ABC's catch-up TV service is on both the PlayStation and Xbox consoles — but which one offers the best viewing experience?
ABC's iView was Australia's first catch-up TV service, launching in July 2008. It's also an extremely popular one; according to the ABC, last September saw 11.7 million program plays across all iView-capable devices, be they tablet, mobile, smart TV, PVR, Blu-ray player or plain old vanilla PC.
And, of course, gaming consoles: both the Xbox 360 and PS3 have iView accessible from their respective dashboards, offering the same content that iView users get across any platform, so we thought we'd have a quick comparison of the relative merits of each.
The iView app doesn't come installed on the Xbox 360 — you'll actually need to grab it from the Marketplace and download it (it's around 175MB). Once installed, you'll find it under the Video tab or the Apps tab after that.
The iView interface on the Xbox replicates the Metro-style tiles of the consoles dashboard, and is remarkably easy to navigate. It has a slightly different top-level navigation to the website; you can quickly find content that's about to expire in the "last chance" section, and new stuff in "recently added", the same as the browser-based iView player, but you can also browse by category or use the A-Z tab to quickly run through an alphabetical list of the programs.
Programs open up in full screen automatically, and there are simple on-screen controls for pause, fast-forward, etc, when the program is playing. Interestingly, Xbox even allows for Kinect voice and motion commands to control the app.
On the PS3, the iView link is pre-installed, appearing under the TV/Video service icon. However — and here's the rub — it's not an app. Clicking on iView simply opens a browser, and from there it's the same iView experience as you'd get on a PC or laptop.
That's certainly not a bad experience — ABC has designed iView to be quite user friendly — but pushing a cursor around using the thumb sticks isn't quite the best experience.
Similarly, a jiggle of the thumb stick opens the on-screen menu, although navigating these isn't overly convenient without a mouse, especially if you're trying to fast-forward through videos.
It's unusual, because it's not what Sony does with its Blu-ray range; as we noted on the BDP-S790 review, iView is shown in a grid layout that's consistent with the other catch-up TV services offered on the device.
However, we found that the PS3 iView actually loaded and played videos faster than the Xbox app — about four seconds, as opposed to around 15 seconds, so nothing earth shattering, but 10 seconds is 10 seconds.
All in all, while there's nothing wrong with iView on the PS3, a native app for accessing the service certainly adds a level of consistency in user interface. While the PS3 iView doesn't require additional installation and seems to have a speed edge on its competitor, the Xbox offers the better overall viewing experience, in our opinion.