HBO Max Review: Is It Worth It?

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If you’re cutting the cord and hoping to keep some premium content in your life, HBO Max could be a great addition to your streaming TV subscriptions.

Not to be confused with regular HBO, this subscription service features a combination of the hit series that made HBO a must-have for TV junkies alongside exclusive streaming rights to popular TV shows such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory and South Park — all for a premium price of $14.99 per month for ad-free streaming.

But is it worth adding to your television portfolio in an increasingly crowded streaming marketplace? That’s a question Team Clark set out to answer upon the release of this streaming service. We downloaded HBO Max to our devices and put it to the test.

In this article, I’ll help you understand what the HBO Max platform looks like, showcase some of the content that is included with a subscription, explain how it is positioned among other popular HBO products and give our feedback after a trial run with the service.


Table of Contents


What Is HBO Max?

The HBO Max homes screen on iPad.

HBO Max is a subscription streaming service from AT&T that went live on May 27, 2020.

It is positioned to compete with non-live video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ in the ever-growing and ultra-competitive cord cutting market.

HBO Max includes 45 years worth of HBO content as well as options from popular WarnerMedia entities including TBS, TNT, CNN and Warner Brothers. It also carries titles that WarnerMedia properties have acquired or reacquired licensing rights to in recent years, such as the libraries of Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Sesame Street and South Park. And, yes, there is plenty of new content that is exclusive to the platform as well.

At launch, AT&T boasted that HBO Max included more than 10,000 hours of content.


How Much Does HBO Max Cost?

HBO Max has two different tiers of subscription: ad-supported and ad-free.

After debuting with a $14.99 monthly subscription price, it was announced in June 2021 that HBO Max would offer a reduced rate for customers who are willing to watch advertisements with their content.

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Those streamers can get HBO Max for just $9.99 per month. And ad-supported streamers can save even more if they’re willing to pay in advance for an annual subscription.

Here’s a quick look at the 2021 pricing breakdown for HBO Max:

Subscription TypeMonthly Subscription CostAnnual Subscription Cost
Ad-supported$9.99$99.99
Ad-free$14.99$149.99

The benefits of the more expensive ad-free subscription don’t stop with the absence of commercials, though.

Ad-free subscribers receive access to Warner Bros. movie premieres on the same day as theatrical releases in 2021. The ad-supported subscribers will miss out on this perk.

Ad-free subscribers can also download shows and movies to watch offline. This can be handy on road trips.

The streaming quality is also better for ad-free subscribers. You can see the full breakdown of the subscription differences here:

HBO Max pricing 2021

Many HBO Customers Get HBO Max for Free

If you’re already an HBO customer, you may be in luck. You may be able to get HBO Max at no additional cost.

AT&T is offering HBO Max to HBO customers who are either billed directly through a WarnerMedia entity or some of the more popular pay-TV providers.

HBO Now direct-billed customers and those who are billed through Apple, Google Play, Samsung, Optimum, Verizon Fios Internet, Consolidated Communications, and Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico have access to HBO Max right now, at no extra cost!

According to the HBO Max website, if you are paying for HBO from one of the following services you’re going to receive HBO Max free of additional charge.

  • Apple TV Channels
  • DIRECTV STREAM (formerly AT&T TV)
  • Cox
  • DIRECTV
  • Hulu
  • Optimum
  • Spectrum
  • Verizon Fios
  • Xfinity

Supported Devices

Here are the supported devices for streaming HBO Max:

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  • Android TV
  • Apple TV
  • Play Station 4
  • Xbox One
  • Samsung TV (models made in 2016 or later)
  • Google Chromecast
  • iOS devices (ex. Apple iPhone or iPad)
  • Android devices (ex. Samsung Galaxy)
  • Roku devices
  • Amazon Fire devices

If you had the HBO Now app on one of these supported devices, you may have noticed that your existing app “became” HBO Max. That was an intentional update by AT&T upon the launch of the new service.

