PS3 app guide

Essential apps for the ultimate XMB

Sony traded the PS3's It Only Does Everything slogan for Long Live Play back in 2011, but that hasn't slowed the company from turning its gaming machine into an all-purpose entertainment powerhouse. Since its launch, the PS3's XrossMediaBar (XMB) has been populated by apps offering everything from movie streaming to sports, protein folding, programming, YouTube, and beyond.

Rest assured, if you're looking to use the PS3 for something more than gaming, Sony has options. And to start, here's a rundown of the system's most essential apps...

PlayStation Store

The crown jewel of PS3's XMB, The PlayStation Store serves as the hub of the console's digital entertainment. Here, PlayStation Network members can link up their credit cards and shop Sony's collection of gaming content, which includes downloadable retail titles, digital-only PSN games, or byte-sized PS Minis. The store also houses a robust movie channel featuring new releases and archived titles for rent or purchase. More than just another place to spend your money, the PlayStation Store is also where PlayStation Network can redeem their DLC codes, find the latest demo, snag XMB themes, or download the newest PS+ freebie (provided you're all paid up on your premium dues).

Video Unlimited

Available in: All regions

Launched in 2010, Video Unlimited is Sony's online film and TV digital distribution service which offers the same titles found within the PlayStation Store's movie channel. Where Video Unlimited sets itself apart, however, is in its fresh approach to searching. With this app, entertainment seekers can scan the PlayStation Network's video library using a number of unique search conditions and discover new movies based on common factors (i.e actors, directors, niche genres, etc.). Intuitive browsing and recommendation features make this app more friendly to movie fans than its PlayStation Store counterpart.

Music Unlimited

Available in: All regions

Formerly known as Qriocity, Music Unlimited is the audio arm of Sony's digital empire. Unlike its companion app, Video Unlimited, Music Unlimited operates as a cloud-based streaming service, sporting millions of songs which can be played instantly across multiple Sony devices for a monthly subscription fee. The setup is similar to Netflix in that Music Unlimited subscribers never actually own any of the songs on the service, but instead cue them up from Sony's server. Also like Netflix, Music Unlimited comes loaded with the ability to read one's musical tastes and suggest alternative tracks. As with Xbox's Zune Store and Apple's iTunes, Music Unlimited is a clean and user-friendly outlet for lovers of all things audio.

Life With PlayStation

Available in: All regions

In 2006, Stanford launched Folding@home. It was a program that let PS3 user's donate their unused processing power toward helping Stanford University solve complex protein folding equations for use in vital cancer research, among other worthy causes. Flash forward to now, and Folding@home has been rolled into the Life With PlayStation app, a download that not only lets users continue to help Stanford's plight, but browse a virtual globe for news stories and regional data via the Live Channel. Life With PlayStation is a free app with a good intentions, making it essential for gamers who have the extra hard drive space and an open mind.

Crunchyroll

Available in: North America

The perfect companion for the anime connoisseur, Crunchyroll acts as a portal to countless hours of Japanese animation and live action drama. Created by UC Berkeley grads back in 2006, Crunchyroll recently hit the PS3 scene in 2012 with a number of popular shows picked up through over six years of wheeling and dealing with overseas studios. As a result, PS3 viewers are treated to hundreds of well known programs like Naruto Shippuden, Beelzebub, Blue Exorcist, and more. Like all good things, the full Crunchyroll experience comes with a monthly price of US$6.95 for the anime, $US6.95 for the drama, or US$11.95 for both, with deals for longer term commitments. And while it's possible to get your anime fill for free with a handful of samples, a Crunchyroll subscription is required to dip into its full selection.

MLB.TV

Available in: North America

The PS3 doesn't have all its bases covered when it comes to sports apps, but at least baseball fans are never left wanting with MLB.TV. Offering live HD feeds from matches across the globe, MLB.TV is a ticket to all things baseball, including up-to-date stats, scores, and archived clips and games. PS3 sports fans can tailor their experience with multiple audio feeds (i.e., home commentary, away commentary, natural "park" sounds), split screen visuals, and DVR controls; as well as use MLB.TV's interactive features to track every last detail of their favorite team or keep tabs on their fantasy player league. The standard service is US$19.99 a year [edit: subscriptions start at $100 and shrink with the season], but for a little more subscribers can upgrade to an MLB.TV Premium account, which introduces enhanced viewing features, cross-platform capabilities, and the free MLB At Bat 12 mobile app.

