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. While it's neck and neck with the Xbox One in terms of library size.
Media streaming apps currently available on the PS4 include BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and Demand 5. You can stream your own video files over your network 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.
There are no third-party music streaming apps on the PlayStation 4. Same goes for Xbox One. Microsoft has its Xbox Music, and Sony has Music Unlimited, a proprietary app very similar in execution to Spotify.
It requires a subscription fee of £10 a month if you want playback from mobile devices. It lets you stream whole albums or create stations, or channels, as it refers to them, from a massive library of artists. There are enough genres here to cater to cover the majority of mainstream music, some obscure stuff as well, and a strong showing of comedy albums.
The best part of Music Unlimited 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 Music Unlimited app without closing your current game.
If Music Unlimited is Sony's Spotify, then Video Unlimited is its iTunes or Amazon Instant 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, Netflix 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.
Amazon uses a similiar tactic with its Prime Instant Video, only providing streaming video service for its Kindle Fire devices. It does offer playback on iOS over WiFi though, while Video Unlimited does not.
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.