PlayStation Portal Review

PlayStation Portal

For a considerable span, my primary disdain when it comes to traveling (barring all the other irksome aspects) has been the inability to bring along my beloved PlayStation 5. Thanks to the advent of PlayStation Portal, I find myself straddling the realms of elation and frustration in equal measure. This nifty $200 Remote Play peripheral for the PS5, designed to facilitate streaming gameplay to alternative devices like smartphones, has ushered in a paradigm shift in my gaming-on-the-go experience.

The prospect of carrying my PS5 games with me, sans the burdensome task of transporting a colossal console or sacrificing too much in terms of visual fidelity or load times, is undeniably groundbreaking. Armed with nothing more than a robust WiFi connection, the PlayStation Portal enables me to indulge in PS5 gaming escapades while on the move, with minimal compromises.

However, the Achilles’ heel of this gaming innovation lies in the elusive quest for reliable WiFi. With its reliance on a steadfast internet connection and a somewhat restricted feature set, the PlayStation Portal emerges as a device that is far from flawless. Yet, paradoxically, it has secured a permanent spot in my travel essentials.

What captivates me about the PlayStation Portal is its initial semblance to the much-anticipated (albeit, regrettably, possibly nonexistent) successor to Sony’s bygone handheld consoles like the PSP and Vita. The device’s appearance, characterized by a colossal LCD screen snugly nestled between the two halves of a DualSense controller, exudes an air of novelty and quirkiness.

As Chuck Mangione once mused, it feels so good. The integration of the DualSense controller, arguably Sony’s magnum opus in the realm of gamepads, into the Portal is a stroke of genius. Holding the Portal is akin to cradling the DualSense, a sensation that seamlessly translates into an immersive gaming experience. The novelty, however, doesn’t end with mere aesthetics.

Beyond its visual appeal, the PlayStation Portal excels in tactile gratification. Sony has ingeniously incorporated the unique haptic mechanisms, encompassing nuanced controller rumble and adaptive triggers, into the Portal’s design. My experiment with this feature, using the console’s bundled game Astro’s Playroom, revealed a sensory experience akin to the inaugural moments of booting up my PS5 in 2020. The subtle tap-tap-tap sensation with every footstep of Astro and the resistance in the triggers synchronized seamlessly with the game’s demands.

Nevertheless, there exists a caveat, a minor hiccup in this otherwise immersive experience—the device’s weight. Tipping the scales at 529g, just over a pound, the Portal’s weight is not burdensome or uncomfortable per se. However, it hovers around twice the weight of a standalone DualSense controller. Carrying it single-handedly may pose a slight inconvenience, but in the grand scheme, the weight doesn’t emerge as a substantial impediment.

PlayStation Portal

Navigating the realm of RPGs on the PlayStation Portal opens up a world of immersive gaming, albeit not without its nuances. Latency, that pesky delay between your button press and on-screen action, is an unavoidable companion with game streaming devices. But fear not, for in the RPG realm, this minor lag hardly makes a dent in the gaming experience.

Venturing into the realms of Dragon Quest XI, Star Ocean: The Second Story R, Tales of Arise, and Octopath Traveler II, I discovered a delightful haven for RPG enthusiasts. Whether embroiled in epic battles or casually grinding for experience points, the handheld charm of the Portal paired seamlessly with my TV’s football broadcast, creating a synergy that enhanced my gaming escapades.

Surprisingly, even the web-slinging adventures of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 proved playable on the Portal. The only cautionary note? Tread lightly with twitchy action games, especially first-person shooters. While Cyberpunk 2077 showcased some hiccups, aiming for precision in the midst of a firefight on a smaller screen proved a tad cumbersome.

Competitive multiplayer games are a no-go on the Portal, where latency could turn victory into a distant dream. Visual hiccups, though not a dealbreaker, do dance into the spotlight. WiFi fluctuations occasionally led to frame rate dips, a minor annoyance that, for most games, posed little hindrance. Shooters and racing games, however, might find themselves at odds with these occasional stumbles.

Visual splendors on the Portal are commendable, with rare instances of resolution drops and artifacting. Home networks proved to be the sweet spot, minimizing any visual disturbances. Yet, beware the siren call of multitasking; attempting to download something to your PS5 while engrossed in Portal gaming can lead to stuttering and artifacting woes.

The Portal’s $200 price tag has raised some eyebrows, given that similar experiences can be attained on a smartphone. Admittedly, connecting a DualSense controller to a mobile device might seem like a more budget-friendly alternative. However, the 8-inch LCD display on the Portal unfolds a larger canvas for gaming, a welcome departure from the confines of your average smartphone screen.

Critics argue that Portal’s display specifications—maxing out at 1080p resolution and a 60Hz refresh rate—might not set the gaming world ablaze. It’s a fair point, especially when some PS5 games tantalize with the prospect of 120Hz gameplay on compatible TVs, a feature the Portal can’t replicate. Nevertheless, the form factor, with a DualSense split in half and a substantial screen in the middle, stands as a testament to the Portal’s gaming-centric design, a departure from the clunkier phone-and-controller combos. In the grand tapestry of gaming, the Portal might not be flawless, but it certainly carves its niche as a handheld RPG haven with a screen bigger than your average phone.

PlayStation Portal

What irks me about the PlayStation Portal Up to this point, you might be thinking the Portal is a really cool device with just a couple of tiny drawbacks. Allow me to break the illusion a little bit.

Connection Woes: Without mincing words, the Portal had an incredibly tough time maintaining a constant connection to my PS5 during testing. Some sessions were OK-to-good, but most of the time, I would encounter a disconnection error every 15 to 20 minutes. Mind you, this happened while I was sitting six feet away from the PS5.

The silver lining is that this is a brief and easily fixable interruption. When the Portal loses connection, your game will suspend, the screen will freeze for 5 to 10 seconds, and then it’ll ask to reconnect. Doing so only takes a few seconds, so this is at maximum a 30-second inconvenience every time it happens. I never encountered a situation where the Portal didn’t immediately reconnect with the console upon my request.

It’s not ruinous to the experience at all, but it’s just… really damn annoying. Portal does take software updates, so maybe Sony can fix this, but right now, it’s a capital-P Problem.

Technical Déjà Vu: At the risk of repeating myself, Portal costs a couple Benjamins to replicate an experience I could’ve had for “free” by just owning a PS5 and a smartphone. The value proposition here isn’t outstanding. There isn’t much more to say about that. You get the idea.

Bluetooth Blues: I’m not going to dance around this too much: PlayStation Portal only supports wired headphones and first-party PlayStation-branded headphones for private audio output. Your AirPods won’t work here.

The worst part? Those first-party headphones aren’t even out yet. You need something with Sony’s proprietary “PlayStation Link” technology, and right now, that comes in the form of the Pulse Explore earbuds or the Pulse Elite headphones. The former launches on Dec. 6 for $199, while the latter doesn’t come out until Feb. 21 at $149.

Originally posted 2023-11-16 11:24:54.