Review: Sony Vue

When WBZ went off the air this weekend, I figured I would trial Vue which includes WBZ in Boston.  I sampled the Ultra Slim package which is $64.99 a month and includes HBO and SHOWTIME live and on demand, thousands of hours of movies from EPIX Hits, FXM, MGM and more, plus local sports and popular live TV channels — more than 100 channels (their description).

I’m using Vue on a first gen Fire TV stick which has the same interface as the PS4/3 and a Roku 2 XS which has a simplified tile interface.

I trialed Vue to watch an NFL game because my local broadcaster was having problems.  I was disappointed to discover that Vue uses an  over-the-air source.  FiOS and Comcast were unaffected by the broadcast problem and are immune to weather issues, for the most part.  On a couple occasions, I have had channels break up continuously — kind of a large block mosaic with chunks of the screen not updating properly — but, for the most part, stream quality has been excellent absent any kind of buffering or noticeable degradation.  The Roku spontaneously rebooted on one occasion.

If you have not had cable for a while, it is surprisingly bad.  At 6:00 am, AMC, Discovery, DIY, E!, Food Network, Esquire Network, truTV, HGTV, Comedy Central, National Geographic, FX, FXX, WEtv, POP, Travel Channel, TVLand, Spike, and NBC Sports Network are all running infomercials.  NESN is off the air.  20% of the ‘dial’ has no programming!  My local channels are limited to WBZ (CBS) — so no Fox Football or Sunday Night Football or Thursday Night Football.  No local ABC, Fox, NBC, or PBS.  No Bounce, Buzzer, Comet, Decades, Escape, GetTV, GRIT, Heroes & Icons, ION, Laff, MeTV, The Works, or ThisTV.

That’s the bad.  There is plenty of good.  At the Access level ($29.99/month), you get national sports, cable news plus, AMC, and nearly 50 other cable channels.  For another $5/month, you get regional sports channels.  For $65/month, you get the full cable experience including HBO and Showtime.

On both the Roku and Fire TV, the user interface is slow.  There are a lot of programs to browse, but you can set up favorites.  After a couple days, I found the ‘recent’ channels row pretty useful.  I also found myself using the search function a lot.

Typical Vue Screen on a Roku

Typical Vue Screen on a Roku

The Roku experience is a very pretty and modern looking tiled interface.  I hate it.  The tiles contain too little information.  Often, you get season, episode, and the first couple words of a title — not helpful if you are browsing Friends (The one…).  There is no indication of start or stop time.  You have to drill down using the suddenly very slow interface to see if a movie is just starting or ending.

Sony Vue on a Fire TV Device

Sony Vue on a Fire TV Device

On the Fire TV, things are much better.  For starters, the tiles are bigger and contain more information.  There is also a grid style guide (though the guide only seems to have a vague idea of what time it is).  There is an Explorer mode which filters listings — Movies, PG, etc.

Fire TV Stick App Includes Grid Style EPG

Fire TV Stick App Includes Grid Style EPG

What’s the verdict?  I think PS Vue is a pretty slick supplement to over-the-air programming.  The Access level of service will satisfy cable news junkies.  Sports enthusiasts will find Core gets the job done.  Assuming $50/month for high speed internet, $90 to $115 per month for five concurrent streams is a lot less than many spend on cable.  I recommend the Fire TV stick, but Vue works just fine on your Rokus — even the older models.


5 thoughts on “Review: Sony Vue

  1. One consequence of having Vue for a week is that my stress levels have soared. I forgot what it was like to ‘enjoy’ 24/7 news coverage. Looking forward to relaxing with some lighthearted sitcoms.


  2. As I was saying over on LinkedIn

    VUE on ROKU sucks. Just to get back to my last watched live station is a chore. The grid of squares gives too little information and it’s hard to tell live from not.

    I am anxious to try Google’s version of this for the same price.


    • It’s surprising to me how bad the OTT user experience is. From Apple’s touch pad (when arrow buttons would have worked better) to EPGs that display too little information to counter-intuitive ’tile’ experiences, all the OTT services are much worse (IMHO) than TiVo or the DVR+. Most favor on-demand over live viewing.


    • Who knows. Sony, Microsoft, and Apple all want to be content creators and distributors. Net Neutrality really lowered the barriers to entry, but only Sony launched a service. Barriers will grow when Net Neutrality goes away. Before Net Neutrality, the infrastructure owners were very heavy handed in dealing with competing content (esp. Netflix and Prime). With Net Neutrality, content aggregators like Sony, Dish, and DirecTV are burying infrastructure. Just before Net Neutrality, Netflix was cutting deals for priority routing (regardless if it came via a dedicated link or QoS) and the infrastructure owners were imposing caps. I expect that the lifting of Net Neutrality will result in a more organized and less combative internet with the threat of anti-trust keeping the infrastructure owners in line (which is what should have happened in the first place) and all players contributing to the building and maintaining of high speed internet (that mean you and me). A lot of the Kodi and Roku content aggregators will be QoS’d out of existence. I expect higher quality, higher prices, and less players.


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