HBO Max vs. HBO Go: What's The Difference?

We'll help you select the best streaming service

HBO Go is HBO's legacy streaming service. HBO Go is still around, but only sort of. In fact, HBO Go is now just called HBO. HBO Max is HBO's main streaming service now. Let's tune in to see what the differences are.

HBO Max vs HBO Go
 Lifewire

Overall Findings

HBO Max Overall Findings
  • Includes exclusive content

  • Available to both video service subscribers and streamers

  • Still absent on some key streaming platforms

HBO Go Overall Findings
  • Previously included with traditional cable channels

  • Now only available where HBO Max is not

  • Contains HBO content, but not other properties

The above findings, as well as those in the below sections, are largely hypothetical. In practice, if you're new to HBO streaming services, you'll almost certainly need to go with HBO Max (but, as shown in the Final Verdict below, this isn't a bad thing). HBO Go was discontinued as a standalone service in July 2020, instead re-branded to simply "HBO." The only way you can use the HBO app (previously HBO Go) now is if you were an existing customer, and/or you're using a device or service provider that doesn't support HBO Max yet.

That said, HBO has really done their work in loading up Max with all their best stuff. There are reasons to consider it even if you do have the premium channel through your service provider. With a selection of content from other Warner properties (notably Turner-related channels such as Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies) in addition to all the great stuff from HBO, you should only use "vanilla" HBO if you have to.

Content: Max Has, Well, the Max

HBO Max
  • Includes HBO Movies & Series

  • Exclusive Warner Brothers content (e.g. DC Comics)

  • Expansive access to other content such as Sesame Street and Crunchyroll

HBO Go
  • Includes HBO Movies & Series

  • Mirrors what's available on traditional cable

  • Non-HBO "channels" such as Cartoon Network missing

The primary difference between HBO (Go) and Max is the latter's exclusive content. Both services will give you a great selection of movies, original scripted series, and documentaries. But Max also includes a number of "channels" including the following:

  • DC Comics, including both live movies, original shows, and animated features
  • Sesame Workshop
  • Turner Classic Movies
  • Anime from Studio Ghibli and Crunchyroll
  • Cartoon Network programming, including Adult Swim
  • Turner Classic Movies

On top of all this, there are also a growing number of titles branded as "Max Originals," suggesting that the divide in content between Max and its sibling is only going to grow over time.

Cost & Availability: While Max is Still Missing in Places, Go Will Eventually Go

HBO Max
  • Available to anyone

  • Many service providers offer it directly

  • Some service providers don't enable access

HBO Go
  • Available on platforms/through service providers not supporting Max

  • Possibly cheaper than Max depending on cable provider bundles

  • Can be more expensive than Max without a discounted bundle

From the cost perspective, the two services are similar. HBO Max is $14.99 per month (plus tax), where HBO can range in price depending on your video service provider. It's likely that HBO on its own will be as much, or perhaps slightly more, than Max. But you may be able to get HBO for cheaper than HBO Max if your service provider has bundles of premium packages available.

Some service providers (such as Xfinity and DirecTV) are now offering Max directly to their customers. This means all the Max content is available through your set-top box, and that you can log into Max on a different device using your service provider account. If your provider is one that is not yet on-board with HBO Max you can still subscribe to it, but you'll have to manage the two separately (e.g. viewing HBO Max to one of your screens via Chromecast instead of using a set-top box).

Compatibility: Both Are On Most Platforms, But HBO Will Fade

HBO Max
  • Available on most major streaming platforms

  • Not compatible with some key streaming devices

  • In some cases, HBO Go accounts are "upgraded" to Max

HBO Go
  • Compatible with most major streaming platforms

  • But only available where Max is not yet

  • In some cases, HBO Go accounts are "upgraded" to Max

Now that HBO's prior (and admittedly confusing) streaming services are being folded into HBO Max, it's no surprise that it's available on most of the important platforms, including:

  • Desktop OSes via the web (Windows and macOS are officially supported)
  • Android devices, including Android TV (running version 5 and above)
  • iOS devices (iOS 12.2+)
  • Apple TVs 4th generation and later
  • Chromebooks and Chromecast devices
  • Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles
  • Samsung TVs released after 2016

Notably absent from this list is Roku devices. Roku and HBO have been in a well-publicized disagreement over who can sell HBO Max subscriptions, and as a result the HBO Max app isn't available on any Roku devices. While the two may iron out their differences in time, if you're an all-Roku household (as I am), you'll be relegated to the older HBO Go-based app on those devices.

Final Verdict: Unless You Have a Great Reason, Go With Max

As mentioned above, as of late July HBO Max is the only game in town. But even if HBO Go was still around, there would have been few reasons to use it over Max. With an expanded catalog including exclusive content and the ability to use it in conjunction with your cable TV's HBO premium channel service, HBO Max is the way to go for most people. The only drawback is if some or all of your streaming devices don't yet have access to the new Max app. But otherwise, go for HBO Max, confident you're getting the best the service has to offer.