There’s never been a better time to buy a smart speaker.

Once bedeviled by Amazon, the space has exploded in recent months to accommodate arch offerings from Apple, Sonos, Microsoft, and my pick for best in class: Google. Google’s Home Max isn’t perfect, and the $399 price tag might be a bitter pill to absorb for those attractive to advancement from the aboriginal Google Home (or an Amazon Echo) but it checks enough boxes to make it the most ample alms in its class.

Weighing in at almost 12 pounds, it’s a giant among its peers. Clearly Google aimed high, architecture a apostle that’s closer in size to Sonos’ flagship Play:5 than its antecedent Home alms — which offered an okay speaker, but was really just a dressed up abettor much like Amazon’s Echo. Truth be told, a apostle this size may push some toward Apple’s HomePod (about half the size), but there’s a lot to love if you can abdomen the footprint.

Inside you’ll find four drivers — two 4.5-inch long-throw woofers and two 0.7-inch tweeters — six Class-D amplifiers, and six far-field microphones. Outside there’s a switch to mute the microphones, a USB-C port, and a 3.5mm input jack to hook the apostle up to an alien audio source.

webrok

At first I was rather abashed about the USB-C port — though I always acknowledge the anticipation — but Google tells me this works with an Ethernet adapter for areas with spotty Wi-Fi. I feel like a banal using it to charge my phone, but it works great for that too.

The apparatus are captivated in a artificial shell accessible in two colors: “Chalk” or “Charcoal.” Or, in layman’s terms: dark grey or white. Its shell doesn’t feel high-end like speakers encased in wood, nor does it offer the artful value, but Max doesn’t feel cheap, either. We’ll accede the artful value a neutral; it’s not visually offensive, but it’s administration doesn’t convey the $399 price tag, either.

Strictly claimed preference, but I wish Google would have taken some affairs here.

As for ascendancy options, there’s a touch strip on top that offers the adeptness to turn volume up or down by annexation right or left. Or, you can tap the center to pause or play. Tap works as intended, but the volume ascendancy swipe is choosy and not-at-all reliable. Luckily there’s a mobile app that offers fine-grain controls for aggregate else, including bass and treble — which I didn’t find myself adjusting all that much.

With a pricy apostle though, it’s all about sound. Google excels here. It’s not Sonos, but it’s closer than you might think. Vocals are clear, if a bit sharp at times, and low frequencies are as punchy as you’d expect in a apostle this size. The low end occasionally drifts out of ascendancy but all-embracing performs admirably and compares agreeably to most speakers in this price range.

As single enclosure, Home Max have stereo capabilities — it has two woofers and two tweeters, bethink — when positioned horizontally. When you stand it upright, sound switches to mono, acceptance you to affix a second apostle for “real” stereo sound. While able of stereo, the soundstage isn’t really there in the accumbent orientation, and I didn’t get a chance to try two units in a acceptable stereo configuration.

It’s clear enough to abstracted alone instruments, but doesn’t really offer the befalling to place them, mentally, on a stage in front of you. Some tracks affection able agreement and clear representations of the soundstage. But more often than not, they don’t. It’s really hit or miss.

Max still sounds great. But given the close adjacency of the centralized speakers, just inches apart, this is a botheration Google is going to have to AI its way out of.

webrok

Volume-wise, it’s impressive. In a small space, Max gets far louder than I’m adequate alert to. In larger rooms, it offers vibrant, rich, room-filling sound bold it’s orientated in your direction; it’s not omnidirectional, like Echo.

Home Max appearance a smart tuning apparatus called “Smart Sound” that calibrates the apostle for the size of the room it’s in. It’s a bit like Sonos’ ‘TruePlay’ but after the corybantic waving of an iOS device to calibrate the sound (TruePlay also doesn’t work with Android devices). Unlike Sonos, there’s no need to recalibrate; move it, and Max automatically adjusts the sound.

It’s cryptic how benign this is, as there’s no option to turn the affection off. To me, it acutely sounds the same in every room I put it in. So if that was the goal, mission accomplished.

Perhaps the better draw of Home Max is the always able Google Assistant. The six far-field microphones do an able job of acrimonious up voices, even from distances of 20-ish feet or so. Even with loud music, I can about activate the abettor to adjust volume, skip tracks, pause, and arrest whatever I’m alert to in order to ask a question.

My admired affection though might be Voice Match. Once set up, Google Abettor will bear differing drive times, agenda entries, and daily briefings depending on who’s doing the asking. It works awfully well at acute who’s asking the questions and carrying the adapted results.

On the connectivity front, Max works with any account that supports Google’s Cast protocol. Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, and others work after issue. Apple Music does not. You can, however, stream music over Bluetooth, or plug in your device using a 3.5mm jack — if yours still has one.

For the money, Home Max is easily best in class. It doesn’t sound quite as good as the Sonos One (but it’s close, real close); and it’s not as small as Apple’s HomePod; but when barometer appearance adjoin price it’s still the above option.

Options, though, are plentiful.

HomePod might be the best choice for an all Apple ecosystem. Or Audiophiles that care less about a great smart abettor and admirable AI might favor Sonos. And those just attractive to break into the smart apostle game would be over the moon with a $100 Echo.

Read next: Cryptocurrencies and their furnishings on affect are bigger than you may think