A big thing around the PS Vita and PlayStation TV both for quite some time has been PS4 Connectivity. This is a feature that a lot of people love using, but also that a lot of PS Vita gamers hate. This is due to many people buying the Vita and/or PSTV just to use PS4 Connectivity/Streaming, as in Remote Play. A lot of Vita fans are disgusted by people who buy a game system with no interest in its games and just want to use it as a peripheral for their PS4.
I’ve also noticed a lot of hate around the PSTV for this. On Twitter, it’s nearly daily that I see people talking about buying a PSTV and hating it because Remote Play lag was unbearable. Since I had no PS4, I had no way of assisting or advising them, otherwise. I just had to either not pursue to help that individual or make theoretical guesses based on what I knew about Remote Play.
As of last week, that is no longer the case. I finally bought a PS4 and have been testing Remote Play every night. Now I can come out and make a review on this for you all. So, let’s make an app review. Here is my review of the PS4 Link app!
The first thing we should go over is what the app does. PS4 Link allows a Vita or PlayStation TV to connect to a PS4 system in a variety of ways. These two different features are called Remote Play and Second Screen. Before we go about explaining the differences, we should note that only Remote Play is available on the PlayStation TV. It does not get the Second Screen option like the PS Vita does. Just something to note.
Remote Play is the main feature, and that basically streams the PS4’s video and audio to the PS Vita / PSTV system. This requires both systems to be connected to the internet and has the Vita/PSTV search for a nearby PS4 and then connect to it. Once connected, you’ll see the PS4’s Home Screen and be able to take over. At that point, the controller on the PS4 shuts off and complete control is given to the Remote Play device. However, one touch on the controller’s PlayStation/Home button will revert control back to the PS4.
Once connected, you can do pretty much anything. Browse the PlayStation Store, change settings or your theme, open up and play games, etc. Essentially, you’re streaming your PS4 to your Vita and that gains control of the system.
Once you get into a game, functionality varies from game to game. The PS Vita doesn’t have the same number of buttons as the PS4, so the touch screen sections are given access to functions for the extra triggers. I’ll explain more about this in the next section.
Second Screen pulls up a second screen for games that support it. This could work as a map for some PS4 games or a mirror in driving games This also has functionality as a keyboard for the PS4. You can switch to the Vita whenever text input is required and it’s a bit easier to type with the Vita’s touch screen than navigating the keyboard with the Dual Shock 4’s buttons. There are also little buttons for moving through some menus.
One other thing about functionality worth mentioning that I think is particularly convenient is that it runs in the background. Unlike some other apps, you can pause a Vita game, go into Remote Play, and it won’t make you completely close the Vita game you were playing. You can quite Remote Play and go right back to the game you were playing on your Vita / PSTV.
The initial window of the PS4 Link screen has 2 options on screen and a settings option in the bottom-right corner. You just tap or select each icon based on what you wish to use the app for. One is for Remote Play, the second is for Second Screen, and the Settings lets you change video quality as you stream.
When Remote Play begins, you’re just taken into the PS4’s stream and the interface is pretty simple. Just hit the PlayStation/Home button on the Vita and you’ll get a little interface on the button of the screen. This allows you to go to the Home screen of the PS4 or hit the Live Area icon to disconnect from the PS4 and go back to the Vita’s home screen. Many games also have a “Button” icon on the bottom screen that allows you to pull up and see Remote Play controls for the game you’re playing.
When you’re in the middle of a game, controls will be a little different. As I said above, the Vita doesn’t have as many buttons as the PS4 controller does. The extra triggers are extended to sections of the touch screen. You may have to use the corners of the touch screen or rear touch screen to use L2 and R2 features. This makes games fully playable, even though you’re on the Vita. Not to extend this further, but the next section will have my final bit about the Remote Play controls.
When you’re in Second Screen mode, there are controls all over the touch screen. The center gives you navigation controls for what’s shown on the screen. On the bottom, you have a bar with options for moving through menus and the start/options button. Then on the right side-bar, you have icons to enable the keyboard controls, toggling the second screen function, and disconnecting from the PS4.
Performance is what everyone complains about. Since you’re streaming a game from your PS4, you’re essentially having your PS4 upload stream and then transmitting it to the receiving device. Because of this, streaming isn’t always flawless. In all honesty, there are rare times where it does look perfect. But we’re not to that part of the review yet, so let’s hold off on that.
Connecting to the PS4 system is quite painless and worked very well. If you remember PS3 Remote Play, you may remember a tedious registration process. There is no manual registration. The Vita connects to the PS4 automatically. The first time I connected my Vita to my PS4, it took maybe 10 seconds for it to start looking, find it, and load the stream. This works really well.
The actual streaming quality will depend on two things: Internet Speed and Settings. Remote Play can be set to various resolutions for better quality video. The Vita can be set to 360p and 540p, whereas the PSTV can be set to 540p and 720p. This is very important if you don’t have incredibly fast internet, because it will dictate how good your stream is and how far away you can go from the PS4 to keep your stream going.
My case is about the bare minimum for this type of streaming. My internet connection is about 17 Mbps down and 1-2 Mbps up. This is pretty low-tier for high speed internet and Remote Play can work on this, but only to a point. If nothing else is using a lot of the internet, I can connect to my PS4 without issues on both the Vita and/or PSTV. Because of my connection, though, I start at 30 fps streaming and things run fairly well. However, this also leads us to our next topic, which is PS Vita vs PSTV.
On the Vita, Remote Play runs pretty nicely. The first time I tried Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Fallout 4 on it, it ran smooth. Some very slight input lag but no major problems. When I switched to the PSTV however, things changed. The PSTV clearly struggled to keep the stream smooth. I saw a lot of pixilation and breaks in the stream. There was also a lot more input lag on the PSTV.
I tested this several days in a row, and it was different depending on the day. On Monday night this week, the PSTV stream worked pretty magnificently and when the internet was strained by my LEGO Marvel’s Avengers review was uploading to YouTube. But when compared to the Vita, the PSTV’s stream was still less smooth, even when both systems were set to the same resolution. However, with PSTV being set to 720p to default, the PSTV owner’s first move should be to be to change the res down to 540.
When I moved around the house with this, though, things got ugly. I started losing the stream even on the Vita as little as 20 feet away from the PS4. Due to this, I would suggest that you not try Remote Play at all unless you have at least 20-30 Mbps down and 3+ Mbps up and that’s when the PS4 and Vita/PSTV.
Second Screen had nice performance. There was never any lag on the Vita at all, and all of the buttons and options worked quite nicely. It was just in full Remote Play where latency can happen. So if you just want Second Screen capabilities, then you’re good, even on a lower connection speed.
PS4 Link is a very intuitive idea from Sony to link its two systems together and creates a great convenience of being able to play your PS4 from anywhere in the house. The only downer is that the PlayStation TV’s PS4 Link app runs more sluggish in streams than the PS Vita app, which doesn’t make sense. Regardless of this, PS4 Link is a very useful feature if you’d like to see Fallout 4 on the tiny screen in the bedroom.