If you read through our full HBO Max review can found disappointment at the part where the stream caps out at 1080p resolution and without any support for HDR, you're not alone. But there's a little bit of consolidation when it comes to HBO Max bitrate.
A fairly major complaint about HBO Now — the previous standalone streaming offering from HBO — was that bitrate was lacking, hovering around the 5 Mbps second range. When it comes to bitrate, higher is better, because it means more data is being pushed your way consistently. And that means better picture quality for HBO shows.
That was as apparent as ever in the Game of Thrones episode "The Long Night." It was dark. And the thing about dark scenes with low bitrate is that compression becomes a real factor, by which details aren't reproduced and you end up with dark, blotchy scenes. And in this case it pretty much was unwatchable.
But HBO Max promised a higher bitrate, and early tests show that we've got it. Apple TV 4K makes it relatively easy to see statistics of the stream, and that's what we tested on.
Bitrate will vary a little bit depending on what it is you're watching. And an older recording of, say, Friends doesn't have the same detail in the source material as the newer release of Wonder Woman . So a higher bitrate on Friends won't make it look like it was shot today, in higher resolution.
But with HBO Max bitrates, we were consistently seeing between 7 Mbps and 10 Mbps, and sometimes a little higher. That's a far sight better than what we experienced on HBO Now, for sure.
By comparison, a 4K stream of the Amazon Prime Video Original ZeroZeroZero shows an average of about 10 Mbps. Season 2 of Jack Ryan is showing an average of around 9 Mbps. (Both also have a higher native resolution and supports HDR and Dolby Atmos audio.)
And Netflix goes even further with its own original content. The just-released Space Force was returning bitrates of around 16 Mbps, also with full 4K resolution and Dolby Vision HDR.
Hulu, meanwhile, was serving up The Great in native 4K at about 12 Mbps.
So while HBO Max still has some room to improve — specifically with 4K resolution and support for HDR — we can definitively say that it's upped the bitrate for this new generation.
HBO Max is the new streaming service from WarnerMedia that encapsulates all the HBO content you've come to love with a wide variety of sources from other WarnerMedia properties. That includes providers like TBS, TNT, truTV, Warner Bros., Comedy Central, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Roosterteeth, Studio Ghibli, Looney Toons, Turner Classic Movies, and more.
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