HBO Max review: Great TV and theatrical movies, but not the best streaming value

    Sarah Tew/CNET
    HBO Max, HBO’s entry into the streaming wars, is a slick app chock-full of fashionable TV exhibits and flicks. It’s received HBO’s total catalog, together with favorites comparable to Friends, Rick and Morty, Sesame Street, the Lord of the Rings films and virtually each Studio Ghibli movie. It’s additionally the one service to debut first-run films, together with in 2021 Godzilla vs. Kong, Dune and Matrix 4, the identical day they’re accessible in theaters for no further cost. And HBO Max has a strong streaming assortment for youngsters too, with the flexibility to regulate scores on youngsters’ profiles higher than most different companies. 

    LikeLarge, different content material catalog that features all of HBONew theatrical releases from Warner Bros. StudiosSimple, easy-to-navigate interfaceLots of kids’s exhibits and customizable score settings

    Don’t LikeHigh priceFew unique sequence past normal HBOCan’t import watch historical past or customized suggestions

    If you already subscribe to HBO, HBO Max is a no brainer improve that provides you a shiny new interface and hundreds extra content material for a similar $15 monthly. But should you’re a brand-new subscriber, that worth is on the excessive finish — particularly should you already pay for Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus or the entire above.At launch HBO Max lacked compatibility with the favored Roku and Amazon Fire TV gadgets and 4K HDR streaming, however now apps for Roku and Amazon are actually simply accessible and the 2021 Warner Bros. theatrical slate is premiering on the platform in 4K HDR (as are different titles, comparable to Zack Snyder’s Justice League).

    Read extra: Everything it is advisable to learn about HBO MaxAside from HBO’s unique sequence, the Max slate of exclusives stays comparatively skinny, particularly with the delay of the extremely anticipated Friends reunion particular and no breakout hit comparable to Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian and WandaVision. That shortcoming will probably change over time, however for now, it stays the service’s largest drawback.If you are an enormous fan of HBO, Elmo or Friends, or are merely working out of excellent stuff to look at throughout lockdown, HBO Max might be price your cash. But should you’re wanting to save cash on streaming, its excessive month-to-month charge makes it simpler to chop than lots of its powerful rivals.

    Streaming in contrast

    HBO Max


    Disney Plus


    Monthly worth


    Starts at $9


    Basic $6 with adverts, Ad-free for $12, Live TV for $65





    Yes, with fundamental tier

    Top titles

    Entire HBO catalog, Studio Ghibli movies, DC movies

    Stranger Things, The Crown, Breaking Bad, The Queen’s Gambit

    The Mandalorian, WandaVision, Avengers Endgame, Toy Story, The Simpsons

    Handmaid’s Tale, Catch-22, Lost, Bob’s Burgers

    Mobile downloads




    Yes (on Ad-free plan solely)

    4K accessible


    Yes (on Premium plan)



    HDR accessible


    Yes (on Premium plan)



    Number of streams


    1 (2 for Standard, 4 on Premium)


    2 (Unlimited with Live TV and a $10 add-on)

