UPDATE: PlayStation Vue is now officially dead. You can no longer sign up for Sony's live TV streaming service and existing users trying to log in will be met with an error. Sony announced it would discontinue the service back in October 2019, and finally pulled the plug on January 30, 2020. What you'll find below is our original review of the service, kept live for posterity.
Original review below...
The streaming video market has grown dramatically since PlayStation Vue first rolled out in 2015, and now there are a lot more options for channel-bundling live TV services designed to entice cord-cutters away from their pricey cable and satellite subscriptions.
However, Sony's service—which, despite the name, worked across a wide variety of devices—had also grown and evolved.
Over that span, PlayStation Vue had launched in many more markets, added a fair number of channels, and enhanced the interface and user experience. And yes, it had also boosted the price tag a bit, unfortunately.
Approaching the service with fresh eyes today, we find an over-the-top offering that can't compete on starting price with competitors like Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, and DirecTV Now, but PlayStation Vue offered a polished experience, strong performance, and a large number of channels on tap.
PlayStation Vue 101
Before we examine what might or might not made Sony's purported cable-killer work, here's a look at exactly what PlayStation Vue had to offer.
PlayStation Vue was a subscription-based streaming video service that pairs live local channels like NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX with dozens of notable cable channels from all across the spectrum. The service was only available in the United States, and as the name suggests, you could indeed have watched it on your PlayStation 4. However, that's not where it stops: PlayStation Vue also worked on smartphones, tablets, computers, and set-top boxes (more on that shortly).
PlayStation Vue Channels and Packages
Sony used to have different types of channel packages available, including those with local channels and those without, as well as cheaper "slim" bundles for those who don't need several dozen channels to flip through. That's no longer the case.
At the end of its life, PlayStation Vue just had four packages: Access, Core, Elite, and Ultra. As the channel selection grew, so too did the monthly subscription fee—so you got what you paid for, whether that's a little or a lot. The service also had a few optional add-on channels and bundles, although it's not nearly as extensive as what Sling TV currently offers.
Here's what you got with each package:
Access package ($50/month): ABC, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, Cheddar Business, CNBC, CNN, COZI TV, Destination America, Discovery, Discovery Family, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, FOX, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, FREEFORM, FS1, FS2, FX, FXX, HGTV, HLN, Investigation Discovery, MSNBC, National Geographic, NBC, NBCSN, OWN, oxygen, SCI, Start TV, Syfy, TBS, TLC, TNT, Travel Channel, truTV, USA, and WE.
Core package ($55/month): Everything from the Access package plus CBS Sports Network, Comet, Cooking Channel, DIY Network, ESPN College Extra, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, Golf Channel, Hallmark Channel, IFC, MLB Network, National Geographic Wild, NBC TV, NFL Network, Olympic Channel, POP, SEC Network, Smithsonian Channel, SundanceTV, Tastemade, Turner Classic Movies.
Elite package ($65/month): Everything from the Core package plus American Heroes Channel, BabyTV, BBC World News, Boomerang, Cheddar News, CNBC World, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, Epic Hits, ESPN Deportes, Fox Deportes, Fusion, FXM, Ginx Esports, Hallmark Drama, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, MotorTrend, Sony Movie Channel, Stadium, Tennis Channel, and Universal Kids.
Ultra ($85/month): Everything from the Elite channel plus HBO and Showtime.
PlayStation Vue also offers individual add-on channels as well as add-on bundles, which raise your monthly cost but add more specialized content to your plan. The available add-on channels include HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Fox Soccer Plus, Hi-Yah!, FX+, and Epix Hits. The Español Pack and Sports Pack are also available.
The PlayStation heritage here meant that, no, you won't be watching PlayStation Vue on your Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. It's limited to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 in the realm of traditional game consoles.
Outside of that, however, you probably have a few devices handy that can access the service. It worked on Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV devices, as well as iOS and Android phones and tablets along with Amazon tablets. It also played in various web browsers.
We tested PlayStation Vue on both a PlayStation 4 console and 3rd-gen Apple TV and found the TV interface to be both attractive and really easy to use. It was a slick, visual interface that lets you quickly see a grid of all currently-airing shows with visual representations, for example, making it easy to pick out a favorite (or something new and interesting) at a glance.
You can also glide through menu options to see which shows are trending right now, which programs are saved on the cloud DVR, and what's next on the current channel. PlayStation Vue also has a traditional text-based guide for seeing what's on now and what's ahead, and while not as visually enticing as other parts of the interface, you can flip through it pretty quickly to find things to watch.
The web and iOS versions of the interface work from that formula with some changes, and aren't quite as fluid as the TV approach, but it's not difficult to navigate around and find what you're looking for.
You needed a solid internet connection to use PlayStation Vue. Sony suggested a minimum download speed of 5Mbps, but that 10Mbps or higher is ideal to get the smoothest, sharpest picture. If your connection wasn't very reliable, then you probably wouldn't have had a great time with PlayStation Vue… or any other streaming service for that matter.
On a speedy home cable setup that reached peak speeds of 200Mbps, we had flawless results on both wired and wireless devices. It could take a few seconds for the feed to get up to Full HD resolution, but once it got there, the streams always looked clean, crisp, and stutter-free in our experience.
Even switching to a 4G LTE connection on an iPhone XS Max, everything looked good and ran smoothly. Your experience varied based on connection and reliability, of course, but that's true with any streaming service. Rival service Sling TV has had some high-profile outages and performance hitches in the past, for example, but PlayStation Vue seems to have had a steadier run.
Also, the built-in 28-day unlimited DVR feature was super helpful. DVR functionality is optional on some other services, but it's standard here—so you can save anything for viewing later. The four-week limit will be disappointing to some; it's not like you can store things for months and months for rainy day viewing. Still, it's a useful feature.
Lastly, multi-view support allowed you to watch multiple channels simultaneously. This is obviously ideal for sports viewing as you can watch several NCAA games at the same time, and it comes just before the 2019 NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, only Apple TV and PlayStation 4 have the ability to do multi-view, and while the former can do four streams simultaneously, the latter is only capable of three.
Between PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, and DirecTV Now, there was no shortage of channel-bundle services designed to pull you away from a pricey cable or satellite subscription—and, admittedly, Sony's service wasn't the most cost-effective of the bunch.
On the high end, the price was similar to what you'd pay for cable service, but even the low-end bundle is pricier than what you'll find with Sling TV. There's no skinny or slim bundle here like Sling's $25 base package.
However, with a sleek interface, strong performance, and wide channel selection, Vue was a compelling over-the-top bundle option for those who don't want or need a cable or satellite commitment. It especially made a lot of sense if you had a PlayStation 4 at the heart of your home entertainment setup.
- Looking to replace Vue? Check out YouTube TV, now available on PS4