The Public Test Environment (PTE) is like the name says, a place for testing certain new features and updates like new maps, some weapons and clothing. It's done by EAsy to recieve feedback provided by the community.
Should they recieve negative feedback, they will be encouraged to fix anything from the object itself to any major bugs and/or glitches that are prevalent due that object so that it would be suitable for all players in the open beta.
All changes done over there have been added sooner or later to the real game (excluding Crate Capture).
The first downside is that you start with level 1 heroes and can't provide feedback for a high level situation.
Furthermore there's no limitation on which players are allowed to join, so many just play to get their hand on a few items without the will to give any active feedback.
The absence of PunkBuster and usefull ban measures attracts way too many cheaters, another reason why there should be a limitation connected to the real game account.
Servers are constantly full, and with little capacity and large amounts of players, the queue can take well over a hour.
It takes nearly a hour to download the newest build, for it to only be up for a day usually.
The last and maybe most important point is that the PTE is used rarely. Most of the new weapons never appeared for a proper testing and/or enough tolerance. So the pirate pistol maybe would have never be handed out to Gunners, GLs could be for Soldiers only and the welding tool would be for Mandos instead...
FAQ (Official from EA)Edit
Short for Public Test Environment. The development version of the game and site.
This is a “preview” of, and testing ground for, upcoming content, both for the site and the game. This is basically a fake version, which is not and will never be “live”. This can also be referred to as “pre-production”, or “pre-prod” for short.
What should I expect to see on the Public Test Environment (PTE)?
The Public Test Environment contains the features we are currently working on. These features might not quite be ready to be released into the Public Environment yet. We would love to see your feedback, both on which parts of our new features don’t quite work as you’d expect and also your suggestions for possible improvements.
Can I log into the PTE with my usual EA Account?
Nope, sorry. You will need to create a new EA Test Account. Click the “Register” link on the PTE website to create yourself a test account.
Can I bring my Heroes from the Public Environment over to the PTE?
Sorry, at the moment this is not possible. Once you enter the PTE, you will need to create a new test Hero.
How does it work with Battlefunds in the PTE?
As it is now, you will not be able to buy Battlefunds in the PTE.
In order to help testing new features we may, when we deem it’s needed, grant you some test Battlefunds. However this will not always be the case.
The Battlefunds (and Valor Points and Hero Points) you have in the Public Environment will not be affected if you play on the PTE.
Will the Valor Points I earn, items I buy and Missions I complete in the PTE, be reflected in the Public Environment?
No sir! The PTE is separated from the Public Environment. Everything you do in the PTE stays in the PTE.
Is the Public Test Environment (PTE) always available?
Nope. It will usually be available for a few weeks before we publish a new Update to the Public Environment.
Once we publish a new Update, we will close the PTE. It will open again once we have more content to test.
The PTE doesn’t seem to be available, what’s going on?
Even during a phase when the PTE is available, we may close it temporarily, either for updates or because we need to test something else.
Prices/items/things in general, look different here, what's up?!
Anything on the PTE is temporary and subject to change. This goes for the Store, items, prices and anything else.
This the invite-only distribution of the PTE and only a few trusted players are allowed to take part. Most likely there's a Non-Disclosure Agreement, because neither those players are known nor they leaked any information yet during the ancient RTE periods.