The PlayStation 3 was beloved among AV enthusiasts and home theater techies as a simple, relatively inexpensive DLNA media server. Without breaking too much of a sweat you could have it streaming music and videos from your PC, playing them back over your stereo and HDTV.
The PlayStation 4 came with no such features when it first launched, not even having the capability to play MP3s, MKV or MPEG video files. These features have since been added though, we're relieved to say, via the new Media Centre app.
Streaming video apps
Like a good little console, the PS4 is playing host to a plethora of third-party apps for streaming movies and television. It's now neck and neck with the Xbox One in terms of both library size and access to third-party apps as Xbox Live no longer keeps entertainment apps behind the Gold paywall.
On both consoles, though you need a subscription for online multiplayer, you don't need it for media streaming.
Media streaming apps are continually making their way onto the PS4. The most recent addition is Netflix, while ABC iview recently joined Yahoo!7 Plus 7, SBS On Demand and Foxtel Play alongside launch services Quickflix, Sony's Vidzone music video service and IGN videos.
You can now also stream your own content to the PS4 using Plex.
New hardware rumoured for 4K video
Although there is a possibility that 4K video will be possible on the existing PS4 hardware, Netflix announced that there would be a new PS4 designed to offer support for the format in full. The existing console would only be able to play 4K video content at 30fps - a limitation of its HDMI 1.4 output - while a new one sporting HDMI 2.0 would allow playback at 60fps.
Also important would be the new Blu-ray format that supports 4K movies and HDR, Ultra HD Blu-ray. If Sony really did launch a new console, it would make sense for it to include that too. But at what cost? Will anyone pay more to support disc-based movies in these days of steaming?
But it looks like any actual hardware updates are off the table this year. The arrival of the new, lighter, less power-hungry, 1TB PS4 in July looks to have put pay to that.
We may see a hardware update, with HDMI 2.0, Ultra HD Blu-ray and the all-important HEVC compatibility for 4K playback, coming some time next year. Maybe with the arrival of Morpheus?
No matter what happens with video playback on the console, it's very unlikely we'll see any 4K games on this generation of hardware.
Originally there was no third-party music streaming apps on the PlayStation 4. That's still the case for Xbox One. Microsoft has its Xbox Music, and Sony had Music Unlimited, a proprietary app very similar in execution to Spotify.
But it wasn't as versatile as Spotify, so Sony packed up shop and partnered with the streaming giant for Playstation Music.
The new service works just like Music Unlimited did, but with Spotify in the back end. So people who already have a Spotify account can log in and start streaming their favourite tunes while they play their favourite games.
The best part of Playstation Music is how it's been gloriously well integrated into the console's interface. Music can be streamed over gameplay, with playback controls just a long press of the PS button away. You can also access the app without closing your current game.
That's when the app works though. We had substantial and ongoing issues getting music to play back. Browsing the Spotify library was never an issue though, so it definitely wasn't the internet connection.
If Playstation Music is Sony's Spotify, then Playstation Video is its iTunes for movies and TV. It works much the same way as those services, offering streaming playback of movies and TV in standard or high definition.
It's a bit of a change from the PS3, which allowed you to download movies for local playback. If you have an unreliable connection for streaming, this probably isn't the best option for you, but to be fair, Quickflix and others won't fare much better. Those services are streaming only as well.
The selection is pretty close to its rivals as well. We did our best to stump it, but found a wide library of new and classic movies and television.
The roadblock here is that your playback devices are severely limited, namely to Sony devices. Only Xperia Android devices will be able stream your purchases, with no support for any other flavor of Android, iOS or even Mac computers. There is an app for playback on Windows PCs, and it did not appear to be limited to Sony Vaio machines.
Basically, while Video Unlimited has competitive selection and pricing, we can't recommend buying anything more than a rental from it, something that you'll watch in one sitting on your PS4 or PS Vita. Unless you own a few more Sony devices, you won't have a lot places to enjoy your library.