When the PS Portal was first announced, we were endlessly sceptical about Sony's sort of return to the handheld market. We've spent the best part of a decade clamouring for a new PS Vita, so the PS Portal understandably feels like a half-measure, rather than the real deal. However, after spending some time with Sony's new £200/$200 device, we came away surprisingly impressed. But what exactly is the PS Portal? And what does it actually offer? Well, let's get into it.
What Is the PS Portal?
The PS Portal is a handheld Remote Play device that lets you play your PS5 games away from the TV over an Internet connection. It features an eight-inch, 1080p LCD touchscreen, with DualSense grips either side — which also come packed with the PS5 pad's signature haptic features. It houses two speakers, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a USB-C port for charging.
You of course then require a PS5 to get any use out of the PS Portal. And without an Internet connection on both your device and PS5, it's nothing more than a hunk of plastic and glass. However, Sony is hoping to provide a more accessible form of Remote Play, with a quicker connection process and a more seamless experience. The PS Portal retails for £199.99 and $199.99.
What's In the Box?
The PS Portal has a relatively simple unboxing experience. Within you have the PS Portal itself, a USB-C charging wire, and a set of instructions. You can check out our full unboxing in the video above.
How Do You Set Up the PS Portal?
The PS Portal takes around 10-15 minutes to set up. Connecting it to Wi-Fi and your PlayStation account is really simple — and made even easier with the PS app on mobile. The more tedious process is downloading and installing the various updates for the device.
Lastly, you need to ensure that your PS5 has the appropriate settings attuned, so you can, for example, turn on the console via the Portal when it's in Rest Mode. Once all of that is out of the way, connecting to your PS5 is quick and easy.
When returning to the Portal, you will choose the PS5 you want to connect to, wait for the devices to pair, and then start to play remotely. If the Portal is off and the PS5 is in Rest Mode, then this process takes around a minute. However, if the PS5 is already fully on, you’ll be connected in a matter of seconds.
How Is the PS Portal's Design, Quality, and Comfort?
One of the first things you'll notice about the PS Portal is how comfortable it feels in the hands. Unlike our Nintendo Life brethren, we struggle to play a handheld device like the Switch for more than 40 minutes, but we could easily play the PS Portal for hours — and we have. It's easily the most comfortable handheld on the market.
The DualSense grips are near-identical to the original PS5 controller, although there appear to be some small changes to the size of the thumb sticks. The eight-inch LCD screen is just the right size, so you aren't squinting to read small text like you would on a smartphone. It's also incredibly vibrant, despite not being an OLED screen. Compared to other handheld devices like the Switch Lite and the Steam Deck, the PS Portal has a far clearer and smoother display.
One of the biggest omissions from the PS Portal is Bluetooth support. Instead, Sony has developed what it calls "PlayStation Link wireless technology", allowing players to connect the upcoming Pulse Explore and Pulse Elite earphones and headphones to the PS Portal. A lack of Bluetooth support is unsurprisingly one of our biggest pet peeves with the device, and appears as nothing more than a greedy omission on Sony's part.
The design of the PS Portal is a little divisive. The split DualSense look isn't the most aesthetically pleasing, but we will say that it's far more charming in person than in pictures. The extended PlayStation lights on either side of the screen are a nice touch that certainly make it feel like a more expensive device. Ultimately, though, its form follows its function. If Sony designed something more traditionally handheld, then it might not have been as comfortable as it is.
A huge concern with the DualSense design, however, is the thumb sticks. While the size is slightly smaller, they don't appear to be different in function or performance. That of course leaves the PS Portal at the mercy of potential stick drift. As a secondary device to your PS5, stick drift shouldn't be an imminent threat, but a year or two down the line your PS Portal could possibly be rendered useless because of it. This early on it's hard to say how much of a problem it'll be, but it's something to consider.
Is Remote Play Any Better on the PS Portal?
The sole function of the PS Portal is to play your PS5 games via Remote Play, so how does it perform in this department? Sony recommends that you have a minimum download speed of 15mbps. With 300mbps, our connection was always superb. We did experience the odd drop in quality, but the majority of the time gameplay looked crisp, felt smooth, and remained steady. Although, when we activated a download on the PS5, the connection tanked and was eventually lost.
Connecting to your PS5, as we mentioned, is a pretty quick process and the PS Portal shows off a little with an actual portal animation, which never gets old. In the house, we never had any issues connecting, and since this is a dedicated Remote Play device, there's no faffing about with apps and peripherals like there is on mobile. We would have liked some kind of home menu for the PS Portal, but we did appreciate the turn on and play aspect.
Things didn't fare quite so well when we left the house. In another home with a stable Internet connection, we connected to our PS5 but the controls remained unresponsive. We had to turn off the device twice and restart before finally we were able to play. Once things were up and running, the PS Portal maintained that stable play experience, although again we were in a household with relatively strong Internet. Further testing will be needed, but this might not be the device for you if you're planning to use it on the go with varying connection speeds.
Our biggest concern with the PS Portal was how well attuned the haptics would be over an Internet connection. Certainly there are elements of lag or delay — which can only really be expected with a device like this — but the haptics themselves feel brilliant. And the same can be said for the overall responsiveness of this device. Now, you aren't going to cap the leaderboard on Modern Warfare 3, but in comparison to the Backbone One, shooters like it were a lot more manageable.
The PS Portal really excels when you boot up slightly more laid-back games. We spent a lot of time with Control, which felt very similar to the native PS5 experience. The PS Portal is in serious danger of becoming our full-time Diablo IV machine, which plays like a dream on a device like this.
Thanks to its overall comfort level, you are able to enjoy much longer Remote Play sessions, which are only further backed up by the PS Portal’s battery. With vibrations set to standard and brightness all the way up, we managed to play for a little over four hours from 100% battery to complete drain. It’s not quite the estimates that were floating around pre-release, but we think it’s a perfectly serviceable amount of time for a device like this.
Should You Buy the PS Portal?
Whether the PS Portal is worth it or not is really down to the situation of the individual. Sony has marketed this as an alternative screen for those that don't always have access to a television. In that case, it's a brilliant alternative that categorically improves the Remote Play experience. The issues with this device begin to crop up when you consider the games you want to play on it, where you want to play them, and its overall price.
Now let's be clear, we don't necessarily think the PS Portal is an overly expensive device. Knock £50 off it, and it would be a veritable bargain. However, the £200 price tag does push it into a new bracket, where you start to look at other handheld devices that are a lot more versatile than the PS Portal. From our time with this device, we wouldn't rely on it as an "out and about" handheld option. There are too many variables with Internet connections to really guarantee you'll get a solid performance from it. Similarly, if you're planning on getting one for fast-paced games like Modern Warfare 3 or Fortnite, it's certainly more manageable than other Remote Play options, but we'd much rather play games like that on the PS5 natively.
However, where the PS Portal excels is in its casual play around the house. If the Portal's sole objective is to improve the Remote Play experience, that's exactly what it does. It feels fantastic in the hand, the LCD screen looks brilliant, and with a stable connection, Remote Play is no longer the lesser experience that it used to be. Is the PS Portal for everyone? No. But for some, it'll be the perfect companion to the PS5.
The PS Portal launches 15th November, 2023, retailing for £199.99/$199.99. Will you be getting this dedicated Remote Play device for your PS5? Let us know in the comments section below.