The Playstation Portal

When Sony announced the Playstation Portal, a Playstation peripheral dedicated to Remote Play, the Internet collectively jeered. It was too expensive, there were other devices that did the same thing (and more) and “no one” would buy this thing. In a lot of ways the Internet was right, except for that last part. Either Sony only manufactured a handful of these things, or plenty of people ARE buying it. I wanted one but couldn’t find one in stock, try as I might (and I will never support eBay scalpers).

Last week I finally got lucky when an account on Threads that tracks these things mentioned that Best Buy had some. I immediately hit and snagged one before they sold out again.

So let’s dive in to the Internet’s complaints (don’t you like how I treat the Internet as if it has a single unified voice!). The Playstation Portal is $200 and it really does just one thing: it is a device that offers Remote Play from a Playstation. If does not run games locally and it doesn’t even support Playstation’s Streaming Game service (though many of us hope that feature gets added). The argument here is that there are other devices that you could use for Remote Play. The Steam Deck and the Logitech G Cloud are often mentioned. Both can be made to support Remote Play and both do a lot of other things, too. The G Cloud will stream GeForce Now and Xbox XCloud and the Steam Deck can be made to do both of those things and of course runs games natively. On the other end of the spectrum, you can get a peripheral for your phone (like the Backbone) that adds a controller and uses the phone’s screen and do Remote Play that way.

These are all good arguments but I still wanted the Portal. First, I have tried Backbone-style devices but my phone’s screen is just too small for my old eyes, so that was out for me. I do have a Steam Deck and have used it for remote play off the Xbox, and that was almost enough to make me bail on the Portal since there is an open source Playstation Remote Play app called Chaiki that seems to work well for most Deck owners. For two reasons I gave up on that. First, the Portal supports all the neat haptics of the Playstation controller, and second, I didn’t want to have to fiddle with things. The Xbox remote play worked great until something or other would get updated then I’d have to futz with it and of course this always happened when I just wanted to play a game.

So yeah, I went for it. If the Playstation 5 is a luxury item, the Portal is a luxury’s luxury. I’ll be the first to admit that. But so far I love it. It has a big screen (8″) which makes it the most comfortable (for my eyes) handheld I’ve used. It feels good in the hands and it just works. I kind of like the design of it, too. It just looks like a screen with a couple of controller handles attached.

I got it for two very specific use-cases. I like to watch sports, particularly football [soccer] and there are definitely times when the action slows down. I wanted an easy way to play console games at the same time I was watching TV. I’ll have a turn-based RPG (or something very pause-friendly) running on the Portal and when a team is killing time or officials are reviewing a penalty or something, I pick up and play. This might get me back to watching NFL games come fall; something I stopped doing due to all the ad breaks. And the other use case is gaming in bed, because who doesn’t want to do that?

I really only have one complaint with the Portal and that is in how they support the track pad on the Playstation controller. Since the Portal has a touch screen I assumed the screen would just act like a giant track pad, but no. In fact you have to tap the screen to enable ‘track pad mode’ which reveals two rectangles on either side of the screen. These are your ‘trackpad areas’ (and they are mirrored so you can you either hand to access them). Then you have to double tap in one of these to emulate a trackpad press. It’s a little cumbersome though I am getting used to it.

I’ve used the Portal every day since I bought it, so no buyer’s remorse so far. $200 IS a lot, but it is $100 cheaper than the G Cloud and $200 less than the cheapest Steam Deck and it has a bigger screen than both of those. Yes it also does less, but if you only want to do one thing with it, why not save some money and get a device that fully supports the service you want to use. The Playstation Portal certainly isn’t the right device for everyone, but it’s the right device for me.