PlayStation TV - A Short Pause Review

I want to love the PlayStation TV so bad... I really, really do. On paper, it’s a great concept that offers gamers incredible convenience. The ability to play your PlayStation Vita games on the big screen was one feature that I felt was “cool,” but not quite, “OMG, I gotta have it!" The allure of having access to hundreds of games via the PlayStation Now streaming service was more appealing in my book. Then, there was the fact that this device was supposed to allow gamers to stream their PlayStation 4 to another TV within their house, which was perhaps the most exciting feature of all. These three features were enough to excite many a gamer, myself - of course - included. The Playstation TV would essentially act as a universal PlayStation console with the ability to access the library of almost every PlayStation system, all for under $100. After spending a few days with the device, I can say that while it achieves what it says it can do, it’s the quality of said features that leaves me somewhat disappointed.

PlayStation Vita Games On Your Big Screen

I want to start off saying that I absolutely love my PlayStation Vita; I really do believe it's one of best handheld systems ever created. And contrary to popular opinion, the PlayStation Vita has a very healthy mix of AAA and indie games to choose from. I’ve always been a believer that the Vita is best played in small doses, though I respect those who can spend hours upon hours playing games on it. Playing Killzone: Mercenary on the go allowed many of us to experience a proper first-person shooter away from our home consoles. There are times, however, when I’m at home and I wish I could enjoy longer play sessions with it, but not on the little screen. Now that PlayStation TV has arrived, I can finally pick up my DualShock 4 (or DualShock 3) and play it on my 50 inch plasma. Not only did a recent patch optimize Killzone: Mercenary to look better on a bigger screen, but playing it with the ergonomically friendly DualShock 4 offers up a more precise, and more importantly, comfortable experience than on the PlayStation Vita proper over longer periods of time.

This UI should look familiar to all PlayStation Vita owners

This UI should look familiar to all PlayStation Vita owners

Another great feature regarding Vita games on the PlayStation TV, is that not only can you download games you’ve already purchased to the PlayStation TV (note: unless you picked up the $149 bundle which comes with an 8GB memory card, you will need to purchase a standalone one), it also has a game card slot on the side should you have any retail copies of your Vita games that are supported at this time. Any current memory cards you have will work on the PlayStation TV as well, as long as they are tied to the same account. It’s pretty handy if you have smaller games downloaded to your memory cards.

It is worth noting that while the list of compatible games for PlayStation TV is expansive - stretching across PlayStation Vita, PSP, PlayStation One Classics, and PS Mobile – there are currently many games that are not supported. It’s disappointing to see some popular first party games, such as Uncharted Golden Abyss and Unit 13, lacking compatibility. Whether or not this has to do with how touch screen controls are implemented is anyone’s guess, but hopefully this list of supported titles will expand more as Sony continues to work with developers on getting updates out for games that currently won’t work with the PlayStation TV. All in all, having the ability to play PlayStation Vita games on the big screen using a DualShock 3 or 4 feels just as good as one would expect

PlayStation Now Works Great, and the prices are looking better too!

Lauching alongside the PlayStation TV, the PSTV/PS Vita iteration of the PlayStation Now Beta is out in the wild, and I’m happy to report that it works very well; though there were some moments of lag, it wasn’t consistent enough to hamper the experience. You have access to all of the features of PlayStation Now that you’d find on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. Now that Sony has managed to get some of these games down to a more appealing price point ($14.99 for 90 days of God of War: Ascension is actually not bad), it’ll make the ability to stream a wide range of PlayStation 3 games to any TV in your house much more appealing to those who may have missed out on what PlayStation had to offer last gen. While the prospects of using the service are a little more practical now, I - like many - am still pulling for a subscription plan to arrive.

I decided to try out two vastly different games when testing the PlayStation Now service on the PlayStation TV. First up was Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. While it's not your typical first-person twitch shooter, it still allows me to gauge how well a shooter performs in terms of aiming and firing, and whether or not latency affects the outcome. There were a few occasions where it was harder to line up distance shots against enemies that were lying prone, but for the most part, the aiming and shooting felt really good for being streamed. Though the game wasn't a technical marvel by any stretch of the imagination, it still looked pretty good compared to what I remember when I played it on my PlayStation 3 some years ago. Even the fine print on the bottom of the screen indicating kills and enemy positions as they're reported by your fire squad were legible and crisp. Even though Operation Flashpoint is a slower paced, tactical shooter, it still performed exceptionally well using PlayStation Now.

In order to find out just how well the service can handle fast action, as well as gameplay that is more reliant on timing, I decided to give God of War: Ascension a go as well. It was while playing this game where I began to fully appreciate how awesome PlayStation Now is going to be down the road. There is so much action going in God of War: Ascension, and not once did I experience any form of lag whatsoever. Whether it was blocking attacks from all angles, keeping my hit streak alive, or successfully performing a barrage of quick-time events (QTE), my experience was never anything less than superb. Granted, these games don't have the same shine as they do on the PlayStation 3 due to the fact that you are streaming, but the buttery-smooth framerate that the God of War series is known for was fully intact. I'll be honest when I say that there were multiple times that I forgot I was streaming a game as opposed to playing it on a console. I even gave the multiplayer portion of Ascension a try, and it performed remarkably well. Up until today, I had about 6 minutes worth of actual online experience with God of War: Ascension, but I was able to get a couple of kills and defend myself from other people's attacks. Once again, latency was never an issue.

