Friday, February 23, 2024

Should you buy the Nest Hub Max or Facebook Portal+?

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A clear sense of identity

Nest Hub Max

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$230 at Best Buy
From $209 at Walmart
$229 at Google

Pros

  • Excellent facial and voice recognition
  • Access to YouTube and YouTube Music natively
  • Built-in access to Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and more
  • Google Assistant works wonderfully
  • Connects with Google Photos

Cons

  • Fewer video calling features than the Portal+
  • The smaller screen isn’t great for watching videos
  • Can’t tilt the display
  • Not physical privacy shutter for the camera

The Nest Hub Max is a full-featured smart display from Google that brings the brains of your Google Assistant with the convenience of touchscreen controls. It offers some helpful video calling tools to go along with all of your favorite streaming entertainment. But the smaller display may not be the best for watching videos.

Video calling beast

Facebook Portal+

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$299 at Amazon
$300 at Best Buy

Pros

  • Excellent hardware
  • Great sound quality
  • Good camera with lots of video calling features
  • Dual voice assistants with Portal and Alexa
  • Tilt-able display

Cons

  • Limited photo display connectivity
  • Voice assistant duties can get confusing
  • Home screen controls are restricted
  • Must connect with Facebook to use

The Portal+ is a device focused on video calling, and for that, it does an excellent job. The display, great sound, and helpful camera features enhance those calls and add to the smart display usage. While the Portal+ does have Alexa built-in, it is limited in some features. Plus, you’ll have to put some trust in Facebook to use the device.

Neither the Nest Hub Max or the Facebook Portal+ are the first smart display from either of these companies, but the device represents the best smart speaker either company sells. Both have standout features unique to the device and their drawbacks as well. But what really comes into play when picking between these products is what you mostly plan to use it for. So let’s look at the Facebook Portal+ vs. Nest Hub Max to dial in on what separates them to find the one that works best for your needs.

Facebook Portal+ (2021) vs. Nest Hub Max: Built to win

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In my time using the Facebook Portal+, one of the things that regularly impressed me was the quality of the hardware. From a visual and a physical perspective, the Portal+ is nice. This isn’t a knock on the Nest Hub Max because it is a solid device in its own right. But it is also getting up there in age, released in Sept 2019, and the design is starting to feel dated compared to its rivals.

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While the 14-inch HD display used by the Portal+ is bright and has good colors, the unique part is the ability to tilt. This feature helps get the best angle when on a video call or when viewing content on the screen. The display on the Nest Hub Max looks good, except for the fixed angle. Where it does get a bump is how it handles light.

These smart displays offer automatic dimming and color adjustments, but the Nest Hub Max is more responsive and accurate. This feature means the display gets brighter or dimmer, depending on the ambient light in the room. It also adjusts the color temperature. If your room has warm lighting, the screen will adapt to ensure that what you are viewing looks natural in whatever lighting condition the device is in

Price $299 $230
Dimensions 12.31 x 9.87 x 3.86 inches 9.85 x 7.19 x 3.99 inches
Display 14-inch HD display with tilt, 2160×1440 10-inch HD, 1280 x 800
Speaker 2 x 5W full-range speakers 1 x 20W woofer 2 x 0.7 inches 10W tweeters 1 x 2.95 inches 30W woofer
Camera 12MP, 131° FOV 6.5MP with 127º FOV
Microphones 4-mic array 2 far-field microphones
Privacy and security Mic and camera disable button with integrated camera cover Physical switch to electronically disable mic and camera
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 2.4Ghz & 5Ghz Bluetooth 5.1 Wi-Fi, 2.4Ghz & 5Ghz Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C
Voice assistants Alexa Hey Portal Google Assistant
Video calling apps Messenger WhatsApp Zoom Teams Google Duo Google Meet Zoom

Moving away from the displays, the two devices offer good sound quality when listening to music, video calls, or responding to voice requests. However, the Portal+ wins out in this category thanks to providing a fuller range of sound. In comparison, I found that though the sound from the Nest Hub Max was good, it tended to be more muffled from what the Portal+ produced.

Speakers on both devices have a fabric-wrapped base that looks good. However, with the Portal+, you are stuck with one color option — Light Grey. For the Nest Hub Max, you’ll have a choice between Chalk and Charcoal. It would be great to see Google bring some of the fabric colors it has for the other speakers in its lineup, like with the Nest Hub (2nd gen) and Nest Audio.

