Please note: this information was current as of December 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
If you already own a Sony PlayStation 3 and are considering buying a digital video recorder (DVR), this add-on device could save you money. The PlayTV is a relatively small black box that attaches to your PS3 via a USB cable (supplied), which also supplies the unit’s power. It comes with two HD tuners and needs to be attached to your TV's antenna, but uses the PS3’s hard disc to store recordings – a severe limitation if the model you own has a small hard drive. You can replace the PS3 hard drive yourself, but the extra cost is worth factoring in.
Setting up PlayTV is straightforward, but will likely involve an update via the internet. You connect the device to the PS3 and put the (supplied) Blu-ray disc (BD) in the PS3, which plays an introductory video while installing some software. After you restart the PS3, the PlayTV icon will appear in the TV section of the PS3's cross-media bar (called the XMB in the instructions). Upon launching, PlayTV asks for your location and assumes the time setting on the PS3 is correct, so make sure it is – otherwise all your recordings will start and end at the wrong times. It also performs a channel scan. We found all this took about 15 minutes.
The PlayTV functions are quite simple to use, but both the games control and BD control take some getting used to. PlayTV comes with an overlay for the BD control that features some of its specialised controls, but they're in blue on a shiny black plastic, which makes them very difficult to read. The on-screen menus are attractive and logical in their layout. PlayTV features an electronic program guide (EPG) and can record or schedule to record a program at the press of a button. In addition, you can watch a live program while recording another, and there's also a timeshift option that allows you to rewind live TV.
PlayTV’s main drawback is that it won't allow you to record two programs at once, but you can record one program and pause another whilst watching it live. Playing a game and recording at the same time may also result in problems with game play or recording quality.
If you're looking for a simple DVR for only occasional recording, and you already own a PS3, the PlayTV add-on is a functional device at a good price. If, however, you're looking for a fully functional DVR that will allow you to record lots of high-definition TV and make multiple recordings at the same time, it's not really the device for you.
If Sony adds any of the functions PlayTV currently lacks, we'll update this article.