NHL GameCenter LIVE

Available in: North America

NHL GameCenter LIVE isn't equipped with as many bells and whistles as its baseball sibling, but if you prefer your sports with ice skates and body checking, it doesn't disappoint. For $5 a month, the app supplies access to live, HD NHL feeds, including 40 out-of-market games per week. In addition, fans can view archived matches, condensed games, and classic games culled from the service's NHL Vault. As with MLB.TV, there are perks to watching hockey on the PS3, such as enhanced viewing options and the ability to keep up with specific team stats and news throughout the season.

Netflix

Available in: All regions

Netflix is PS3's premier movie streaming app, featuring a wealth of instantly watchable movies, TV series, and special events (i.e TED Talks) for cinephiles and TV junkies of all types. For a flat $8 monthly fee, members can access Netflix's catalog and tune in for countless hours of streaming entertainment. That's an entire month of all-you-can-watch service for the the price of roughly two brick-and-mortar video rentals, and the quality is typically on par with HD programming. Granted, it takes a little longer for the newest releases to appear, and regions outside of the US aren't as fully stocked, but for the amount of content you do receive for a comparably low price, Netflix is one of the best deals around.

Video streaming contenders

Amazon Instant: Amazon.com's video on demand service, offering films and TV shows for rental, purchase, and streaming in the US.

CinemaNow: Best Buy's US pay-per-rental service.

Crackle: Sony's other, other, digital network carrying a small selection of free Sony films and original Crackle content.

LoveFilm: UK's subscription based Netflix contender.

MUBI: A social networking movie site catering to indie flicks, classics, and cult films.

Vudu HD Movies: :Walmart's US movie streaming site.

Hulu Plus

Available in: US

While tons of entertainment companies are vying for their slice of the streaming TV pie, none are yet up to par with Hulu Plus. Available on nearly every internet-connected platform in the US, this content streaming service provides access to hundreds of television shows, both new and old. From the most recent episodes of The Daily Show, Grimm, and Modern Family, to past seasons of South Park, House, and the Cosby Show, Hulu Plus delivers in up to 1080p definition. What's more, at just $8 a month, Hulu Plus is a viable cable alternative.

YouTube

Available in: North America

With YouTube on your XMB, a whole assortment of video guides, walkthroughs, speedruns, trailers, previews, and other game clips are available at the click of a DualShock controller. Searching for something to watch is easy thanks to the app's streamlined interface, and seasoned techies will appreciate the ability to pair a smartphone device to the PS3 and browse YouTube's database via touchscreen controls. Content wise, this is the exact same YouTube you'd find on any other internet device, but cleaned up and tailored for easier navigation. Heavy users will still want to invest in a PS3 keypad nonetheless.

Move.me

Available in: All regions

Move.me isn't a game. In fact, it takes great pains to tell you that right off the bat. What it is, however, is a software tool one can download to create PS3 content using PlayStation's Move Controller, PlayStation Eye camera, a PC, and a healthy knowledge of C+ coding. It is, in essence, a playground for programmers, homebrewers, and other tech-minded types that encourages users to utilize PlayStation's motion controls to invent new and innovative applications. At just over $100 for non-academic users, Move.me doesn't come cheap. That said, for creative minds looking for sanctioned Sony homebrewing, it is a worthy investment.

There you have it; proof that the PS3 truly does everything. Or close to everything. Sony has some ground to cover if it hopes to match Xbox 360's app selection, but for now there's enough to keep its core demo happy. We'll stay on the look out for new PS3 apps. In the meantime, let us know which apps you'd like to see on your XMB, and which you can do without.

Want more info on all the PS3 has to offer? Check out our rundown of the Best PS3 games and our most recent picks for the Best PlayStation Network games. Still hungry? Fill up with our 2012 list of the 100 best games of all time.