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Home » Featured, Headline, Views

5 ways BBC iPlayer is now better on PS3

Submitted by on Thursday, 11 August 2011One Comment

The newly redesigned BBC iPlayer has been live on the PS3 for a few days now, giving us plenty of time to dig through all of the changes (and watch a fair bit of TV).

The new design takes full advantage of HTML5 to create an interface that is “visually rich”. This new design will be rolled out to several BBC iPlayer compatible TVs, set-top boxes and blu-ray players in the future – but for now it’s only available on the PS3.

So what’s so good about the new iPlayer?

Watch this BBC demonstration of the new iPlayer and afterwards we will take you through five of our favourite changes.

The layout is vastly improved

We were big fans of the “old” iPlayer – we won’t lie. It’s been used extensively in our homes to watch F1, documentaries and some of our favourite programmes, such as Dr Who and Top Gear. Even our normally PS3-averse partners use it. However, as is often the case when a big update comes along, we find it hard to look back at the old design without noticing its glaring problems. It was clunky and hard to navigate; it wasn’t conducive to a good viewing experience. (Samples 1, 2 and 3.)

Everything has been streamlined for the new design, so that you can get to your favourite programmes sooner. Information is displayed horizontally – not too dissimilar to the PS3’s XMB in that sense – on a bar that runs across the bottom of the screen. It contains the various categories (featured, most popular, channels, last played etc). Having it there means that everything is within reach. It also means that all the clutter is out of the way, freeing up the rest of the screen so it can display more programmes. The search engine also updates in real-time, which makes searching for programmes much quicker and less frustrating.

The new design is clear and intuitive and just about all of the information that you need is contained on one screen. You no longer get the feeling that you have to navigating through several slow-to-load pages to get to the content that you are looking for. The buttons are also now closer than before, which makes navigating faster and less confusing.

The new player screen is very attractive

It’s now as simple as pressing play to watch a programme. Before you had to navigate the cursor to the play button and then to the full screen option to view your programme. This fiddly process was made worse by the fact that the standard screen size was tiny. This is fine if you are using a mouse, not a DualShock controller – it’s near impossible if you are using the PS3 remote. This writer’s mother was put off using iPlayer on the PS3 for this reason. She surely wasn’t alone.

Now, sensibly, full screen is the default (and only) option – who wants to watch a programme in a small box on your TV? It’s also considerably easier to reach the play button and other options, including favourite, subtitles, info and HD (depending on the availability).

When enlarged, the timer now disappears, unlike on the old iPlayer so you can watch your favourite programmes with an unobstructed screen. Always welcome.

The player also utlises Smart Menu Technology, as it’s called on the back of the blu-ray box for The Usual Suspects – “floats on-screen during playback so you never leave the film”, so it says. Press any direction on the controller and it raises the menu without interrupting the film or taking you out of full screen mode.

Best of all, when you press up on the d-pad, a drop-down menu appears to offer a selection of recommended programmes. This means that you can select your next programme without having to wait for the one you’re watching to finish.

It’s designed with the PS3 remote in mind

Using the official PS3 remote to watch iPlayer is no longer a haphazard experience; in fact, it’s now the best way to watch iPlayer. All the essential buttons work – pause, play, stop, fast forward and rewind – and they work perfectly. Before it was a chore to enlarge the screen and you certainly couldn’t fast forward or rewind. Now you can. Because all the icons are close by and require simple up, down, left and right button presses, you can easily use the official PS3 remote for everything. The only thing missing is hot key support (e.g. press 1 for featured programmes, press 2 for favourites). currently has the official PS3 remote on sale – all purchases made through the link will contribute to the PS3 Attitude charity fund.

It offers easy access to your favourite programmes

Never miss your favourite series again. Select the programme as one of your favourites and it will then become available on your favourite page (which is easily accessible from the homepage – two options right on the horizontal bar). This doesn’t only save that episode, it also saves all future episodes from that series. So when you head to your favourite page you will be able to select all of the available episodes for University Challenge, for example.

It’s built for HD

iPlayer on the PS3 is now fully optimised for HD viewing. On the player screen you have the option to turn on/off HD when it’s available, and the BBC HD channel is now also listed in the channels category. Don’t worry if you don’t have a sound connection though because you can change the viewing quality from the settings menu at the bottom of the screen. The choice is between high definition, standard definition and lower quality. The quality of the HD picture coming through our PS3 is simply fantastic. In this regard, iPlayer is miles ahead of the LoveFilm, ITV and 4oD players.

Those are just five of the many new changes to BBC iPlayer. Have you been using it? If so, let us know what you think in the comments section below…