Sony’s new PlayStation Portal that launches November 15th is a $199.99 device that does just one thing: it streams games via Wi-Fi off of your home PlayStation 5, requiring that you already own Sony’s pricey console.
It doesn’t do any kind of cloud streaming like Nvidia’s Geforce Now or Sony’s own PlayStation Plus Premium subscription, and it can’t run anything locally (not even YouTube or Netflix). The Portal is purpose-built to use a singular feature Sony first debuted with the PS3 and PSP back in 2006 that’s also widely available on other devices you may already own, making me wonder: why does this exist? After spending a couple of days with it, I’m still not sure.
The Portal hardware is essentially what you’d get after sticking an eight-inch LCD between two halves of a standard DualSense controller. The laminated screen has a resolution of 1080p and maximum refresh of 60Hz — perfectly adequate for a display of this size. It supports Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), has a 4,370mAh nonremovable battery that charges via USB-C, top-firing stereo speakers, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and it connects with Sony’s new PlayStation Link-enabled headphones for lossless audio. (The Portal does not offer Bluetooth connectivity.) These specs aren’t anything particularly special, but you have to remember it’s the PS5 doing all the heavy lifting here.
As far as its build, if you’ve ever held a DualSense controller before, you’ll have a sense of what holding the Portal is like. It feels the way it looks: a DualSense split in half and stretched out to accommodate a 16:9 touchscreen in the middle. It even maintains the DualSense’s nifty haptics and adaptive triggers. Though, being a standard DualSense also means its analog sticks may eventually drift after months or years of heavy / extended use (something even the equally pricey DualSense Edge runs the risk of but can remedy via replaceable stick modules).
The Portal may look a little awkward and clunky, but it isn’t too hefty. It weighs about 530 grams, which is over 100 grams heavier than a Nintendo Switch OLED but more than 100 grams lighter than the somewhat chonky Steam Deck. Compared to a Switch with standard Joy-Con controllers, the tradeoff in weight is made up for by its large grips that are comfier to use for extended play sessions.
I’ve initially played a handful of hours with various PS5 games (Resident Evil 4, Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon, and Astro’s Playroom, to name a few) in my limited time with the PlayStation Portal so far. One thing I can certainly say right off the bat is that it feels familiar. At various points in the last two years, I’ve tinkered with using Remote Play to stream games from my PlayStation 5 to my PS4, my PC, various Android devices, an iPhone, an iPad Pro, and even a Steam Deck using open-source software Chiaki. The PlayStation Portal offers mostly the same experience as what I’ve seen with those other solutions, except being purpose-built streamlines the process.
Pay $200 for this or use a slightly less elegant solution for free
The games that lend themselves best to game streaming — primarily single-player experiences that don’t require twitch-y reactions with frame-perfect timing — still seem to be the best fit on the Portal. And just like when you’re streaming on an iPad or other device, there will be times when it looks near flawless as well as times when you notice some prominent artifacting by looking slightly closer. And of course, there can still be times when shit just goes haywire or the Portal doesn’t immediately connect to the PS5 — because Wi-Fi, am I right?
I need to continue using the PlayStation Portal to see if more differences appear between using it and something like a Backbone One controller. My first impression is that this device is primarily for PlayStation diehards who want a simple, dedicated tool for streaming games around their homes. It may be for when the main TV is in use or to take games to other rooms like the bedroom or the bathroom (if you’re okay with flagged devices), but $200 is a little pricey for such a single-use accessory to a $400–$500 game console — especially when there are many other options available that you may already own.
Photography by Antonio G. Di Benedetto / The Verge