There's not much else about the Home Max that's visually remarkable. Around the back, you'll find the mic-mute switch, power jack, a USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio input. It's not clear what the USB-C port is meant for aside from charging your smartphone (Update! Google says you can add a USB-C ethernet adapter for faster internet). But the 3.5mm jack is useful for plugging in a variety of audio devices, from directly hooking up a tablet or smartphone (not the Pixel 2 or newer iPhones, though!) to adding a turntable to your setup. I gave a few records a spin and it worked easily, although I had to use an RCA-to-3.5mm converter I had around. It would be nice if the Home Max had RCA ports, because so many traditional home-audio products use them, but most users will probably be opting for Spotify.
The top of the speaker also includes a thin strip of touch-sensitive controls; there's a line to help orient you. Tapping the center of that line pauses or resumes music, while sliding your finger right or left turns volume up or down. I wish these controls included a way to skip forward a track, but the good news is that Google could theoretically add feature this with a software update.
What's inside is a lot more interesting. Google packed in two 18mm tweeters and two 4.5-inch woofers, good for driving a lot of volume and bass. There are also six far-field microphones that did an excellent job of recognizing my voice when I was talking to the Home Max, even while the music was cranked up loud.
The last detail of note is hidden under the front cloth. There you'll find four LED lights, just like the ones on the Home Mini. They light up in response to an "OK Google" command and turn orange and stay on while the mic is muted. Finally, they provide a visual indicator of the volume level when you're adjusting it on the top touch strip. You won't see the lights very often, but they do a good job providing visual cues when you need them.
Setup / Google Assistant
Setup for the Home Max is the same as Google's other smart speakers. Once plugged in, just open up the Home app on your iOS or Android device and follow a few prompts to connect the speaker to your WiFi network. If it's the first time you've set up a Home device, you'll be asked to sign in to your Google account and train the speaker to recognize your voice. You can also add more users later by having them train the speaker; that way, it can distinguish between you and your significant other when you're asking for calendar details or to play your playlists.
Once set up, the Home Max does everything its smaller stablemates can. The Google Assistant's capabilities are well-established at this point. Check out our original Google Home review and our Home Mini review for more details, but suffice to say it can answer queries and searches, make voice calls, pull info like reminders and calendar items from your Google account, control smart-home devices and, of course, play music.