Playster Combo Box review: A great all-in-one streaming idea with somewhat lacking content

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Playster-Combo-Box-review

The Playster Combo Box throws in an 8″ Android tablet and a pair of headphones if you commit to Playster’s 12 Month All Media Membership.

TA-ratings-63Given how prevalent movie, music, and game streaming has become, all those monthly subscriptions to Google Play Music, Apple Music, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Groove Music, Netflix, Hulu, and others can quickly add up. Playster is a service that launched back in December of 2015 which offers unlimited books, movies, music, and games through monthly plans. Our Playster Combo Box review takes a look at their 12-month plan which includes an 8″ Android tablet and headphones, making it easier to enjoy their streaming content.

Specifications

The Playster Combo Box has the following features and specifications:

  • Playster8 Tablet
    • Operating System: Android 5.1
    • Display: 8″, Resolution 1280×800
    • CPU: Intel Baytrail-T, 1.33GHz Quad-Core Z3735F (2M Cache, up to 1.83 GHz)
    • RAM: 2GB RAM
    • Storage: 16GB, Micro SD Slot
    • Connectivity: Wifi, Bluetooth & G-Sensor
    • Cameras: 5.0MP Rear, 2.0MP Front
    • Size: 207.3mm/122mm/9.1mm
    • Battery: 4000 mAh
  • Playster Headphones
    • Deep basses and crisp highs for a crystal clear connection with your favorite bands
    • Daisy chain with other headphones for a shared experience
    • Soft-cushioned, around-ear fit for hours of comfortable listening
    • Noise isolation means music is for your ears only
    • Fold them into the size of a tennis ball and take them anywhere

What’s in the box

  • Playster8 tablet
  • Playster headphones
  • 3.5mm audio cable
  • Micro-USB to USB-A charging cable
  • USB-A wall plug
  • User manual
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What’s included in the Playster Combo Box.

Design

Before we get too far into the review, I just want to mention that the rating at the bottom will be for the Combo Box as a whole, and not for the tablet, headphones, and service individually. So for ratings like design and sound, keep in mind that it takes all components into account.

Playster8 Tablet

As far as budget tablets go, the Playster8 tablet has a pretty solid design. It has a nice weight to it with the metal back. The display on the front of the tablet is slightly raised from the back of the tablet and has a black plastic edge piece around it. Centered on the top is the front-facing 2.0MP camera, while centered on the bottom is a round home button. The home button is a bit redundant as there are also on-screen back, home, and menu buttons as is par for the course with the Android OS. However, it was nice having a dedicated home button to quickly return to the home screen while watching a movie without having to swipe down from the top first. Also of note: the tablet comes with a pre-installed screen protector which is a great little bonus, especially if you have kids who will be using it.

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The tablet has a nice solid feeling to it and is well constructed.

The top of the tablet has a black plastic section that houses the 3.5mm audio jack, a mini-HDMI port, and the Micro-USB port. Part of this same black piece houses the rear 5.0MP camera on the back of the tablet. On the right side, you’ll find the power and volume up/down rocker, while the left side houses the microSD (TF) card slot.

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Micro-USB, mini-HDMI, and 3.5mm AUX port are on the top of the tablet.

Finally, the single speaker rests on the lower left corner of the back of the tablet, roughly half an inch up and in. Given that it’s a single speaker, and small, the placement is unfortunate as your finger tends to cover it when naturally holding the tablet in landscape mode.

Playster Headphones

At first glance, the headphones reminded me slightly of another pair I’ve reviewed here at Techaeris over a year ago, and that actually filled me with a bit of hope that they would be decent quality. The headphones themselves are of the on-ear variety and aren’t bad comfort wise. The headband is finished with a faux leather on the top and bottom, although there is more padding on the top than on the underside which rests on your head.

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The headphones have a surprisingly decent build quality as well.

The ear cups are attached to the headband by way of a thin flat metal piece which also allows for some back and forth twisting for optimal comfort. The ear cups themselves feature the same faux leather cover that the headband does and an array of holes allow the sound to pass through. The foam underneath is comfortable enough as well. On the outer side of the ear cups, you’ll find the Playster logo printed square on the center of what feels like a pretty thin black metal piece. The outer ring around the ear cups is finished with a nice soft matte black finish.

Under each ear cup is a 3.5mm AUX jack. The included 3.5mm cable is braided, which is definitely a nice touch. With the 3.5mm AUX jacks, you can connect one end to the tablet and then daisy chain another pair of headphones so two people can watch and listen at the same time.

Display

With a display resolution of 1280×800, you’re basically getting 720p with the tablet. While text isn’t super crisp, it is readable once you set the display font to huge in the Android system settings. For some reason, text is super tiny on the normal font size setting.

Colour representation isn’t too bad — if anything, it’s a touch muted, and it’s not overly rich or oversaturated like on some other displays. While it’s not a 1080p screen, for the size watching videos and viewing pictures on it was perfectly fine.

