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Sony PlayStation TV review: PlayStation TV: A microconsole with big ambitions

Remote play

Like the Vita, PSTV can "sling" your PS4 to any other TV using your home network. It's not the perfect environment on the Vita and the experience on PSTV is only marginally better.

Thankfully, you can use a proper DualShock 3 (PS3) or DualShock 4 (PS4) controller with remote play and PSTV, so there aren't any button limitations like there are on Vita. Unfortunately, there's still the noticeable lag issue that doesn't seem be much improved either. I guess the silver lining here is that you can hook a wired Ethernet connection into PSTV and if your PS4 is wired into the same router, the experience drastically improves. Unfortunately, that kind of setup isn't very practical in most homes, and odds are one of the two (if not both) will need to connect wirelessly.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

PS Now

Available at PSTV's launch is the PS Now beta, a streaming service that lets PSN members stream PlayStation legacy games. I gave some first impressions of what it was like to use PS Now on PS4, and while it's inexplicably a better experience than local remote play, the latency issue makes playing twitch-sensitive games a headache. You're not going to want to play shooters over PS Now, but there are a solid number of other, passable titles.

PS Now operates on a tiered-pricing system, where you "rent" the game from a few hours to a few weeks. I personally don't think the rental fees are really worth it, but I guess that's a separate issue. (Sony could always change the pricing structure in the future, too.)

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Movies, TV shows and media

The first things I noticed that were missing from the PSTV PS Store were Netflix and Hulu Plus. I'm sure there's some legalese that explains their absence, but for a box that wants to play in the same league as Roku, Apple TV, or even Amazon Fire TV, it's a major void.

For now, streaming media is only available with the Crackle and Crunchyroll apps. I tried out Crackle and its obscure selections, and it worked quite well. Netflix and Hulu Plus aren't completely off the table, but they're nowhere to be found right now. (In comparison, the PS3 and PS4 have an excellent library of streaming apps.)

Countless movies and TV shows are available in the PSTV store to rent or own, but I couldn't find anything available in HD. Also, the streaming quality of video from Crackle did not appear to be above 480p either. In this day and age that's a major letdown.

There's a surprising amount of content that isn't available in HD on PSTV, unless you're playing a personal media file off the internal storage or a memory card. A limitation like that is almost unheard of these days.

Note that the PlayStation TV is supposed to be able to run Sony's streaming TV service -- the company's online alternative to cable TV -- which is still due to hit before the end of 2014. But for now, details remain scarce.

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Sarah Tew/CNET


Conclusion

It seems everything PSTV has to offer is hindered by some sort of shortcoming. Even when you take away its feature-set, things like the PSTV's lackluster Wi-Fi performance knock it down another peg.

If you can look past all of its frustrating weirdness, there's a few reasons you might want to own a PSTV. At $100, £85, and AU$150 it's not a gigantic investment, though you need to consider the cost of expanding its memory.

At that starting price point, PSTV is likely the best "microconsole" out there, meaning it's relatively simple to bring it with you on vacation or into different rooms of your home. The graphics are adequate, but to think Apple TV or another competing box out there won't have something better just around the corner is naive. Perhaps PSTV should only be considered by someone heavily invested in the Sony ecosystem.

On paper, PSTV sounds like it's a real contender, especially when considering its gaming potential. If and when Sony takes another crack at the interface and the offering of entertainment apps, it may eventually live up to its potential (and we'd be happy to reevaluate it at that time). In the meantime, there's nothing about the PlayStation TV that makes it a must-have device.

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