On Thursday, the European PSN store was updated with a little known, and underhyped addition – Vidzone.
Not a game, or part of any other Playstation system or Network, Vidzone is an interesting PAL only addition to the PS3 application suite. Why? Because it’s offering up high quality, streaming, full screen music videos at the low, low cost of absolutely zip.
Sound interesting? Hit the jump for my hands on impressions.
VidZone was quietly dropped on the PAL store on the 12 of June, yet offering quite a significant service. Download this application, Sony beckons, and we will serve you on demand music videos from a selection of over 25,000. An impressive claim indeed, but does it deliver on the promise?
The answer is a definite Yes. Sony have done a specular job in creating a smooth, lag free interface and system that makes it easy to customize playlists, find other tracks from the same artist and brand new clips. Anyone who has played SingStar on PS3 can remember the sluggish, slightly laggy interface on the Store, but VidZone feels like it’s practically already downloaded the music to your HDD..
After you download and install the app, a link to VZ sits underneath your Music XMB, and when selected jumps straight into the main setup. After about 10 minutes (the first time, consequential uses only take a couple of minutes to sync) you’re greeted with the main screen. From here, you can choose from one of the set featured playlists, search for a specific track or artist, or start building a list of your own.
Once the chosen video is playing you can make it fullscreen or leave it in a window while you search through the database and find new music to add to a playlist, while using the controller to pause, rewind, fast forward or skip songs. In full screen, an opaque window will occasionally popup with a small ad banner and and the title of the track currently playing. It’s all seemless and unobtrusive, although all the ads I got were for UK companies.
The video and sound quality are phenomenal. Originally, I expected the low bitrate required for streaming would reduce the quality too much, providing for a terrible picture and aural quality on my 46′ LCD and external speaker set. Again, I was glad to be mistaken. While the video isn’t HD, it is upscaled SD, thus looking very crisp with only a limited amount of blur and pixelation.
The same goes with the sound – the levels of bass and treble were clean, there’s none of the usual “tinny” or “muted” quirks that generally plague streaming sound to fit low connections. A problem though, and one that won’t come as a surprise to many, is that the tracks are censored, which I found a bit irritating (especially in songs with a fair amount of language like Eminem or Marilyn Manson).
Strangely enough, some of the others are “directors cuts”, which tend to be a bit longer and slight more, well, “risque” then the originals. It’s funny how you can show Britney completely naked with a specially placed arm, but simply uttering the word “shit” causes advertisers to flee from the connection. But it’s a very small price to pay for the overwhelming amount of available music.
The library stretches across the entire catalogues from Sony BMG and EMI, with promises of more to come once agreements with the other major record studios are established. What’s already offered though is extremely impressive – Artists ranging from the Foo Fighters to Michael Jackson, George Michael to Jamariqui, Korn to Kayne West. You’re guaranteed to find something you like, and the possibilites for party entertainment are huge.
The addition of VidZone is a huge plus for Sony. People who read my PSN article may be aware that I wasn’t all that thrilled with Home, since its functionality and purpose were reasonably debatable at launch. But I feel if Sony keep making free additions like this, they will be on the way to meeting their original desire – providing the full media experience on a single console.