    A excessive worth ripe for sharingHBO Max prices $15 a month, the identical as HBO’s conventional channel if you get it by way of most pay-TV suppliers. At some level HBO says the service will broaden to incorporate one other tier that features promoting. We do not know something about when that might occur or what it will appear like, however it will probably be cheaper, and even free. Some individuals who have already got an everyday HBO subscription or HBO Now will get Max for no further value — however not everybody. It’s complicated, however you’ll be able to try our full HBO Max FAQ for extra data on the way it all works. 
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    Despite the massive catalog of films and exhibits, HBO Max is on the costly finish of streaming companies — Netflix’s fundamental plan prices $9 a month, Hulu’s plan with adverts is $6 a month and Disney Plus prices $7 a month (quickly to be $8 monthly). Lots of individuals I do know share account entry with pals or relations and HBO Max govt Tony Goncalves informed CNET that it’ll take a “fairly balanced approach” to this situation. With HBO Max you’ll be able to have as much as three simultaneous streams going on the similar time. Plus, the addition of as much as 5 consumer profiles, a characteristic not accessible on the HBO Now or HBO Go apps, makes it simpler to share an account. HBO Max is offered on Apple gadgets (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Apple TV). It’s additionally on gear that runs Google’s Android working system for telephones and tablets, in addition to Android TV gadgets, Chromebooks, Google Chromecast and Chromecast built-in gadgets like Vizio TVs. Xbox and PlayStation consoles and up to date Samsung good TVs are additionally on board. As talked about, Amazon Fire TV and Roku apps are actually accessible. A robust steady of exhibits and moviesHBO Max’s largest energy is its massive, different TV and film catalog, with content material for adults and youngsters. At launch, it had 10,000 hours of content material to stream, together with all the pieces on HBO, plus a number of high-profile TV exhibits like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Rick and Morty and South Park. HBO Max at the moment has only a handful Max Originals and the most important are most likely the romantic sequence Love Life starring Anna Kendrick and darkish comedy The Flight Attendant starring Kaley Cuoco. Even a yr after launch, nothing has caught out or made the identical pop-culture impression as Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit or Disney Plus’s WandaVision. And not like Netflix, it’s going to sometimes drop its originals as soon as per week, the best way common cable HBO does. Various originals — together with the Friends reunion particular, a by-product of The Suicide Squad with John Cena referred to as Peacemaker, a reboot of Gossip Girl and a revival of Sex and the City — are among the many many titles within the works, so there must be extra to select from later within the yr or in early 2022. HBO Max has six unique sequence at launch — however the extremely anticipated Friends reunion particular has been delayed as a result of coronavirus pandemic.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    In the meantime, there are numerous films, some new and plenty of older. HBO Max has the total units of The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings trilogies (although solely two of The Hobbits), DC films like Joker and Wonder Woman, basic movies like The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca, and newer hits like A Star is Born and Crazy Rich Asians. Not to say virtually your entire catalog of Studio Ghibli anime movies which have by no means been launched for streaming within the US earlier than. And should you’ve been clamoring for extra of 2017’s Justice League, HBO Max would be the dwelling of director Zach Snyder’s minimize on March 18.Though HBO is thought for its grownup content material, Max has rather a lot to supply youngsters too, together with new Looney Tunes cartoons and Sesame Street episodes, and the Cartoon Network catalog. It’s additionally dwelling to Doctor Who and the Lego films. Parental controls are sturdy. You can customise youngsters’ profiles to determine which score ranges they will entry, and create a passcode that locks them into their account, to allow them to’t bounce over to their mother and father’ to look at something inappropriate. (Your child may be savvy sufficient to determine that passcode out, but it surely’s one thing.)Studio Ghibli movies can be found to stream within the US for the primary time on the platform.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    A visually interesting interface…Scrolling by way of HBO Max is much like the expertise on Netflix, Hulu and different streaming companies. When you open your profile, you may discover Continue Watching and My List on the high of the web page, adopted by matters like Featured Series, Featured Movies and HBO Series: Editors’ Picks. I just like the look of the menus higher than many different streaming companies. It has a darkish purple and black theme that enables the textual content and pictures to pop, and exhibits fewer tiles on the display directly with extra breaks between them, to provide your eye a relaxation. One draw back, nonetheless, is that it may be powerful to determine at first what textual content is highlighted within the menus so you can also make picks.In the center of the web page you may see a mini hub the place you’ll be able to entry films and exhibits from every of its properties: HBO, DC, Sesame Workshop, Turner Classic Movies, Studio Ghibli, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, CrunchyRoll and Looney Tunes. It appears to be like form of like Disney Plus’s hub on the high of its web page, however with much less acquainted names than Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel. The HBO Max mini hub, the place you’ll be able to entry content material from completely different networks and studios.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    You’ll additionally discover curated collections of films round a theme sprinkled by way of your homepage, like rom-com favorites and blockbuster franchises. Hit Browse on the high left nook and you will have the choice to look by classes comparable to Series, Movies, Originals, Just Added, Last Chance and Coming Soon, together with genres like Action, Comedy, Crime and Documentaries. You’ll additionally discover the mini hubs on this panel, too. Unlike on Netflix, you’ll be able to simply see what’s coming and happening the platform and watch accordingly. Mobile downloads are additionally accessible, and the app’s format is essentially the identical throughout TVs, telephones and tablets. When it involves looking, HBO Max permits you to use abbreviations (like “GOT” as an alternative of “Game of Thrones”). On my Apple TV, voice search labored fairly properly — after I stated, “Watch Rick and Morty,” HBO Max opened the sequence touchdown web page, giving me the choice to decide on which episode I need. After beginning an episode of Game of Thrones and shutting out, after I stated, “Watch GOT,” it jumped me again into the episode the place I had left off. When I stated, “Watch Jaws,” the Apple TV opened the entire completely different choices throughout different streaming platforms on the backside of the display as properly. Selecting a present will take you to its touchdown web page, the place you’ll find each episode accessible in a clear format, and have the flexibility so as to add it to your checklist. When you begin a present, the score seems within the higher left nook. …however human suggestions are nonetheless MIAOne of HBO Max’s guarantees was that as an alternative of solely utilizing a suggestion engine to floor new content material for customers, it will even have curated content material from celebrities, to carry a extra human contact. These suggestions are nonetheless not accessible, nonetheless. It does curate content material in methods that may be useful — for instance, highlighting the episodes of Friends that observe Ross and Rachel’s relationship so you do not have to go digging for them. You’ll discover each HBO present on HBO Max — however you’ll be able to’t but stream them in 4K HDR. 
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    Should you get HBO Max?If you already subscribe to HBO Now (or, you already know, have another person’s login), the automated free improve to HBO Now is a no brainer — it is heaps extra content material for a similar month-to-month worth. Plus, you can also make your individual profiles now, which you could not do on HBO Go or HBO Now. For brand-new subscribers, HBO Max is on the dear finish of the streaming service spectrum. But when you’ve got $15 a month to burn and wish to binge Friends, Game of Thrones or the entire Studio Ghibli films, you may have loads to select from.
    Here’s what HBO Max appears to be like like on TVs, telephones and tablets
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    First printed May 29, 2020.

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