Update: Dec. 16, 2020 – We have updated this HBO Max review to note that both Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices now support the service
When Disney Plus launched a year ago, we noted that it had excellent platform support, but its content was a bit on the slim side. The reverse was true when the HBO Max streaming service launched. It had lots of tons of for all age groups, but lacked a lot of major platform support. Fortunately, several months later, those platform issues have been fixes, but there are still some other issues that need to be addressed.
Read more: What’s new on HBO Max
HBO Max review: Content
HBO Max basically is a turbo-charged version of the now shut down HBO Now service. Before it launched, subscribers for that service could watch all of HBO’s movies, along with nearly all of its current and classic original TV shows and films. That service costs $14.99 a month. Now, here comes HBO Max. It has everything that HBO Now had, plus tons of classic Warner Bros. films, TV shows like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and even third-party content for anime and art film lovers. All of that comes for the same price that HBO Now charged.
You can currently binge-watch all of the movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Matrix trilogy. DC Comics fans can stream many films, both live-action and animated, from that superhero corner.
Read more: Best HBO Max movies
Anime fans will go nuts over the library of films from Studio Ghibli, along with a selection of classic and current anime series via Crunchyroll. There’s also some series from Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, but their selection is really limited. It’s made up in part by the many classic Looney Tunes animation shorts that are also available.
In short, there’s plenty to watch on HBO Max, and unlike Disney Plus, there’s plenty of stuff to watch just for adults.
Original content is very sparse for now, but growing
HBO Max also has new movies and shows that will only be available on the service, which it calls Max Originals. Like Disney Plus originals, the amount of Max Originals is pretty sparse at the moment. However, Disney Plus launched with the first season of The Mandalorian, which became an instant pop culture phenomenon. There’s no such instant hit among the current crop of Max Originals. Perhaps the best of them is Raised by Wolves, a very adult sci-fi series about androids who are charged with keeping a group of human children safe after Earth is destroyed.
Many Max Originals are actually continuations of shows that started at other networks or services. That includes the second season of Doom Patrol (formerly on DC Universe) and the third season of Search Party (formerly on TBS). It has also added a British import, the sitcom Frayed, and an animated original, the family sitcom Close Enough.
Read more: Best HBO Max shows
The service also has some solid reality show competition series, such as Legendary and Craftopia, plus On The Record, a documentary about the #MeToo movement. The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo is both cute for kids and a nice satire on late-night talk shows for adults. You can also check out some new Looney Tunes Cartoon shorts that manage to be as funny as the classic cartoons.
The good news is WarnerMedia plans to keep adding a ton of Max Originals to the service. In fact, it will add the major film Wonder Woman 1984 to the service on Christmas Day 2020, and all of Warner Bros’ 2021 film lineup will debut on HBO Max day-and-date with their releases in theaters.
The UI of HBO Max is very clean, and the main page also includes “hubs” of various content on the service. The menu on the left side of the main page brings up different categories of shows and movies to surf through.
The Android version of the app allows users to download content from the service. You can change the download video quality settings to standard or high. You can set up to five profiles for each account, and families can set up kids profiles for their children. Those profiles can be secured with PIN numbers, and kid profiles can be customized based on age ratings. Unfortunately, there’s no cool avatars you and your kids can set up for each profile. Maybe this will be added by the time we write our full HBO Max review.
Platform support is finally solid
When HBO Max first launched, we lamented the fact that Amazon Fire TV and Roku owners could not download native apps for the service. Thankfully, that has now been fixed as both major streaming platforms can now access HBO Max apps. It’s also available on pretty much all the major smart TV and mobile operating systems, and it’s even available for some game consoles, including the recent Playstation 5.
Things HBO Max still needs to work on
At the moment, the service does not support 4K resolution for its content. Warner Bros says it will add 4K support for Wonder Woman 1984 when it launches. and more 4K content will be added in 2021. The service recently did away with its seven-day free trial, which makes it a bit harder to just try the service out. It would be great if a trial version would be put back.
Is it worth it?
For many people, HBO Max is available at no additional cost if they already pay for HBO on their cable tv lineup. The $14.99 a month price for everyone else is still very high compared to most other streaming services and there’s no longer a free trial. There’s still a ton of content to watch, however, and that may make it worth it for many people.
That is our HBO Max review. We will update this review if the service adds new features and updates, or adds some great new content.