They’ve been promising it for years, and it’s finally happening: Winter is here.
That means it’s time to take another look at subscribing to HBO NOW.
If you’re one of the three people who haven’t been keeping up with Game of Thrones on HBO, then you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. It surpassed the Sopranos as the most popular HBO series ever and has even crashed their servers for some of their highly anticipated episodes.
HBO has as many subscribers as Netflix and they’ve been making award winning original series for as long as I can remember, but they don’t anywhere near as much attention.
Why is that, and what’s it like to use?
Let’s dive into the HBO NOW review and find out.
HBO Now vs HBO Go
You might have noticed, HBO actually has TWO streaming services: HBO Now and HBO Go.
Here’s the bottom line: Unless you’re already an HBO subscriber through your cable company, HBO NOW is the one you’re going to be using.
You see, HBO Go is just for existing HBO subscribers to let them watch shows on the Go. (Get it?)
But if you’re a cord-cutter then you don’t have an existing subscription, which is where HBO Now comes in. It is a standalone streaming service designed for people who want access to HBO programming, but don’t have cable or satellite TV.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way….
HBO Now review
If there was thing I really didn’t like about HBO Now, it was the signup process.
I’d started the signup process on my PC. It’s just easier for me to enter passwords and email addresses on a full size keyboard and I didn’t happen to have an HTPC keyboard hooked up to my NVIDIA Shield. So I was a little surprised when I clicked on the “Watch FREE for 1 month” button their web page and it directed me to sign up through an app on my device.
Once past that little annoyance, the rest of the signup process went without a hitch, even if it wasn’t the smoothest process.
The free trial attaches itself to one of your email addresses. In my case, I used my Gmail account, which also happened to be the main account for my Google Play store. This lets you manage the subscription from within your Google settings. One thing to note: my subscription actually ended up using my cellular provider as the form of payment. Because I’d signed up on my phone, my default setting is to add all charges to my cellular bill. This HBO Now subscription just used that setting without asking my preference.
Eventually, I was rewarded with login information that I could plug in to any app. Overall the process took about 10 minutes. If you’re signing up for the free trial before a live streaming event, be sure to leave enough time to jump through some hoops before showtime.
The heart of the HBO Now interface is the left sidebar.
It’s organized into several broad categories like Series, Movies, Kids, Comedy, Documentaries and Sports. There’s also two special sections that you’ll be using most often.
Here’s where I spent most of my time:
Watchlist is where you can put movies and shows for later viewing. For me it was useful to scan through the categories every few weeks, or even once a month, and mark things to watch later. This dropped them in their own special menu at the top of the sidebar. Easy to find and easy to access.
Collections is a jumping off point. The categories in here include things like HBO Essentials with episodes from Game Of Thrones, Westworld, Ballers, Sopranos, and Last Week Tonight. There’s also a category for New Episodes of HBO’s original series, as well as the new movies added recently and the movies coming soon.
I tried out HBO Now at probably the highest demanded time of the entire year: the season premiere of Game Of Thrones. If there was ever going to be a time that the service would crash, this would be it.
But it didn’t.
It had a couple of hiccups at the beginning of the episode. But, it quickly righted itself and streamed through the entire episode without issues. I’ve tried it at various other times, including binge-watching the entire Westworld series, and had no issues whatsoever.
And that’s the way it should be. This is a premium service, after all.
I have to take off some points here, but no more than I would many other services.
HBO Now doesn’t have any 4K content.
Their official statement is that “HBO NOW does not currently support streaming at 4K resolution. We will continue to investigate 4K video support.”
Don’t get me wrong, the picture quality is great – everything is in 1080p HD. But imagine how much more amazing it would be to look out over the Westeros horizon or the canyons of Westworld in true 4K UHD detail.
True. Most people aren’t going to care. But I think they’re missing the boat on this one.
HBO Now cost
There are a couple of limitations to HBO Now, unfortunately.
First, they only accept US subscriptions. For those of you outside the US, you’re going to need a US address to set up the account. After that, a VPN will let you get around the geo-blocking. If you are a US customer, but travelling outside the country, a VPN would help you here too.
HBO Now offers a free 30-day trial, but only for new customers. It seems too many people were signing up for the service, binge-watching their favourite show, cancelling, and then repeating the whole thing the following year. Not surprisingly, HBO wanted to stop people from doing that.
Still, the 30-day free trial is one of the longest in the industry. Most of the streaming services I’ve looked at offer 7-day trials, if anything. To get your first month free is really a great deal.
HBO Now is a great idea for the casual movie fan or even the rabid fan of a particular HBO Original Series.
But it is a niche product. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t see myself keeping a subscription throughout the entire year. That’s surprising considering that I am a huge fan of GOT, Westworld and Last Week Tonight.
Unlike Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, there just isn’t enough new content to keep me interested.
My advice: Get it for a few months and binge-watch the stuff you love. Then cancel it and save some money for next year.
What do you think? Do you love HBO Now? Do you keep it all year? Let me know in the comments below!