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Our HBO Max review: It's a solid service that still needs a little work
When Disney Plus launched over 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 in May 2020. It had lots of content of for all age groups, but lacked a lot of major platform support. Fortunately, several months later, those platform issues have been fixed, but there are still some other issues that need to be addressed. Here’s our current HBO Max review.
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. Recently, the service added a new $9.99 a month tier, which includes ads and does not include the 2021 Warner Bros. theatrical film releases (more on that later).
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 are 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 in the US, 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 was no such instant hit among the first crop of Max Originals.
However, in the months since the launch, the service has added a few Max Originals that you should check out. That includes the dark comedy The Flight Attendant, along with Hacks, a recent entry about an older stand-up comic who needs some fresh material.
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. Recently, HBO Max launched Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a four hour version of the 2017 DC Comics superhero team-up film that represents his full vision for that movie. In 2021, the service has allowed subscribers to watch all of Warner Bros. theatrical films day-and-date for when they reached theaters for their first 31 days. That has included films like Godzilla vs Kong, Mortal Kombat, and Space Jam: A New Legacy, with films like The Suicide Squad, Dune, and The Matrix 4 still to come. While that feature will be ending this year, Warner Bros. still plans to release up to 10 movies as HBO Max exclusives in 2022.
HBO Max review: User interface
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 and iOS versions of the app allow 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.
Recently, the Android and iOS versions of the app added support for putting in avatars for each profile. Not only can you select profile avatars from a curated list of HBO and Warner Bros characters, you also have the option of adding your own image, either from your image library or by taking a new photo. Even Disney Plus doesn’t have the option of uploading your own custom avatar to your profile. It’s too bad that this is just for mobile devices and not for other platforms, particularly the PC.
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 most of its content. Warner Bros has added 4K support for its 2021 Warner Bros feature films. 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. Even with the $9.99 a month tier with ads, it’s still one of the more expensive streaming services.
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 without ads, and even the $9.99 plan with ads, 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.