Sony PlayTV (PS3)

The Sony PlayTV is an add-on for the PlayStation 3 that allows you to use your console as a fully-fledged, dual-tuner video recorder.


6.9
CNET Rating
5.3
User Rating

About The Author

CNET Editor

Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury


Design

If you're looking for a comprehensive design analysis then you've picked the wrong gadget: it's a black plastic box. It's about the size of a pack of cards, slightly curved we suppose but still pretty ugly. On the top of the box lives the PlayStation logo and a power LED. On what we'll call "the front" is a mini USB port and a single antenna port — unfortunately there's no passthrough so you'll need to either make the PlayTV the last part of your antenna chain, or invest in a coaxial splitter (about AU$8). There's no remote in the box so you can either use the Sixaxis controller — a bit clunky for normal television watching — or invest in a Blu-ray remote.

The PlayTV is wall/desk mountable, but seeing as how the unit needs to plug into the front of the PlayStation via USB anyway it lacks the discretion of other AV components.

Features

The PlayTV is a dual-tuner PVR addition to the PlayStation 3. With dual tuners you can record one show while watching another or while playing a game or a Blu-ray. While the system warns you of gameplay issues if background recording is turned on we experienced very few. You can't record two channels at once, though.

The PlayTV is Freeview compatible and features a seven-day program guide. The device lacks any sort of "Series Link" recording, though PlayTV's developers promise it's in the works.

PlayTV content can also be viewed over Remote Play, which means it can be viewed with a PSP or the new Sony Ericsson Aino phone.

NB: even if you have one of the new 120GB PS3 Slims we'd suggest upgrading your hard drive to 500GB or higher, otherwise it'll get full of HD programming real quick. Don't even think about adding a PlayTV to a 40GB model without upgrading. An hour of HD material will take up 10 gigs of space, and if you only have a 40GB PS3 you'll get less than three hours on average of material. Plus there is no way to change quality settings to squeeze more space out of your drive. You may also want to back up your trophies as well, and to do this go to Game > Trophy Collection. Press "Green Triangle" > Sync with server.

Performance

Set-up of the device is fairly straightforward — we simply plugged it in, put in the disc and the wizard walked us through it. If you can get digital reception in your area then the PlayTV will work fine. The device comes with a seven-day EPG but like other devices it takes a bit of coaxing to get it to update all the channels — ie, you'll need to go to each of the main channels in turn to update the first grid.

We found that the carousel-like interface — while different to the usual XMB-style Sony usually employs — was still relatively intuitive. The guide itself was easy to use, and users can set up their own favourite channels and get a tailored guide if they wish. We were a little miffed to find that the guide and channels don't loop — you start at One (1) and end at Go (90) and need to scroll backwards if you want to go back again.

Changing channels is easy and involves the L1 and R1 buttons, and on the BD Remote these are located directly below the D-pad which is convenient (even if they are marked CH+/CH-). Fast forwarding and rewinding isn't as convenient as you need to hold down L2 or R2. The skip buttons will take you forward or back 10 minutes at a time — no ad skipping unfortunately.

As part of our testing with the Sony Aino, we used Remote Play which lets you operate the multimedia functions of the PS3 remotely, and found that it worked very well with the PlayTV. Even on the relatively small screen we were able to easily read the EPG and watch live TV and previously recorded shows. Quality will of course depend on the strength of your relative connections but via wireless on the same network it was very watchable.

The device is a little obtuse when alerting you to the fact that you may be recording something — only if you enter the guide will a red bar show up on the channel involved. Otherwise you can try recording something and it just won't work due to its inability to record more than one channel at once. However, there was no depreciation of either channel when channel surfing on the other available tuner. We did find there was a problem if shows overlap: the second show just won't record, and you can't delay the start of the next recording unless you set up a manual recording. In addition, if they start and finish at the same time sometimes it won't work either — GRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Unless you set the device to background record you can't play a game and record something, and this can be annoying the first time you try it — we think the background feature should be on by default to save frustration. The manual warns that if you play a game and record then you may have some stuttering issues. While we didn't experience any when playing games, we did find there was some initial stuttering when you press Record.

We did have some glitchy issues from time to time — EPG data not appearing, the unit flickering between Play and Pause — but it was mostly a seamless experience. Recordings were of good quality too, and the tuner was the equal of the one on-board our test TV, the Panasonic G10. We did find our recording had more MPEG noise than the equivalent one we made on Foxtel iQ2 — but this could be due to a number of issues including differences in broadcast signals and because the PS3 was getting to the end of the disk.

