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Max With Ads vs Ad Free: Should You Upgrade?


Max logo shown on three smart TVs

The Max ad-free plan is a good option for those willing to pay more each month to skip the ads, but an ad-free experience is only one of the benefits on offer. Improved audio and video quality, the ability to download videos, and the ability to stream on more devices at the same time are all additional reasons to consider upgrading to a higher Max tier.

Back when Max was HBO Max, there was only one plan to choose from. In 2021, however, the service introduced a new and cheaper tier, the With Ads plan. Following the transition from HBO Max to Max in 2023, another tier was added, Ultimate Ad-Free.

With a total of three tiers to now choose from, new subscribers have plenty of choices when it comes to signing up and picking a subscription that best suits their needs and budget. For some, the upgrade to one of the two ad-free plans will be worth the additional cost. For others, they may find they are actually better off sticking with the cheaper, ad-supported plan.

With Ads vs Ad Free vs Ad Free Ultimate

Even when removing the ad-free experience from the equation, the With Ads plan is still a much weaker plan than either Ad Free or Ultimate Ad Free. Below is a summary of the main differences between the three Max tiers.

With AdsAd FreeUltimate Ad Free
ResolutionFull HDFull HD4K Ultra HD

Should you upgrade to Ad-Free?

Whether it is worth upgrading from the ad-supported plan will depend on the needs of the individual household. If simply wanting to skip the ads, that might be enough of a reason to justify paying an additional $6 a month. We’ve tested both the With Ads and standard Ad Free tiers multiple times over the past year and found the With Ads plan to offer the best value overall.

In spite of being cheaper, the With Ads plan includes access to all of the same content as the standard Ad Free plan. As it also maxes out at the same resolution and limits subscribers to the same number of streams, the main differences are the ads and the option to download titles. While downloading titles can be handy, device support is limited to mobile devices, and the standard Ad Free plan is further limited to just 30 downloads at the a time.

In terms of the ads, and keeping in mind that no one likes sitting through ad breaks, we’ve found them to be fairly light compared to traditional live TV and many other streaming services. Based on our experience with the ad load, and assuming you don’t have much need to download titles, we don’t suggest paying for ad-free Max. At least not to begin with.

Instead, we would recommend starting off with the With Ads plan and seeing if you are fine with the ad load. If the ads are fine then that’s $6 saved each month. If you find they are too frequent and intrusive then it’s time to consider upgrading to one of the ad-free tiers.

Choosing between Ad Free and Ultimate Ad Free

For those that have decided they do want to upgrade to an ad-free plan, the next decision is which one. In our opinion, the standard Ad Free plan is going to be the best option for most homes. If you only want to remove the ads we don’t see enough reasons to pay even more each month for the Ultimate Ad Free plan.

Arguably, the best reason to upgrade to this plan is the improved audio and visual quality through the unlocking of 4K Ultra HD and Dolby Atmos support. It is worth pointing out that only select titles are available to stream in 4K UHD, so upgrading won’t result in suddenly gaining access to a 4K version of everything in the entire Max library.

It is also worth mentioning that 4K playback requires the user to have a compatible 4K device, along with an internet connection that’s able to handle streaming video over the internet at the higher resolution.

Outside of the audio and video upgrades, the Ultimate Ad Free plan also increases the number of downloads to more than 100 at the same time. It also makes it possible to stream Max on up to four devices at the same time. Considering the standard Ad Free plan only allows two simultaneous streams, as does the With Ads plan, Ultimate Ad Free subscribers get twice the number of streams to play with.

Ad FreeUltimate Ad Free
Dolby Atmos

When taking all of these upgrades into account, the additional $4 a month for Ultimate Ad Free offers pretty good value for money. However, unless you absolutely do want to watch in 4K or with Dolby Atmos, and are fine with a limited selection of 4K titles, we don’t really think it is worth upgrading to the $19.99/month Ultimate Ad Free plan.

The one exception here is busier households where multiple people are likely to be sharing a subscription. If, for example, you expect the streaming service will be regularly used by more than two people (on different devices) at the same time, then the Ultimate Ad Free plan is going to be the right solution.

Considering three or more simultaneous streams probably won’t apply to most homes, the limited selection of 4K content, and the same ad-free experience, we’d recommend only upgrading as far as the Ad Free plan, if you plan to upgrade at all.

Max logo official$9.99-$19.99 a month
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John Finn


1 response to “Max With Ads vs Ad Free: Should You Upgrade?”

  1. Are you sure if I subscribe to the HBOMAX no-ad plan for $14.99/mth that I will be allowed to pay it monthly and that I won’t be charged the entire $149.99 for a year? Also does it include ABC.CBS.NBC. OR FOX? Thank you.

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