Remote Play is undeniably cool, and a new low price makes PlayStation TV far more tempting
Video outputs: HDMI 1.4, Networking: Ethernet, 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1, Dimensions: 65x105x13.6mm, Streaming formats: DLNA, Internet streaming services: None
What exactly is PlayStation TV? The name conjures up many possibilities, and there’s no simple answer (much like Cat’s magic door confusion). At a technical level the PlayStation TV is simply a PS Vita shorn of its screen, with an HDMI output added to provide the visuals. It shares its core capabilities with Sony’s handheld, meaning it can play Vita games (both from cards and downloads) and act as a Remote Play device to stream gameplay from a PS4. It also has some media playback abiliities.
So is it a PS Vita variant? Is it simply a Remote Play device? Or is it a media streamer with gaming capabilities? And can Sony bring all these aspects together into a single device that people actually want or need?
At launch the PlayStation TV cost £85, Sony has now slashed that price down to just £45. That makes this little device an impulse purchase, something that costs less than many new games, and far more tempting for it.
As a TV-based Vita console the PlayStation TV immediately hits some issues. Games are played using a DualShock 3 or DualShock 4 controller (neither is included though). They’re both capable controllers of course, but neither fully solves the removal of the Vita’s touchscreen, rear touchpad and front-and-back cameras. That severely limits the available library of Vita titles, which isn’t exactly expansive to start with.
^ The PlayStation TV interface is essentially identical to the PS Vita’s
On the upside, the standout shooter Killzone: Mercenary is highly playable on a DualShock controller – with a patch that maps touchscreen controls to the joypad. On the other hand, the excellent Tearaway is incompatible as it relies on all the Vita’s various input devices. Sony maintains a full list of compatible games online, but there’s simply not enough quality there to justify buying a PlayStation TV primarily for the Vita back catalogue.
^ From left-to-right: Vita Memory Card slot, USB port for charging controllers, HDMI for video/audio and an Ethernet port. The PS Vita game card slot is on the side
Remote Play is undoubtedly PlayStation TV’s strongest feature. Hook up PlayStation TV to another TV in your home and you can stream games to it from your PS4. The switch is seamless, so you can pause your game, head upstairs and carry on just where you left off. Better still, using a DualShock 4 is preferable to the compromised control schemes forced upon you by the PS Vita in Remote Play.
Another advantage over the PS Vita is that it has a wired ethernet port as well as Wi-Fi. This produced smoother results in our testing, although few will have the luxury of running ethernet cables to both devices from a single router. Over Wi-Fi the input lag is always noticeable, it’s fine for playing most games though competitive first-person shooters are out of the question.
^ You can play multi-player games through Remote Play too, with up to 4 players
You can even Remote Play over the internet, and with a good connection it stands up surprisingly well. Yes, images are a tad blocky at times and controls are laggy, but it still has it uses. We’ve been grinding through some straightforward patrol missions in Destiny, and its great for logging into your PS4 to set things downloading. Strategy games would be an ideal use, but there’s little to play on that front yet on PS4.
Image quality is capped to 720p, as this is the output resolution of the PS4’s dedicated hardware that creates the video for all capturing and streaming purposes. Even in the best possible conditions there’s obviously compression problems in fast-moving scenes and a general softness to the image overall. Not surprising when you have a 1080p render, compressed to 720p video, and then shown on a 1080p TV.
^ Playing Destiny over the internet from our office was possible, though not recommended. The lag makes it tough to pull off headshots, though crushing things with a huge alien sword is straightforward enough
Other devices that use the TV moniker, such as Apple TV and Fire TV, are convenient little boxes designed to stream media content on your TV. The PlayStation TV should be perfectly capable of doing this, especially given it’s based upon a smartphone chipset, but its capabilities are actually very limited.
There’s still no Netflix app for the PS Vita in the UK and the PlayStation TV hasn’t changed that. There are no apps for UK TV catchup services such as iPlayer or 4OD either. Oh, and don’t think you can simply stream these from the PS4, as they’re blocked by copy protection.
Media streaming support has just been added to the Vita and PlayStation TV via the Network Media Player app. It hasn’t got great file support but with MP3, JPEG and H.264 video it has got the main bases covered.
Then there’s the price, at £85 it’s not exactly cheap. There’s no controller included either, though that’s unlikely to bother the PlayStation fans it’s aimed at. More annoying is that it only has 1GB of built-in storage, so you’ll need to buy one of Sony’s overpriced memory cards if you want to download and play any sizeable number of PS Vita games, though that won’t bother those just looking for Remote Play.
PlayStation TV may have a range of features but only one is going to sell it, Remote Play. For that purpose it works well enough, and if it will add even a handful of extra playing hours to your weekly gaming then this is £45 very well spent.
However, given the PS4’s sensible, power-supply-free design, it’s worth considering buying an extra power lead and HDMI cable (under £5 for the pair) and simply moving your PS4 around your home. Yes, you have to shutdown first but you get superior image quality and responsiveness than from the PlayStation TV. If you’re really keen then you can always run a long HDMI cable to your second TV, though only if your DualShock 4 is in range, as you’ll need a Bluetooth connection to the console to use it.
Given that Sony has built Remote Play into its Android smartphones – without any special technology – the PlayStation TV should be unnecessary. Practically any modern smartphone (with a HDMI output) should be able to provide Remote Play via a simple free app. In light of that, the company’s efforts to limit the service to its own-brand hardware looks both cynical and shortsighted.Remote Play could be a killer app for the PS4, we hope that Sony comes to realise that, and unlocks its full potential and flexibility soon.
Remote Play could be a killer app for the PS4, we hope that Sony comes to realise that, and unlocks its full potential and flexibility soon. In the meantime, the recent price cut for Remote Play makes it far more tempting and if you have a spare TV in your home then it’s well worth picking one up and expanding your gaming reach.
|1GB or PS Vita Memory card (not included)
|Ethernet, 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1
|Video file extensions
|Internet streaming services
|Price including VAT
|One year RTB