A couple days into a trial of Playstation Vue, I’m convinced it is the best IPTV service available today. The interface is sleek and available on multiple platforms, the performance of video is incredibly good, but best of all, its has a cloud based DVR features and the “catchup” ability to watch previously aired shows that you didn’t DVR are two of the biggest winning features of the service. The biggest disservice is probably the Playstation branding, because it doesn’t immediately evoke the thought of live TV.
PSVue > A New Alternative
I was able to sign up for a new Playstation account and once I confirmed it, I was able to begin a free week’s trial of PS Vue. After downloading the app on my Apple TV, the app took me through registering my device, which I did easily from a web browser on my computer. If you’ve done TV Everywhere, its just like that – the app gives you a code and a website where you go and login. And speaking of TV Everywhere, Playstation Vue allows you to login to TV Everywhere apps from your phone, in addition to the live TV, just like a regular cable subscription. The list of compatible stations is available in the PS Vue FAQ’s.
No Delay Streaming
After login, the app prompted me to setup a profile – like Netflix has had and Hulu recently introduced, so I have my own personal watch list of my favorite shows. With my new profile setup in my account, I choose my name and TV started streaming immediately. Talk about first impressions, it didn’t default to a quiet menu, the first station was up and streaming just like turning on a regular cable connected TV and the stream started fast. As I switched stations, the experience is essentially the same as cable TV, the stream starts quickly and there is not a noticeable buffering delay, as with other services.
One of my biggest driving factors is my daughter. I can see how much she likes having live TV available – its like we have deprived her because she wants total control of the TV at her grandparents and when we are in hotels to watch the shows that aren’t available yet on Hulu or Netflix. When she saw my trying Vue, she immediately asked if she could get that app – and one of the big benefits is that PS Vue allows up to 5 screens at a time, so I was happy to answer Yes. Now, 5 screens is a bit misleading – it is up to one Playstation 4, one Playstation 3, and up to three iOS, Android or connected devices at any one time. You can’t do two Playstation 4’s or two Playstation 3’s at the same time. Apple TV works fantastic, as does iPhones and iPads. Roku’s are also supported along with Fire TV and Chromecast.
Real DVR Features + More Features
When my coworker told me about Vue, the biggest selling feature initially was DVR-like recording. Since its in the cloud, its better than DVR because you essentially have unlimited space. To ‘record’ a show, just add it to “My Shows” in the PS Vue app and it will save the episodes for you and keep them available for 28 days after airing. But better than that, if you tune into a show during the middle, you can easily back them up and watch from the start. Many shows also have a “Catch Up” feature, identified by a blue label in the guide, where you can go back and watch previously aired programs, even if you didn’t ‘record’ them by adding to “My Shows.” This lets you discover a new show on DIY, for instance, and go back and watch previous episodes of the show or watch episodes in order, even if the channel airs them out of order. “Catch Up” shows are available for 3 days after airing. The one downside to “Catch Up” content is you must watch it without the ability to fast forward. In addition to “Catch Up” episodes, you have On Demand content that is available but not tied to a specific air date and it is also commercial free.
I will say, Playstation Vue is the best interface for streaming TV that I have seen. On the Apple TV, it is fluid and easy to understand. It has helpful features like recently watched episodes and resuming a show you may have stopped in the middle of, if it is available via “Catch Up”. It also has some your favorite shows front and center on the menu.
The only thing you need to get used to is a vertical programming guide on Vue’s Apple TV app instead of the horizontal bars that cable systems have accustomed you to. Your channels are listed horizontally and time moves vertically in the programming guide for Playstation Vue, so other than this one – very minor difference – you have a really functional menu. Interestingly, the Android and Roku apps don’t seem to have guide functionality, comparing with my coworker.
In addition to the Guide, you have the ability to search and Sony has done an excellent job of utilizing native functionality, like Siri on the Apple TV, to assist with searching and dictation to the screen. The search brings up a mixture of On Demand, Catch Up and future content that you can add to “My Shows” and find out airing times. If it is there, you’ll find it with the search.
There’s nothing perfect in life, goes that saying. So what is missing with Playstation Vue? I would love to see integration with Apple’s TV app so that content discovery is even easier. That goes towards suggestions and discovery of new shows you may be interested in or highlighting what is hot right now. I hope to see that integration come in the future. But beyond that, I really can’t think of much. While Playstation Vue is a straight-forward streaming TV service, it hasn’t done much to innovate TV. It provides a nearly identical experience to traditional cable TV service, while moving delivery from coax to IP and away from proprietary boxes to the user’s own devices. However, the price is right and the experience is strong making it the best streaming TV service available right now.
My Past as a Cord Cutter
After my coworker introduced me to Playstation Vue, I thought I had to try out the service. For years, I worked for a telecommunications company, but I had a dirty secret. I was a cord cutter and I didn’t even have my own employer’s cable service. Its not something I would publicly talk about and I just stayed in the shadows with my little secret.
Hulu and Netflix were enough for my family. We weren’t watching live TV anyways – everything we watched was on the DVR and watched at least one day after, so Hulu was a great solution for us. And if you know me, you know live sports aren’t that important, so it was really viable to me and my family. There was a bit of pain missing CBS shows from Hulu, but eventually we adjusted and waited for them to appear in Netflix.
Comparing to Sling TV
After Dish Networks launched Sling TV, I did a trial sometime in early 2015. I was intrigued by inexpensive cable TV and Sling TV’s on-demand shows. During my first trial, Sling TV was marred with some technical glitches and problems with buffering and stream. At $20 a month, the service was less than half the price of most cable packages and it offered live sports and a good selection of cable channels. I liked the interface and loved the ability on some channels to watch previously aired programs within 24 to 48 hours of airing – however, it varied from channel to channel. That makes the interface somewhat confusing and there is little to help you discover or find the content you want – the search is ok, but its nothing innovative.
Since I was an early adopter, I decided to try again last year with Sling TV. The interface was the same – good, but not great – and the service still suffers from delivery and buffering issues, making me thankful for Hulu and Netflix superior content delivery networks. What I found was the service had not grown up in a year and there were not a lot of great improvements. The interface was essentially the same, shows were slow to begin streaming and it just seemed to be a decent offering. The interface was still hard for my parents and even my technology-savvy daughter to get a hang of. So, I canceled again.
If price is your only concern, Sling TV will probably do you just fine. But for only $10 more a month, Playstation Vue provides a ton more features that you’ll appreciate and you have more tiers of choices with Vue versus Sling TV.