Review: PlayStation Portal may be the gaming device to save relationships, despite flaws

The PlayStation Portal could save your relationship.
The PlayStation Portal could save your relationship. Photo credit: PlayStation

There is a lot riding on the PlayStation Portal and most of that is a perception that the device is the next portable that will allow you to game anywhere and everywhere.

It is possibly best to rein in some of those expectations, because unlike the brilliant handheld PS Vita which launched back in 2011, this piece of kit is not quite as independent or standalone as you'd like it to be, tethered as it must be to owning a PlayStation 5 and a decent Wi-Fi.

But it does offer a hint of help for households whose lives have become blighted by the demands of gaming and which only have one central unit and TV set up to play on. However, Remote Play is not a new invention and other options to stream on laptops or devices have existed long before the Portal came into existence.

Using Remote Play and streaming from your PlayStation 5, the PlayStation Portal is about as beautiful a piece of kit as ever you can get your hands visuals-wise. It's not flawless, but with an 8-inch, 60Hz LCD display with 1080p resolution, the Portal's resolution is magnificent.

Much like the Vita's one time OLED, graphics are crisp and clear using Remote Play with your PS5. It is fair to say though the quality of what you see depends on the kind of game you play.

Titles like arcade shooter Resogun, where swarms of alien craft surround you, occasionally blur and became pixelated as the Portal struggles to cope with graphical overload. But while some of that is also due to the connectivity of the Wi-Fi and strength of the signal and connection with the PlayStation, it's obvious that quality can flip on a dime if there are issues.

If you're downloading another game and trying to use the remote play on the Portal, then there is a degradation of what you're seeing and playing on screen due to the Wi-Fi signal strength and the internet being used in other ways.

What's impressive about the PlayStation Portal is how light it is.
What's impressive about the PlayStation Portal is how light it is. Photo credit: PlayStation

Leaving the house, ensuring the PlayStation 5 is on and then connecting via a Wi-Fi hotspot elsewhere can be a less than optimal experience. When it works properly, it allows the Portal to soar; but with a weaker signal it's a major frustration.

Roughly the width of two DualSense controllers, the Portal's size is chunky enough, but the screen itself is thin and supported with handles that are the DualSense controller's left and right triggers but shrunk down to a more portable size. With haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, it sits comfortably in the hands and doesn't feel weighty at all, making for a portable device that's easy to hold for hours on end.

It's led to accusations the Portal is merely a knock off of the Nintendo Switch but with DualSense bolted on. Practically, it's easy to see why those parallels have been, but in truth, the whole thing is light and rests easily in your hands, never feeling overheated or heavy during extended periods of play.

The PlayStation Portal's beautiful OLED screen is wondrous to behold.
The PlayStation Portal's beautiful OLED screen is wondrous to behold. Photo credit: PlayStation

But how long you play really does depend on what kind of tolerance you have for using an impressive and excellent small screen if you have access to a larger television for gaming purposes.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is the Portal needs to be connected on a home Wi-Fi network and to your device to achieve the best results.

With this in mind, the Portal could save a lot of relationships otherwise threatened by one person constantly hogging the main television in the pursuit of platinuming Spider-Man 2 or raising hell in God Of War. It's here PlayStation is a success, yet somehow along the way, the Portal also has teetered dangerously close to not adapting to gamers' choices. 

With no Bluetooth connection and the only way to connect via the PS Link capability, the audio side of the Portal suffers a little in comparison. While Sony's brilliant Pulse Wireless headset and its mightily impressive Pulse Explore earbuds connect, the lack of alternative options for wireless headphones or earpods is a worrying sign the company is trying to lock people into their own tech.

PlayStation Portal will work best at home.
PlayStation Portal will work best at home. Photo credit: PlayStation

Ultimately, when everything is firing properly the PlayStation Portal is a great way to stream your PS5 games around your house. While it does have a long battery life (somewhere between six and eight hours per USB-C charge), the set does lack some of the innovation of a Sony piece of hardware.

For many gamers, Sony's baffling decisions around omissions will be a problem. But for a one-job-only piece of tech, it is solid enough. 

Newshub was supplied a PlayStation Portal for this review.