PlayTV Review - February 2

PlayTV has the simple promise to put Freeview on your PlayStation 3. But is it worth getting over the myriad other devices out there for its additional features?

PlayTV is a UK exclusive project by Sony Europe, something it's worth reminding people of when they launch regular tirades on this arm of the business as the regular villain of the Sony brand. Designed to work to get the most out of the PS3, PSP and Freeview television, it's a great piece of kit.

Firstly, it's much smaller than a normal Freeview box, obviously as most of the hardware is nestled inside the PS3 to begin with. You simply connect the black concave and very light device to the PS3 with a USB cable (which does look rather unsightly to be sticking out of the front 24/7). It has a single aerial port, the USB cable and that's it. The PlayStation logo looks nice, and the colour obviously matches the PS3 nicely, but the main advantage is that it's small enough to hide behind something else, especially as you don't have a restrictive SCART cable tethering it to the television.

The EPG is quick to load and is nicely transparent.

The basic functions of the device are as follows. You can watch live TV on it, from any of the Freeview channels. Unfortunately, there is no card slot nor the facility to activate any of the premium channels such as Setanta, and this will be a must-have for some (people already on their subscription in particular). You can use a 7-Day programming guide which loads wonderfully quickly to check what's on and schedule recordings. With the dual-tuners you can watch and record at the same time, and the guide clearly displays which times are currently scheduled for recordings so you can plan accordingly. You can also search for specific programmes by name, but can't series link or search more than 7 days into the future which makes it very easy to miss an episode of your favourite show.

Next comes a pretty large downside. There's no option to get PlayTV to boot up when you turn the TV on, unless it's already recording. So if you just decide to flick on the news, you have to turn on the PS3, scroll through the XMB, and then load up PlayTV, which all takes about 20 seconds. When you install the software using the provided disk, it adds a TV tab to the XMB, and this is where PlayTV sits.

These miscellaneous football teams should whet your appetite for never missing Match of the Day again.

It would be nice to have a button on the Blu-Ray Remote (for which a plastic and pretty cool overlay is included in the box specifically for PlayTV) to load straight into PlayTV, though you could obviously just leave your PS3 and PlayTV running all day to bypass this problem.

Obvious positives are that the quality is superior to most Freeview boxes as you have the PlayStation 3 to output in HD if your TV supports it. Obviously the source isn't high-def, but it makes a noticeable difference to the final image that the output connection is. The other major plus is that the hard drive of the PS3 can be used and abused to store as much content as you want on. These bonuses are very welcome, and would push the cost of a regular Freeview box up higher.

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