Facebook Portal+ (2021) vs. Nest Hub Max: It’s all about focus

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In using both of these products, it becomes easy to see that each company has a clear vision of the goal for its device. Google wants the Nest Hub Max to be good at many things — video calling, multimedia devices, an informational display, a smart home hub, and more. However, it’s not amazing at any one of those abilities.

It has a good camera that works well for video calling and facial recognition to customize that information on the screen. But the locked camera position and AR features that the Portal+ has means that it does better for video calls. The Nest Hub Max supports more streaming services than the Portal+ but has a smaller display, and the sound quality isn’t quite as good.

The Nest Hub Max does many things well and covers more bases than the Portal+.

Facebook took the route of focusing on being a fantastic video calling device — and it is. It can integrate with many services than the Nest Hub Max like Microsoft Teams, Facebook Messenger, GoToMeeting, and more. The Nest Hub Max only works with Google Duo, Google Meet, and Zoom — which the Portal+ works with also.

Facebook’s Portal+ can do some of the same tasks Google’s smart display does, but not very well. There are no smart home controls that are accessible from the display. The video streaming services are limited too — there’s no Netflix here. You also won’t be able to access your Google Photos on display. Instead, you have Facebook Photos, Instagram, and direct uploads from your phone. Not even Amazon Photos, even though it has Alexa built-in.

Facebook Portal+ (2021) vs. Nest Hub Max: Here to help

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The Nest Hub Max is one of the best Google Assistant speakers on the market, and the Facebook Portal+ is one of the best Alexa speakers — but the Portal+ has an asterisk by it. The Alexa integration with it is a bit quirky, and Facebook’s inclusion of its own Portal voice assistant only muddies the waters.

As strictly a smart speaker, the Portal+ can do everything that something like an Amazon Echo does. But if you want it to act more like an Echo Show 10, you’ll be let down. This is because of its lack of Amazon Photos integration, the non-customizable on-screen interface, and other things like changing the wake word.

The Facebook Portal+ has a fantastic display that is horribly under-utilized because it doesn’t support many Amazon Alexa features.

Yes, the wake word thing isn’t a significant issue, but it is a basic Alexa device function unavailable on the Portal+. Missing features that are a considerable frustration are the inability to use Amazon Photos on display and the lack of Alexa Widgets. The widgets bring customization to the screen, giving you glanceable information and shortcuts to frequently used controls. The large 14-inch screen is prime for these features, but they aren’t there.

You have the Nest Hub Max with Google Assistant on the other side. Not only do you get the full power of this voice assistant, but it also brings a lot of the information and integration that Android users enjoy on their smartphones. All of the best Android smartphones put the Google Assistant front and center to help with questions, reminders, calendar events, and so much more. The Nest Hub Max keeps that going and surfaces what you do on your phone to the smart display.

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Unfortunately, while you can’t rearrange and customize what controls are on display, there are many quick toggles, only a swipe away. This includes smart home controls, media, reminders, calendar events, and more. Google Assistant also does a fantastic job of surfacing reminders and events to the display as they near.

Facebook Portal+ (2021) vs. Nest Hub Max: Which should you buy?

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As I said at the beginning, these are two solid devices, and which is best for you comes down to what you’ll use it for most often. Be sure you are OK with having a smart device that requires Facebook. But if you want a dedicated machine for making video calls and not for using Google Duo or Google Meet, then Portal+ is a winner. From smart camera features and adjustable display, the Portal+ is perfect for video calls.

If you want a device that makes good video calls and is great at being a smart display, the Nest Hub Max will be a better choice. While it doesn’t have as many features focused on video calling, it does an overall better job at being helpful, thanks to being a full-featured Google Assistant device. Unfortunately, the quirky Alexa integration that drops some integral features holds the Portal+ back. For a well-rounded, smart display that can do it all — you want the Nest Hub Max. But if video calling is the most important feature, you’ll love the Portal+.

Jack of all trades

Nest Hub Max

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Well-rounded

$230 at Best Buy
From $209 at Walmart
$229 at Google

The Nest Hub Max offers a host of tools to help entertain you, help keep you organized, cook meals, make video calls, and more, thanks to the integration of Google Assistant on the 10-inch display.

A beacon of communication

Facebook Portal+ (2021)

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Who you gonna call?

$299 at Amazon
$300 at Best Buy

The Facebook Portal+ has excellent hardware, making it one of the best video calling devices out there. The integration of Alexa is good to have, but with restrictions on some of its best features, the Portal+ falls a bit short on the smart display side of things.

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