Categories
HBO Streaming Services

Max Review: Quality vs Quantity

This post may contain affiliate links and we may earn a commission. Learn more

Max is both new and old, depending on whether you were previously an HBO Max subscriber. In terms of whether Max is the right subscription for you, that can also depend on whether you were previously an HBO Max subscriber, and how you viewed the catalog prior to the transition.

Advertisement

Max is the new face of HBO Max. Not only has the streaming service dropped HBO from the name, but its reliance on HBO as a cornerstone has also now subsided, thanks to a massive injection of Discovery-related shows and content. All of which makes for a packed but busy catalog.

Max $9.99-$19.99
  • Experience
  • Content
  • Features
  • Price
4

Streaming Better verdict

Max is a good streaming service and offers good value overall. However, some will feel it’s more focused on quantity than quality these days.

Pros

Multiple plans
Large library
Discovery content
Light ad load

Cons

Expensive plans
Buggy apps
Confusing interface
4K now costs more

All in all, Max offers better value than it did as HBO Max, and the streaming service is now likely to appeal to more homes and more family members within a home. However, for those that viewed HBO Max as more of a higher-end streaming service, some of that stardust might have now worn off.

Advertisement

Max full review

Unsure of whether Max is the right subscription service for you? Here is our full review:

Max specs

Below is a summary of some of the main specifications for Max, including the price, number of streams, and whether you can download videos .

Monthly Price$9.99-$19.99
Annual Price$99.99-$199.99
Simultaneous Streams3
Ad Free✔ (select plans)
On Demand
Live TVSome live sports
Downloads✔ (select plans)

Max experience – a work in progress

One of the good things about Max is its general level of device support. As this is basically an HBO Max replacement, it has arrived with support for all of the same hardware, making it easily accessible on a variety of platforms and devices, including smart TVs, streaming players, mobile devices, and more.

Prior to the release of Max, one of the big selling points that Warner Bros. Discovery focused on was the improved app and user experience. That might become true in time, but the app currently feels very much like a work in progress.

Advertisement

So far, we’ve found the app to be a little buggy. In particular, the Android/Google TV app proved troublesome for us, and we’re not alone. While it works for the most part, we have noticed audio synching problems, while others have reported various other performance and login issues.

Performance aside, the general Max interface feels more basic than it used to be. The side menu has been slimmed down greatly, and while it isn’t necessarily harder to navigate to the same sections, it feels like it is. It fells less intuitive in general.

Advertisement

The old HBO Max menu housed Search, Home, Movies, Series, Browse, and Hubs top level categories.

HBO Max side menu
HBO Max side menu

Technically, all of these are still present in Max, but they are now spread out over a vertical and horizontal menu, requiring subscribers to navigate both at different times.

Max home Screen

Hubs is a specific area that now feels like it has been downgraded. As mentioned, Hubs was located in the side menu on HBO Max, and easy to access. With Max, Hubs is no longer present in either the side or top menus.

Instead, users now have to scroll down until they reach the Brand Spotlight row.

Max Brands

The one exception here is HBO, which does have a place of prominence in the top menu.

It is also now harder to see which shows, movies, and content are leaving the platform. While there is still a Last Chance section, it isn’t anywhere near as clear or informative as it was before.

Advertisement

Under HBO Max, Just Added, Last Chance, Coming Soon, and similar categories were all located together under Browse (in the side menu). In Max, however, Last Chance is buried right at the bottom of the app as a row.

Max Last Chance and genres

While none of the points raised here are massive issues on their own, or even collectively, they are examples of how Max now feels busier and harder to navigate than HBO Max ever did.

If you never used HBO Max in the past, then you won’t notice any of these differences. But, that won’t mean bouncing between side and top menus, scrolling to get to individual hub content, or finding out what’s leaving soon, doesn’t feel more confusing than it should be.

Max content – when too much can be a problem

This feels like something we shouldn’t ever complain about, and yet here we are asking the question – does Max offer too much content? What is probably a more accurate question to ask is whether Max’s library is now too varied?

For some, the answer to this is no, there can never be a situation where they have access to too much content, or too much variety. For those users, they will probably love the Max library and the massive injection of Discovery family content it now includes.

Not only does Max offer access to Discovery shows, but it also now includes programming from the wider Discovery family of brands as well, including Food Network, HGTV, ID, and TLC. All of which makes for a very varied library.

90 Day Fiance on Max

With the ability to jump from an HBO show like Succession to a TLC show like 90 Day Fiancé, Max does offer an interesting collection, and one that will now appeal to even more family members than HBO Max ever could.

Max HGTV shows

That said, some people are likely to take issue with the expansion of content. For those subscribers, Max definitely does offer too much. Specifically, too much unscripted and reality content.

HBO has always been seen as a premium service. While premium is now more commonly used in reference to plans, that’s not what we mean here. HBO has always been seen as a premium brand that creates premium content. For example, Barry, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood, Game of Thrones, Succession, The Last of Us, The Sopranos, The White Lotus, The Wire, and Westworld, to name just a few.

This also meant that those signed up to HBO Now could rely on the fact that they were getting a certain type and quality of programming with their subscription.

