1st Dec 2010 | 16:10
It beefs up a Bravia, but has Sony got its head in the clouds with its latest, ahem, curiosity?
Sony Qriocity review
Kwersitty? Kroy-city? No – Sony's latest VOD widget is supposed to read 'curiosity'.
We're not sure about the spelling – it's missing a 'u', at the very least – but we are certain that this is Sony's last-ditch effort to create something of lasting worth across its vast range of 'connected' products.
With Sony about to get into Google TV in the States, the appearance of its new Qriocity service might seem slightly eccentric.
Although it's a paid-for service, the good news about this new movies and music streaming platform is that it beefs-up the Bravia Internet Video platform on these TVs and Blu-ray players in Sony's 2010 range.
Don't get Qriocity confused with Google TV, though. Whereas Google's offering is an interface that blends content from a TV and PVR with the internet at large, Qriocity is more about downloading and streaming content.
As such, it should be compared to both Apple TV and LoveFilm, which also features on Sony TVs. A fierce competitor to this first phase of Qriocity, LoveFilm here consists of unlimited access to 65,000 movies costs £9.99 per month.
Creating and linking a Qriocity account is easy. Visit www.qriocity.com, create an account, and enter the code from the settings menus tab on your Bravia TV (making sure your TV or Blu-ray player is first attached to a broadband router). The service then ties your account to your Sony device – though you have to enter a five-digit PIN using the TV remote every time you use Qriocity.
You can add other devices at the Qriocity site, though don't get excited by the options to add a PlayStation 3 or PSP; these devices don't carry Qriocity just yet.
The 'media' tab includes folders for videos, games, comics and music, though the latter three are empty vessels for now. Sony also plans to use Qricoity to sell ebooks.
Sony recommends you have a broadband speed of 1.5Mbps for SD material, and 4.5Mbps for HD.
Select 'Video On Demand powered by Qriocity' on the XMB and you're taken to a home page that's organised as a grid of thumbnail images of the highlights – in this case, the newest movies. All older 'library' titles are available in SD for £2.49, with a small selection available in HD for £3.49.
Newer titles (such as recent Blu-ray titles such as Clash of the Titans and Cop Out) go for £3.99 each in SD, with HD versions commanding a £4.99 premium, though there are plenty of newish titles (such as Cemetery Junction, Robin Hood and Hot Tub Time Machine) clocking in at £3.49/£4.49. Not dirt cheap, but it's only a quid extra for the HD version.
The grid of three lines of six thumbnails against a two-tone background is hi-res and easy to navigate, though the interface is rather slow; it takes a second or two from a button press on the remote to something happening on-screen, which is rather irritating.
Not all movies have trailers, and all trailers are in SD only. Rent a film and you have two weeks to start watching lest it self-destruct; once you've pressed play it's yours to toy with for 48 hours.
Searching is flawed, though; perform a few searches and it's tricky to get back to the main page – the easiest way is by quitting and reopening Qriocity.
Overall, it's a good-looking interface, but it's a notch below its Apple TV rival; the slower, slightly awkward remote (especially when compared to Apple TV's iPhone trackpad), slow loading times for page refreshes, and a laborious search function make sure of that.
With the likes of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Starz Digital Media, Disney, NBC, Warner and smaller studios all signed-up, there's a fairly decent spread of titles. That said, nine of the 32 new releases are not available in HD (including Bad Lieutenant, I Love You Phillip Morris and Basement).
Of the top10 film rentals on iTunes, Qriocity has five, and only two of the top five (Sex and the City 2 and Predators).
There's no A-Z list, and some titles appear in more than one category, so it's not possible to give an accurate figure on exactly how many titles there are – but this should give you a flavour of what Qriocity is all about:
Action/Adventure 122 titles: Everything from The Beach and Die Hard to a couple of Free Willys and three Harry Potters. All a bit dated.
Animation 25 titles: a rather poor selection consisting of animated Hellboy and Street Fighter movies alongside some anime, the first two Ice Age movies, How to Train Your Dragon and Cats & Dogs.
Comedy 146 titles: Borat, Dodgeball, The Full Monty and Sideways all feature in a decent selection.
Documentary 3 titles: limited to Earth, Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper and The US vs John Lennon.
Drama 150 titles: We spotted all three Godfather movies alongside Platoon, Hambuger Hill, Road to Perdition and many a title found elsewhere on Qriocity.
Family & Kids 26 titles: Anastasia, the original Karate Kid and Tom & Jerry 'star' in this very limited library for kids.
Horror/Thriller 172 titles: Children of the Corn, The Mothman Prophecies, Lost Boys and, er, Great Expectations.
Romance 30 titles: Rom-com fans get short changed, though Never Been Kissed, Dirty Dancing and Clueless could excite.
Science Fiction 36 titles: all Alien movies, V for Vendetta, The Terminator and Godzilla feature, but the choice here isn't out of this world.
Sports 1 title: 2007's footie road movie In the Hands of the Gods. No Escape to Victory!? For shame.
Other 27 titles: a mish-mash of westerns (3.10 to Yuma), music (Faithless Live In Concert) and some comedy (Bad Santa).
It's not going to cause much upset, but boffins capable of reading subtitles might lament the lack of a World category in this very Hollywood-centric selection.
Considering it's all streamed content, picture quality is reasonably good. Most movies are clear and relatively sharp, with colours for the most part well saturated. Occasionally there's some digital blocking and poorly defined edges, but SD is generally close to DVD levels. HD, meanwhile, is akin to iTunes; it's impressive, but not a patch on a Blu-ray disc.
Best of all, there's no sign of any buffering mid-way through a movie – those days are history.
Qriocity – Music Unlimited
What we have here – and on other Sony TVs, Blu-ray players and home cinema systems – is the first part of Qriocity. Promised in the near future is Music Unlimited, which will resemble the likes of Spotify and Last.fm by delivering tailor-made music channels. It will extend beyond the living room to computers, the PSP and the PlayStation 3, but will also be available on Sony's TVs, Blu-ray players and home cinema systems.
A pretty but rather rudimentary interface meets a decent selection of movies, but Qriocity is, for now, just that. Once music, games, ebooks and comics arrive on Qriocity we could see its true cross-platform potential, but if you're a vast consumer of movies you'd do better to head along Sony's XMB to the LoveFilm widget and payout for a monthly subscription.