PlayStation is a word that has become synonymous with a console made by Sony. Normally thought of as a singular console within a linear succession, PlayStation has become so much more. PlayStation is now an ecosystem. We log into our PSN (PlayStation Network) accounts and these same profile carries over across the PS3, PS4, and PS Vita. Many games are releasing across all three of these platforms and PlayStation Now seeks to offer game streaming that is not locked to a particular console. Sony wants to break the single console mentality. PlayStation is an idea and an ecosystem rather than just one gaming machine.
In an attempt to tie that ecosystem together, Sony has released the PlayStation TV, a media streaming box not unlike Roku or Amazon’s own Fire TV. In a world where everything from our phones to our TVs themselves can connect to streaming services, the difference in Sony’s box is that gaming is the core focus, with media streaming being a secondary function. I’ve had the opportunity to spend nearly a week with the PS TV in my own home, exploring the ins and outs and getting a feel for if it is a redundant piece of tech or a crucial piece of your home entertainment set up.
The name of the PS TV outside of North America is the Vita TV, and for good reason. The entire box, for better and worse, is based off of the Vita’s operating system. Anyone with a Vita will instantly recognize the look and function, and be able to navigate it with ease. The touchscreen focused UI translates well to an environment in which you need a controller — much better than I thought it would in fact. It is easy to get where I need to go and nothing feels awkward as I work my way through the icons and menus.
Along with the look and functionality of the Vita, the PS TV has the ability to play most Vita games. It includes a slot for both the Vita game cards as well as Vita memory cards, which means you’ll have to purchase the ridiculously priced Vita specific memory cards if you want to play many Vita games. The box comes with 1GB of on board memory, but as any Vita owner will tell you, that is nowhere near enough. There are some entire games that won’t even fit that, let alone wanting to have multiple games. Fortunately I have a Vita, so I was able to put my existing memory card in and all of my games were right there and ready to go — as long as they were compatible with the PS TV that is.
PlayStation TV Review - Not Quite There Yet - PlayStation LifeStyle
I gave a few games a test run to see what playing Vita games on a TV screen feels like. Killzone Mercenary looks impressive, plays great, and the recent update actually changes in game prompts to be controller specific. Games that excessively (or even moderately) use the Vita functions such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Tearaway are not compatible however, so make sure you check online before rushing out to purchase games that lack compatibility with your PS TV if you don’t own a Vita as well. The online store is PS TV specific however, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the game being unplayable if you are going digital.
My biggest problem with PlayStation TV is that it is a home console that only allows one user to be registered to the device. In a multi-gamer household, this makes the system nearly useless to at least one person, as the only way to get my wife logged in is to perform a factory reset and link the PS TV to her PSN account on a new set up. This would need to happen every single time you want to switch which PSN account is logged in. This limitation is one of my biggest faults of the Vita itself too, but while it is a little more understandable on a personal handheld, it feels inexcusable for a streaming device that is expected to be used by more than one person.
PS4 Remote Play is a great inclusion, as this allows you to basically have your PS4 on a second TV in your house without needing to move your PS4 from room to room. While it didn’t work flawlessly, games were playable as long as they didn’t require split-second, pixel-perfect precision. There is a very slight delay but it is hardly noticeable in the majority of gameplay scenarios. I was playing over Wi-Fi on my PS TV, with my PS4 wired, so your experience may differ depending on your set up. Obviously having everything wired is preferable over having nothing wired at all. The PS TV supports local multiplayer via Remote Play as well, so those couch co-op sessions can be moved from room to room very easily.
Streaming outside of a home network on the PlayStation TV is very limited for the moment. Popular video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are not present as apps at this time but will likely be added in the future. I’ve got a number of other things that can already do this, so it was more of an inconvenience, but seems like a huge oversight to leave out on the launch of your product, regardless of what other devices can already do it. PlayStation Now needs a little bit of work, and the success may depend on your home network. I personally had a few issues with the one game I tried and will note that Remote Play works much more steadily than PS Now does at this point in time.
PlayStation TV would be a great alternative to the usual streaming boxes if it had any of the usual streaming services. At this point it is an awesome supplemental piece for homes looking to expand the reach of their PS4s, as well as allowing for Vita games to be played on a TV, but without the ability for multiple accounts to use it and the glaring missing features, the PlayStation TV has a few adjustments to make before it becomes an essential piece of the PlayStation gamer’s home entertainment set up.