The Beta for Now TV powered by Sky is now available in on PlayStation 3, something I have been looking forward to as I would quite like Sky Movies but don’t want the hassle of all the other channels, Sky box, Internet and God knows what else that a full on Sky subscription comes with. The service has been available on other consoles for quite a while so, as a sweetener, you can sign up and pay just £1 per month for the first three months, although the price then rises to £15.
The sign up process is quick and simple. A credit card is all that is required and then it’s a small 26MB download from the PSN to get to the movies. It took me less than five minutes to be up and running – a good sign.
There is a decent selection of movies available, both old and new, and Sky will be adding up to twenty premieres a month, some of which are exclusive to the service. I chose the most recent Spider-Man film as a test, and after a few seconds the film began to stream. So far so good.
Now the slightly disappointing news. It took a good minute or two before the picture quality was acceptable, certainly longer than it takes Netflix. Apart from the blurry picture, there was quite a lot of artifacting and the quality level seems variable, so much so that it’s jumped between half decent and sub-YouTube levels while writing this sentence. There also seems to be the odd moment of screen tear when the picture pans quickly. While it’s not horrendous, it is noticeable on occasion.
A quick look on the Now TV Beta forums reveals that they are aware of this problem.
“You may experience buffering or small instances of reduced quality. This will occur for the for first generation PS3 users when connected to the internet wirelessly,” they state, before continuing, “We are currently investigating a permanent solution for this however temporarily it can be resolved by connecting the PS3 to the router with an Ethernet cable.”
I’m not entirely sure what they mean by “first generation PS3 users” here. I have a PS3 Slim, so it’s not one of the original fat models but it does connect wirelessly to my router.
Before I continue, I’ll take a moment to provide a quick update on how watching Spider-Man is going. Beyond the quality issues, the film started to judder, before the PS3 stopped responding to any inputs, forcing me to hard-reset the machine. Oh, and indeed, dear.
I asked Now TV what quality the stream should be and it’s not particularly good news. They responded by saying “At the moment we use Standard Definition (SD) TuffCub. This is similar to normal TV channels.”
Not the news I had hoped for but it did leave me confused. While the picture quality isn’t exactly good, it’s far beyond what I’d expect from SD. Fortunately, a little later on Now TV explained that “At the moment we operate at 720p on PS3.” So it’s not the full 1080p that many may expect, but it’s not SD either.
Back to Spider-Man. I watched the film stutter and buffer before being forced to restart the app again. Annoyingly the restart point for the movie always seems to be about ten minutes before you left it, so you have to fast forward to get back to where you were watching.
Eventually, I gave up on Spider-Man and switched over to my second PS3 in the bedroom which is located about 15 metres away from the router and tried a second film. The quality was awful, never hitting 720p and constantly switching resolutions. I should point out out I am on 100 megabit fibre optic broadband, so it’s certainly not a lack of bandwidth causing problems.
My third test was at 6.30am Saturday and back on the main PS3. Happily, I can report the movie started straight away, in 720p with no stuttering, flickering or drops in quality. Another test at 1pm on Monday was also fault free, with a nice clear picture and no buffering.
While it doesn’t seem like it’s been a fantastic start for Now TV, hopefully they can deal with the occasional beta problems. You can sign up for the offer of three months for £3 with a click here and I will report back in a couple of months with an update.