Ah, good ol’ Remote Play, the oft-forgotten PlayStation 4 feature that’s perfect when you’re in a pinch. In the heady days of the Nintendo Wii U’s off-screen controller, Sony made a lot of noise about PlayStation 4’s ability to stream to a PS Vita. The handheld is long past its sell-by date these days, of course – even if it is continuing to get new software releases through into 2021 – but the technology has been retained for the PlayStation 5. And, honestly, it’s better than it’s ever been.
First up, a few qualifiers: we’ve been testing Remote Play the past two weeks connected over Wi-Fi within the same household. We’ve been streaming from our PS5 in the living room to an upstairs bedroom, using a Microsoft Surface laptop. You can also stream to a PS4 or smartphone if you want to, but there’s no PS Vita support this time around. We haven’t tried the tech outside of our local network, so your mileage will almost certainly vary once you leave the home.
Still, we’re getting vastly superior results using Remote Play with our PS5 than we ever did on our PS4. Sony has updated the Windows client, allowing streams to support HDR and scale up to 1080p. Obviously, the higher resolution you select will tax your connection harder, but outside of a few stutters and occasional macroblocking, we’ve generally been able to Remote Play at 1080p without any obstacles.
So the all-important question is: how do the games feel? Pretty good. There is a marginal input delay that makes some titles more difficult to play than others; we tried NBA 2K21, for example, and found that we had to completely reconsider our shot timing in order to hit outside threes. By the same margin, twitch shooters like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War are playable, but you’re never going to top the online multiplayer leaderboards as you’re instantly at a disadvantage
Those are the worst case scenarios, though. We’ve also been playing Planet Coaster: Console Edition with Remote Play, and the experience is near-flawless. As there’s no reliance on quick controller response, we found that we were able to build and manage our theme park exactly as we wanted, despite being in a different part of the house to our PS5. We’ve enjoyed similar results with slower-paced RPGs and strategy games as well – it all works really well.
In fact, we tested out FIFA 21 and, while we wouldn’t play important Ultimate Team matches online over Remote Play, we found the game fully playable on our laptop. We’re using a DualShock 4 connected to our computer for controls, so it’s not the most portable of solutions, but you get the exact same inputs as a DualSense, so you’re not at a disadvantage like you were wrestling with the rear touchpad on the PS Vita.
There are even some really nice quality of life improvements you can take advantage of specifically while using Remote Play. For example, when messaging friends, it’ll default to your computer keyboard for typing, meaning you don’t have to wrestle with PlayStation’s on-screen keyboard. It’s a really nice touch, and shows that Sony has invested effort into ensuring the experience is as good as it possibly can be.
Our only major criticism is that the client makes our laptop run hot, and it’s the only software we use that does so. Seeing as it’s merely streaming a video feed, we’ve no idea why it’s such a resource hog, but hopefully it’s something Sony can optimise in the future. Otherwise, if you ever want to use your PS5 but don’t have direct access to the television your console’s hooked up to, then this offers a good enough alternative experience. Give it a go if you haven’t already!
You can learn How to Remote Play the PS5 in our guide if you haven’t setup the feature already. Meanwhile, be sure to let us know if you’re using the feature, how you’re finding it, and what improvements Sony could make in the comments section below.