You’d be hard-pushed to call Play TV the most obvious add-on for the PlayStation 3, not least thanks to a £70 price tag. But it does a job that no doubt has some benefits, so let’s take a look.
The idea of the product is to allow you to watch and record digital television through your games console. So, on one hand it acts as a standard Freeview-esque box, giving you access to all of the free-to-air digital channels that permeate the airwaves in the UK. Then, on the other, it adds as a digital video recorder, converting the hard drive space on the PS3 into a repository for your recording.
Therein, naturally, lies a problem of sorts, given that differing PS3s have different amounts of storage within them, and if you’ve been filling your console’s drive with downloads from the PlayStation Network, for example, then you may find it a stretch too far to give over much storage to TV programmes.
Get over that consideration, however, and the Play TV unit turns out to be quite smart. It’s a simple, unassuming USB box that connects to one of the spare ports on your PS3 (again, without wishing to sound like a stuck record, if you’ve bought one of the cheaper PS3s with hardware limitations you’ll find you only have two USB ports to play with, so a hub might be a good investment).
Then you plug in your old analogue aerial and run the supplied disc: the software permanently installs itself onto your machine. Also in the package is a good instruction guide and an overlay for your PS3 remote control, should you have one (Play TV can also be controlled via a joypad if you don’t).
Upon running the disc you’re presented with a happy-clappy installation video and, following a quick setup, you’re given the option to run Play TV at last. Choose your preferred language and you then go through a further ten-step setup, which includes the scanning of channels. And then, fairly quickly, you can sit down and watch them.
Naturally you’re at the mercy of transmission quality here, and many digital channels seem to pump out their wares via the bare minimum of bandwidth. As a result, if you’ve hooked your PS3 up via HDMI to a swish screen, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to see too much benefit. But you can expect to get between 80-90 channels here, and moving between them is quick and easy.
The electronic programme guide, that you’ll find yourself interfacing with a lot, is smart and responsive and it’s not hard to find yourself pretty much replicating most of the functions of something like Sky+ via the Play TV unit. Recordings can be set up and you’re free to do other things with your PS3 while they’re going on. Stored programmes are then easy to pick out and you can use remote play, if you have a Sony PSP, to use the handheld device as a TV viewer should you so choose.
Play TV is ultimately a reasonably useful, capable PVR solution. It happily works in the background for most of the time and is quick to react when you need it. We’d have preferred a cheaper price tag, inevitably, but right now it’s still a good product for those looking to save having too many boxes under the telly.
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