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HBO Max Review 2020

HBO maxes out its streaming game with HBO Max. But not everyone can get it (yet).

Price: $14.99/mo.

Editorial star rating: 4.50/5.00

Includes the entire HBO library

 

What is HBO Max?

HBO Max is an on-demand streaming TV service from HBO, featuring all of the premium channel’s original series and a deep vault of shows and movies from HBO’s parent company, WarnerMedia. HBO Max also launched with six Max Original series, with more on the way later in 2020.

Is HBO Max good?

HBO Max is classic HBO with a mountain of extra content for the same $14.99 a month price—if you’re already an HBO fan, it doesn’t get any more “good” than that.

The “more shows/same cost” factor isn’t all HBO Max has up its sleeve. It’s also now the exclusive streaming home to non-HBO sitcom favorites The Big Bang Theory, Friends, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And if you absolutely have to relive The Bachelor, it’s there too.

On the other hand, HBO Max’s original programming isn’t all that just yet. Its much-hyped Friends reunion is still months away, and the fabled Zack Snyder cut of Justice League won’t drop until 2021. There are only a handful of Max Originals right now, as HBO Max is mostly leaving the heavy production lifting to HBO proper (considering HBO’s track record, smart move).

Overall, though HBO Max looks great in theory, there are a couple of availability problems that should have been resolved at launch that still haven’t been addressed. Roku and Amazon Fire TV users, pay attention.

HBO Max pros & cons

Pros

  • HBO content
  • Large TV and movie library

Cons

  • High price
  • Not on Roku or Amazon Fire TV

HBO Max free trials and deals

You can try HBO Max free for seven days. Many existing HBO cable/satellite subscribers can get HBO Max at no extra charge, including customers of AT&T, DIRECTV, Spectrum, Verizon, Cox, and Xfinity—check with your provider or enter your zip code to see providers in your area.

Please enter a valid zip code.

Best HBO Max plan

Swipe Left to See All →
PackagePriceHours of contentStreamsResolutionDetails
HBO Max
$14.99/mo.10,00031080pView plan

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

As we’ve mentioned, HBO Max is almost identical to standard streaming HBO in pricing and technical stats—the exception being its extra content and compatible devices. We’ll get to that later.

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HBO Max vs. Other Streaming Services

Price Customer rating Streams Resolution Compatible devices Details
$14.99/mo. N/A 3 1080p 10+ View plans
$8.99–$15.99/mo. 4.327/5 1–4 1080p, 4K 14+ View plans
$5.99–11.99/mo. 4.368/5 2 1080p, 4K 13+ View plans
$8.99–$11.99/mo. 4.247/5 3 1080p, 4K 13+ View plans
$6.99/mo. 4.460/5 4 1080p, 4K 13+ View plans
$4.99/mo. 4.201/5 6 1080p, 4K 7+ View plans
$5.99–$9.99/mo. 4.306/5 2 1080p 12+ View plans
Free–$9.99/mo. N/A 3 1080p, 4K 10+ View plans

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

HBO Max is one of the most expensive on-demand streaming services, alongside the former HBO NOW (we’re guessing that HBO NOW will eventually be phased out entirely and replaced with HBO Max, BTW). If you were previously an HBO streamer, there’s no sticker shock here.

But, if you’re new to HBO, its “premium” price tag might be a bit off-putting. Either way, we say it’s worth it for the depth of content.

Shows and movies on HBO Max

HBO Max on-demand shows and movies

HBO Max’s biggest selling point is legacy TV content from both HBO and WarnerMedia. Some of these shows are on cable constantly, but you can’t stream Friends and Big Bang Theory reruns on-demand anywhere but HBO Max. The same goes for Doctor Who and Dexter’s Laboratory.

Cool stuff, but not without some filler: we can’t imagine there’s much appetite for all 15 seasons of MAD TV, or even 15 minutes of early-years HBO originals like Tanner ’88 and Arli$$. Still, there’s enough content here to challenge Netflix and Disney+ to a deep-dive contest.

