Following the release in Europe last year Australian and New Zealanders have been waiting patiently for around a year for PlayTV to be released. While it was a long time coming there was good reason with Sony needing to sort out compatability with Australia's Freeview services, and more importantly wait for Sony Europe to include support for HD channels which we have in Australia, but most European countries don't have over Free To Air. Both are now set, and Play TV is here. So what do we think?
Using the software is actually extremely easy. The rotating menu gives you options to watch Live TV, Search for a program, Perform a Software Update, look at you Scheduled Recordings, View TV Guide, View Library (your recorded shows), or set the options. We must say that there were several things that impressed us. Switching between digital channels is very quick, Your library can be sorted by TV channels, program name or recording date and will even show thumbnails of recorded programs. The search allows you to search the titles or program information for whatever term you wish while the programs scanned in can be filtered to only show your Favourite channels (unfortuantely you can't sort their order).
Of course the most important factor with a device such as this is the recording and playback quality and we have to say that it certainly exceeds expectation with high quality recording and video playback. If there is one minor niggle it's that if you're recording one channel and watching another, typically the HD ones, then you may notice some stuttering of the image at times. The same applies when recording a TV show while playing games. Most of the time this seems fine, but we have noticed some stuttering with recordings after watching a program recorded while playing games online.
After the scores at the bottom of this article I have also listed the things I would like to see changed/fixed/improved in future updates. Don't take these as negatives as we expect Sony will fix many in future, but rather things that would be nice additions to have available.
For $169 (and much less if you shop around) this is a brilliant addition to the Playstation 3 as a media device. It still has a few hiccups but we expect Sony will only make this better with the passing of time. So it's not quite up there with TIVO, but for a quarter the price, and 90% of the capabilities we're not complaining. We love it, thanks Sony.
Things to Fix...
Series Recording - most PVRs including TIVO have the ability for you to select a TV show, say CSI or Judge Judy, and then have the system record all episodes aired.
Include the ability to export videos to the XMB - Thanks to the stupid requirements for Freeview Sony Australia were forced to remove the ability to export videos to the PS3's XMB. Seems to be a stupid rule (apparently if you set the region to "Other" you can then copy the files - something we haven't tried yet).
Have a longer additional recoring time - While you can add an additional 10 minutes to the end of each recording, that's not enough with so many shows in Australia starting and ending much more then 10 minutes after the 'scheduled' time. We would love to see the ability to add anything up to an hour or two to the scheduled recording.
Set the compression levels - Personally we don't really see a need to set compression levels as we installed a 500GB HDD in our PS3, but those with 40GB or 60GB HDD's may want to set higher compression levels, thus losing some quality, to fit more video onto their Hard Drives. Even the ability to recompress the video after the inital recording would be acceptable.
Picture-in-Picture option - The PlayTV has dual tuners in it so why not include some form of Picture-in-Picture option even if you're only watching and not recording one of the channels. What happened to the PS3 being able to decode dozens of HD video streams as demonstrated when first announced years ago?
Enable downloading while Play TV is running - we're not sure why but when you're using Play TV it stops you to download something in the background - from the Playstation Store for example - even if you're only using one of the two tuners (ie only watching TV, and not recording another).
Instant Recording and setting recording time - Recently added to Play TV is the ability to press 'Select' on the remote control to instantly start recording, but you need to press that again to stop it. It would be nice if you could press 'Select' to start, but then also set how long to record the program for.
Reminders - We don't know if other PVR's have this but seeing as the system pops up a message whenever it starts or stop a recording, how about a reminder so you know to stop playing games, and start watching that TV show you want to watch live.
Locking Programs in Library from Deletion - So perhaps it's our fault, but it would be nice if you could 'lock' or 'password' programs in your library so they aren't accidentally deleted, or someone doesn't delete them for you.
Review By: Dave Warner