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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Review: Playstation TV

I wasn't going to buy a Playstation TV, but a recent deal at $40 made me try it. The PS TV is basically a Playstation Vita with no touch screens or cameras but a HDMI output port. The missing touch screens essentially mean that the PS TV is incompatible with many Vita games, including many that make full use of the PS TV's features. The use of a PS3 or PS4 dual shock controller , however, means that you can use the PS4 remote play feature without using the awkward touch-screen substitutes that the PS Vita requirement, so that's a worthy trade-off. The HDMI output also means that you can use a large monitor or TV as a display, which is very nice.

Note that by comparison, the Steam Link, which enables similar remote play functionality for a gaming PC, is about $50. By contrast, the Steam Link doesn't come with a controller (and neither does the PC), which means you pretty much need the $50 controller. If you have a PS4, of course, you already have a controller.

In practice, set up is tricky. It turns out that by default, if you enable "direct link", the remote play tries to use a WiFi access point that's generated by the PS4 to directly connect with the PS4. This works if you set up the PS TV close enough to the PS4 that the connectivity is strong. However, if you setup the PS TV just at the edge of the PS4's wifi range, the connectivity sucks and your latency, display quality, etc just goes to hell.

The corrective action needed is to disable direct access, but you can only do that from the PS4 via the configuration screen for remote play. It's a bit counter-intuitive, and Sony should have enabled that kind of control from the PS TV. Once that's been resolved, you can either use your general Wifi network, or directly plug into the ethernet port for real remote play.

Remote play is fairly acceptable. There's significant input lag, which isn't really visible for most slow games (such as any strategy games, etc), but is significant in Sleeping Dogs during driving sequences, for instance. Strangely enough, in that game, the shooting and martial arts sequences don't seem to suffer from the lag whatsoever!

One interesting thing about plugging in the PS TV to a computer monitor is that the HDMI output is also intended to carry sound. However, you can get around that by using a bluetooth headset, which works very well.

When playing local games (e.g. Sonic Transformed), nearly all the input lag goes away. However, the lower resolution of the source material is also immediately apparent on a 1080p display. It's a trade-off in either case.

All in all, the PS TV is a good way to access your PS4 remotely. At full price, it's not a good deal, but at a discount ($40 or less), I think it's a useful accessory to a PS4 in a household with more than one TV, or where the PS4's main display might be used for other purposes on a semi-frequent basis. The local play feature is icing on the cake, but beware that not all Vita games (including many that I consider are best examples of what the Vita is capable of) are compatible with it!


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