The PlayStation Portal may be an impressive piece of hardware, but its usability hinges on this one thing.
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Back in 2007, the brand introduced the Rolly, a peculiar blend of music player, dancing robot, and egg-shaped gadget. Before that, it gave us the VAIO Mouse Talk, which combined a computer mouse with a clamshell speaker phone.
Fast-forward to the present, and we find Sony’s latest creation – the PlayStation Portal. It isn’t anywhere near as outlandish as the Rolly or Mouse Talk, but it still captures that unconventional spirit.
The Portal has a stunning LCD screen and offers PS5 gaming portability, but it’s also fairly pricey, serves as a second screen for the PlayStation 5 rather than operating as a standalone device, and is entirely dependent on how good your internet connection is. All of this puts it somewhere in the middle of ‘nice-to-have’ and ‘not really sure who this is for’.
Despite early scepticism, the Portal sheds light on how big tech brands seem to be thinking about the future of gaming. While remote play isn’t groundbreaking (with alternatives like the Steam Deck and mobile Cloud gaming gaining traction), Sony’s move prompts the question: has it actually given players what they wanted or missed the mark entirely?
1-MINUTE REVIEW: PLAYSTATION PORTAL
What You Need To Know
With its stunning LCD screen, DualSense-like controllers and ability to stream PS5 games, the PlayStation Portal sounds good in theory. Yet for all its convenience, it has plenty of drawbacks. It can’t play games offline, stream video content, or connect to Bluetooth headphones. It’s also reliant on your Wi-Fi quality, which can affect your gaming experience. In short, it’s not an essential accessory, but it is a fun product for those who want more flexibility and can afford it.
What comes in the box: PlayStation Portal, USB cable, printed materials.
HOW WE TESTED THE PLAYSTATION PORTAL
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I used the PlayStation Portal for one to two hours everyday for eight days, using it at home and in a local cafe over Wi-Fi, and in the office over mobile hotspot.
HOW WE EVALUATED THE PLAYSTATION PORTAL
FULL REVIEW OF THE PLAYSTATION PORTAL
Marketed as a portable screen for the PlayStation 5, the aim of the PlayStation Portal is a fairly simple one. You hook it up to Wi-Fi, stream games directly from your console and voilà! You’re playing Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 in handheld mode.
But when you actually get it out there in the real world, things aren’t quite that simple.
Sony did nail one crucial aspect of the PlayStation Portal: the design. The brand has essentially taken a DualSense controller, sawn it in half and jammed a touchscreen display in the middle. The result is instant familiarity for users, all while maintaining the same sleek aesthetic as the rest of the PS5 lineup.
While it is a little disappointing that Sony went with an LCD screen instead of an OLED one, there’s no denying the display is absolutely gorgeous. Colours pop and graphics are nice and sharp, which makes it feel like you’re getting the same quality as the PS5, just on a smaller scale. At eight inches, the Portal’s screen is also larger than rivals like the Steam Deck and the Nintendo Switch OLED, while still being lightweight enough to hold comfortably.
Perhaps the most common critique I’ve heard when it comes to the Portal is that “you can just use PlayStation Remote Play on mobile instead”. Fair point, given the Portal’s price tag. However, your smartphone isn’t going to be remotely in the same league. The Portal’s screen is bigger, crisper, and can be tilted to almost any angle without losing detail. The Portal’s controllers also mirror the DualSense’s with haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, making it far more engaging than playing on mobile.
The only complaint I have about the Portal’s design is how quickly the glass screen shows fingerprints. I would also grumble about how difficult the screen is to take photos of, but unless you’re writing a review like this one, I can’t imagine that’ll be much of an issue.
Given its single-purpose nature, it isn’t really a surprise that the PlayStation Portal is severely lacking in the features department.
At the top of the handheld, you get a power button, volume buttons, two stereo speakers and a PlayStation Link button for connecting compatible headsets (more on that later). On the front, there’s a microphone (which you can mute when not in use), and on the back there’s a 3.5mm audio jack for wired headphones and a USB-C charging port. That’s pretty much it.
It can’t play games off of local storage. It can’t stream Netflix or other video content. You can’t even play a game on the Portal while someone else plays on the console, as the Portal mirrors exactly what’s showing on the PS5.
Its purpose is simply to give you portability and allow you to play your games when someone else is using the TV.
SETUP AND PERFORMANCE
Setting up the Portal isn’t difficult, but it did take a little longer than I would have liked. You need to make sure your PS5 console is set up for Remote Play, power on your Portal and connect it to Wi-Fi and then wait for a bunch of updates, with mine taking around fifteen minutes. From there, you can pair the Portal to your PS5 and start playing.