AT&T also notes that you can stream the service via a web-enabled device. So your home computer, laptop or Chromebook also will work.


What Is Included With HBO Max?

HBO Max includes the entire HBO library, content from some of WarnerMedia’s other brands, licensed television series and movies, as well as original content.

TV Series Included With HBO Max

Friends is one of the popular TV series features on HBO Max.

Complete catalogs of generational television hits like Friends and The Big Bang Theory are available. Some of the titles that are sure to pique the interest of potential subscribers include:

  • Friends
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
  • The West Wing
  • South Park
  • Rick and Morty
  • Ellen’s Game of Games

While not traditionally known for entertaining children, HBO also provides some popular kid-centric programming, including:

  • Sesame Street
  • Looney Tunes
  • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Happy Feet

Remember, you’re also getting access to the vast existing library of HBO’s original content. The network has aired hit shows including:

  • The Sopranos
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Wire
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Veep
  • Sex and the City

Movies Included With HBO Max

HBO Max has a menu of movies, such as Wonder Woman.

With DC Comics in play, there is plenty of superhero content available. The DC universe includes popular characters like Batman and Superman. Both have a long history of box office successes, so a robust collection of those films likely will attract a following.

HBO Max also features the complete series of Harry Potter movies, and has a whole section dedicated to Academy Award-winning films. There also is a classics collection curated by TCM that features films like Gone with the Wind and Casablanca.

HBO built its reputation by having access to some of the best movies on the market, and it seems that will continue to be a theme with the streaming service.

Here’s a sampling of some titles you’ll find on the service:

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  • Joker
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Harry Potter (all 8 films)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Matrix
  • Wonder Woman
  • Titanic

New Film Releases in 2021

Due to health concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, WarnerMedia announced that it would simultaneously release new Warner Bros. films at the box office and on the HBO Max platform.

That creates a rare chance for HBO Max subscribers to see 17 new films at home on the release at no extra charge.

The films available for free will include:

  • The Little Things
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Tom & Jerry
  • Godzilla vs. Kong
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Those Who Wish Me Dead
  • The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
  • In The Heights
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy
  • The Suicide Squad
  • Reminiscence
  • Malignant
  • Dune
  • The Many Saints of Newark
  • King Richard
  • Cry Macho
  • Matrix 4

Original Content on HBO Max

Stars including Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Kaley Cuoco and Anna Kendrick are already committed to original series for HBO Max.

Within the HBO Max app, there is a labeled section where you can find content that is produced exclusively for this platform.

HBO Max has a separate menu for new original content.

This includes new takes on old classics like Bugs Bunny and the gang on Looney Tunes as well as a Jimmy Fallon-like talk show starring Sesame Street’s Elmo.

While only a handful of shows were available at launch, here is a look at some of the titles already available or confirmed to stream as original content on HBO Max:

Confirmed HBO Max Originals

  • Adventure Time: “Go back to the Land of Ooo to join Finn and his best buddy Jake (a wise-cracking dog with magical powers) on a series of surreal adventures.”
  • Ellen’s Home Design Challenge: “Design aficionado Ellen DeGeneres gives eight forward-thinking designers the chance to push their creativity to the limit.”
  • The Flight Attendant: “Based on the novel by Chris Bohjalian, a flight attendant wakes up next to a dead man with no idea what happened. Kaley Cuoco stars and executive produces.”
  • Gossip Girl: “Eight years after the original website went dark, a new generation of New York private school teens are introduced to the social surveillance of Gossip Girl.”
  • Legendary: “Meet the divas behind celebrated voguing teams who are battling in the ballroom for a chance to achieve ‘legendary’ status.”
  • Let Them All Talk: “Meryl Streep plays a celebrated author who goes on a journey to have fun and heal old wounds.”
  • Love Life: “It’s a bumpy — but funny — ride from first love to last in this romantic comedy anthology series. Anna Kendrick stars and executive produces with Paul Feig.”
  • Made For Love: “Alissa Nutting’s tragicomic novel about love, divorce, and revenge comes to life in this 10-episode adaptation.”
  • Raised by Wolves: “Two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious planet learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.”
  • Tokyo Vice: “An American journalist embeds himself in the Tokyo Vice police squad to sniff out corruption. Based on the memoir by Jake Adelstein.”

