PlayStation Vue Review
PlayStation Vue is Sony's attempt to convince traditional TV viewers to finally cut the cord and move onto their over-the-top streaming service — Let's find out if it's worth it. PSVue launched with a basic package in March of 2015 for limited U.S. Cities but has now grown to offer four programming packages nationwide: Access $40/mo, Core $45/mo, Elite $55/mo and Ultra $75/mo. Each of these packages contain popular channels like FX, SYFY, ESPN, Disney and TBS but also local programming according to your location; To see a full list of support channels check here (https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/channels/). There are multiple add-on channels as well, such as: HBO $15/mo, Showtime $11/mo, Cinemax $15/mo, Epix Hits for $4, Fox Soccer Plus $15, Sports Pack $10/mo and finally Español Pack for $4/mo. As you can see, the price can add up quickly depending on which packages you select but you have to give Sony credit for having a fairly large amount of add-ons readily available.
The PSVue supports every mainstream device out there: Amazon fireTV, androidtv, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, iOS, Android and of course both PlayStation 3 & 4 consoles. I haven't tried the service on my android phone or tablet for this review but I have spent time watching PSVue on my Amazon fireTV, PC and PlayStation 4.
Setup was straightforward. On PlayStation 4, just go under TV & Video and select the PSVue app. It's a small file size and only takes a few seconds to download. For the Amazon Fire TV, I simply downloaded the PlayStation Vue app, signed in with my PSN account—create a new account if you wish—then began watching live TV. For PC, go to https://vue.playstation.com, sign-in and begin streaming live TV.
I currently have 50 /50 Verizon FioS Internet Plan and had zero problems streaming in the room furthest from my router(that's an issue I had back in 2015 with the PSVue beta on my PlayStation 3). You can watch PSVue on up to five devices simultaneously. For testing purposes, I had four devices streaming at once and impressively, the streaming continued with a hiccup on all devices. Even while fiddling with the channels, settings or using the DVR cloud functions.
There are multiple ways to sift through the many channels and programs offered on PSVue. You can browse by network(pictured above); Live TV, which displays programs that are current playing along with pictures, which gives it that familiar streamlined look of Netflix and other streaming services(pictured below).
Navigating the menu will take some getting used to for those of us that are used to Verizon's TV service because everything is inverse. The channels are laid out side-to-side and the timeline is top-to-bottom. There is a red indicator that's displayed across the screen that represents the current time; it's just a convenient way to tell how far into a program you are when you select it. You also can browse channels filtered by genre, age rating, length and more.
Now onto one of the issues I noticed and this happened at least twice. TCM will block a movie from being streamed online. What's shown on the screen is a message stating some like "Everything is working fine on your end, we are not able to stream this program online." Hopefully that's something that can be resolved in the near future. I'm hopeful, because much like the music industry had to evolve and adapt to platforms like Spotify, at some point traditional TV companies will have to do the same with OTT Streaming Services. The good thing is that I've watched every channel I could for during my trial period(granted, a majority of the time in the background) and aside from TCM, I have not noticed any other issues streaming live programming
Some channels—such as Adult Swim—are On Demand, meaning instead of live TV, you can select from a variety of shows available on that network that day and play them when you want. Instead of commercials, ads are played usually in the beginning and at the end of the program like an online video.
A nice feature is that you have the option of selecting "Start Over" even if a channel is not selected. Allowing you to return back 30 minutes of video. One thing I noticed though is that once the Start Over option is selected, you can rewind but not fast forward.. which I found odd. You can only return to Live Video, Start Over or Rewind. I later found the reason is that FOX, FX and FXX do not allow fast forwarding on PSVue. This may or may not apply to additional channels down the road - keep that in mind. Also, once you're watching a movie or show after clicking Start Over, note that channeling away from the program will return it to Live Scheduling. This is common with any TV service that allows rewinding a program but I wanted to mention it.
Just a quick rundown on using the PlayStation controller: Triangle brings up the menu, Circle is cancel or return, X is select or pause, Square does nothing while viewing a program but with the menu displayed it brings up details of the program, R1 adds the program you're viewing to your DVR, L2 brings up your DVR programs, L2 and R2 do nothing. The center touch pad brings up a quick launcher by pressing it, from there you can select: Guide, My DVR, Search or Explore. Obviously the share options are disabled while using PlayStation Vue and finally the Option button quickly brings up the TV Guide.
Recording a program is very snappy, the second you press the R1 button, the program is recorded. I know sometimes with Verizon when I select record, it begins recording at the moment in the program but as far as I can tell, with PSVue it seems to record the entire program regardless of how far into it you select record. One downside though, I noticed you cannot view a recording in progress with some programs, meaning you cannot just skip the commercials and watch your show. When a show or movie is recorded, it will be saved for up to 28 days on the cloud. That is a negative for PSVue considering Verizon or Comcast allow recording to stay as long as you don't delete them off the DVR Unit. The difference being, one is saved on the cloud the other is saved to internal storage. There are additional restrictions on DVR and I'd advise you check out this page to see the full list https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/faq/features/#dvr-restrictions
On the performance side of things, the picture and sound come though clearly. I'm going on my second week now and haven't noticed any stuttering or distortions. Everything has been running smoothly and it's worth mentioning that PSVue supports 60fps throughout all channels, so you get a high-quality look compared to other such OTT streaming services.
The underlying question: is it worth it? Well, that all depends on whether you can cut the cord(so to speak) and overlook a few of the short comings of PlayStation Vue. I'd rather use a streaming service and occasionally rent a movie, because It's what I've grown accustomed to but if you're somebody that enjoys channel surfing and are looking for an alternative to the cable companies.. I think the clear steady streaming, plethora of channels, easy to use DVR and add-on packages make PSVue a somewhat pricey but quality value.