HBO Go: Xbox One vs. PS4 vs. Chromecast


Anyone visiting HBO Binge already knows the importance of HBO’s on demand service HBO Go. It’s gotten to the point where I use it more than Netflix thanks to its newer movie selection and more robust original programming offerings. HBO Go is available on a plethora of platforms, but there are really only two current game consoles on the market that offer it: the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

As an owner of these two consoles, I thought I’d put their setup to the test. HBO Go has uniform offerings across all platforms, but the interface and user-friendly nature of each app varies. Also, since I own a Chromecast, I figured I’d throw that into the mix as well. Chromecast is hardly in the same category as these two video game consoles that cost hundreds of dollars, but this is just a comparison in terms of the HBO Go app.

Xbox One:

Xbox One features great voice controls, but a clumsy OS for HBO Go.

The Xbox One’s HBO Go app succeeds and fails because of the Xbox One itself. It’s positives are in place because of Microsoft’s hardware, but annoyances are magnified because of the platform’s software. The Xbox One software is a bit of a mess. Every command is slightly delayed, and jumping from app to app takes anywhere from five-to-ten seconds of loading time. The OS is due to get an upgrade similar to Windows 10 in November, but its been in its current form for almost two years now.

Occasionally when attempting to open HBO Go, the system just isn’t up to the task. I’ve seen the “something went wrong” error message many more times than I’d like to. It’s even reared its ugly head in the middle of watching a show or movie. These are software issues that will hopefully be ironed out by the time the update rolls around, but currently it adds problems to all of the system’s apps.

On the positive, the Xbox One does have Kinect. Well, some of them do. The Kinect, Microsoft’s motion motion sensing, voice reading camera, was a mandatory inclusion when the Xbox One launched. Since then, most consoles are sold without it. It doesn’t do much in terms of games on the console, but it is great to have for movie watching. This includes HBO Go.

The Kinect easily responds to “play,” “pause,” “rewind” and “fast forward.” It doesn’t seem like a great feature until you use it. If you’re like me, it’s hard to go back to a remote. There’s no fumbling for the controller to turn it on and hit a button. This feature works well, but, as I said, most Xbox One’s don’t even have a Kinect anymore. Which means most Xbox One’s can’t take advantage of voice commands.

PlayStation 4:

PS4’s rest mode brings pros and cons to HBO Go app

The PS4 is the complete opposite end of the spectrum of the Xbox One when it comes to OS responsiveness. It’s snappy and responsive, whether the user is switching apps or launching new ones. This also carries over to the HBO Go app.

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The app is lightning fast and easy to navigate thanks to a left-side menu that organizes shows, movies, comedy, sports and more. The app and shows that appear in the app even continue where you left off if you put the PS4 in rest mode and return. Rest mode is an excellent feature for the console, but it also causes some problems within HBO Go.

If the PS4 is left in rest mode for too long, it seems to confuse the HBO Go app. It doesn’t remember who you are and forces you to restart the app. Other times it will make you register you PS4 with your cable provider all over again. It can be a real pain.


Chromecast works off of the HBO Go app on phones and tablets

Chromecast is a dongle made by Google that works on mobile devices like an Android or Apple phone or tablet. It plugs into the TV and the mobile device essentially acts as the remote. So, if you’ve used HBO Go on your phone or tablet in the past, the experience is comparable.

If a Chromecast device is found on the Wifi network, the app automatically adds a Chromecast symbol. Tapping the symbol sends the program from the device, to the TV. This process works better on an Android device compared to an iPhone or iPad since it’s, after all, a Google platform talking to a Google device. iOS devices struggle when leaving the app and coming back.

Several times I’ve returned to the HBO Go app to pause my show, but the app forgets that it’s playing on a Chromecast. Refreshing the app sometimes doesn’t even help, leaving you without control over your HBO program. It’s just frustrating.

Bottom Line:

When comparing these three devices, they all bring their own unique positives and negatives to the HBO Go app. Xbox One excels thanks to the voice commands in the Kinect, the PS4 opens and loads HBO programs in the blink of an eye and the Chromecast is an inexpensive way to put HBO shows on the TV screen without having a cable box. When putting these three platforms against each other, the PS4 has the best performance for HBO viewing.