- 14 Feb 08, 08:43 GMT
Sony has talked up the multimedia capabilities of the PlayStation 3 since before it was launched - but it is only now that those promises are being met.
Later this year Sony will launch an add-on that will let PS3 owners watch digital TV via their console: PlayTV is a small black box which connects to a USB port on the machine and has an aerial port in (and a pass through port) to pick up digital terrestrial signals.
I had a chance to play with PlayTV at Sony's UK offices on Wednesday. The hardware itself is uninteresting - it's the software and features that are worth talking about.
It's a very slick piece of user interface design. The Electronic Programme Guide and menu systems are well designed and laid out and the whole experience is certainly simple enough that PlayTV could be used as a main Freeview system in the home.
Just like a PVR, you can pause and rewind live TV, as well as record programmes. The PlayTV has a dual tuner so you can record one channel while watching another.
At the moment you can't record TV in the background while playing a game on the PS3 but I'm told the software developers are working hard to add the feature. If it isn't available at launch, the feature could be added later as a software update.
But the really interesting feature is the ability to watch TV on your PlayStation Portable from anywhere in the world using PlayTV, turning the PS3 into a Slingbox on steroids.
RemotePlay allows PSP users to access their PlayStation 3's over a wi-fi connection, either on a local network or over the internet.
You can already watch videos stored on your PS3's hard drive - but with PlayTV you can now watch live TV, programmes you've recorded to the hard drive or schedule programmes to be recorded in the future.
Cleverly, if you know you are likely to stick with one channel for a period of time - if you are watching live sport or a film, for example - you can increase the buffering on the PSP to improve picture quality. And it makes a real difference.
The developers have worked hard to keep the whole operation as simple as possible so that even casual users can get live TV up and running on their PS3 quickly.
It will be interesting to see how much marketing effort is put behind PlayTV because this kind of feature is a real competitive advantage over Xbox 360, which offers nothing remotely similar.
It is also another strong feature for the PSP which is beginning to flourish as a handheld device once again.
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