PlayStation TV First Impressions

I was really excited when Sony announced the PlayStation Vita TV a year ago in Japan. The idea of being able to play Vita games on a TV, along with having music and video apps, all for $100 was very appealing. Especially considering other streaming boxes like the Roku and Apple TV come with a similar price tag, but lack the same gaming prowess.

A year later, and the rebranded 'PlayStation TV' has arrived in North America. So does it live up to my lofty expectations?

Unboxing

While you can get a base model for $100, Sony also has a $140 bundle that comes with an 8GB memory card, The LEGO Movie Videogame, and a Dual Shock 3 controller. The bundle available at Walmart also includes Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time for the same price. I decided on the Walmart bundle.

After unboxing everything and turning the unit on... there were system updates waiting for me. These updates aren't as annoying as my Wii U experience from last year, but it's still annoying that I cannot buy any piece of technology without first having a 30-minute delay while the firmware gets updated.

I knew the PlayStation TV was small, but it was even smaller than I expected, about the size of a deck of cards. It’s a nice looking unit with rounded sides, and a flat front and back. The front is glossy with an embossed Sony logo. The back features the power button, memory card slot, USB port, HDMI port, ethernet port, and the power port. Hiding beneath a plastic flap on the right side is a slot for PS Vita games.

Performance

First things first, the PlayStation Vita's native resolution is 940x540, which is less than high-definition. The PlayStation TV hardware upscales this content to 720p. Most modern display are 1080p. Therefore, a Vita game is being upscaled a second time by your television before you see the game. This double upscaling definitely introduces scaling artifacts that wouldn't be present on the handheld system.

Surprisingly though, even on my 55-inch display, it isn't too offensive. Some text looks a bit off, but generally speaking, everything looks acceptable.

Compatibility

Before the PlayStation TV launched, Sony had compiled a list of titles that would work with the new system. This included physical Vita releases, digital downloads, PSP digital games, PS Minis, PS Originals, and PlayStation Mobile games.

The list is a bit scattered and it's disappointing that more Vita games don't work, but considering the lack of a touch screen, this can be expected.

The two freebies that came with the system obviously work just fine (Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and The LEGO Movie Videogame). I also downloaded TxK which played just fine. Lastly, the system let me download Sonic Wings Special (even though this is not on the compatibility list) which I bought from the PSP a couple year ago, which also ran fine.

What isn't fine is the PSN Store. When viewing the store, it initially filters the games that are compatible with the PSTV. However, along the right hand side are "recommended" titles. These recommendations could be anything (PSP games, Vita games, the Netflix app). The problem is, it recommends games that are not compatible with the PlayStation TV system. Sony makes it all to easy to purchase software that is not compatible.

The User Interface

The PlayStation TV dashboard is pretty much the same as it is on the Vita. However, it was designed with a touchscreen in mind. It still works fine with a controller, but it would be nice if they reworked it to look better on a 55 inch screen, rather than leaving it optimized for a 5 inch screen.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been an early adopter for a lot of new tech devices (Xbox 360, Microsoft Zune, HD DVD, etc.) so it doesn’t really bother me when there are bugs and unfinished features on brand new devices. I know that over the next few months things will be ironed out and this will be a more complete product.

More importantly, I hope patches are added to existing Vita games to allow them to function on this device, and I hope new titles are also released with PlayStation TV support right out of the box. Including a PSTV logo on the game packaging would also be nice.

If you already have some PlayStation 3 or 4 controllers lying around, and a collection of PlayStation Network games, you really can’t go wrong with this $100 device. If you are like me and have skipped out on the past couple of PlayStation models, it’s a little harder to recommend.