Video: PlayStation TV Unboxing And Early Impressions

The PlayStation TV is pretty much the definition of a niche product. Sony’s PlayStation portables have both initially been pitched as bringing home console gaming to your pocket, but with the PS TV we see the Vita’s shifting market position brought even clearer into focus. The PS TV is all about Remote Play.

The UK version of the device – set for release on Friday 14th November – comes in a surprisingly heavy box, with just about enough to get you up and running. Much of the weight comes from the power adapter, alongside a spare HDMI cable, a few bits of paper like a quick start guide, a code for a few PSN games and, of course, the rather diminutive little black box that is the PlayStation TV itself. If you need another controller – to avoid having to re-sync your controller between devices – that’s up to you to provide, and at £85 for the PS TV with at least another £40-odd for a DualShock 4, that brings the overall price rather close to that of an actual PS Vita.

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Switching it on, the first thing you’ll see is just how chunky and big the Vita OS is when blown up to fill a TV screen. Relatively little has been done to really adapt it and the set up process will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s had to do the same on the handheld. Navigation is handled by the button-based controls that were added some time ago, since touch is obviously not an option.

Without touch, and identifying itself as a separate device, this means that quite a few games and apps will simply refuse to work. A warning pops up to say that compatibility needs to be patched in for things like YouTube or touch-heavy games like LittleBigPlanet. Sony have said that compatibility is really down to developers and content providers, but it does mean that you’ll need to look before you leap.

Having said that, there is a large list of compatible games that you can check and you can simply plug in an existing memory card to use instead of the meagre 1GB of memory that’s built in and play games straight away – however, you’ll need to be using the same account as your Vita, and you will lose all folders and organisation you once had. Compatibility is also helped slightly by the ability to simulate touch with a menu option and a click of the thumb sticks, and there’s always the possibility that DualShock controls and PS TV support will be added in too games over time. Killzone Mercenary is perhaps the most notable example of this, and it actually holds up rather well on a larger screen.

PSTV-IL2s

Considering the hardware in the box, it looks remarkably good, thanks largely to the technical prowess of the Killzone engine, but you can always tell that it’s being upscaled. The PS TV has a few options for resolutions, with 480p, 720p and 1080i on offer. With Vita software, that means they’re upscaled by default from 960×544 to 1280×720, and then potentially upscaled once again when the signal reaches your TV. It’s a shame that, given thee Vita’s base resolution is effectively a quarter of 1080p, there’s no ability to upscale straight to 1080p for a simpler and perhaps slightly higher quality end result.

However, 720p does come in handy for Remote Play, as the resolution at which the PS4’s encoder chip works. As long both console have the same PAN account, getting underway is as simple as setting Remote Play to be active on the PS4 and then searching with the PS4 Link app. It automatically hunts down and connects to your PS4, though if it’s not quite working right off the bat, you can connect manually by inputting a few codes.

The real key is that you need an absolutely stable and relatively speedy connection here. With weak Wi-Fi on either end, you’ll see artifacting and even a complete loss of connection with an error saying that my connection speed was too low and necessitating me to step down a rung in quality, so a strong WiFi network is a minimum. The PS TV seemed to only be able to manage 1 or 2 bars of WiFi which struggled with this, equivalent to a PS Vita Slim but much worse than an iPad and iPhone which both reported full signal. The best option, however, is to connect with Ethernet and Powerline plugs will really come in handy to handle this through your home’s electrical cabling. Of course, that’s another potential expense on top of the PS TV and extra controller, even if Powerline plugs can be relatively cheap these days.

By and large it does a good job, just as Remote Play does to a PS Vita. On a TV screen though, image quality naturally suffers compared to the real deal, with obviously lower resolution, noticeable compression and a difficulty with processing really high motion that’s identical to that which you can see when watching a PS4 stream of capturing your own Share button footage. Bearing in mind that this is intended for secondary, often smaller TVs, 720p and these compromises might well be good enough.

PSTV-IL1s

The potential enjoyment killer, depending on the game, is with input lag, and I found that even with the best connection I could manage, this was noticeable. It might be good enough for most single player games and cooperative play, but if you’re wanting to play a game online that’s centred around ultra responsive controls and 60fps, then 720p30 is a big step down.

To try to get a feel for the added input latency, I used Battlefield 4’s Test Range as my testbed. Counting frames from the point at which the trigger clicks to the first report of the gun (a somewhat imprecise measure, I know), I found the differing possible connections gave somewhat different results. The standard input lag natively on the PS4 came in at 83-100ms, with a full Ethernet connection not far behind at 133-166ms. That was the best case scenario yet was already at up to double the input latency, with a direct WiFi connection to the PS4 at 166-200ms, PS TV on WiFi and PS4 on Ethernet at 233-266ms, and with “normal” image quality to get a stable WiFi connection via my router, I managed 200-250ms.

Going back and forth, the difference in responsiveness will be rather pronounced, but it is something that you can dull your senses and become accustomed to, to a certain degree. It’s the same kind of issue that people will have when it comes to using SharePlay, indulging in a PlayStation Now rental (for which the PS TV will also be usable when this arrives in the EU next year), but this latency pales in comparison to the much more refined experience that you get from a Wii U and its Gamepad.