My Experience With HBO Max

With a seven-day trial available for new customers, I decided to give HBO Max a test run for this review.

What I Liked

Let’s start with the good stuff:

  • Good app: I found the HBO Max app to be pretty user friendly on my Apple iPad. I was able to move seamlessly through different areas of content via the menu in the top left corner of the screen. Within those different areas, you can sort content by genre to find something to fit your mood. And the search button is never too far away.
  • Great content: I think AT&T did a nice job with the content selection for this one. It feels like a truly premium service. You get the entire HBO library of shows, which includes some of the best content ever made for television. You also get exclusive new shows that you can’t find anywhere else. Oh, and it’s now the only place to stream Friends. It’s an expensive product, but they don’t short you on quality content.

What I Didn’t Like

While I think I would recommend HBO Max as a streaming option, there were some drawbacks that I feel I should point out:

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  • Streaming it on your TV is harder than it should be: You probably noticed my review is mostly based on my iPad experience. That’s because, at the time the service launched, I was not able to add the HBO Max app to any of my Roku or Amazon streaming devices. It also didn’t have a native app on my LG smart TV. I was able to access it through YouTube TV as an add-on, but should I really need to do that to see the prize product of AT&T and HBO? I’m sure they’re working it, but this needs to get better quickly if this is going to be a serious competitor to Netflix and Hulu.
  • The “Max Original” content library is thin: While HBO Max does have a host of projects being completed exclusively for the platform, you wouldn’t know it at launch. There were just six titles under the original tab upon my review. If I’m paying $15 per month, I’d expect more of that portion of the product to be ready right away. That being said, I did enjoy the revamp of Looney Tunes.
The Looney Tunes return as a new original series on HBO Max.

HBO vs. HBO Max: Understanding the Difference

With names like HBO, HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO Max all floating out there as recently as last year, WarnerMedia took necessary steps to simplify the menu for potential subscribers.

HBO Go and HBO Now have been retired, leaving you with just HBO and HBO Max to consider.

Let’s try to clear up some of the potential confusion when picking between the two:

HBO is the traditional cable subscription channel that remains a stand-alone brand available for purchase through a television provider. Pricing varies by provider, but you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $10-20 per month for HBO and its family of channels.

HBO also can be purchased as a web-only subscription for $14.99 per month. It is a popular way for cord-cutters to gain access to all of HBO’s original programming, including live streaming HBO channels, archived shows and a menu of movies. This used to be called HBO Now, but that branding no longer exists.

HBO Max is a stand-alone streaming subscription that includes all of the on-demand content you’d expect to receive from HBO, plus additional content from Warner Bros. and other popular TV shows and movies. This is the product that we’re reviewing in this article.

You don’t need an HBO subscription to get HBO Max, but many HBO subscribers do get access to HBO Max for free.


Final Thoughts on HBO Max

The subscription streaming market is quickly becoming very crowded. HBO is joining major companies like Disney, Amazon and Apple in a race to capitalize on revenue opportunities provided by consumers who are eager to ditch traditional cable television.

Is the original content from HBO Max enough to differentiate itself from the other services? And is it enough to justify charging upwards of $14.99 per month when competitors like Disney and Apple are asking for less than half of that with new streaming services?

Answers to these questions are likely to determine the fate of HBO’s latest venture.

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The re-acquisition of streaming rights for an iconic show like Friends is a huge win for HBO Max. There is a loyal following for the popular franchise that is likely to seek out the ability to stream it on demand. DC Comics is another content brand with a dedicated following.

Is HBO likely to talk you into a trial run with one of these content offerings? Let us know if you’re interested in giving it a spin and what content has you the most excited!

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