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Living with the PS Video Store – The PS3 Attitude Review

Submitted by on Monday, 8 February 20103 Comments

The PlayStation Video Store first came to our attention back at E3 2008, when it was simultaneously announced and launched during the Sony press conference.

It took until November 2009 for the Video Store to hit European shores, so we decided to take it for a little more than the usual test drive and see if we could live on just the Video Store for our movie viewing needs for a month.

Here’s the story of what happened…

On launch day, you could get your hands on over 800 movies, 150 of which were available in HD, to rent or buy directly from the PlayStation Store. PS3 owners gained an extra choice on the PS Store, being able to choose ‘Video’ from the top of the menu and shift across to the list of movies.

Available in France, Germany, Spain and the UK, with other countries to follow later this year, the service allows PlayStation Network users to download hundreds of movies direct to their PS3 and PSP devices.

With so many film buffs here at Attitude Towers, we thought that rather than using any of the myriad ways we know to get access to the latest releases and old-school classics, we would spend a whole month living with the PlayStation Video Store.

Could we live with getting all our movie needs from a single source?

Here’s how the Video Store works. Consumers who choose to rent a title have up to 14 days in which to watch their movie. Once playback has started, they have 48 hours to watch the content or it expires. Purchased movies, on the other hand, are stored on the PS3 hard disk drive and can be accessed at home via PS3 or transferred to PSP for viewing on the go. PSP users can also download movies directly to their device.

It is incredibly easy to get your hands on any of the latest titles on the Video Store. You just select them as you would the latest updates on the ‘game’ side of the Store, and download them just like you would a piece of DLC. You can choose to watch for hours as the movie is brought down from the Store to your HDD, but we suspect (like us) that you’ll choose to download in the background.

Movie file sizes tend to range from 2Gb to 8Gb depending on whether you choose SD or HD quality, so the first rule we’ve discovered when it comes to the Video Store is ‘plan your viewing’. Typically, across the whole month, we found ourselves downloading a movie overnight (using the ‘switch off after background download has completed’ option on the PS3) ready to be watched the next day.

In fact, once you get used to planning your viewing, and because you have 14 days in which to watch the films, we discovered that it was just as easy to choose three or four movies to download overnight on the PS3 which we would then watch across the following week.

Once the movie is on your HDD, you’ll find it in your Video section just like everything else you may have. Rented movies that you have downloaded from the Video Store are identified by a little ‘tab’ in the top-left corner of the video thumbnail, so you can easily identify those videos you should watch within a particular time-frame from those that you can watch whenever you like.

The expiry system works exactly as it should. Within the ‘Information’ menu option on the triangle button you’ll see the date and time when you should watch the video by, and if you’ve started watching it when it will expire.

If you start to watch a movie, you can watch it as many times as you like within 48 hours of the start time, so we also found that different family members were able to watch the same movie at different times to suit their work shifts. In that respect, the Video Store is just as effective as renting a movie from your favourite retail store. In fact, since our local retail store allows movies to be rented out for one day, the Video Store is slightly better in this respect.

Quality differs across the range of movies we rented or bought. SD movies look absolutely fine after being downloaded from the Video Store, although of the dozen or so we rented across the month we did notice that some of the films lacked the quality you would normally get from a DVD. There were two or three titles that exhibited similar ‘blocking’ and ‘moire effect’ issues to movies we have experienced via on-demand services such as Sky Anytime.

HD movies were also a similar mixed bag, with some being nothing short of full Blu-ray quality, and others exhibiting a couple of minor issues – mostly in the ‘black detail’ areas.

Overall however, none of the movies we watched were bad enough in any area for us to deem these issues as anything more than just our own videophile tendencies coming into play. In reality, the quality was excellent throughout and only the most picky of viewers will think that there are any issues at all.

The only problem we had with the Video Store of any worth is down to the organisation of the movies within the Video Store itself. Whilst there are several categories from which to choose your daily viewing pleasure, some of them have so many titles within them that it makes choosing a real chore. Too much choice is as bad as not enough.

And the Video Store is sadly lacking in ‘filters’ that would make it really easy to browse for the titles you’d like to see that night.

For example, I can see what titles are available in HD. I can see what titles are available to rent rather than buy. But I can’t filter the ‘HD list’ to just those available to rent. Instead, I have to thumb through either list looking to see what formats they are available in.

The best tip we can give you is to choose the Store ‘viewing mode’ that gives you one title in a list that covers the entire screen. This way the Store can give you more details on each film, and that makes it easier to see what is HD and rentable, if that is what you require.

For the next PS Store update, we’d like to see Advanced Search features of filters so that if you want to find all the films available in HD to buy, or SD to rent, you could do that easily. If we knew exactly what we wanted to see, the title search in the top-right corner made life easy, but if we were browsing for some inspiration, the Store doesn’t yet make it easy to filter the lists effectively, so we found ourselves getting frustrated due to having too much choice.

The big question is; could we manage to get through an entire month without resorting to watching movies via any other means. For the sake of being transparent, that meant putting the Video Store up against the other services we use here at Attitude Towers, which include Blockbuster (retail), Sky Movies, Freeview and LoveFilm (postal).

The answer, you’ll be pleased to hear, is a rounding yes, but it was touch and go to begin with due to the time it takes to download each film, so get used to planning your viewing in advance and everything will work out fine.

In terms of value for money versus those other systems, the Video Store stacks up fairly well. We would like to see some better price parity between the US and EU stores, since our North American cousins tend to be able to see the same digitally distributed movies for a lot less than we enjoy them for. And if we could get access to top TV series within the EU store too, that would complete the offering.

But for anyone who enjoys watching movies, the PlayStation Video Store is a fantastic option. We’ve proven you can live with just the Video Store alone, so if you haven’t tried it for yourself, now might be the time to get on board.