Still, though it’s not something that really fits with my particular circumstances, I do keep coming back to that situation where the main screen is occupied and you want to play a game. It could be that a friend is over, where the ability to hook up multiple controllers, log in to separate accounts and play a few rounds of FIFA will come in handy, or the living room’s just too noisy and you want a little peace and quiet to enjoy a game’s story. Sneakily getting a few bounties done in Destiny while on the bog will probably remain the preserve of a Vita, though.

Remote Play’s hook is quite a compelling one and a great selling point that Sony seem to be doing quite well out of, but it’s something that must necessarily be tempered by circumstance. Though the minimum bar for entry isn’t all that high, you could quickly find yourself spending around the £150 mark to get the best playing conditions out of the PlayStation TV, but even then, you’ll need to able to adapt to more noticeable input lag and a focus more on single and cooperative play.

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25 Comments

  1. As different manufacturers set different thresholds as to what “full signal”, 2 bars etc is, I don’t think you can really compare without seeing the actual figures denoting WiFi signal quality.

    • Yep, but it’s still an indication that one system thinks it’s struggling while another doesn’t in the same area.

      I forgot there’s the ability to check the connection status on these things. So, with “50%” signal strength on the Vita, it’s borderline between 1 and 2 bars, and struggles with having a steady stream to the PS4 over a rather solid 802.11n connection with little to no interference from rival networks.

      I’ve dug into my router’s settings, and my iPhone 6 and Vita both have very comparable signal to noise ratios, -68 dBm and -66dBm respectively. The 6 seems to be running on the 5Ghz spectrum with 150 Mbps link speed, while the Vita is on 2.4ghz with 72Mbps, the maximum that its single antaenna is able to manage.

  2. Great demonstration of all the features of the PlayStation TV, it’s a lot smaller than I thought it was but big on features. I don’t think I would make full use of it so won’t be buying one at the moment.

  3. It’s such a nice idea but not implemented as well as I feel like it could have been. However, the Share functionality (screengrabs) sounds great.

    • See I’m getting a bit fed up with all these half baked ideas that Sony seem to be rushing to market at the moment. Being an early adopter is getting increasingly frustrating.

      PSN is down way too often.
      PS4 does half what was promised. Plus the OS sucks IMO.
      Updates to fix updates (nothing new there)
      Driveclub still doesn’t work.
      Remote play on my Z3 is ropey at best. (I get 18mbps down and 1.2mbps up)!
      and wheres Z3 the bracket/mount?
      Share play is already being blocked by the devs.
      Vita is on its arse.
      Phones as Singstar mikes, good idea, too laggy
      Redeemed a VideoUnlimited code on my phone, PS4 says I have to buy it again.
      This TV thing, was interested but frankly sounds crap, won’t be buying it.

      Its all a bit half arsed. I know these are my opinion and some are based on my WiFi signal which I don’t find too shabby and I’m sure thats better than a lot of peoples. Some may disagree. Driveclub may not be Sonys fault, but its all part of the ecosystem/experience.

      I have a cold and am grumpy, (this may be their fault too) :-)

  4. Can you stream stuff like Netflix from your PS4 (upstairs) to your PS TV (downstairs)?

    Might invest in one of these at some stage, but would have to connect via Ethernet to avoid/reduce lag.

    • get a chromecast

      • I have one :p

        I just need compelling arguments to convince wife of purchase ;)

    • Nope, because apps like Netflix and iPlayer block Remote Play. You’ll just have to cross your fingers that they add support down the line. Sony are in discussions on doing so, so you never know!

      • Cheers Tef!

      • “I just need compelling arguments to convince wife of purchase ;)”

        comment of the week right there!

        thanks Youles that me me chuckle…=)

      • My pleasure, perhaps I’ll just lie and say it’ll make the ironing easier or something. ;)

  5. this has got fail written all over it.
    on paper it sounds nice but what i have just seen is not going to sell it for me.
    some games not working on it,lag over distance, not handling all colours,frame rate drops the list is endless.
    why would you want to play vita games on a big telly?surely the point of vita is that its portable?
    the only upside is the share play i suppose.

  6. Nice preview Tef, really good. I’m disappointed that this little box isn’t being marketed as a Vita with remote play being just one thing it can do, to me Vita games on the big screen should be a big selling point but the compatibility list tells a mixed tale. There’s a lot of potential in this little box, I hope Sony don’t reign it in too much.

    • Just watched the video, very nice :)

  7. Loving playing danganronpa on my tv through this device. Would be great if they could get streaming to work. Would be great to watch movies that way. Can’t wait to finally play TxK on it next week. That’s gonna look awesome on the tv

    • Looking forward to TxK too.

      Got wired Ethernet so not that worried about connection issues. This is going to be mainly remote play for indie PS+ games; AAA games are still going to need my main TV and amp.

  8. I’ve always found the Vita to be a bit laggy as well really. Also lack of all buttons put me off. So as soon as don’t announced Z3 compact tablet with remote play I thought I’d buy it, there is a slight between TV screen and tablet but there isn’t much input lag even with the one onscreen controller. Is there any chance we can have a review of this wonderful device? I know I’m went off topic here but in a similar tangent because really to me Ps TV is remote play only device and doomed to fail unfortunately.

  9. nice work. I cancelled my pre-order a while ago, wasn’t too sure on it now that it doesn’t support apps. I might by it at a later stage if you can get Netflix and other streaming apps on it.

  10. Hmm, I am tempted, and Christmas is on the way!

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