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.
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.
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.