Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Sony PlayTV review

Sony's long-awaited Freeview dual-tuner adapter add-on has arrived in the somewhat functional form of the PlayStation-branded PlayTV! Will it transform the PS3 into a credible personal video recorder (PVR)?

The PlayTV pack-in includes a Blu-ray installation disc and mini USB cable! Be warned: PlayTV has no loop-through and there's no aerial splitter, a serious oversight! As my PS3 is conveniently placed near the sky+ box, I connected PlayTV directly into the RF2 output, which proved a useful workaround! I'd recommend using a high quality coaxial cable, to minimise signal loss, such as Profigold's BA-PGV8921!

Installation is a breeze and, following a system reboot, PlayTV is immediately accessible from the PS3's XMB! The GUI is intuitive and responsive with a luxurious 7-day electronic programme guide (EPG) that compares favourably with Apple TV and eclipses current offerings from sky and Virgin!

Scheduling recordings, with either the SIXAXIS controller or, more preferably, Sony Blu-ray remote, is the epitome of simplicity! I'd like to have seen a series link option and the ability to record two channels at once, but Sony assures customers that PlayTV will be continuously updated via PSN (a broadband connection is required)!

Background recordings can be performed whilst watching Blu-ray discs such as Wall-E or playing video games! However, there is a caveat. The quality of recordings maybe adversely affected according to Sony! During gameplay tests (using Devil May Cry 4 and Soul Calibur IV amongst others) I've yet to note any detriment to playback.

The overall quality of recordings is excellent (contingent on compression and signal strength) and is upscaled to 1080p (if your television supports the resolution)! Incidentally, native 1080i support for Freeview HD will be added in the future.

Bear in mind that 1GB of HDD space roughly equates to an hour of recording time and there's no means to adjust the bit rate to trade-off picture quality against recording duration! Therefore the PS3 40GB model won't pass muster if you're going away for weeks at a time and recording every episode of EastEnders and Neighbours.

With disk space at a premium, I'd suggest going for the 80GB model or higher! Sony promises a limited edition 160GB model for the upcoming holiday season!

Going forward, the engineers at Sony Cambridge should consider picture-in-picture (PiP) and conditional access for subscription-based services such as Setanta Sports!

As it currently stands, PlayTV is an absolute "must-have" for anyone with a PS3 and PSP! I cancelled my sky+ subscription and PlayTV trumps it in almost every regard! Look no further for a scalable multimedia PVR that can be accessed (via PSP) from anywhere in the world!

Update
PlayTV crashes with alarming alacrity! Worst of all, it's a hard lock that necessitates a reboot of the PS3, stopping any ongoing recordings until the power's back on. Hopefully Sony will push a PSN patch ASAP!