With all the handheld gaming devices popping up, like the Steam Deck OLED, Lenovo Legion Go, Ayaneo Slide, and the ROG Ally, I wouldn’t blame you if you first saw the PlayStation Portable and thought, “Whoa, did Sony just make a new PSP?”
If you were expecting a spiritual successor to the PlayStation Portable, I hate to burst your bubble, but the PlayStation Portal is a remote-only device for $330.
This means that nothing is installed on the device itself. You must own and install the games on your PS5. What’s nice is that you can stream any game in your library that you own or have access to with various tiered PlayStation Plus memberships.
PlayStation Portal Design and Features
It’s one of the coolest-looking handhelds out there.
First things first, The PlayStation Portal is a great-looking and feeling device. It has a nice slim form factor and feels comfy in your hands. I like that the controls are essentially a DualSense controller split down the middle instead of a touchpad; it’s an 8-inch LCD screen. It’s a striking design that looks like it came in the future.
PlayStation Portable has a sizable 8-inch LCD touchscreen that can stream out video at 1080p at 60fps. The benefit of being a stream-only device is that it doesn’t need any of the hardware you’d find inside a typical gaming handheld, so it can be reasonably lightweight at just around 1 lb. The display is bright enough and does the job, though you miss out on a lot of the visual allure you get from playing your PS5 on a TV in 4K at 120Hz running HDR. However, since it is just streaming, you’ll get a more battery life, with 7-10 hours of gameplay.
The way it works is the Portal connects to your PS5 that’s connected to your Wi-Fi network. It doesn’t install anything, nor do games run natively. The catch is that you must ensure you’re logged into your home PlayStation 5 and remote play is switched on via Settings.
You should note that the Portal acts as a controller while taking over your PS5. This means no one else can use the console while you’re on the Portal. You also can’t stream from apps like Netflix or YouTube while in remote play.
It’s a pretty painless process, though it is a big nag to remind yourself to turn on the console, especially if you’re in another room. I almost wish there were an option to access a virtual library of games you own and stream from a virtual console, like how GeForce Now handles things; even if it were a paid subscription, it would make sense with this device.
PlayStation Portal Performance
It does one thing, but it does it really well!
The Wi-Fi at the Gizmodo office could be better, but the Portal’s streaming experience was serviceable. I could play Ghost of Tsushima at a decent time without too much of a problem as I moved to different office parts. In areas where the wifi signal became less reliable, you could see how the framerate and video quality would take a nose dive.
The experience of streaming the Portal at home was a different story. Though I imagine it’s because sharing a network with a few dozen other writers who were clogging up at the bandwidth, you know, “working.” isn’t the ideal test case for this thing.
Anyway, the portal worked really well on my home wifi. Games like God of War or The Last of the Us Part 2 ran exceptionally well. There was little to no input lag that affected the action, which was surprising.
I did mess around in a few matches of Fortnite and Call of Duty, and while they weren’t my best games, I could hold my, for the most part, pretty much. However, it wouldn’t be my primary way to play those games since milliseconds matter between getting a kill or having to respawn. But it’s not bad if you’re trying to farm missions and looking to tweak load-outs in your downtime and not for excelling at competitive play.
I found the touch controls to be awfully awkward. To replicate the touchpad on the DualSense controller, you can swipe boxes on the bottom right and left of the 8-inch display. Depending on the size of your hands, it can feel like a stretch, and I often found it required an extra tap or two to register an input fully.
You could remotely play from outside your home on a different wifi network, but it takes a little doing. I could stream from my house in Jersey from the PS5 in the Gizmodo office in NYC and vice-versa. However, I had to message someone in the office (and at home) to turn on the PS5 and log into my PSN account. I was surprised at how well it streamed to the handheld, considering the console was about 10 miles away and across a river.
You could get cute and connect it to a personal hotspot or public wifi like at a Starbucks or McDonald’s. A 15Mbps or higher Wifi connection is recommended, so anything under that is unplayable. Dark scenes and environments turn into nearly all-black pixelated nightmares.
Weirdly, there’s no Bluetooth support on the device. So, if you do have a pair of wireless headphones you like to use, you’re out of luck, though there is 3.5mm for wired headsets. If you want to connect a wireless headset, you’ll have to shell out for PlayStation’s pricey Pulse Elite Headphones or Pulse Explore Earbuds. This is because all this stuff uses a proprietary wireless protocol called PlayStation Link.
Should You Buy a PlayStation Portal?
When you need to play your PS5 no matter where you are.
The big question you might have is, who’s this thing actually for? You have to think of the PlayStation Portal as an extension of the PS5. It’s great if you live somewhere where you have to share a TV, or maybe you want to find a way to play PS5 in other rooms or really need a way to play God of War on the go.
Even though the PlayStation Portal is a niche product that only does one thing: stream PS5 games, it does it really well, depending on your wifi connection, of course.
Unless you’re an absolute PlayStation die-hard who needs to be able to play their PS5 no matter where they are, the PlayStation Portal is an excellent streaming device for $330; it’s just not very good at anything else and doesn’t have the versatility of other gaming handhelds. It does look great, though.
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