Cutting The Cable Again (Sort Of):
Thirty days ago, I unbundled my Spectrum cable bundle. The phone service was replaced by Ooma. I kept the Spectrum internet service. After looking at Slingbox, Hulu, and some others, television programming went to PlayStation Vue.
After living with the PlayStation Vue for thirty days, here are some of my thoughts:
What Is PlayStation Vue?
Here is how Sony describes it: “PlayStation™Vue is a TV service available across all 50 United States that streams live TV, movies, and sports without a cable or satellite subscription on a variety of TV-connected and mobile devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV®, Roku® streaming devices, Android TV, a desktop web browser, mobile devices, PlayStation®4 consoles, and PlayStation®3 consoles. PlayStation Vue offers a powerful in and out-of-home DVR with lots of storage and no recording conflicts, multiple profiles, On Demand programming, and premium channels that can be purchased individually or with a multi-channel plan. PlayStation Vue does not require a PlayStation® console, and there are no annual contracts.
There are no additional fees, hidden fees or charges (i.e. no HD fees, equipment fees, installation fees, or local sports fees etc.) All pricing is presented to you at checkout prior to purchase, so what you see is what you pay.”
PlayStation Vue consists of 4 tiers of programming, with each successive tier building on the preceding one. The tiers are: Access ($39.99), Core ($49.99), Elite ($54.99), and Elite ($74.99). I chose the Elite tier. Below is a screenshot of the channels offered in this package:
For more information about PlayStation Vue, click HERE.
- From all of the internet streaming TV services I researched, PlayStation Vue has the best selection of channels for me.
- You can watch TV shows in a number of ways:
Live TV: TV streaming in real time.
Catch Up: If a show tile displays “Catch Up”, you can go back in time to watch this show for up to three days past airing. In the Guide, you can scroll up and go back in time for up to three days and find select Catch Up TV programming. Catch Up is only available for select shows and may have fast-forwarding restrictions.
On Demand: If a show displays “On Demand”, that show may be available to watch for longer than three days after airing.
Select My Shows:* Any show you add to My Shows is automatically saved whenever it airs. Upcoming airings marked “DVR” are saved for up to 28 days from the airing date within the “My Shows” menu. “DVR” and a checkmark will appear in the respective show tile once it has been saved. On Demand versions of specific shows will also be saved in “My Shows” and will have different restrictions (as determined by rights holders) than shows that are marked as “DVR”. Programming saved in “My Shows” can be watched in and out of your home network, with the exception of CBS programs saved to your DVR; those can only be watched in your home network.
- Local channel availability depends on your location.
- PBS is not included in any of the tiers.
TV Guide Interface:
- At first, the interface takes some hunting and pecking to figure out. That being said, after the learning curve, it becomes very easy to use. Programs are listed alphabetically in columns. Each row is a time segment. In addition, there is a fine red line that runs horizontally across all columns. This red line is the “current” time. You scroll left and right, up and down to select your program.
- There is a very powerful “Search” function, and by using the “Explore” function, searches can be filtered by Category, Genre, Content Length, Age Rating, Channels, and Popularity.
- PlayStation Vue can be used in conjunction with most “TV Anywhere” apps.
- At first, the interface takes some hunting and pecking to figure out.
USER HINT: When watching Vue on a PS4 console, you can use the PS4 game controller to navigate the PlayStation Vue screens, or you can use a remote. To me, the remote is much easier. You can find several remotes for the Vue on Amazon. The one I use is from PDP, and cost $29.99 US. Click for the link HERE.
- Unlimited recording, no limits, and any number of programs can be recorded at the same time.
- Record one show in a series and the series is recorded. For example, programming a preseason football game records all preseason football games, regardless of the network they came from.
USER HINT: “My Shows”, as mentioned earlier is a powerful option. I use it a lot, often because, with the exception of “On Demand” and “Catch Up”, you can fast-forward through commercials.
- DVR restrictions (from Sony):
“The majority of available live programs and channels on PlayStation™Vue can be recorded to the cloud DVR. Due to streaming rights, however, select channels and programs cannot be recorded to the DVR.
DVR availability outside your home network: Programs recorded to DVR can be watched both in and out of your home network, except for CBS programs, which can only be watched within your home network. Outside your home network you can also view your My Shows library and add programs to My Shows. Any “On Demand” show added to your My Shows library will additionally be available for out-of-home viewing. Other features and functionality may vary by device.”
- PlayStation Vue does not offer parental controls.
- Can’t fast forward through “On Demand” and “Catch Up” shows (Spectrum didn’t allow this either, except on Spectrum, the commercial interruptions were brief. PlayStation Vue appears to record the commercials, as originally shown, in their entirety).
- Recorded shows our kept for 28 days.
Video resolution is, for the most part, 1080P. But………the overall quality will depend a lot on your internet speed. Below 15 or 20 MBS, you might see some jerkiness in motion scenes, as well as buffering. I have the internet at 300 MBS, and I see very little difference between PlayStation Vue’s picture quality and what I had on my Spectrum cable.
Though it has two other settings, the default audio setting for a PS4 is 7.1 multi-channel. The other two options are 5.1 Dolby variants. PlayStation Vue broadcasts, or rather streams, only 2 channel audio. This is disappointing.
USER HINT: The audio output, if you watch PlayStation Vue on a PS4, will depend on where the output is going for processing. I have a Marantz home theater receiver. When it receives the two channels from the PS4 bad things happen. The Marantz is looking for 7 discrete channels and gets only two. So, it outputs to the left and right front speakers of my home theater system, while the subwoofer grabs the base. This leaves the front center, side, and rear speakers silent. I tried everything I could think of to get the Marantz to take the two channels and convert them to Dolby Pro Logic II or DTS Neo 6, and the receiver was having nothing to do with it. I believe this is because the PS4 is sending the 2 channels in a 7 channel “envelope” and the Marantz then is only decoding the two channels (the sub is kicking in only because it is all ready to receive audio below a pre-determined hertz level).
Time for some creative cabling. I decided to trick the Marantz. I unplugged the HDMI cable going from the PS4 to the receiver. It now goes from the PS4, directly to the TV. Because the TV is “Smart”, it plays Netflix and Amazon, among other stations. These built-in stations use a fiber optic cable from the TV to my Marantz. Depending on what is being sent, the Marantz will play either Dolby 5.1, or convert two channels into Dolby Pro Logic II or DTS Neo 6. Finally, to hear the output, all I have to do is push the “TV Audio” button on the Marantz remote. Seemed like it should work for the PlayStation Vue audio as well. It did, and it does. I cannot get the pure sound of multi-channel, or Dolby 5.1, but Pro Logic and Neo 6 do a very good job of making 6 channels out of two.
To read more about Home Theater Listening Modes like Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo 6, click HERE.
PlayStation Vue is not a perfect solution. On the other hand, I don’t know that any TV solution will come without some compromise. For me, it has everything that I want with the exception of the fact that fast forward on the DVR is limited, and the sound quality is only two channel. The sound would have been a deal breaker had my Pro Logic and Neo 6 experiment failed. I can live with the DVR. Not a perfect solution, but the right one for me.