Review: HBO Go

HBO Go is the newest addition in the streaming video world. As the name implies, HBO Go is the product of Home Box Office, offering streaming for movies currently provided by HBO, HBO series, and other original programs. HBO Go is included in HBO subscriptions from many cable providers; before you get too excited, check to be sure your provider offers HBO Go service.

Stream it as you like
You can watch HBO Go in a variety of ways. Get the free apps for iOS devices and Android devices (running Android OS 2.2 or higher) from the Apple App Store and Android Market. You can also stream from HBO Go's website. Your only limit to accessibility, as with other services, is having an internet connection. You cannot currently check out HBO Go content for future viewing if you're not connected to the internet.

Since HBO Go service is dependent on your HBO subscription, it's difficult to compare its price against other streaming providers such as Netflix and Hulu Plus. Both Netflix and Hulu start at around $8 a month, but you can expect an HBO subscription to start at twice that, on top of your existing cable bill. Pricing will vary depending on your current cable provider and subscription plan; if you're interested in HBO, check with your provider for specific price information.

Wide-ranging content

The content offering available on HBO Go is fairly impressive. While non-movie availability is limited to HBO-exclusive content, HBO Go has it all. Looking for the newest episode of Game of Thrones? It will be up within 24 hours of the broadcast on Sunday. Want to catch up on True Blood before Season 4 kicks off? All 3 previous seasons are available to you. Curious about a series that has come and gone, such as The Wire or The Sopranos? Both have a full listing of all seasons and episodes on their respective pages.

The movies, comedy, and documentaries sections are as well populated as the series list, with over 200 movies listed. However, while the series content has a large availability window (most options show December 31, 2012, under "Available Until"), movies, comedy, and documentaries are not nearly so long-lived within HBO Go. Some items expire within a week of the service's May 2 release. If you're planning on watching something new, doublecheck the date to make certain that you won't miss out by putting it off!

One note for parents: There is an age alert on this app. Apple states, "You must be at least 17 years old to download this app" on the app's page in the store. The content available on HBO Go (and HBO in general) is not censored, and there are items in the full range of ratings for TV and movie content. There are separately labeled family sections under both movie genres and series lists, so just be cautious if you're handing your iPad to your child for some fun viewing time.

HD quality

HBO offers HD quality for most HBO Go content. The quality is dependent on two major factors: your connection speed and your display setup. Your video will automatically be optimized for whatever device you are streaming on. Although 1080p output could be possible with an iPad 2, external connections from mobile devices to TVs are not currently supported. Sorry folks, no HDMI out for now!

Whistles and bells

If you enjoy having an enhanced experience or have a penchant for looking up details online after the show, you will definitely enjoy the little bonuses HBO has built into the Go service. Your streaming window, or frame, will start out in fullscreen mode. However, you can reduce this window to a smaller size in order to take advantage of the bonus features.

On the new screen with the reduced video window, you'll find Facebook and Twitter buttons for social network sharing, additional videos associated with the series (previews, outtakes, commentary, and so on), details for the current piece (run time, summary, cast and crew lists, and rating), in addition to the streaming video window. You can easily toggle between this information view and fullscreen streaming, although the method depends on how you are accessing the service.

  • Website Press the I in the center of the frame when using the website to go from fullscreen to information view. Mouse over the video window and click "Switch to Original Size" to return to fullscreen.

  • Mobile devices Tap the two arrows pointing to each other to go from full screen to information view. To return to fullscreen, tap the two arrows pointing away from each other in the video window.

The website also provides additional bonus information, and for certain series and movies, it'll prompt you to "play the episode with special features." This could could feature anything from maps of the current location to video clips explaining a particular section. The website includes the above-mentioned social sharing buttons, details on the content, and bonus videos.

Would you subscribe just to get HBO Go?
HBO Go is an extension of HBO's cable channels and provides content not available anywhere else. We give HBO Go 4 stars out of 5. If you're already paying the monthly service fee to your cable provider, HBO Go is a bonus you can definitely benefit from! With HBO Go, you no longer need to be at home to take advantage of your premium cable channel subscription. However, if you're not currently paying for HBO, is the thought of extra content available online worth the cost of premium channel on top of cable service? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Post by Liz Patt

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