Sony has a new PlayStation console out this holiday season, but it’s not last year’s PlayStation 4, nor is it another handheld system. Instead, it’s the PlayStation TV, a new device that offers a low-cost way to enjoy hundreds of downloadable and retail games already on the market—albeit without some of the functionality found on the more expensive PlayStation consoles. Thinking about bringing the PlayStation TV into your home? Here’s the lowdown on what to expect from the diminutive machine.

What Is It?

The PlayStation TV is a home console that plugs into your television like most other PlayStation systems, but you’ll quickly notice that this isn’t quite like the others. For starters, it’s incredibly small, coming in at about 4 inches by 2 inches, and it’s thinner than a standard Blu-ray or DVD case. You can easily hold it in one hand and even tuck it into a pants pocket, but it’s meant to be hooked up to a display.

Essentially, the PlayStation TV is a television-connected version of the PlayStation Vita handheld gaming system, minus a few of that platform’s distinctive features. You can plug physical Vita game cartridges into the PlayStation TV, plus you can download some of the same games from the PlayStation Store via an Internet connection. Through that same store, you’ll find many older games brought over from past PlayStation platforms, like the PSP and PSone, which are typically sold for lower prices.

The base PlayStation TV unit is priced at $100, and it comes with HDMI and power cables—but no controller. You can use a PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 controller if you already have one handy; otherwise you’ll need to purchase one to use with the console. Alternately, you can opt for the bundle version, which comes with everything in the entry-level package but also adds a DualShock 3 (PlayStation 3) controller, an 8GB memory card for downloading games and storing saved game data, and a voucher to download The Lego Movie Videogame.

What Does It Do?

Despite its diminutive size, it’s very much a game console like most others, although it cannot produce visuals as richly detailed as the PlayStation 4, and it’s even a step below the eight-year-old PlayStation 3 in that regard. The bigger visual difference comes from the fact that many of the games you’ll play were designed for a five-inch handheld screen, so they look fuzzy blown up on your home television. Additionally, the hardware doesn’t output to as high of a resolution as other current PlayStation consoles.

The PlayStation TV seems designed to have two primary purposes: it’s a relatively cheap way to bring a PlayStation into your home, and it serves as a useful secondary device for die-hard fans who already have a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation Vita.

PSTV_Black_Holding_1402385339When Used Instead of More Expensive PlayStation Consoles

The PlayStation TV costs less than half the price of a new PlayStation 3 and a quarter of the price of the high-end PlayStation 4. However, not all PlayStation Vita games are compatible with the TV, because the Vita has some touch interfaces that of course can’t transfer to the TV.  Still, with all the compatible Vita, PSP, and PSone titles, there are hundreds of games available right now, and many sell for $10 or less.

In addition to games that you’ll purchase and download, you can also tap into a new service called PlayStation Now, which is available to all users (but still officially in pre-release beta form). It allows you to pay a rental fee to access a game for hours, days, or weeks at a time, and instead of downloading the entire game to your console or memory card, you simply stream it over your Internet connection (wired or Wi-Fi). You will need a very strong connection to use the service, which currently offers dozens of familiar PlayStation 3 games.

When Used In Addition to Other PlayStation Consoles

As a companion device, the PlayStation TV is probably the most attractive for people who already own a PlayStation 4, as they can connect the consoles on the same home network and stream PlayStation 4 gameplay to the PlayStation TV in another room. That means you can essentially play your PS4 games anywhere in the house, so long as the connection is strong and not diminished by interference (from walls and/or other electronics) in your dwelling. Additionally, for Vita owners, the PlayStation TV is a handy way to play some of your existing games on a larger screen.

Is It a Good Option for Kids?

Possibly, although Sony isn’t promoting it extensively or positioning it as a major release, and children are more likely to want the PlayStation 4 or even a PS3. However, the PlayStation TV could be an ideal first home console for a family or something for a younger child who isn’t quite ready for larger, more complex game experiences. It can also be an ideal option for a travel device to easily take between multiple locations or even use in a car.

Luckily, there are many great games to choose from for younger children, notably Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition, which just launched on the system for $20. Other compatible Vita games that might appeal to a younger crowd are colorful action games like LEGO Batman 2 and Rayman Origins, sports simulations like FIFA 14 and Madden NFL 13, and the fast-paced racing game Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Some of the older PSP and PSone games are also worth investigating, such as the whimsical LocoRoco and LittleBigPlanet.

For pre-teens and teens, there are many more options available, including expansive role-playing games, fighting games, and intense action games. Top games for an older audience include violent shooters like Borderlands 2 and Killzone Mercenary, intense action game compilation God of War: Collection, head-to-head fighters Dead or Alive 5 Plus and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and role-playing favorites like Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster and Persona 4 Golden.

However, the system lacks most of the cutting-edge new releases you’ll find on other PlayStation and Xbox consoles, and it doesn’t provide quite the same level of graphic immersion, so game and tech-savvy teens may not be as satisfied with the PlayStation TV. It’s probably best purchased for a younger child, or at least one who isn’t already well versed in video game consoles.

However old the intended recipient, rest assured that the PlayStation TV provides parental controls like all other current Sony consoles, letting you choose which kinds of games can be played based on their ESRB ratings. In other words, if you don’t want Mature games played in your house—or even Teen games—you can disable playback within the settings.

This article was written by

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor, and his work has appeared in more than 50 publications around the world. He’s also a work-at-home dad to a wild toddler.