For years, the one thing I hated most about traveling (besides all the other things that suck about it) is not being able to bring my PlayStation 5 with me. Thanks to PlayStation Portal, I can finally do this – sort of.
Sony’s new $200 Remote playback (a feature that lets you stream a PS5 game to another device like your phone) a PS5 peripheral is both life-changing and frustrating. With Portal, you can take your PS5 games with you without lugging around a giant console or compromising too much on visuals or load times. All you need is a solid WiFi connection and you can play your PS5 games on the go without really losing anything.
However, good WiFi is hard to find. With its reliance on reliable internet and limited feature set, PlayStation Portal is definitely not a great device that I’ll nonetheless be carrying with me every time I go out of town going forward.
What I like about PlayStation Portal
At first glance, PlayStation Portal looks like the long-awaited (but sadly probably never happening) sequel to Sony’s old PSP and Vita handheld consoles. It also looks pretty silly since it’s just a giant LCD screen sandwiched between the two halves of a DualSense controller.
As Chuck Mangione once said, it feels so good.
Credit: Joe Maldonado/Mashable
It’s a fun idea that actually works really well. The DualSense controller that comes with every PS5 is arguably the best gamepad Sony has ever produced, and Portal just…feels like it. Mission accomplished! But the fun doesn’t stop there.
It feels fantastic in the hands
Sony actually incorporated the unique haptic mechanisms, including nuanced controller rumble and adaptive triggers, with Portal. I tested this with the console game The Astro Gaming Room, and sure enough, the feel was just like when my PS5 first started up in 2020. The Astro’s feet made a satisfying little tap-tap-tap sensation with each step, and the triggers had resistance whenever the game called for it.
There is one A caveat to all of this: the weight of the device. Portal weighs 529g — or just over 1lb. It’s definitely not heavy or uncomfortable to hold by any means, but it’s almost twice the weight of a DualSense controller on its own. It might be a bit clunky to carry with one hand, but other than that, I don’t think the weight is a big deal here.
A great way to play an RPG
One thing that is an inherent hurdle with a game streaming device is latency. There’s just no way around the fact that there’s a small, almost imperceptible gap between pressing a button and something happening on screen with PlayStation Portal. The good news is that for many games this doesn’t matter at all.
Case in point: I love RPGs. I’ve tried several RPGs (both turn-based and action-oriented) on Portal, such as Dragon Quest XI, Star Ocean: The Second Story R, Tales of Ariseand Octopath Traveler II. I found this to be a pretty excellent way to experience these games. Whether I was looking for experience points or doing side missions, it’s just really nice to be able to play these games on a handheld while watching football on my TV.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was also surprisingly playable on the portal. Really, the only thing I would avoid is really edgy action games, especially first-person shooters. Cyberpunk 2077 it’s not even the most thrilling shooter in the world, but I found it a bit clunky for a Portal game. Trying to aim for precise headshots on a smaller screen with just a hint of latency in the middle of a firefight isn’t the best experience.
This should go without saying, but you probably shouldn’t be playing competitive multiplayer games on Portal either. You will be at a serious disadvantage.
While lag isn’t a huge issue on the portal, visual hiccups are more prevalent. If a game runs at 60fps on PS5, it will run that way on Portal, but not all the time. I personally noticed a lot of small drops here and there that seemed to have more to do with my WiFi connection than anything going on in the games themselves. Again, for many titles this isn’t a big deal, but shooters and racing games would be hampered by this.
The good news is that resolution drops and visual artifacts were pretty rare on Portal. I I did you noticed a lot more of this while gaming on the device on Mashable’s office WiFi network, but on a home network it wasn’t an issue. Stuttering and artifacts become major issues if you try to play a portal game while downloading something on your PS5, so maybe don’t.
Bigger than any phone
Not much going on in the back.
Credit: Joe Maldonado/Mashable
One of the main arguments against the Portal is that it’s a $200 device that’s built for something you can now do over the phone. Hell, you can even connect a DualSense controller to mobile devices so you don’t even miss the haptic feedback.
