PlayStation TV is one of the most impressive pieces of kit I’ve seen. It’s primary focus in Western markets is for Remote Play – Sony are pushing it as a multi-room solution for your PS4, so that you can jump from playing a game on the big screen in your sitting room to another screen in your bedroom, gaming room or elsewhere.
It’s a tiny device, both smaller than lighter than your phone, but comes with four ports on the back including an AC adapter with a surprisingly small power brick in tow, an ethernet port (but it still has WiFi, don’t worry), an HDMI port, and a USB port for syncing or charging your controllers (it supports both DualShock 3 and DualShock 4 as methods of input). There’s also a memory card slot, which uses the Vita’s proprietary cards, and then a slot for Vita games.
The original name of PlayStation Vita TV makes a lot of sense, as it shares many similarities with Sony’s handheld console. There’s still the LiveArea screen, though it’s controlled with buttons rather than touch commands, and actually works quite well, and many of the applications are similar to those found on Vita – there’s even the native Twitter and Facebook apps.
Obviously, this is all upscaled to the big screen so doesn’t look quite the part, and the bubbles layout is more suited to a touch device, but perhaps the UI will have an overhaul in the future. For now, it allows you to play Vita games on the big screen using a controller, and although I didn’t get to see these in action, it was explained that these would be upscaled in a similar way. Hopefully they don’t suffer too much, but we’ll have to wait before we can see them in action.
With DualShock 4 controllers able to be used to play games, I did wonder whether the Vita’s touch controls would work via the touchpad, though this doesn’t appear to be the case – it seems as though games will have touch controls mapped to other buttons, such as melee attacks in Killzone, but games such as Tearaway may not be playable due to their heavy focus on all of the Vita’s functionality that this system simply cannot offer.
PlayStation TV will also act as a client device for PlayStation Now, which is an extremely exciting prospect, offering thousands of games for a budget-priced system. Sony’s game streaming service is still a long way off in Europe, so it ultimately hinges around Remote Play, and the aforementioned in-home streaming of PS4 games.
Thankfully, this aspect is extremely refined and works really well, at least in the controlled and ethernet-connected set-up in Sony’s meeting room at E3. Although it downscales the game to 720p, I could stream inFamous Second Son from the PS4 set-up to the PlayStation TV, and it worked seamlessly without lag. It’s slightly blurrier in places and doesn’t quite have the crisp look of a new generation, but the input time is identical whether you’re playing on PS4 or streaming to PSTV, and that’s an achievement in itself.
I did ask whether streaming games would work over the internet – as the PlayStation Vita manages where the speed on both ends is fast enough – and was told that although Sony don’t recommend this, that it would work in the same way as the Vita. So it’s a solution for that too: providing the internet connection is fast enough, you won’t need to take your PS4 round to your friends or when travelling; all you’ll need is a device which is smaller than your wallet, and one which won’t make an impact on your savings.
One disappointing aspect is in the entertainment services – or lack of thereof. While the TV in the name may suggest otherwise, this is simply not a viable option for streaming content right now. There’s no Netflix, for example, and due to copyright issues you won’t even be able to stream Netflix over Remote Play. Sony are planning to bring entertainment services to the platform, but as of now it remains a very gaming focused device.
That’s not entirely a bad thing – it’s ultimately saving you from buying another PS4 for the bedroom, or lugging your console about every time you want to play a game. Think about this: you’re playing a game in the sitting room, but your flatmate/girlfriend/boyfriend/parent/sibling demands to use the television. You can simply pause, head upstairs, and jump right back in – even if you’re playing local multiplayer with a friend – and never lose progress or game time.
PlayStation TV is a real evolution of Sony’s efforts with Remote Play on the PlayStation Vita, to the point where it almost makes the handheld moot. The PlayStation Vita still has the portability, but for streaming your PS4 games to another screen, PSTV is definitely the best choice, as you’re essentially getting that full, big-screen experience in another room without moving your PS4 an inch.