Review Roundup: Game Streaming Devices

The Vita is great if you want a portable solution…

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I’m really fortunate to have what I consider a very good gaming setup. I will spare the details but it’s a dedicated area in the house for gaming, nice TV, comfy chair and good headphones for surround sound without the wires and cabling. But sometimes I’ve considered moving all the consoles down to the family lounge where long gaming sessions could be a bit more sociable and relaxed on the sofa. But then there’s a storage issue as well, and what if someone else wants the TV? The advent of streaming technology is bidding to make this dilemma a thing of the past but there are quite a few different solutions, none of which are necessarily perfect. Nonetheless, I have embarked on a quest to find the perfect solution, and here is my review of sorts of those I have tried:

 

Playstation Vita

The most obvious and easy to use, the PS Vita connects wirelessly to your PS4 system. For best results you should connect directly to the PS4 but there are a number of combinations to get it to work – including connecting very remotely from the other side of the world!

I’ve tried a few setups and my most successful is a non direct connection to the PS4 (so via the router – by a tick box under Remote Play settings in PS4) with the PS4 wired by way of Powerline to the router since they’re in different rooms.

This affords a very good picture and low latency connection – some games are much easier to play than others however due to a combination of analogue stick size, small screens and less buttons than the Dual Shock 4. I found connecting directly would mean that a few walls would ruin the connection and cause frequent drop outs, as would having the PS4 connect via Wifi to the router. Games like Destiny actually work very well with designated and considered control schemes, Battlefield is simply too small however but puzzle or slower paced games are generally fine. I find the sticks too small for driving games but Project Cars gets a special mention for a non-configurable Vita control scheme which maps accelerate and brake to the rear touch panel. Not clever.

Top tip: move your phone/tablet away from the Vita while remote playing. I found close proximity wireless devices ruined the fun but a few feet away gave a much better experience. It’s just not quite the same as the big screen…

 

Playstation TV / Vita TV

https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/explore/playstation-tv/

Sort of the next best thing, combining the ease of the Vita with ability to stream on a big TV. The PSTV is exactly that, a very small device which connects to your TV, requires power and has Wifi (although can be used with ethernet for improved streaming from PS4). At a better RRP nowadays (I picked mine up for £45 from Amazon) you can play Vita games that are on a cartridge through it and stream from your PS4 to a full screen set. There is some onboard memory but I’m unclear as to whether you can download Vita games digitally – I don’t see why not. Setup was very easy, sign in with your Playstation Network account and connect a controller. A passcode is required to connect to PS4 for remote play but I wasn’t prompted for this – I assume it was because I had already set up my Vita for it and used the same PSN ID.

The Dual Shock 3 (for Vita) or 4 (for PS4 streaming) connects directly to the PSTV via a USB initially then it’s standard wireless. Presumably Playstation Now (Sony’s streaming service) will utilise this as well when it fully launches but I was mainly concerned with testing the PS4. Unfortunately I found the colours to be fairly washed out (although part of this is the TV picture settings on my Samsung which I am still tweaking) but I did get some pixelation when fast movement occurred and sadly some input lag/ lack of responsiveness.

I found this odd as I imagined it to be as perfect as the Vita – I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be. I’ve concluded that the controller input has another step (controller > PSTV > PS4) whereas Vita remote play is simply Vita > PS4 which may not help, but also perhaps the volume of wireless devices near the TV may have been interfering. I’m not really in a position to afford the PSTV the same wifi exclusion zone which I can give my Vita so this was back to the drawing board. A small point and one which I found fairly annoying was using the same controller between PS4 and PSTV required me to continually connect via USB to enable the controller for each device as and when. If you have two pads then this issue goes away, but it wasn’t the perfect solution for me. Then I thought, “I wonder if my PS4 controller can reach the PS4 direct through all these walls….”

 

Skype & Facetime

Kindly my girlfriend waited in the top floor (we have a 3 story house) whilst I was downstairs flicking the controller left and right to see if stuff moved on screen still. Shouting up and downstairs we concluded it did so I’m wondering if I really need to worry about connecting through a device and could I just move the video without something sending my inputs. Clearly this limits remote play to the same house, but that’s all I wanted anyway so fine for me.

I jerry rigged my iPhone to be facing the TV directly and called myself on Skype and then FaceTime as I sat downstairs to play PS4 on my iPad with the controller connecting directly. It was never really going to work but was a necessary step in understanding what was possible – the video streamed perfectly but with a slight delay and of course audio pickup was a bit of a mess. The iPhone also tries to continually refocus on moving images which isn’t great and there is a picture delay behind the action rendering it unplayable. But what if I could stream the picture with minimal lag and connect my controller directly…

 

Nyrius Aries Home + Wireless HDMI Transmitter & Receiver

http://nyrius.com/

A bit of research led me to the Nyrius Aries Home + (Plus) device. Before I get to that, I originally settled on the IOGear Wireless HD 1080p Streaming with 3D (GW3DHDKIT) which promises wireless HD streaming from HDMI device to HDMI with a two input switcher, sending uncompressed full 1080p and digital surround sound over 100 feet. Sounded amazing and got some very good reviews however I could only find it overseas and didn’t fancy the punt on something which may not work and being lumbered with it (along with a hefty customs charge).

So the Nyrius reared its head. Promising pretty much the same thing it looks almost identical and is available readily in the UK (although with a foreign plug but comes with adapters).

In the box you get the transmitter and receiver, an external IR remote extender (it can send your remote err remotely), some screws for wall mounting, a remote and a HDMI cable. Knowing that my PS4 controller can communicate with my PS4 through two floors I didn’t bother with the IR extender (although not sure this would make a difference given line of sight to the PS4 isn’t needed) but I guess this would be useful if you’re transmitter blu-ray commands to a player etc.

Setup was really easy. The transmitter is basically a HDMI switcher – two inputs, one output to the TV. I plugged in my PS4 and Xbox One HDMIs into the unit and then into the TV from the Nyrius. The receiver downstairs goes straight into the HDMI socket of the TV. And that’s it – the encrypted wireless between the two units is already set up with no configuring needed – you don’t even need a wireless network already in the house. The remote looks really basic and cheap but does the job basically on/off and switch sources.

The good news – it works near perfectly. Picture was displayed clearly (with some slight colour wash out – since starting this review I have managed to correct this on the TV settings) and no noticeable lag to the display from the Dual Shock controller. Racing games, FPS games everything works as you would expect as if the console was plugged directly into that TV set. Sound is carried also which is great and again, no issues with it.

The switcher is helpful actually as it works just as well with the Xbox One. Like the Dual Shock 4, the Xbox One controller works through a couple of floors perfectly and the Xbox can be played in a different room through the transmitter/receiver combo perfectly fine. This is the ideal solution to multi-room gaming, even better with two devices. I know my Wii U gamepad can work downstairs and Xbox 360 controllers so it could also be used for those (I guess I could try plugging a HDMI switcher into one of the input ports to get around this).

The transmitter has HDMI pass-through for when you’re using your main set and don’t want to stream to another TV (or even if someone in another room wants to watch you play, you can display on two sets simultaneously). I did have a couple of 2-3 second drop outs on the first day on the main set, some research reveals this could be a HDMI handshake issue. I also had a drop out on the receiving end which I put down to signal quality but may have been the same issue. Since then I have changed HDMI sockets on the main set – I understand that HDMI cables can carry a small voltage which unplugging/replugging can act as a static discharge. Since however I’ve had no such issues.

The downsides – the receiver gets very hot. The manual does state that this is normal and the unit is designed to be well ventilated but should not be kept in an enclosed space. Worrying it gets very hot when in standby mode and not receiving a signal – I have taken to unplugging it just in case when not in use. The other downside is the cost – it is not cheap. Currently £250 on Amazon (the price of another console!!) although I picked one up for £200, it’s definitely a luxury buy. But without wanting to transfer saves and have multiple HDMI devices streaming to another set it’s definitely cheaper than two new consoles to do this.

Should you be on a budget – the Vita TV might work for you assuming you can get around possible Wifi interference and have a strong enough network. The Vita is great if you want a portable solution. Skype should be avoided in pretty much every situation ever for game streaming around the house but from a week of testing the Nyrius Home Plus seems like the pretty much perfect solution – if you can stomach the wallet impact.

 
 

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