Skip to main content

Does HBO Max stream in 4K?


Source: CordCutters (Image credit: CordCutters)

Best answer: No, HBO Max does not stream in 4K resolution — though your hardware may upscale things to 4K. But that's not the same thing.

  • The service: HBO Max ($14.99 a month)

HBO Max has it all, but it's only in HD

We shouldn't have to settle for incomplete specs in 2020. But here we are. HBO Max has all kinds of content from all kinds of places. HBO. Warner Bros. Comedy Central. DC Universe. TCM. Pretty much everything in the WarnerMedia catalog.

What it doesn't have is any of that in 4K resolution. HBO Max currently tops out its streams in HD.

That said, HBO isn't more specific about the exact resolution. HD generally means 720p. Full HD, or FHD, would be 1080p. And that's what the newer top-shelf HBO Max content is streaming at. Older shows, like Friends , for example, also are streaming in 1080p, but obviously weren't recorded at that native resolution. So you'll notice.

Resolution is just one part of the equation, though. Bitrate is another. On an Apple TV 4K, we're seeing a bitrate of about 8.5 Mbps on a 200-Mbps connection. Results may well vary on other devices, but Apple TV 4K is about as good as it gets these days. (And it allows for easy benchmarking, so we can see what we're working it.)

That doesn't mean you won't ever see artifacting or pixelation. It happens, especially when a stream is just starting to spin up. And it also doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement. Playback in 4K with HDR is something HBO Max should strive for, even if it's not available on Day 1. (Though it absolutely should have been.)

That's something that Netflix and Amazon still do better, and it's something HBO Max needs to do to truly compete.