Note that, like standard HBO (cable and streaming), theatrical movies will rotate in and out of HBO Max’s library. We don’t like being rushed, either, but that’s how availability windows work—hurry up and watch Ready or Not again!

Shows on HBO Max (partial list):

  • Game of Thrones
  • Westworld
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • The Sopranos
  • Chernobyl
  • The Wire
  • Watchmen
  • Deadwood
  • Rick and Morty
  • Friends
  • The Big Bang Theory

Movies on HBO Max (partial list):

  • The Lord of the Rings movies
  • Harry Potter movies
  • DC Universe movies
  • Fight Club
  • Die Hard
  • Hobbs & Shaw
  • La La Land
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Ready or Not
  • Titanic
  • Armageddon

HBO Max original shows and movies

HBO Max’s slate of Max Originals is a work in progress at the moment, with only eight current exclusive shows. Its highest-profile “new” series, Doom Patrol and Search Party, were appropriated from other WarnerMedia networks (DC Universe and TBS, respectively).

New Max Originals on the horizon include a Gossip Girl revival, a big-budget Dune adaptation, and The Flight Attendant, an international murder mystery starring The Big Band Theory’s Kaley Cuoco. There’s also a Green Lantern series in the works, because apparently no lessons were learned from the 2011 film.

HBO Max original shows:

  • Doom Patrol
  • Search Party
  • Love Life
  • Craftopia
  • On the Record
  • Legendary
  • Looney Tunes
  • The Not-So-Late Show with Elmo

Combine HBO Max with another streaming service

HBO Max gives you a lot, but it’s lacking in live channels and sports. It also doesn’t carry much original content outside the HBO and WarnerMedia universes. We suggest complementing it with another streaming service.

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YouTube TV
$64.99/mo.
ESPN+
$5.99/mo.
Hulu
$5.99–11.99/mo.
Get over 84 live TV channels and unlimited DVR space for just $64.99 a month.Grab live sports and on-demand documentaries from ESPN for only $5.99 a month.Check out next-day network shows from FX and many other channels, plus original content.
YouTube TV reviewESPN+ reviewHulu review

HBO Max specs and features

There are a few key technical differences between HBO Max and its predecessors HBO NOW (which is just streaming HBO, now) and HBO GO (which has been discontinued). They’re mostly good, with one nagging negative.

HBO Max number of streams vs. the competition

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ServiceIncluded streamsUpgradesOffline downloads
HBO Max3NoneYes
Netflix1–4Varies by planYes
Hulu2NoneYes (Hulu No Ads, $11.99/mo.)
Prime Video3NoneYes
Disney+4NoneYes
Apple TV+6NoneYes
CBS All Access2NoneYes
Peacock3NoneYes

Three simultaneous streams on the same account through different devices is pretty standard for on-demand streaming. The lowest we’ve seen is one stream for the most basic Netflix plan, while the highest is Apple TV+ at six—a rare case of Apple giving something away for cheap.

Unlike previous HBO streaming services, HBO Max can be set up for up to five separate viewer profiles, with individual preferences and even color-coding. In another first, HBO Max allows downloads for offline mobile viewing, a convenience that HBO previously didn’t offer.

HBO Max supported devices vs. the competition

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DeviceHBO MaxNetflixHuluPrime VideoDisney+Apple TV+CBS All AccessPeacock
Amazon Fire Cube
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Android phones and tablets
Android TV
Apple TV (4th gen.)
Apple TV 4K
Chromecast
Echo Show
iPhone and iPad
LG TVs
Nintendo Switch
NVIDIA SHIELD
PC and Mac Web browsers
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Roku
Roku Express
Samsung TVs
Wii
Xbox 360
Xbox One

Here’s our one gripe: HBO Max hasn’t been available on Roku or Amazon Fire TV devices since it launched in June, and all parties involved still haven’t come to an agreement. HBO Max has an app ready to go for both services; the ball’s in Roku and Fire TV’s court.

