 15, particularly now that it’s got the Fire TV experience built in. But for as good as Amazon Fire TV is, it’s just not quite as seamless as what Google’s been able to do. It’s just not the same.

Caleb Denison and the Digital Trends YouTube channel on a Nest Hub Max.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Lingering concerns

My only real concern about Nest Hub Max right now is that it’s getting up there in age. That’s not to say it’s not still good — it is. But if you’re looking at buying one in early 2023, you’ve got to understand that it’s not a new product, and it’s entirely possible that Nest will pump out a new one any time now.

No promises that we’ll see that come to fruition — but it’s possible. Tempering that concern a tad is that aforementioned update for the Matter standard. It’s (again, probably) not likely that Google’s going to put Nest Home Max out to pasture any time soon. But Google is known for unceremoniously killing off products and services.

Until then, th Nest Hub Max serves as an excellent kitchen TV, while I serve the family and friends.

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