With the release of HBO Max, and the introduction of content from the wider WarnedMedia family of brands, that emphasis on HBO was diluted a little. However, HBO content remained at the heart of the service, and the main reason why someone might consider signing up.

With Max, and evidenced even by the name, HBO’s importance has now been diluted greatly. To be clear, a subscription still does unlock access to (most of) the same great shows, it is just the app also now unlocks access to a lot of content that a traditional HBO fan probably doesn’t want.

The changes to the interface and design also now means that those traditional HBO fans have to wade through the catalog to find a show they might want to watch. They also now run a greater risk of starting a show that might not be of the quality they would have expected when firing up the old HBO Now, or to a lesser degree, the old HBO Max app.

Again, this is not a huge issue, and hardcore HBO fans can easily filter the library to only show HBO content. That said, we suspect many will still find the app to be too full of content that they don’t want to see each time they open Max.

Max app HBO Hub
Max app HBO Hub

Current and older content aside, there’s also now the issue of future content. Even before Max arrived, Warner Bros. Discovery had started canceling shows and removing poplar shows from its library. Now, with the addition of Discovery content, it is starting to feel like all of this new content could be in replace of newer originals.

While there are still HBO and Max originals to watch, and more coming, it is unclear just how much focus is going to be put on new original programming in the future. Especially when there will be ‘new episodes‘ of Discovery-family content arriving each week and month.

Max live TV – just sports for now

Unlike some other streaming services, Max doesn’t really offer any live TV. It certainly doesn’t offer any linear channels, and it remains to be seen if or when that will change.

Warner Bros. Discovery is understood to be working on a new FAST channels service, and while those free live channels might end up accessible through the Max app, they could also launch as part of a separate, standalone app and service.

In the meantime, the main bulk of live content that Max subscribers have access to will be live sports events. While this is mainly limited to men’s and women’s US soccer at the moment, the selection of live sports is expected to grow over time. Notably, Max could, at some point, get access to live NHL games.

Back in 2021, the National Hockey League and Turner Sports agreed a new multi-year deal, and ever since then, there have been suggestions that HBO Max (now Max) could get access to some of that NHL content. Although there is no firm information on whether this will happen, the possibility is always there.

In our opinion, and until there are some major changes to Max, live TV is probably not going to be something that justifies signing up and paying for a subscription.

Max value – cheap and expensive at the same time

Value is always directly related to content, and that’s all the more true with Max. For those that do want quantity over everything else, Max offers a good selection of content, and from a wide variety of brands. In this sense, Max offers pretty good value overall.

Personally, we found the abundance of Discovery content was significant enough that it even removed the need for us to pay for a standalone Discovery Plus subscription.

Even though this won’t be the case for all Discovery Plus homes, it is possible that many will no longer need to pay for Discovery Plus as well as Max, resulting in a minimum saving of $5 each month.

How Max cost compares to other services

Max$9.99-$19.99
Discovery+$4.99-$6.99
Disney+$7.99-$10.99
Hulu$7.99-$14.99
Netflix$6.99-$19.99

In addition to the potential Discovery Plus savings, Max does offer multiple plans to choose from. At $9.99 per month, the cheapest plan is pretty expensive and especially as it includes ads. However, we did find the ad load to be very light, and for this very reason, we strongly recommend most homes try the With Ads plan first.

MaxWith AdsAd-FreeUltimate
Ad-Free
Cost p/m$9.99$15.99$19.99
Best QualityFHDFHD4K
Streams224
DownloadsNo30100

For those that do want the best experience Max has to offer, that honor costs $19.99 per month, $5 more than it did when the service was HBO Max. Following our experience with the service, we find $20 to be a little high, as we don’t really see enough value with Max’s Ultimate Ad-free plan to justify the cost.

Unless you absolutely need to watch in 4K, you’ll probably get much more value for your subscription dollars if you opt for one of the cheaper plans, and especially the With Ads plan.

Max review recap – is Max worth it?

Max is a good streaming service overall, and the injection of Discovery content has resulted in plenty of added value. For those that have never used HBO Max, as well as fans of both HBO and Discovery, they will likely find the wide and varied catalog of content to be well worth the money.

In homes where a subscription is likely to be shared with multiple people, who all have different viewing habits and tastes, we suspect Max will offer even better value.

For legacy HBO subscribers, and/or those specifically interested in HBO original programming, Max is more of a mixed bag, literally. While all of your favorite HBO shows are there and ready to be streamed, you probably will need to get used to navigating the app and filtering out the content you don’t want.

John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Better to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been editing and writing about technology and streaming for online publications since 2014, and believes the best streaming approach is to rotate between services as needed.

John's preferred live TV streaming service right now is YouTube TV although he does tend to switch live TV services multiple times each year to keep up to date with their changes. Outside of live TV, John also actively streams HBO Max (for the shows), Peacock (for Premier League), and Paramount Plus (for Champion's League). However, John is also currently subscribed to Apple TV+, Discovery+, Hulu, Starz, Showtime, and Shudder.

Contact John via email at john@streamingbetter.com or say hi on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Streaming can be frustrating but please be respectful and avoid personal information. All comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Advertisement