If there is one feature that would urge me to wholeheartedly recommend a PlayStation TV to anyone looking to purchase the device, it would be its functionality with the ever expanding library of PlayStation Now. The performance was exceptional, and with the pricing now much more reasonable, this could very much be the break Sony needs in terms of promoting PlayStation Now.

Stream Your PlayStation 4 To Any Room In Your House...Just Don’t Expect A Great Experience

After seeing how well the PlayStation TV could handle PlayStation Now streaming, I went in very confident that Remote Play from my PlayStation 4 would yield similar results. Sadly, this is the one feature that fares the worst. Even after making several changes to my network in an effort to improve the performance of streaming, the PlayStation TV actually performed worse wired than when using the PlayStation Vita wirelessly for Remote Play. There is probably a half second, maybe a tad more, of delay between when any input through my DualShock 4 would be pressed and when it would be reflected on the screen. Everything from Destiny and The Evil Within, to the less frantic Spelunky, suffered from lag that hampered the experience. As a note, my PlayStation 4 is downstairs, but directly below my living room. I have an Ethernet cable going from my modem right through the floor down to my PlayStation 4. My modem is right next to my TV upstairs, and it’s connected directly to my PlayStation TV. If those aren’t optimal conditions, I don’t know what are. If you can’t be further than 10 feet away from your PlayStation TV and your PlayStation 4, the convenience of streaming is nullified immediately. As a test, I shut off my PlayStation TV completely, and gave remote play on my PlayStation Vita a try from the same location, and it was still a much better experience.

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This is where I’m most disappointed with the PlayStation TV, without question. Now I know many gamers have a dedicated gaming room (I do as well), so I’m sure they’ll be the first to say, “If you want to play your PlayStation 4 games without lag, then just play on your PlayStation 4, DUH!” As unhelpful as that can be, there is a fair amount of truth to that. That being said, Sony has made it a point to promote the convenience of streaming to another TV in your house. It was an extremely appealing point to me, as during the day I watch my son, Ethan, before heading off to work. He is 18 months old, and as any parent out there will tell you, kids his age are attracted to anything that lights up and makes cool sounds. If I were to bring him down to my gaming-cave, you better believe that he will eventually want to find out just how durable my PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are. Being able to hide my PlayStation TV behind the TV upstairs in my living room would allow me to play games during the day, without fear of my son going Hulk Smash on it. There are many other reasons why gamers would appreciate the convenience of being able to stream games to another TV in their house, and the PlayStation TV was supposed to offer them that. Whether or not this is an issue that can be addressed via a patch remains to be seen, and hopefully this will be remedied soon. 

NO NETFLIX, NO HULU...Really?!

When you look at what the PlayStation TV can do, it's hard not to see some similarities to other devices such as the Apple TV. It's a relatively small device that can stream to your television, as well as work with other devices around your home. Sadly, other than Crackle, Crunchyroll, and Music Unlimited, there's not much here in terms of entertainment. Yes, PlayStation is synonymous with gaming - I get that - but when all your other PlayStation devices support Netflix and other popular entertainment apps, it seems silly that they aren't included here. All is not lost though, as any movies purchased from Sony's video store can be played on the PlayStation TV. I don't have one single movie I've bought from there, so I was unable to test out how well it works. Hopefully, Sony is able to work out deals with those necessary to bring other entertainment apps to the PlayStation TV. It would be one more feather in its cap and appeal to an even wider audience.

A device oozing with potential, yet not fully realized

As disappointed as I am with the performance of Remote Play with my PlayStation 4, I'm still quite impressed with what the PlayStation TV is able to do, and do very well. Having the ability to play some of the lengthier PlayStation Vita games on the big screen using the awesome DualShock 4 is incredibly welcoming. Let's be honest, when you're at home, playing on a big screen will always trump playing on a 5-inch screen. With the PlayStation Now pricing becoming more and more enticing, its exceptional performance on the PlayStation TV may very well be the main selling point if Sony ever does introduce a subscription fee. Add in other features such as web browsing, as well as the ability to use a Bluetooth headset while utilizing party chat, and you've got yourself a pretty well rounded device in terms of what it can do. It's the other features it "should" be good at - PS4 streaming and entertainment apps - that keep it from reaching its full potential...for now anyways.

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POSITIVES

  • PlayStation Now streaming performance
  • Vita games on the BIG screen
  • Solid, inconspicuous design
  • Affordable

NEGATIVES

  • PlayStation 4 Remote Play suffers from lag
  • Lack of entertainment features found on all other PlayStation devices


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*Note: Sony has stated that for the best experience possible, a wired ethernet connection should be utilized. Although the PlayStation TV has the ability run over WiFi, our review was based entirely on a wired connection.