To keep your Portal connected when you’re away from your console, you will also need to leave your PS5 in rest mode. When you hit the power button on the Portal, it will automatically switch your console on so you can start playing.
As I mentioned earlier though, the major downside to the PlayStation Portal is that it’s usability is entirely reliant on how good your internet connection is. While Sony says Remote Play works with broadband internet Wi-Fi with at least 5Mbps, it recommends a high-speed connection of at least 15 Mbps for the best experience. And it’s worth noting that, like many Australians, my home internet can be remarkably s**t.
It’s not uncommon for my TV shows to start blurring as my Wi-Fi takes a dip, and don’t even get me started on how long it takes to download a new game.
And yet, my Portal ironically works just fine.
In over a week of home use, I haven’t had an issue with connection yet. However, a quick look on the PlayStation Portal reddit thread shows that, for some others, connectivity has been dicey – and this is the big problem. The PlayStation Portal might work perfectly. On the other hand, you might need to learn to live with occasional disruptions. And that isn’t exactly what you want to hear right before dropping $300 plus.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. If, like me, you get lucky and have no issues with dropouts, the Portal’s gameplay is pretty spectacular. As soon as I got mine set up and connected, I dove right into Gris and enjoyed the same smooth gameplay and great graphics as I would on my console. Jumping into Hogwarts Legacy, I was worried the game would lose some of its magic on a smaller screen, but it was still every bit as delightful to play.
The Portal’s portability has also helped me fit gaming back into my day. On an average workday, it’s usually quite late by the time I get to relax, and I’d rather get into bed than sit on the couch. Being able to bring the handheld with me has given me more of an incentive to boot up the PS5, allowing me to catch up on games I’ve been putting to the side.
If you want to take your Portal with you on your next roadtrip, you can technically connect your Portal via hotspot too, so long as your 5G connection is strong enough. However, this didn’t work in my testing. Not only did the Portal disconnect twice within ten minutes of playing it, the lag was pretty unbearable and dropouts caused me to fall during pivotal jumps. Given that hotspotting isn’t really something Sony is advertising though, I’m not overly bothered by this, even if it does take some of the ‘remote’ out of ‘remote play’.
When it comes to audio for the PlayStation Portal, your choices are fairly limited. There’s a microphone, dual internal speakers that are fine but nothing groundbreaking, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. If it feels like something’s missing here, you’re correct. There’s no Bluetooth on the Portal.
Instead, the handheld has PS Link compatibility, which means you can use it with compatible headphones like the PULSE Explore Wireless Earbuds or the PULSE Elite Wireless Headset. Given that the earbuds come in at a whopping $329.95, while the headset is priced at $239 and isn’t even available until February 21, this is a pretty unforgivable omission.
Even other Sony audio, including the Sony InZone H9 Wireless Headset or the latest Sony WF-1000XM5 buds, won’t work here. You either have to fork out yet another $200-$300 on top of the price of the Portal, listen through the speakers, or go back to using wired headphones.
And if, like me, you grew up swearing at your wired headphones as they got stuck on everything in sight, this final option is not only not appealing, but still requires you to buy yet another pair of headphones (my last wired pair saw the inside of a trash can long ago).
All of which to say: what the hell, Sony?
Sony hasn’t given a battery life estimate for the Portal, with a representative telling news.com.au: “The battery life varies based on vibration intensity, trigger effect intensity, screen brightness and volume of sound from speakers.”
I played Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Hogwarts Legacy and Gris with the sound halfway up and the controller haptics and features enabled, and got around five and a half hours of playtime off of a full charge. This is around the same amount of time I get from my DualSense controller, making it pretty much the same as playing on console. However, I do wish Sony had given us the remaining battery life in percentage rather than in unhelpful bars, especially given the Portal’s leisurely two hour charge time.
PRICE: HOW MUCH DOES THE PLAYSTATION PORTAL COST?
While some in other countries are calling the PlayStation Portal fairly affordable, I’m not so sure Aussies would agree. Priced at $329, the Portal comes in at almost half the price of the PS5 console, making it a pretty pricey investment for what is essentially just a portable screen. While some will be happy to pay the price for the convenience, this is definitely more of a splurge than an essential accessory.
VERDICT: SHOULD YOU BUY THE PLAYSTATION PORTAL?
With its single-purpose nature, lack of features and Bluetooth, high price tag and reliance on decent Wi-Fi connectivity, there’s no denying the PlayStation Portal is a deeply flawed product. And yet, there’s also plenty to like about it.