Ease of Use

The Playster service is as easy to sign up for as most services. The easiest way is to head over to the Playster website and hit the Try Now button and follow the steps into picking the right plan for yourself or your family. Once you’ve set up your account, you can login to the Playster app on the tablet and away you go.

Software

The tablet comes with Android 5.1 installed, and very few additional apps. The tablet isn’t restricted in any way and includes the Google Play Store, various other default Google apps, and the Playster app as well as the Playster Tour app.

Playster app

The Playster app is the main way you’ll consume content from Playster on your tablet. You can also download and install the app on your Android or iOS devices, or log in to the Playster website and listen to music, read books, or watch movies on your computer or laptop.

The app also allows you to create and switch profiles so each user has their own set of playlists, reading lists, movie lists, and games.

Playster-App-Screenshot

Android App screenshot.

When you are downloading games from the game section, by default you’ll get an Install blocked message as you won’t be installing the game from the official Google Play Store. While you can easily allow for installation of apps from unknown sources, you are potentially opening up your tablet to security risks. Installing from unknown sources isn’t generally recommended unless you know what you are doing. One way you can get the best of both worlds, though, is to make sure that after you install the game you want to play, you should most definitely re-enable blocking of installing apps from unknown sources until the next time you need to install a game from the Playster app.

If you wish to be more social in your media streaming, you can also connect your Facebook or Twitter accounts to the service.

Ecosystem

So just how does the “Netflix of everything” stack up? Let’s take a look and see what kind of content you can expect to find from Playster. While there are numerous sources where you can digitally purchase or rent movies or books, I won’t be talking about them below as Playster is an all-in-one streaming service.

Music

A few of the music publishers Playster has partnerships with include Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and The Orchard. Justin Bieber? Two tracks which are part of Best of… compilations. Metallica? Same thing…

Taking a quick gander at recent new releases, Playster has releases from State of Sound, One Sonic Society, Wrabel, Kings, Michelle Treacy, and Tom Walker (pretty sure I haven’t heard of any of those). Spotify, on the other hand, has new releases from Broken Social Scene, Calvin Harris, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Chris Brown, Mary J. Blige, and more. The top charts is a bit more hit and miss, with artists like Ed Sheeran, FUTURE, Solange, Migos, and Bruno Mars appearing on Playster’s “Top Singles” list, while Spotify has artists like Ed Sheeran, Drake, Selena Gomez, The Chainsmokers with Coldplay, and Zedd in the current top five on their Global Top 50 list. Bruno Mars and FUTURE also appear further down the Spotify list.

Playster-Music

Sampling of the Playster music library.

Movies

When I saw that one of the partners Playster had tapped for their movies was Paramount, I did get my hopes up a bit. Other partners include Starz, Gravitas Ventures, Scanbox Entertainment, and Screen Media Films.

If you’re expecting to see movies you know and have heard of on Playster, you’ll be disappointed. Sure people complain about the Netflix catalogue from time to time but they do have a mix of A and B-rated titles, as well as their Netflix Originals which are generally outstanding. Playster, on the other hand, is filled with titles you’ve never heard of even though you may have heard of some of the lead actors and actresses. Titles like Dukale’s DreamThe Eyes of ThailandThe Lifeguard (with Kristen Bell), and Transformers Animated are listed at the top of the top rated section.

Playster-Movies

Sampling of the Playster movies library.

Books

If you read a lot of books, particularly those published by Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Harlequin, Findaway, and Draft 2 Digital, you might be o.k. as these are the publishers Playster has agreements with. Still, there wasn’t much in the bestsellers section of the Books or Audiobooks sections that I recognized and most of what I did fell into the “Classics” category. I actually found that my local library had a better selection of digital books I could borrow for free.

Playster-Books

Sample Playster books library.

Games

You may recognize publishers like Gameloft, Team 17, 3D Realms, and Apogee. These are some of the game publishers that you’ll find on Playster. The games section is actually a mix of Android and PC games, but again, nothing that you’ve really heard of. If you’re looking for some mobile time wasters, there’s plenty to choose from here. As for the PC side of things, you might find a classic or two in here if you look hard enough.

As mentioned above, you’ll need to allow installation from unknown sources if you want to install and play any of the Android games listed in the Playster app. To install PC games, you’ll also have to install a Playster application to your PC.

Playster-Games

Sample Playster games library.

Performance

As far as performance goes, the tablet isn’t too shabby. Basic apps run just fine, although I did notice that they took a bit longer to load. As far as games are concerned, every game I tried from the simple Galaga and Angry Birds to the more CPU and graphics intensive like Need for Speed: No Limits ran fine. In the case of No Limits, the load times were definitely longer and there were some instances when you could see the slow frames per second during menu transitions but the actual gameplay seemed smooth and fine with no stuttering.