One small nuisance is in the amount of time the program takes to run — it takes about 24 seconds. This can be annoying if you want to catch the start of something or simply need to exit the program to change a system setting and then want to get back in again.

Conclusion

If you don't own a PlayStation 3 already, then we'd suggest getting the 250GB version because the PlayTV is included in the price and is a great incentive. But if you already own a console, the PlayTV is hardly a compulsory purchase due to a couple of operational quirks and some recording quality issues compared to a dedicated PVR. But if you want a recorder on the cheap, this is perhaps the most affordable option yet.

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primeangel
6
Rating
 

"Good Idea, crappy product."

primeangel posted a review   
Australia

The Good:when it works.

The Bad:when it gets pms

For those of you experiencing the skipping and the freezing, check it ! ! It's a crappy product made from inferior parts. The coaxial cable goes into the flimsiest joiner known to man. Occasionally unplug the coax and check the clips that hold that coax in place. If they seem to be splayed get some tweezers or needle nose plyers and squeeze them back together. replug your coax and see if that works. If i doesn't--I got nothin'. It usually works for me and I normally get great pictures. Also try to have your unit in a position where tha cable goes straight in. Remember those flimsy clips? They splay less if they are not strained by a cable that is bent in any direction out of the join. straight in and out is best. Play Tv is a good idea, but those lazy bums that put it together seemed to have used spit, bubble gum and rubber bands. The unit is so cheap that it should come free as standard part of the ps3 and not even be considered part of any package deal. That way when it doesn't work for people they don't spew because for having spent money on rubbish.

ggv5591
3
Rating
 

"Severe stutter in recording mode"

ggv5591 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:EPG

The Bad:Long startup time, picture and audio stutter

I would not recommend PlayTV as a serious recording unit.

Bought the unit over a year ago and all was ok for a few months. Then developed a severe picture and audio stutter, especially during bad weather.
Have now had digital antenna professionally installed and I'm still getting stutter.
Picture and audio are ok until I use the record function, then both the live and recorded pictures suffer from unwatchable stutter.

I'm not the only person having this problem. I've seen this on some other web sites.
I can't find a solution online.
Can anyone suggest a solution?

premacy2003
1
Rating
 

"Don't Buy it!"

premacy2003 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Only good if it works

The Bad:Everything as it doesn't work

Not worth the money

EkDor1
6
Rating
 

"Stops short of being great."

EkDor1 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Convenient and looks pretty nice.

The Bad:Has many obvious short comings that let it down.

Not a bad product, works very well with the Sony remote. I'm posting some issue I have here since I can't seem to find the official contact page for the manufacturer. I have no regrets buying this product.

Issues:

Not being an integrated app it takes ages to start the TV tuner.

The Australian restrictions are very annoying. For example I can't copy content to the XMB. All recordings are stored in a single file. Mine is currently over 300 gb. I have tried to circumvent this using a tip I found online. Setting the region to "Other", but in my rural area I get zero channels doing this. Seems to work for others. I'm not sure of the full list of restrictions imposed by Australia backward conservative rules applied to this product while using it within Australia.

Unable to rename recordings. This is a particularly annoying limitation. I'm not sure if this is another Australian limitation but I think it is. To make this worse the PlayTV software has a peculiar way of automatically naming the recordings, which makes it less efficient. Additional to this is that if I create a manual set the recording time frame it is automatically given a non-discriminating title and because I can rename it or set the recording with my chosen descriptive name it gets hard to track them.

When creating a repeating recording, I always choose INDEFINITELY which requires clicking through 25 previous options to get to it. I should be able to click LEFT to get to it with a single click.

Can't mute/un-mute the audio using the PS3 controller or remote. I can't see why this can't be done. The only purpose of our TV remote would be turning TV on/off, turn volume up/done or mute/un-mute. So we don't bother using it because it's not frequently used and is usually quicker to walk up to the TV and use the buttons on the TV instead of finding the remote which is oftener moved by our toddler. So being able to at least mute/un-mute the audio stream with the PlayTV software or PS3 OS would be a great help since it's the only TV remote function I want quick, regular access to. I put this here since I pretty much only want to mute the TV feed. But if Sony did this globally it would be even better.