Leaving almost two-thirds of device users hanging amounts to an even more epic 2020 streaming fail than the existence of Quibi—and that’s saying something. Get it together, Roku and Amazon.

Get HBO Max

HBO Max video and audio quality

Like most on-demand services, HBO Max streams in 1080p HD. Unlike most others, it doesn’t support 4K UHD. Not that the others actually have much 4K content to display; they just like to use it as a bragging point.

HBO Max's home screen

HBO Max’s interface is a familiar mix of graphic rectangles, not far removed from what you get with Netflix, Disney+, or the old HBO NOW—only with more deep purples and blues.

HBO Max's DC hub

What is more unique to HBO Max is its “hubs,” which break up its catalogue into nine content channels: HBO, DC, Sesame Workshop, Classics Curated by Turner Classic Movies, Studio Ghibli, Cartoon Network Collection, Adult Swim Collection, Crunchyroll Collection, and Looney Tunes. Nice, but we’d suggest adding “The One with All the Friends” to make an even 10.

Final take: Is HBO Max worth it?

You get more content with HBO Max for the same price as HBO NOW or HBO on cable—hello! Yes, $14.99 a month seems steep, but we think HBO Max earns its price tag.

If you can get it on your device, that is.

For the HBO faithful who are already subscribers, switching to HBO Max would make perfect sense . . . unless they’re streaming through Roku or Amazon Fire TV devices. There’s much to love about HBO Max, but we can’t wholeheartedly recommend it until everyone can get it.

We’d say it’s also worth it for HBO newbies who might be finally pulled into the subscriber fold by HBO Max’s massive library of non-HBO shows. If the presence of all four seasons of The O.C. leads you to check out HBO’s Euphoria, cool (be warned—they’re very different teen dramas).

Get HBO Max

HBO Max FAQ

Can I subscribe to HBO Max through a provider?

HBO Max is available through over 70 cable, satellite, livestreaming TV, and mobile providers, including AT&T, Cox, Xfinity, Hulu, YouTube TV, and DIRECTV. This just applies to billing, however; unless you’re online at HBOMax.com, you’ll still need the HBO Max app to actually watch the content (which you can’t yet get on Roku or Amazon Fire TV).

Unlike HBO, HBO Max isn’t yet available through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels.

Interested in getting HBO Max free through a TV provider?

Enter your zip code to see what TV providers are available in your area.

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Will HBO Max replace HBO NOW and HBO GO?

HBO has discontinued HBO GO, which was a free streaming service for HBO cable and satellite subscribers. HBO NOW, a separate streaming service from cable/satellite HBO or HBO GO, has been renamed simply HBO and still carries only HBO content.

Some HBO NOW subscribers were automatically switched to HBO Max upon its launch. Once available on all streaming devices and platforms, it’s expected that HBO Max will become the only HBO streaming service.

Are there kids’ shows on HBO Max?

Despite HBO’s perception as an “adult” premium channel, HBO Max has quite a bit of children’s programming from Sesame Street, Cartoon Network, and Looney Tunes. Some of HBO Max’s kids’ shows include these:

  • Sesame Street (from HBO)
  • The Not-So-Late Show with Elmo
  • Craftopia
  • Looney Tunes
  • Adventure Time: Distant Lands
  • Esme & Roy
  • Summer Camp Island
  • The Fungies
  • Jellystone (2021)
  • Little Ellen (2021)

Bill Frost has been a journalist and TV reviewer since the 4:3-aspect-ratio ’90s. His pulse-pounding prose has been featured in The Salt Lake Tribune, Pacific Northwest Inlander, Coachella Valley Independent, Salt Lake City Weekly, and many other dead-tree publications. In addition to his CableTV.com work, Bill is a senior writer and streaming TV columnist at SLUGMag.com. By night, Bill cranks a Flying V with his band at the bar.

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