The display is absolutely awesome, it’s comfortable to play on, brings all the same features as a DualSense controller and allows you to cram more gaming back into your day. So, did Sony deliver on what its players wanted?
While I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling anyone this is a product they ‘need’, it’s definitely a handy accessory to have if you have the money to burn. Similarly, if you find yourself fighting with other household members for time on the TV, the Portal is an incredibly convenient solution.
In saying this, the strength of your home internet is going to be a huge factor in whether or not this is a product worth your cash.
Buy it if: Price isn’t a major concern, you have a solid and stable internet connection, you want a way to play your PS5 when others are using the TV.
Don’t buy it if: You’re on a budget, your internet is patchy, you want a portable device that can play its own games.
OTHER COMPARABLE HANDHELD GAMING DEVICES
If you can’t quite justify the price of the PlayStation Portal, you can use PlayStation Remote Play to stream and play your PS4 and PS5 games on Android smartphones and tablets, iPhone, iPad, Windows PC or Mac.
If price isn’t an issue but you’re not sold on the PlayStation Portal, you can also consider these alternatives:
Backbone One: While the PlayStation Portal can only stream games straight from your PS5 console, the Backbone One works with PlayStation Remote Play, Xbox Remote Play, Cloud Gaming, the Steam Link App, and allows you to play mobile games natively. Rather than being an all-in-one device, the Backbone One is a gaming controller that attaches to your mobile phone. It’s available in both a USB-C Android/iPhone 15 model and an iPhone (Lightning) edition, so make sure you grab the right version for your phone.
Steam Deck: If you’re after a device that will let you install and run games natively, you can meanwhile turn to the Steam Deck. It gives you plenty of portable gaming options, along with Bluetooth 5.0 and Dual-band Wi-Fi Radio. Given that it’s not just a simple streaming device like the PlayStation Portal though, it is significantly more expensive. It has also never received an official release in Australia, so it can be difficult to track down.
Nintendo Switch OLED: For those who are less fussed about PS5 exclusive titles and just want a way to play games remotely, the Nintendo Switch OLED is a great choice. It comes with internal storage, a great catalogue of games, an even better screen than the PlayStation Portal, and doesn’t require you to be connected to the internet to play. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, you can also check out the standard Nintendo Switch console or the Nintendo Switch Lite.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the PlayStation Portal?
The PlayStation Portal is a handheld device that uses PlayStation’s Remote Play feature to stream games from your PS5 console. Essentially, it’s a second screen for your PS5.
The Portal can be used anywhere in the world, so long as you have a PlayStation 5 console and a decent Wi-Fi connection.
What kind of internet connection do I need for the PlayStation Portal?
Remote Play can be used with broadband internet Wi-Fi with at least five Mbps, though PlayStation recommends a high-speed connection of at least 15 Mbps for the best experience.
Does the PlayStation Portal work over a mobile phone hotspot?
You can tether your iPhone or Android phone to the PlayStation Portal, so long as you have a strong 5G connection.
Can I play the PS5 through my TV while someone else plays on the Portal?
No. Your PlayStation Portal mirrors what’s on your console, so only one person can play at a time.
However, one person can watch the TV as normal while another person uses the Portal.
Do I need a PlayStation Plus membership to use PlayStation Portal Remote Player and PlayStation Remote Play?
Not unless you’re using Remote Play to play a game that requires a membership to access multiplayer.
Does the PlayStation Portal work with PS4?
No, the PlayStation Portal is only compatible with PS5.
Which games can I play on PlayStation Portal?
The PlayStation Portal can play anything you’ve got installed on your PlayStation 5, with the exception of those that don’t support Remote Play. For instance, anything that requires peripherals like the PlayStation Camera or VR2 headset can’t be played with Remote Play.
How do I set up the PlayStation Portal?
Before you can play Remote Play on the PlayStation Portal, you’ll need to turn on your PS5 console or leave it in rest mode. You’ll also need to ensure your PS5 console is connected to the internet and signed in with the same account you’ll sign in on the Portal.
From the home screen of your PS5, select Settings > System > Remote Play, and then turn on Enable Remote Play.
To begin Remote Play while your PS5 console is in rest mode, select Setting > System > Power Saving > Feature Available in Rest Mode. Then, turn on Stay Connected to the internet and Enable Turning on PS5 from Network.
On the homescreen of your PlayStation Portal, you can then press the cross button to connect with the PS5 and start Remote Play.
Does the PlayStation Portal come with a case?
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