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January 6 2010
PlayTV - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Developer Resolution HDD Space Release Price
25/11/2009SonySony Europe1080pVariable$AU169.95

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?

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Australian PlayTV with packaging.
For those unaware PlayTV isn't a game but rather a PVR device for your PS3 which allows you to recard and watch FTA digital channels. In the packaging is a small black box which has two connections, one a USB cable to your PS3 (the cable is included) and the other connection a RF antenna port (simply unplug your antenna cable from your TV and plug it in). The box also contains a PlayTV disc which comes with version 1.20 of the software (you can update to version 1.21 through the menu). After installing the software and following the setup prompts you're up and running. Impressively, after you have installed the software, you don't need the disc in your PS3 to run PlayTV - an icon will appear in your XMB under the TV setting.

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.

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PlayTV's rotating menu interface.
Besides the slight stuttering when pushing the system there is another small issue I have with PlayTV. I live on the Gold Coast which is always has issues when Daylight Savings comes around. Queensland doesn't have daylight savings but some channels the PlayTV picks up are New South Wales channels, and the times appear incorrectly which puts your recording times out. For some strange reason, despite two other Set Top Boxes tuning in the Brisbane Channel 10 and One, the PlayTV can't pick them up. Still, that will likely only affect those on the Gold Coast, and will hopefully be patched down the track.

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.

GRAPHICSVideo quality is very good, it glitches slightly on some channels when playing games online (thinking MW2), but overall superb quality.
SOUNDSound too is perfectly recorded to the PS3 Hard Drive.
USER-FRIENDLINESSAt the bottom of this review we have a list of things to fix, but already this is a very usable, and very technically proficient system.
VALUEFor only $169 (and closer to $140 if you shop around) this is a brilliant addition to your PS3!
OVERALLI LOVE the PlayTV. It exceeds expectations and despite the issues listed below (many of which we believe will be fixed with Sofware Updates in future), this is an essential purchase. In fact, this pretty much completes the PS3 as a complete media solution for your lounge room. Superb.

Things to Fix...

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The menu when playing back a PlayTV recording.
Below we have a list of things that aren't breaking the system at the moment, but would be nice if they could be fixed or added in future software updates.

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.

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Thumbnails of recorded programs are shown.
Include the ability to 'trim' videos - Sometimes there are shows I would love to keep, but with the ability to add 10 minutes before and after the show it would be nice to later 'trim' the excess video not required. We would also love, but suspect it won't be possible for legal reasons, to chop out the ads to save even more space, and make the experience a little slicker.

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.

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The TV Guide in PlayTV (UK Channels displayed).
Longer Guide Time - The TV Guide currently only shows the next 7 days programming. This needs to be extended to two weeks so you can set you recordings while away (especially without the Series Recording option).

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

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