Hands-on review: Sony's Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity (updated)

Summary:Sony's Music Unlimited streaming service went live in the United States last month. Here's a hands-on review of the program powered by Qriocity.

Sony's Music Unlimited streaming service went live in the United States last month. Here's a hands-on review of the program powered by Qriocity.

SET-UP

If you're unfamiliar with Music Unlimited, it is cloud-based service that retains over six million songs available for streaming. The music service is accessible on the Sony PlayStation 3, Bravia HDTVs and Blu-ray disc players, PCs and Macs. I gave Music Unlimited a try using my PS3 console.

The set-up process wasn't that complicated, but it does require a good amount of time. A large chunk of that time was dedicated just to downloading and installations. After logging into my PS3, I headed to the PlayStation Network and downloaded the demo video for Music Unlimited, which is fairly easy to spot in the main menu at this time. Even though I've had the opportunity to sit down with Sony Entertainment reps who walked me through Music Unlimited, I still found the short video to be a good refresher. I'd advise it to anyone who is a tad or not at all familiar with Music Unlimited.

Downloading this video took about five minutes, as did download the actual Music Unlimited software when I clicked on the already-existing link under "Music" in the PS3 menu. After all that, I was brought to a screen that asked if I wanted either the basic $3.99 plan or a free 30-day trial that would lead into the $9.99 premium plan if I stayed with it. Obviously, I picked the free option, and this trial offer is available to everyone at this time too.

Annoyingly, I had to input my credit card information. Not only did I want to do that (in fear of being trapped into the plan later in case I forget to cancel), but also because it took almost 10 minutes. The system refused my first credit card information, even though absolutely nothing was incorrect. But it accepted the second one immediately.

USE

Once all of the nitty-gritty steps have been completed, using Music Unlimited is really a breeze. Users will find themselves in a very straightforward menu with folders leading to a personal library, music stations, a search function, settings and more. I headed for the stations list first where there are over a dozen channels dedicated to multiple musical genres and top 100 lists, either based on genre or location.

I headed first to the "Local Top 100" list, which is based on the top 100 hits in the United States right now. (This list will change depending on which of the nine countries you are based in where Music Unlimited is available.) These songs aren't in a particular order, but the first one that popped up was Rihanna's "Only Girl In The World," which I happen to like.

So much like Pandora's Thumbs Up/Down function, I could use the up and down keys to identify if I like the track or not. I hit like, and this helps Music Unlimited determine what kinds of songs I like or don't like so it can bring up songs accordingly. Again, that sounds like Pandora, and much of Music Unlimited is quite similar. But Sony's endeavor is focused more on home entertainment, and it allows for users to sync their personal libraries and playlists with the cloud for use anywhere Music Unlimited is available. (More on this later.) And honestly, like most Sony projects, Music Unlimited is far more aesthetically pleasing than any other music streaming service or software program available.

Music Unlimited is very easy to navigate, and finding songs in the vast library is actually fairly simple as well. One feature I didn't care for, however, was when I was listening to music playback in the genre and station modes. I couldn't click forwards through songs (see below), but I could go backwards. I found this frustrating because even if I didn't like a particular track and clicked on the down key to "dislike" it, I couldn't end and pass up the track altogether. I had to wait until it was finished.

However, there was one major feature that I couldn't take advantage of, and I knew this already going into it as Sony reps have addressed the issue before I could even think about it. If you have a PC, you should be able to sync your personal music library (including playlists) with the cloud on your computer using the web-based portal and using the "Music Sync" program.

However, I am a Mac owner and all of my music is saved on a MacBook Pro. The problem? Music Sync doesn't work for Macs yet. This problem is expected to be remedied in the future, but Sony hasn't announced a timeline just yet. If it happens soon, I'd be tempted to stay with the premium plan. Otherwise, there's not much of a point for a Mac user to sign up for anything more than the Basic plan.

AVAILABILITY

Music Unlimited is currently available in nine countries: the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. Service is expected to expand to many more markets throughout the year.

New users can sign up for a free 30-day trial. Thereafter, subscription plans start at $3.99 for the basic plan, which permits users to only stream content, and move backwards and forwards on the pre-determined playlist.

The premium plan costs $9.99 per month, granting full access to manually creating playlists and searching the extensive library through a medium of channels, organized by genre, moods, artists and more.

My final word: If Sony gets it together and makes Music Sync compatible with Mac computers, I'd be onboard for a monthly subscription - at least for awhile. This is a far more entertaining and efficient way of projecting music at a house party, either using my own playlists made in the web portal or just letting one of the genre stations do its thing.

CORRECTION: Users can click forward on predetermined playlists using the R1 key, but not the directional keys on the left side of the controller. However, users can use both the L1 key and the directional keys to go backwards.

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Topics: Hardware

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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