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Although starting some way back from the 360 in terms of functionality, Sony have steadily closed the gap on Microsoft's machine. For those of us in Europe, the most exciting enhancement of recent months is PlayTV. For 60GBP the PS3 is transformed into a television recorder.
The unit is the about the size of half a house brick and styled to match the PS3. Simply plug in a conventional aerial and then hook the unit up to one of the USB plugs on the front of the console, and away you go. All that remains is to install the software form the disk and watch the tutorials.
But what does it do for me and the family? If you've not already sampled the delights of watching TV from a pre-recorded list (rather than live) you are in for a treat. Not only can you watch what you want, when you want to, but you can skip adverts and boring bits saving you precious minutes. It really is a revolution in TV watching that you will be unable to return from. The times I'm forced to watch live TV, I'm struck by how antiquated interstitial advertising between programs now seems.
Not only can you watch what you want, when you want to, but you can skip adverts and boring bits .
Out of the box you get an onscreen TV guide that lets you browse channels in real time and add programs to your record list. Currently this only offer 7 days programming in advance, although we hope that Sony update this to the full 14 day schedule some units provide. You can record up to two programs at the same time (or watch one while you are viewing another), and the PS3 happily warns you if you have any clashing slots.
In terms of power consumption, this is going to mean you need to leave your console on standby rather than turning it off between uses. This lets it spring into life at the right moment to record your selected programs, before returning itself to sleep mode once done.
The only other downside is the lack of series link. This is the feature where you can select a whole series from just a single episode. Other Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) such as the HUMAX have had this feature added - and it is quite a boon.
Something that becomes tantamount to running your own TV channel for your household.
But we have left one of the best features of PlayTV until last. It lets you watch TV on your PSP - both via your local wireless connection in your home, and via public Wi-Fi spots. This not only means you can watch Eastenders in the bath, but you can also set recordings, browse the guide and watch TV when out and about. It's certainly given my old PSP a new lease of life.
Overall PlayTV is a confident first outing for a product that is likely to be updated in the future. Getting your TV onto a High Definition device like the PS3 means that you are all ready for HD TV when it starts broadcasting. This is likely to be towards the back end of 2009 for the Freeview service available here. It provides the majority of features other PVR's offer, and does so with some panache (making use of that graphics horsepower). If you have already got an up to date recorder then this may seem like duplicated functionality. If however you don't have one, PlayTV offers a great way to access the Freeview channels, and experience watching TV from a list. Something that becomes tantamount to running your own TV channel for your household.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: