Road to NextGen 2020

PlayStation5: the streamer’s review

The potential for a top media player is there but Sony may not be interested in that at all

Kostas Farkonas
Nov 27, 2020 · 13 min read
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Sony has rightly focused on the gaming side of any PlayStation system but the PS5’s powerful hardware opens up more possibilities than ever for advanced multimedia entertainment. How does it fare on that department, then? (Image credit: Road to NextGen 2020)

All the usual (streaming) suspects

What PS5 owners will do with the device when not playing games on it can only be either watching movies/TV shows or listening to music (using it as a photo viewer might be the most hilarious overkill of a use case). And, being honest here, watching movies or TV shows means Internet streaming these days, regardless of the audiovisual quality that Blu-ray or UltraHF Blu-ray discs offer. So, how does the PS5 fare in that department?

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The PS5 already offers access to the most important streaming content services today via apps, more are coming in 2021. (Image credit: John-Mark Smith, Pexels)
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Android TV users will immediately recognize this approach, even though whether it actually achieves its intended purpose, more content consumption, is debatable. (Image credit: Road to NextGen 2020)
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Spotify is popular, yes, but also so deeply integrated with the PS5 UI that it may actually dissuade other music services from building apps for the system. (Image credit: Spotify)

Blu-ray player blues

For consumers who choose the “full” PS5 model instead of the Digital Edition one, there’s always the option of using the optical drive for watching entertainment content on DVD, Blu-ray and UltraHD Blu-ray discs. Sony has provided this functionality with the PS2, PS3 and PS4, so it’s good to see that tradition honored by the PS5 as well. What’s not good to see is how the Japanese giant chose to implement optical disc support on its powerful new system: “reluctantly” would be one word for it, “poorly” will be another.

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See that disc icon at the top? It only appears when a DVD/BD/UHD BD is inserted into the PS5 optical drive. Minimalism or downplaying this function altogether? (Image credit: Road to NextGen 2020)
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This is the image appearing when a movie is inserted into the optical drive of the PS5 and loads into its main menu of options. You won’t be staring at it for more than a few seconds. (Image credit: Road to NextGen 2020)
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The PS5 does not decode the best sound formats available to the home cinema market, Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, although there’s hope it will in the future. (Image credit: Dolby)

Media playback mediocrity

How Sony chose to implement DVD/BD/UHD disc playback on the PS5 should prepare anyone for the way multimedia files are handled. In short: in the same way reluctant, half-hearted way. What’s there is fine for the most basic of usage scenarios but, considering what the hardware of Sony’s new system is capable of, the whole affair is just… sad.

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Looking for your photos or videos in that external storage device you just plugged in a PS5? They are accessible via the Media Gallery. Yes, *that* Media Gallery. (Image credit: Road to NextGen 2020)
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For listening to music files you now have to call up Control Center and go through that. Whatever happened to the notion of universal multimedia playback apps anyway? (Image credit: Road to NextGen 2020)
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Plex will handle all the content the PS5 itself will not, but its app is still rough around the edges and — let’s face it — most people will not build a server just for that. (Image credit: Road to NextGen 2020)

A conscious choice, a missed opportunity nonetheless

The PlayStation5 is a powerful device capable of offering complicated, almost photorealistic 3D games in a truly spectacular fashion. So how come it does not offer simple playback of 2D video in a hassle-free fashion, let alone deliver the advanced post-processing it can clearly do? The answer is simple: the PS5 can, but Sony won’t let it. The Japanese have always put games above everything else with every PlayStation — and that is as it should be — but with the PlayStation5 in 2020 it feels that they have reached a tipping point. There is a decision that needs to be made here.

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As it stands now the PS5 cannot take the place of either a good UHD BD player or a good media player in one’s rack, despite being much more powerful than any such device. (Image credit: Road to NextGen 2020)
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On a hardware level, the PS5 remains perfectly capable of becoming an 8K player for the ages — but Sony has to do the work on the software side. It may just not want to. (Image credit: Road to NextGen 2020)

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Kostas Farkonas

Written by

Veteran journalist, project kickstarter, tech nut, cynical gamer, music addict, movie maniac. Will work for money, fame and bandwidth. More on farkonas.com.

Road to NextGen Gaming

Analysis and commentary on what’s next in video games

Kostas Farkonas

Written by

Veteran journalist, project kickstarter, tech nut, cynical gamer, music addict, movie maniac. Will work for money, fame and bandwidth. More on farkonas.com.

Road to NextGen Gaming

Analysis and commentary on what’s next in video games

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