The Playstation TV is a great idea that fails to execute
The Playstation TV was announced overseas nearly two years ago. It was mentioned as nearly an after thought, however, the response to the device was significantly higher than Sony expected; especially in the west. The concept of a streaming media device that doubles as a gaming device and a proxy Playstation 4 was loaded with promise, but did it deliver? Check out our full Playstation TV review below!
Hardware and Design
The Playstation TV is essentially the innards of the Playstation Vita, minus the screen, camera, and motion sensors in the portable. What this equates to is a quad core CPU and GPU with 512 MB of ram and 128 MB of Vram. It also comes PACKED(sarcasm) with 1 GB of internal memory, which is enough to add a few small apps, but if you want to game on the device you will need to purchase one of Sony’s proprietary memory cards. From a graphical processing perspective, don’t expect PS4 quality games. This device was intended to be more on par with the Playstation 3 in terms of graphical processing. This is taken into account with the price, being a quarter of the cost of a Playstation 4.
Some of the outputs include an HDMI out port supporting up to 720P, an ethernet port, a USB port for charging your controllers, a port for Sony’s proprietary memory cards, and a game slot for playing physical copies of Playstation Vita Games. The hardware also supports Bluetooth 2.1 for voice chat, and Wi-Fi 802.11n for a wireless internet connection.
The overall design is very minimalistic being coined by Sony as their smallest console in history. Simply plug it in, turn it on, and you’re ready to begin gaming, and streaming… sort of.
The versatility that brought so much promise to the device when it was first announced, is not currently being offered in the US iteration of the device. It seems that Sony is simply marketing the Playstation TV (with their $10 a month Vita marketing budget) as a small gaming console. The device was originally developed with the intention to fill a current gap in the Japanese marketplace, video streaming. Hence the name, Playstation TV. However, at launch, the actual video streaming apps are extremely limited. The following apps are available for streaming video:
- Sony’s Video Unlimited
Yes, you saw that list right. None of the heavy hitters such as Netflix or Hulu are available for video streaming. That’s despite the fact that the handheld has apps for both of those services! Needless to say, as it stands, don’t purchase the Playstation TV if you’re looking to stream video. I can only assume that Sony got behind schedule and that is why the apps are not available, but until that time, I simply cannot recommend the device for streaming purposes. Not to mention, the maximum output of the device is 720P.
The Playstation TV has a few other features, but none that are likely to be used frequently. There is a basic web browser, but typing with a controller can be extremely frustrating. The device does, however, support bluetooth keyboards; which can alleviate many of those frustrations.
Another application that is unlikely to be used is a calendar app for tracking gaming appointments and sending invitations to friends. I can’t imagine very many adults are utilizing this feature, nor kids. Trust me, I’ve been trying to get the office to schedule all of our meetings using the Vita’s calendar, but some people are just resistant to change.
Games are the strength and weakness of this device. On the one hand, Playstation TV is breaking records by releasing a console that has around 800 games available on day one. Many of these games are heavy hitters as well. Some of the top rated games include: Minecraft, Borderlands 2, Rayman Origins & Legends, Killzone: Mercenary, Persona 4: Golden, and the list goes on. Keep in mind that not all Vita games are compatible. You will always want to reference Sony’s list of compatible games prior to downloading or purchasing at retail. If you’re shopping digitally, there is a section in the Playstation Store dedicated to compatible games. (See the list of compatible games)
The list is actually surprising, your first impression would be that incompatible games would be limited to those heavily relying the touch screen, but that is simply not the case. Over half of the games I have accumulated over the years are not compatible, which is disappointing to say the least. What’s going to be an even bigger nightmare is consumer education on game compatibility. I can only imagine the life of Sony tech support reps having to explain to consumer after consumer that not all Vita games are compatible.
Many Vita games were stunning on the Vita’s OLED screen and I’m pleased to announce that most of them look great on the big screen. One of the common complaints of the games during the systems initial release was that developers were lowering the resolution so that they could increase their polygon count and lighting effects in game. This did equate to a better quality graphical experience on the handheld, but it is glaringly apparent on the big screen. When I was playing Need For Speed: Most Wanted, I could barely see clearly anything that was more than 30 feet away. It was extremely pixelated, making it challenging to play.
While there are a variety of games available, they tend to cater to more of a Japanese audience. The bulk of the compatible games are JRPGs. If I had to throw out a false statistic on the spot, I would probably say 50% of all the compatible games are JRPGs, which appeals only to a very small market. I also tested Playstation Now on the device and it performed equally to how it has performed for me on the Playstation 4.
When Sony first announced the Playstation TV at the Tokyo Game Show, the majority of the comments from excited Americans was the prospect of being able to have your PS4 in two separate rooms. Instead of purchasing two Playstation 4’s, you can buy a single Playstation 4 and a Playstation TV for a fraction of the cost and play in whatever room you prefer.
While an incredible idea in theory, the Playstation TV struggles on execution. I tested the Playstation TV in a variety of settings. Latency was the biggest issue. I even tried the direct connect option with the Playstation TV within inches of the Playstation 4 and the latency made games nearly unplayable. This is surprising considering that Remote Play functions so well on the Playstation Vita. My theory is that because the Playstation 4 is transferring nearly double the resolution at 720P. That’s twice the amount of data which is likely the cause of the latency difference.
I did find it was comparable to my experience with the handheld when plugged directly to the router with an LAN cable (which they advise with a little flyer right when you open the box). The challenge is that most consumers aren’t going to go through the troubleshooting that I did to figure out the best configuration. In short, if you’re going to use it for remote play, PLUG IT IN. Even then, don’t expect to use it for twitch shooters or anything that requires a high level of reaction time because the latency is still there.
Overall, the Playstation TV is a great idea that fails to execute. The compatible game selection is even more limited than you would expect, video streaming services are practically non-existant, and the remote play functionality doesn’t work nearly as well as I dreamed that it would. In short, there is a lot of promise in the device if they can increase their compatible game count, increase the number of streaming video apps, and improve the programming behind Remote Play to remove latency. Until that time, I simply can’t recommend the Playstation TV to the typical consumer.
If you’re a hardcore Vita gamer and want some of those compatible games on the big screen, this might be the device for you. Click here to purchase your own.