PlayStation TV Review

PSTV

There have been a lot of features that fans have wanted for the PlayStation Vita as well as its games.  To name a few, people have asked for screenshots for all available games and a recently-given wish for customizable themes for the system.  Some of these desires have been granted and some have not.  One of the most-asked features, however, is the ability to display and play PS Vita games on a television, as if it were a console.  This feature is not available to the Vita like it was to the PSP.  Not directly, anyways.

Taking on this idea of being able to play Vita games on a TV, Sony devised a sort of “Micro Console” known as the PS Vita TV.  This was Japan-only for the longest time, and let you play many Vita games as well as PSP, PS1, and more on HDTV’s.  The exclusivity to the Asia continents did not last, though.  Just this past week, Sony brought the micro console to the West, naming it the PlayStation TV.

Surrounding the PlayStation TV, also called the PSTV, are many questions.  What games are compatible?  What games are going to get compatibility later on?  Do the Vita’s apps work on the peripheral?  If you have questions, we hope to bring you answers.  Here is our official review of the PlayStation TV!

Design/Hardware

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By design, the PlayStation TV hardware is not what you would normally expect a game console to look like.  The PSTV is a very small device, comparable to other media-streaming devices, such as the Kindle Fire TV or the Apple TV.  The device is a small box 4-5 inches in length.  To compare it directly, it is slightly smaller than the size of the screen display on the PS Vita or the size of a small wallet.

One side of the device as well as the back of the device are where all of the ports and attachments are for the device.  On one side, there is a reveal-able slot with a PS Vita logo over the top.  This is the slot where you can insert a PS Vita retail cartridge to be able to play your retail games on the system.  Everything else is on the back of the device, from the power button to all of the different ports that it offers.

Across the back are the power button and four different ports that you can plug into.  These are for Power, Ethernet, USB, Memory Card, and HDMI.  The Power cord is used to give the console power.  The port, itself, is something PlayStation gamers should be familiar with.  It’s the same kind of cord that was used for the 1000, 2000, and 3000 models of the PSP.  If you ever had a PSP and still have your power cords, they will work for the PSTV, so you won’t ever have to buy backups.

The Ethernet Port is possible the most crucial part of the design.  While the game has built-in Wi-Fi like the PS Vita does, you can plug an Ethernet Cable into the system to go off of a cabled web connection.  Depending on your connection speed, this can greatly increase the stability of online gaming as well as downloading games, videos, and applications to the system.  Another important aspect is the USB port.  This will allow you to plug in and pair a Dual Shock 3 or Dual Shock 4 controller with the system, just like you link them with a PS3 or PS4.

The final parts on the back are the Memory Card slot, HDMI, and Power button.  The PSTV uses the same kind of memory cards as the PS Vita.  Like the PS Vita Slim model, the PSTV comes equipped with 1 GB of onboard memory.  Otherwise, you will need a Memory Card.  The base model of the PSTV does not come with a memory card but the LEGO Movie bundle pack does come with one.  Next is HDMI.  The PSTV only uses HDMI to connect to TV’s, so you cannot use it on a CRT TV or anything without an HDMI port.  Finally is the small power button.  With a controller paired, you can use your controller to boot the system, but the power button is there for those that wish to do it the old-fashioned way with the power button.

All in all, the design give the PSTV a very “portable” feel despite it being a TV console.

Handling/Performance

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The PlayStation TV handles a similar way that you handle a PlayStation Vita, but in a TV and with a different type of controller.  When you first boot the system, you’ll have to pair a controller with it and set the time and date as well as the network settings and your PlayStation Network account.  One thing to note here is that the PSTV registers on your account as a handheld device, so be sure not to go over the 5 system limit for games or the 3 system limit for video content.

Once you get set up, it plays just like a PS Vita.  The interface is the bubble interface.  However, there is one default application that is specific to the PSTV.  There is a Power application that can put the system in Standby or Power it off.  As we said before, when the system is in standby or is turned off, you can press the PlayStation button on the controller to turn it back on.  One thing to note is that the system will automatically go into standby if you don’t do anything on it for so long when it’s on the Live Area / Bubble screen, but will not dim or go into standby in games like the PS Vita does in long scenes.

Once you do this, you can start installing and downloading games and applications to play on the system.  This is done in the same way it is on the PS Vita.  The PSTV has its own PlayStation Store, identical to the Vita, though the store only has games that are compatible with the PSTV.  It’s also got all PSP, PS1, and PS Minis bundled into the same category, called “Classics”.  This functions well, aside from the PlayStation Mobile section.  For some reason, it takes a long time to load the Download Lists for the PS Mobile part of the store.

The Compatibility issue is something that should be addressed.  As you are aware, the Dual Shock 3 doesn’t have a touch screen.  Because of this, a large portion of the PS Vita library is not compatible with the PSTV.  Games that have forced touch controls must be patched to allow button prompts for touch controls.  Due to this, games like LittleBigPlanet, Gravity Rush, Tearaway, and Uncharted Golden Abyss are not currently available on the micro console.

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As far as compatibility, there is a pretty large chunk of games and apps that do work.  Those that do also have customized controls that feature the R2/L2 and R3/L3 buttons of the system.  Some examples of games that are available to play on the PSTV are Vita games like Borderlands 2, Killzone: Mercenary, Minecraft, and Ragnarok Odyssey Ace as well as backwards-compatible games like Chaos Rings, Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy, Legend of Dragoon, and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.  There are rumors around that Sony is working on patching Gravity Rush, LittleBigPlanet, and Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but the rest of the compatibility is up to the developers themselves.

Displaying games can go up and down, depending on the game you’re playing.  PlayStation Classics like Final Fantasy VII and Mega Man X4 play in 4:3 resolution, meaning that it is sort of cropped on the screen.  Vita, PSP, PS Mobile, and PS Mini games, however, always display full-screen.  The quality of these games has been upscaled, but how good they look depends on how close you sit to your TV.  At close range, many games have more blemishes and jagged edges on the character models.

However, there is a distance factor.  When you’re close to your TV, you can see the blemishes.  However, if you sit on the other side of the room on a couch, the jagged edges and blemishes are much harder to detect.  I generally sit at 10-20 feet away from my 32” TV or the screen hurts my eyes.  With sitting that far away, playing games like Ragnarok Odyssey Ace and Minecraft made it very difficult to find any jagged edges unless you walk close to the TV.  Even PSP games like Dissidia 012 and The 3rd Birthday look better from the combination of the upscaling and the distance factor.

Controlling games is one of the things that the PSTV does very well at.  Much of the community has wondered about input lag because it’s a different type of controller than the games were designed for.  There is input lag in the PlayStation Store’s Download list.  There is sometimes some brief lag when cycling through your Download List with the D-Pad.  Outside of this, though, there is no input lag to be found.  Whether you’re playing Ragnarok Odyssey Ace or Final Fantasy VI, the button input will be as fluid as it is on the Vita.

From a general standpoint, the performance does well at what it’s supposed to do.  Unfortunately, the lack of library at this time compared to what you can play on the Vita definitely leans towards this being a companion device than a device to get instead of a PS Vita.

Summary

The PlayStation TV isn’t a bad choice for the Vita gamer who wants to play some of their games on a TV, particularly Vita exclusives and PSP games that cannot be played on a TV with any other system available.  There are some pros to the PSTV, such as not worrying about your battery running out, the convenience of running things on a TV, and the comfort of using a PS3 or PS4 controller.  Unfortunately, with the input lag from the PlayStation Store, lack of big-name game compatibility, and the lack of immediate support for services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, this is more of a companion device for displaying your games on a TV than a standalone console.

7/10

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