Why cannot HBO Max help 4K HDR, when Netflix and Disney Plus can?

Cersei Lannister

GoT followers need our 4K HDR.


In case you have a newer TV that helps 4K decision and excessive dynamic vary, you in all probability need to maximize its potential. The simplest approach is to stream precise 4K HDR video from an app like Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Vudu or Apple TV. Any of these sources can provide you attractive, punchy photographs that make your fancy TV shine. Positive Netflix expenses $15.99 a month for the privilege — $three greater than the non-4K plan — however with its huge assortment of 4K, HDR and Dolby Imaginative and prescient content material, video nerds like me gladly pay up. The identical goes for individuals who personal good audio methods that help Dolby Atmos encompass sound.

HBO Max, the brand new service that launched final week at $14.99 a month, does not provide any 4K HDR or Atmos content material in any respect, and I believe that is a giant missed alternative. Executives at HBO Max acknowledge it is a shortfall: 4K HDR is “a super-high precedence,” stated Andy Forssell, the product chief of HBO Max, in an interview on the day it launched. He stated the choice was a matter of prioritizing sure options over others in the course of the improvement course of. “Simply know it is a powerful calculus. Ultimately we have got to make the fitting calls, and I believe we made the fitting requires launch.” 

“4K HDR, Dolby Imaginative and prescient, HDR10 Plus and Dolby Atmos are on our roadmap,” a spokeswoman for HBO Max stated, however neither she nor Forssell would specify when these superior audio and video codecs can be obtainable.

Learn extra: HBO Max assessment: 10,000 hours of nice TV and films however nonetheless incomplete

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HBO Max: Tips on how to get it


For now HBO Max’s finest video high quality is HD with normal dynamic vary for now and its finest audio high quality is Dolby Digital 5.1. That is the identical as HBO Now, HBO Go and the HBO channel you may get out of your cable firm. In my expertise streaming HBO Now over time, its HD seems to be good for probably the most half, however no HD can match actual 4K HDR, particularly on a very good TV.


Sport of Thrones’ The Lengthy Night time seems to be so much higher in 4K HDR.

HBO/Helen Sloan

The bottom level for HBO streaming high quality got here in Sport of Thrones’ last season with an episode referred to as The Lengthy Night time, also called The Battle of Winterfell. Stricken by video artifacts and blotches of vague darkness, a lot of the episode appeared unhealthy. And I am not the one one who seen — the “too darkish” grievance triggered fairly a stir and I even gave of us recommendation on the way to alter their TVs to compensate

Quick-forward to December of final yr when the Blu-ray got here out in 4K HDR. It seems to be spectacular. Evaluating the 2 on late-model 4K HDR TVs in my assessment, I discovered the high-dynamic vary model was cleaner, extra distinct, filled with pop and only a deal with for the eyes. 

Sure, a number of the distinction could be attributed to the truth that I used to be watching a Blu-ray disc, not streaming, however in my expertise with different 4K HDR streaming companies, that is not an enormous issue. 4K HDR on iTunes, Vudu and Netflix can look simply nearly as good as Blu-ray, and leagues higher than the non-4K, non-HDR variations.

Past Sport of Thrones and different current HBO titles, HBO Max’s enormous assortment of films may actually profit. Titles which can be obtainable elsewhere in 4K HDR embrace:

  • Joker
  • 2001: A Area Odyssey
  • Blade Runner: The Remaining Lower
  • Surprise Lady
  • A Star Is Born (2018)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)

A lot of these are shot and mastered in 4K HDR (or larger) however some, like 2001 and The Wizard of Oz, acquired lavish 4K HDR remasters utilizing the unique movie and, like Sport of Thrones Season 8, look significantly better than the HD variations. 

After all there’s loads of stuff on HBO Max that would not profit from the 4K therapy (I am you, Mates). And possibly Warner needs to proceed to profit from 4K HDR purchases and leases of newer 4K titles, resembling Joker, on different companies. In the meantime it prices a studio cash to remaster older content material, resembling HBO classics The Sopranos and The Wire, to be in 4K. 


You possibly can hire Joker in 4K, Dolby Imaginative and prescient and Dolby Atmos on Apple and Vudu, however not on HBO Max.

Niko Tavernise

However in my opinion I would like to see as a lot 4K HDR as doable on streaming. And as a comparatively costly service, HBO Max is taking pictures itself within the foot by not together with as a lot as it might at launch. Disney Plus is the other story: At launch it provided Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar films, in addition to originals like The Mandalorian, in 4K, Dolby Imaginative and prescient and Dolby Atmos. At half the value of HBO Max.

Backside line? Films and up to date HBO reveals resembling Sport of Thrones, Westworld (which has a limited-edition 4K Blu-ray) and Watchmen (4K Blu-ray coming June 2) belong on HBO Max in most high quality. When huge Max titles resembling Inexperienced Lantern and The Snyder Lower lastly hit, I hope I will be capable of watch them in 4K HDR.

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