Sony has launched the PlayStation Portal, a $200 remote player designed for gamers who want to enjoy their existing PS5 console and its game library outside of their main gaming display.
To clarify, the PlayStation Portal is not a standalone console. Instead, it connects to your PS5 over your Wi-Fi network, allowing you to play the games you have downloaded on your PS5 from other locations within your home. While it is possible to connect the Portal to other Wi-Fi networks outside of your home, the results may be inconsistent.
It’s important to note that remote play capabilities are not new, as you can already use devices like smartphones for remote play. However, the PlayStation Portal offers a high-quality hardware experience that sets it apart. The device may appear unusual with its disconnected controller arms and squared-off screen, but it feels durable and comfortable to hold. It features textured grips and a satisfying weight, slightly heavier than a Nintendo Switch.
Unlike connected controllers on phones, the Portal retains the acclaimed features of the DualSense controller from the PS5 launch, such as haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Playing with these features still present enhances the gaming experience.
The standout feature of the PlayStation Portal is its large 8-inch touch-display screen. The 1080p LCD display delivers sharp colors and deep blacks. However, it is worth mentioning that it performs best in dimmer spaces. Overall, the display is a significant upgrade in size compared to connecting your phone for remote play.
During testing, the Portal provided a relatively seamless experience when connected to home Wi-Fi. However, individual experiences may vary depending on the strength of the network. Moving between different rooms in the house did not introduce significant lag, and the connection only dropped when moving out of the Wi-Fi range.
While the included speakers are adequate, connecting a good set of headphones would provide a better audio experience.
So, who is the PlayStation Portal for? The answer lies in how you engage with games at home. If you share your primary gaming display with other family members who may be watching or playing something else, the Portal allows you to easily switch back to your favorite PS5 game with just one button press. Additionally, if you enjoy playing games in bed or in different areas of your home, the Portal enables you to do so within Wi-Fi range.
One lesser-discussed aspect of the Portal is its potential for multiplayer engagement. It allows you to continue a co-op session with someone playing on the TV while you monitor other activities in a separate space, such as the kitchen. You can think of the Portal as an additional controller that acts independently, even if you’re focused on the TV instead of the included screen. However, this use case is a small added benefit, not a reason to purchase the Portal solely as a second controller.
The gaming industry has been embracing more mobile options, and the PlayStation Portal is an affordable choice compared to other portable gaming devices. However, since it assumes you already own a PS5, it must be seen as an accessory rather than a new way to engage with PlayStation games. If you already have an extensive PS5 game library and struggle to find time in front of the TV, the Portal offers a lot of convenience. It’s particularly appealing to busy parents, individuals with only one TV at home, or those who prefer a smaller portable screen.
If you don’t fall into any of these categories, it might be best to hold off on purchasing the PlayStation Portal. It doesn’t revolutionize the way you play PlayStation games. Nevertheless, if you enjoy gaming anywhere within your home, the Portal provides an experience that closely resembles playing directly on your PS5 console.