I can’t dispute the criticism that $200 is a lot of money for an otherwise readily available service. However, the Portal’s 8-inch LCD display is much larger than anything you’d find on the average smartphone. I do i think the DualSense split-in-half form factor with a big screen with a honkin’ in the middle is more ideal for gaming than an iPhone with a third-party controller attached to the screen.
The Portal’s display gets the job done, but its maximum 1080p resolution and 60Hz refresh rate won’t wow anyone. That last number is particularly interesting because there are some PS5 games that optionally support 120Hz play on compatible TVs. It just won’t work on the portal. Nasty, I know, but that’s the holidays.
What I don’t like about PlayStation Portal
By this point, you might be thinking that Portal is a really great device with just a few minor flaws. Let me break the illusion a bit.
The connection is disconnected
Without mincing words, Portal had an incredibly difficult time maintaining a consistent connection with my PS5 during testing. Some sessions were fine, but most of the time I was getting a disconnection error every 15 to 20 minutes. Note that this happened while I was sitting six feet away from the PS5.
The good news is that this is a short and easily fixable outage. When the portal loses connection, your game will stop, the screen will freeze for 5 to 10 seconds and then ask to reconnect. It only takes a few seconds, so it’s a maximum of 30 seconds of inconvenience each time it happens. I’ve never encountered a situation where the portal didn’t connect to the console immediately upon my request.
It’s not at all experience-breaking, but it’s just… annoying as hell. The portal is accepting software updates, so maybe Sony can fix this, but it’s currently capital P issue.
Technically, this is not new
At the risk of repeating myself, Portal costs a few Benjamins to replicate an experience I could have for “free” just by owning a PS5 and a smartphone. The value proposition here is not exceptional. Nothing more to say about it. You get the idea.
Hey, at least it has a headphone jack.
Credit: Joe Maldonado/Mashable
I won’t dance around it too much: PlayStation Portal only supports wired headsets and first-party PlayStation-branded headsets for private audio output. Your AirPods won’t work here.
The worst part? These first-party headphones aren’t even out yet. You need something with Sony’s own “PlayStation Link” technology and right now it comes in the form of Pulse Explore headphones or Pulse Elite headphones. The former launches on December 6 for $199, while the latter doesn’t come out before 21 Feb at $149. Boo!
What’s “eh” about PlayStation Portal
Easily the biggest question mark I have about the portal is how its usability may vary depending on your personal situation.
Your mileage may vary
I’ve only really been able to test it on my home network and the Mashable office, and as I said earlier, the former was better than the latter.
Note that the internet in my apartment is very crappy. Network speeds are inconsistent at best. There are good days and bad days – and we get choked up on weeknights. Even with all that in mind, the portal works pretty well! Heck, if you have better internet than I do, you might have an even better time than I do.
But if your internet is a major concern in your daily life, I’d worry about Portal.
PlayStation Portal battery life
Still, there’s some good Portal news to end with.
Battery life on this thing isn’t elite by any means, but you can get six to eight hours on a full charge. In my eyes, this is good enough for what Portal offers. Since this unit has no real horsepower of its own, there’s no annoying fan noise or noticeable heating issues like you’d find in a bona fide handheld gaming rig like Lenovo Legion Go.
It’s quiet, cool, and lasts long enough that it’s not much of a problem.
PlayStation Portal was a real conundrum for me throughout the review process. It’s either a great device that also kind of stinks, or a bad device that also kind of drives. I’m not sure which it is, though, and maybe that distinction doesn’t matter.
There are simply too many problems big and small to tell you to shove this bad boy in your Amazon cart and spend $200 on it. Moment-to-moment play can be (and usually is) great on Portal, but frequent connection issues and wide variation due to network differences make it difficult to recommend.
Having said all that though, I find myself using it every day. I’ve actually kind of forgotten about a proper PS5 sitting in my bedroom, opting instead to play my little Portal RPGs while watching TV. The Portal’s excellent form factor, good display, and overall usefulness outweighed its many issues for me.
Maybe they won’t for you, but I can’t just say “this thing sucks” and move on. Life isn’t always that simple.