Review - Two Months with Sony Playstation Vue

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We've been using Sony's Playstation Vue television service for a bit more than two months.

Last Sunday, we had two families over to watch the Super Bowl.

No one had any idea that we were using a streaming TV service.

That is high praise indeed.

Sony Vue broadcasts in 720p.

(NOTE: I'm calling it "Sony Vue" instead of "PlayStation Vue", because Sony really should make that name change... people think they need a PS4 to get the service, which is not the case.)

720p sometimes looks a little "softer" than 1080i, and its certainly softer than 1080p. But it's acceptable as "high-def", even though DirecTV looked better on our 4K screen.

Our setup involves three AppleTVs, 2 of which are connected via Ethernet, and one of which is on wireless. So far, we've had no lag or buffering issues, which MAY be attributable to our hard-wired connection.

Here in Chicago, Vue carries ALL of our major networks. There is no need for an OTA antenna.

Vue vs. DirecTV Genie

Long-time AAAD readers know that we were one of the first DirecTV Genie adopters.

(It was SO long ago that the name "Genie" hadn't been adopted yet, the HR34 didn't have the high-definition interface, and we had to pay $100 upfront just to lease the equipment.)

But last week, we packed up our HR44 and shipped it back to DirecTV. We're going with Vue for now. What caused the switch?

Saving Money

The primary reason that people are switching to streaming services is cash.

Even though Vue is one of the most expensive streaming services (or the most expensive) - it's substantially cheaper than traditional cable and satellite services.

For instance, our DirecTV bill at the time of cancellation was over $140/month.

We have the most expensive Vue package possible, including HBO and Showtime, and it's $65/month.

That's an annual savings in excess of $800.

No Contract

You can walk away from Sony Vue at any time. So cord-cutting is a pretty low-risk venture.

One of the most difficult parts of being a DirecTV customer was the way their contracts were structured.

You're on a 2-year deal, and your bill is initially very low, due to a series of discounts which expire at various points during your 2-year run.

Over the course of the contract, your bill increases from $65-70, to $130-140. And you know you're locked in.

Which leads to people calling customer service, and trying to barter their prices down in exchange for an increase in the contract term, or reduced prices on pay channels. There is a lot of haggling involved.

It's not a good feeling.... it makes me wonder how DirecTV would do if they were upfront about the actual average monthly cost -- and just charged that amount from the outset.

Sony took that tactic -- it costs $X/month, depending on your channel package... and you're free to go whenever you want.

So we'll continue to evaluate the competition -- whether that's Sling, Hulu, Apple (hey, maybe someday), or even DirecTV Now (which, at the moment, simply is not competitive.)

Interface and Guide

The Vue interface is light-years ahead of what we're seeing from DirecTV now.

In fact, it's as good as what you'd see from a premium cable provider.

The Home UI is great. You can scroll through the most-watched shows currently on live TV, your DVR recordings, and your preferred channels, with rows of big, easy to read tiles.


The Guide is another story. It really needs to be re-thought.


I understand that Sony was going for something new - but the idea of each channel being a vertical column, instead of a horizontal row.... just isn't working.

Going vertical theoretically allows Sony to show you more channels at once onscreen, in a 16x9 setup.

In practice, I'm not sure that is the case. You can generally see 4 and a half channels at at a time in the guide, which seems standard.

And remember - these channels have NO NUMBERS, so you can't jump directly to, say, channel 225 like you can with Xfinity or DirecTV.

You WILL have to scroll left and right eventually, which is difficult to control with the AppleTV Siri Remote.

There's no "page scroll" option - so to get to the channels late in the alphabet, you have to swipe wildly, or click 40-50 times.

It's not uncommon for me to accidentally back up 6 hours when my "swipe right" registers a bit too much like a "swipe up".

Frankly, it's enough of a problem that I'd jump on ANY non-Siri-remote. We need more size, more buttons, and some buttons with lights.

Either Apple or Sony should be planning MFi remotes designed for streaming TV services.

DVR in the Cloud

I've become accustomed to attaching larger and larger hard drives to my TV - ever since my very first Tivo Series 2, back in 2001.

Vue replicates that DVR experience, but it isn't storing ANYTHING locally. Your recordings are kept in the cloud.

And, those recordings are intermingled with on-demand content. So if your son records an episode of "Teen Titans Go!", he'll see a number of OTHER episodes listed, in order, alongside the one he recorded. It's pretty great.

That said - the Vue Cloud DVR is not be the dead-simple experience you had with Tivo, or with Genie.

Obviously, you're streaming your recordings, so you need an internet connection. And the Siri Remote is not the easiest method for skipping commercials -- when that's allowed.

But still, if you're willing to accept those compromises.... I mean, you're saving $75/month. 

More TVs - Same Price

One of the worst aspects of DirecTV was the added expense when you'd add a TV. 

We have a TV in our living room, and one in the master bedroom. 

Then, we finished the basement - and of course, we needed a TV there, too. But I wasn't too keen on the extra $20 we'd have to pay per month. 

Sony Vue lets you watch TV on up to 5 devices at once.

And to be clear - we often do. 

With no buffering. On a 60 Mbps internet plan. 

We've attached an AppleTV 4 to each of our three TVs (two by ethernet, one by Wi-Fi), and have had no issues showing Vue HD content on all three simultaneously. 

And you aren't limited to 5 televisions - you could have 20. The only limitation is that you can only watch 5 at once. (It's rare that you'd really need to watch 6 TVs at once.)

The idea that you can add TV sets in your house without increasing your monthly TV bill is just... freeing. It's great. 

No Viacom Channels

Sony and Viacom had a contract dispute last year - and the end result is that all Viacom channels were pulled from the Vue service. 

That means no Comedy Central, no MTV, and no Nickelodeon - a huge hit for those of us with small children.  

That said... PS Vue is $65/month. By the end of our contract, DirecTV was $145. 

For the $80 we're saving each month, we can go to iTunes and buy every PAW Patrol ever made.

More Commercials

There's no way around it - if you're using Vue (or any of its competitors), you're going to see more commercials than you're used to in a DVR world.

For instance, On-Demand content often has unskippable commercial breaks. This is the bargain you struck... you're saving a ton of money, you're gonna watch these yogurt commercials.

After all, the content makers have to get paid somehow.

It's a bargain I'm more than willing to accept, in exchange for access to a giant On-Demand library and a few hundred extra bucks in my pocket. But your mileage may vary.

Bottom Line

The bottom line IS the bottom line.

Sony Vue probably isn't 100% on par with what you'd get from a top-end cable or satellite package... but it's not far off.

Given the money you save against cable/satellite, it's an easy decision.

Vue's primary interface is BETTER than DirecTVs, and its channel lineup hits all of the notes we needed.

We are definitely "free agents", month to month... but for now, there is no competition.

If you're a cord-cutter trying to replicate the full-featured cable experience, give the Vue free trial a spin. It does not disappoint.

FOUR STARS




2 comments :

  1. Have you ever heard of SelectTV? I gave PS Vue’s Elite Slim bundle a shot for a couple of months before hearing about their streaming service. Saves even more money if that's the objective, with a similar UI and wide spectrum of content. It doesn't currently support Playstation, but I use it on my Android or laptop and connect it to my TV with Chromecast or HDMI. Some other devices are supported as well.

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    Replies
    1. I had not. Do they have an AppleTV app? I'm pretty invested in that ecosystem....

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