[Software Review] PlayOn, Playa!

MediaMall offers a great way to ditch your cable bill…
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: December 5, 2010
The PlayStation 3 has always purported to style itself as a "multimedia center" for your living room, and while that might have been a slightly dubious claim early on, recent updates have added Netflix and Hulu streaming services to the existing ability to play games and Blu-ray movies on the system, and there has been support for the playing of some media files directly or by using the ubiquitous "PS3 Media Server" program to transcode your Xvids to something a PS3 can recognize. But what if your thing is music videos? Or sports? What if you don't really feel like paying for Hulu Plus? Are you out of luck?

Not at all, thanks to the folks at MediaMall. They have been working tirelessly for years, trying to perfect their PlayOn digital media server that combines all these features into one easy-to-use service. You may remember early iterations of the service were free, but things have changed quite a bit, and PlayOn has gone on to be a premium service with the associated fees, but they have found a way to make it worth the modest investment. If you know what a Roku Box is, well, this piece of software will give your PS3 all of that functionality and more.

PlayOn merely requires you have a PS3 (or Xbox or Wii), a PC (sorry, Mac users), and a decent network connection, and once you have those pieces in place, you will be able to stream from virtually all available streaming sites, including Netflix, Hulu, VEVO music videos, Amazon VOD, MTV, ESPN (if your ISP supports it), CBS, Comedy Central, PBS, Nick at Nite, TV.com, Food Network, Pandora music, and virtually any other media streaming site. If it isn't already built into PlayOn, the system is fully customizable, and chances are someone has written a plug-in to add in whatever channel you are looking for. Not only that, but PlayOn supports streaming of any media file that you have in your possession that can be played by VLC player (which is virtually all of them).

Much like its cousin, the PS3 Media Server, these features are activated by running the program on your PC that is in the same subnet as your PS3 and has a decently fast internet connection (it worked great with my 3Mb DSL). A menu will appear in the "video" column of your XMB, and from there it will open up to a menu of the various "channels" you can stream. It is simple, clean, and mostly intuitive, which is about all you can ask for in this case. I had a brief bit of difficulty in setting the system up, but that was my own fault for having my PC in a separate subnet. Once I got everyone on the same page, the program worked flawlessly, and soon I was streaming full-screen episodes of Jersey Shore and South Park right to my TV, along with thousands of music videos (I love music videos).

So is it worth the $39.99 fee ($19.99 after the first year, or $79.99 for a lifetime subscription)? If you are like me and you live in a rural place with no cable TV to speak of, or if you are sick of paying for cable, then yes, absolutely. The Netflix aspect is frivolous, since the PS3 has it built in now with a much better interface, but the Hulu streaming is not only free, unlike Hulu Plus on PSN, but it also isn't content restricted, like the PS3 version, since it is pulling the shows from a PC and streaming them, making quite a few additional shows available to you. Toss in the ability to easily stream from virtually all of the other streaming sites out there, not to mention that the voluminous amount of music videos available from MTV and VEVO is a precious commodity these days (seriously, is there a channel that actually shows videos anymore?), and I feel like the service more than pays for itself. It certainly replaces PS3MS, and for those that aren't feeling spendy, there is a free version that locks out the TV content but will let you stream your own video files and Pandora music.

MediaMall is still actively updating the program and adding new features and channels all the time, and their support staff and website are very helpful with any issues you might encounter. If you are tired of trying to stream stuff over the archaic PS3 web browser or are having difficulty getting your illegal cock-fighting videos to play on the PS3, then there really is no reason not to at least give the 15-day demo a shot - and I predict you will be hooked!

Final Verdict: BUY IT!