The control buttons for the channel scanner for PlayTV currently it seems backwards and very annoying. After a scan is complete and I see the summery page, I instinctively to use CIRCLE to exit as is a typical press I make to exit. For some reason CIRCLE is rescan. At times I might rescan a couple of times before I remember to use X instead. It would seem to me that the assumption of the mind set of the user at that time would be to return to the PlayTV menu, not to rescan. With this assumption in mind, I would do the following; SQUARE for rescan, it's safer and still allows rescan if needed, and TRIANGLE, X & CIRCLE to return to the PlayTV menu because they are all likely presses to continue.

Hope this helps.

Chandler
6
Rating
 

"Good but nothing compared to a proper DVR"

Chandler posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Cheap DVR

The Bad:Performance issues, only 1 recording tuner

At the end of the day, you have a cheap little box to connect your PS3 to an aerial.

PlayTV works well most of the time, but has its occasional freezes. Recording works generally well, have had a couple of issues.

It's biggest issue is the EPG: it's never 100% correct. That is, however, nothing to do with PlayTV. Series Link (as featured by PlayTV in the UK) would be nice, but once again this is not PlayTV's fault, but the EPG's.
Skip ads (also as featured in PlayTV UK) would be great, but Freeview has (understandably but frustratingly) blocked that.

MrPants
1
Rating
 

"Should have taken the free bag of shiz."

MrPants posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nothing

The Bad:Everything

Don't ever buy this product, it is a complete and utter waste of time Sony is a bad product.

clapmontar
1
Rating
 

"DON'T BOTHER!"

clapmontar posted a review   
Australia

The Good:PLAYTV, but it DOESN'T WORK!

The Bad:Promoting something that had no intention of ever WORKING!

I couldn't agree more - just contacted Sony and they weren't prepared to do anything - bought it for the same reason and have spent more money with arials and attenuator and good quality cable and NOTHING works. It just **** me that Sony can promote their PlayTV to do all these things and it DOESN'T fricken work!!! Now we will have to go and spend more money and to say that I'm not impressed is an understatement!! If they think I'm ever going to buy any more of their products and believe they'll do what they say they should...FORGET IT!!

MeganS Facebook
5
Rating
 

"Sometimes it's brilliant... until it isn't."

MeganS posted a review   

The Good:Interface, controls (FF/skip/etc) good

The Bad:Prone to interference, software glitches (read: software disasters)

When PlayTV works, it's a wonderful, cheap DVR. You can start/finish recordings early/late, the user interface is intuitive, and you even get an EPG (most of the time).

HOWEVER:
Firstly, the receiver is prone to interference. Like the kind you get when you turn the PS3 itself on. Get it as far away from the PS as the cable will allow.
Secondly, I've never owned a product with so many software glitches. Some channels randomly missing from EPG, recordings not starting if they're scheduled to begin as another finishes (it has even refused to record through the EPG if I set it to start before the highlighted program), and sometimes (today, for instance) the software won't boot at all. It hangs on the startup screen and requires you to reinstall, deleting all your recordings. And Sony are less than interested in fixing these (and other bugs).

This is a wonderful product when it works. But sometimes it just *doesn't*.

Nudge
2
Rating
 

Nudge posted a review   

The Good:works well when it works...

The Bad:constant freezing upon initialising with no customer support

I bought the PS3 with the PlayTV bundle as I wanted the TIVO application as well as having the option of playing games and watching Blu-Ray DVD's. Quite simply I wish I bought TIVO ! PlayTV no longer loads up, and no matter how many times I uninstall, install, turn on, turn off, unplug, reboot and restart it just doesn't want to work. and it's not a memory thing as last time I looked I still had over 200GB of memory left. Sony, your PlayTV is a disgrace and you should be ashamed.

 

Nudge posted a reply   

I fogot to mention that I am currently on my third PlayTV hoping that the other two were faulty. No joy...
Simple remedy, disconnect PLayTV, set microwave for 30 seconds on high, install PlayTV into microwave and press start. The light show is fantastic !


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User Reviews / Comments  Sony PlayTV (PS3)

  • primeangel

    primeangel

    Rating6

    "For those of you experiencing the skipping and the freezing, check it ! ! It's a crappy product made from inferior parts. The coaxial cable goes into the flimsiest joiner known to man. Occasionally..."

  • ggv5591

    ggv5591

    Rating3

    "I would not recommend PlayTV as a serious recording unit.

    Bought the unit over a year ago and all was ok for a few months. Then developed a severe picture and audio stutter, especially..."

  • premacy2003

    premacy2003

    Rating1

    "Not worth the money"

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