Sound

As expected due to the placement and fact the tablet only has a single speaker on the back, it definitely sounds tinny and hollow. As mentioned in the design section, when holding it in landscape mode, your finger tends to cover it as well, further muffling the sound.

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Sound quality from the tablet isn’t that great considering it’s coming from a single back firing speaker.

Seeing that the construction and design of the Playster headphones weren’t too shabby, I was hoping the sound would be somewhat decent. While the sound is pretty clear and loud, it does favour the lower end of the audio spectrum making it bass heavy and, as a result, muffled. This made listening to dialogue in videos and movies difficult at times, and there were even some parts where they were drowned out. Music was an entirely different experience, especially in bass heavy songs. Like videos, there were times when you had to strain to hear the singers in a number of songs that we tested out. Wondering if this might be a tablet issue, I tried the headphones on my laptop and had the same result.

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Unfortunately, the headphones are bass heavy, muddying the sound.

Camera

Taking photos and video with tablets almost always produces substandard results. While the images from the tablet aren’t that bad, they’re definitely not great. You can get by with a quick selfie or other image, but I wouldn’t want to be relying on it as a source of photography by any means.

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The tablet has a rear 5.0MP camera and a front 2.0MP camera.

Battery Life

The tablet is equipped with a 4,000mAh battery, but depending on what you’re doing with it, you can drain that pretty quick. Considering it’s included in a media subscription, you’d hope for something that would last for awhile. During testing and mixing it up with movie watching, listening to music, and playing games I saw between 3 and 6 hours of screen on time before I had to plug it in with an average of around 4 hours. Depending on your planned usage, this may be long enough for some road trips, but you’ll definitely need to plug it into a power source if you’re looking for all day entertainment out of it.

Price/Value

The pricing of the Playster service really reinforces the strong and weak parts of the service itself. You can subscribe to individual portions, or bundle everything for one monthly payment.

  • Music: $8.95CAD/$9.95USD per month
  • Movies: $3.95CAD/USD per month
  • Books: $8.95CAD/$9.95USD per month
  • Games: $4.50CAD/$4.95USD per month
  • Bundle (all services): $22.50CAD/$24.95USD per month

We’re told differences in pricing are due to different licensing agreements, and Canadians definitely come out on top of this one given the current exchange rate. While you can install and share your Playster account on up to five devices with these plans, you can only stream on one device at a time.

If you do require access on more than one device at the same time, you can sign up for the family plan which allows you to stream concurrently to up to 5 devices based on which family plan you have. The family plan cost will be a combination of the individual bundle cost plus an additional amount depending on the number of additional accounts as listed below.

  • Add $11.45CAD/$12.55USD per month for one additional user
  • Add $22.45CAD/$25USD per month for two additional users
  • Add $34CAD/$37.55USD per month for three additional users
  • Add $45CAD/$50CAD per month for four additional users

To be perfectly honest, the value really depends on what type of media you plan on consuming the most. As mentioned previously, the Movie section is pretty lacking with many B-movie titles that you’ve probably never heard of and nary an A title anywhere in sight. Likewise, the music section is also pretty lacking in popular music.

Playster also gives back to the community and has pledged a minimum $100,000 yearly donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters charity. All new Playster members are encouraged to support the non-profit organization by adding an optional monthly donation to their subscription package.

While the prices for each service are mostly in line with what other services offer, unfortunately, the quality of selection isn’t up to par with those other services. Personally, I’d take it for a spin for the free month trial to see if it’s sufficient for you before committing to the full 12-months in order to take advantage of a free tablet and headphones, but unless you like relatively unknown music and movies you’ll probably find the selection — and subsequent value — lacking.

Wrap-up

Playster claims to be the “Netflix of everything,” but unfortunately it’s definitely lacking in the quality of movies and music side of things while the games are a take it or leave it kind of thing depending on how much mobile gaming you do. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of an all-in-one streaming service is a fantastic idea, and hopefully Playster can add more — and bigger — offerings, especially to their music and movie tiers of their streaming service.

*We were sent a sample of the Playster Combo Box for the purposes of this review.

Playster Combo Box

$24.95+ USD per month
Playster Combo Box
6.3

Design

8/10

    Display

    8/10

      Ease of use

      9/10

        Software

        7/10

          Ecosystem

          5/10

            Performance

            8/10

              Sound

              5/10

                Camera

                6/10

                  Battery Life

                  6/10

                    Price/Value

                    2/10

                      Nailed it

                      • Sturdy tablet design
                      • Solid headphone design
                      • Decent tablet performance
                      • microSD card slot

                      Needs work

                      • Poor speaker placement on tablet
                      • Poor sound from tablet
                      • Headphones are bass heavy, muddied sounding
                      • Runs Android 5.1
                      • Requires allowing installation of apps from unknown sources
                      • Battery life could be better
                      • Lack of quality content
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