PlayStation Vue review: Live TV that's not just for gamers
Vue has a slick interface and plenty of features yet suffers from a comparatively weak channel selection.
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
ExpertiseTy has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast.Credentials
Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
When PlayStation Vue debuted in 2016 it was the first premium live TV streaming service, with more channels than Sling TV -- the only other such service at the time.
offering still has a lot going for it today, with a powerful, easy-to-use interface and one of the best cloud DVRs available,
Unfortunately Vue's latest price increase to $50 pits it directly against two very talented competitors at the same price:
. DirecTV Now has the advantage of including HBO, and nearly matching Vue's channel count, while YouTube TV is my favorite overall at this price, with a superior channel mix and a better DVR than any of them.
Ultimately it's all about channels for the money, and as nice as Vue is to use, it can't bring enough channels to compete at $50.
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What it is
PlayStation Vue is a streaming service designed to replace a cable or other live TV subscription. It has over 50 live channels to watch or record on a wide selection of connected devices. It's available on the following platforms:
Fast-forward through or skip commercials with cloud DVR
No (Yes with $15 DVR option)
PlayStation Vue offers all the features you'd expect from the price, including a TV guide, multiple simultaneous streams, a cloud DVR and on-demand options.
Its major weakness is that it doesn't offer as many of the top 100 channels as any of its competitors except DirecTV Now (which has HBO). Vue and YouTube TV omit many of the same channels, including Animal Planet, Comedy Central, History and Nickelodeon, but Vue also lacks The CW, NBA TV and Sundance TV (all included on YouTube TV) in its base tier.
If you want more channels you can get them on Vue, but it will cost you. The basic Access package is $50, the Core package adds sports for $55, while the Elite package at $65 and Ultra package at $85 add even more channels.
One of the most intriguing new features for both the PlayStation and Apple TV is Multi View which allows users to watch up to three channels at once (four on Apple TV). You choose one main focused channel with audio and then add auxiliaries, and the interface allows you to switch between them.
What's it like to use?
Perhaps thanks to its
origins, the Vue interface is one of the most visually stimulating, with bright menus and large thumbnails. The service is more lively and likable than its biggest competitor YouTube, in my opinion.
The channel guide is slightly different depending on which platform you use. It's arranged vertically with channels across the top on the PlayStation's interface, but in a more traditional horizontal fashion on Roku. I really liked how the guide condenses into days once you finish the current 24 hours. This allows you to skip to a specific day without having to wade through hours of programs. Smart.
The Home screen is essentially composed of One row and one column -- the first column is divided up into timeline, recently watched, and currently watching. The next column along is Trending Live TV, then My DVR, then Favorite channels, Sports and finally Featured.
The interface can have its quirks, which you'll need to learn, and this is especially true on the Apple TV. For example, you need to press play to exit a menu and watch a show rather than the usual menu button. Pressing menu continually instead just dumps you out of the program without even a warning prompt.
Picture quality was generally good, though, of course it was dependent on the channel. I did notice that Discovery was very soft-looking on Fast 'N Loud, and the Food Network was a little softer than YouTube TV. Your mileage may vary.
Should you get it?
PlayStation Vue may not be the most popular service, and it does lack some channels that others offer, but in day-to-day use I like it better than most. The interface is fun and the DVR works very well.
Is it worth $50? Maybe. The sins it commits are the sins of omission -- it lacks the channel count of its biggest competitor and its DVR isn't as comprehensive as YouTube TV. Meanwhile, the cheaper services such as Sling Blue and AT&T Watch TV offer the best bargain.