Sony Announces the PlayStation Portal: A Closer Look
Sony has just unveiled their latest handheld console, the PlayStation Portal. Previously known as Project Q, the handheld console will be priced at $199, with pricing, pre-order dates, and release dates for Europe and the UK yet to be confirmed.
While $199 may seem like an attractive price, it’s important to understand what the Portal can and cannot do.
What is the PlayStation Portal?
The PlayStation Portal is essentially an eight-inch mobile phone screen wrapped around a DualSense joypad. It includes features such as WiFi connection, USB-C charging, haptics, adaptive triggers, and a built-in speaker. However, there are some noticeable omissions.
Unlike Sony’s previous handheld consoles like the PlayStation Vita, there is no data connection or Bluetooth for headphones or headsets. Instead, the Portal utilizes Sony’s proprietary PlayStation Link technology, allowing it to connect to compatible PlayStation headsets and the new Pulse Explore earbuds and Pulse Elite headset.
There is, however, a 3.5mm headphone jack for those who still use wired headphones. The screen on the Portal is LCD instead of OLED, and the sticks are borrowed from the PSVR2 controller. While there is no DualSense touch pad, the touchscreen replicates its functionality with two zones on the bottom left and right corners.
But what’s missing from the Portal? It lacks internal storage, a cartridge slot, and the ability to play games independently from the paired PlayStation 5 console. It also has no online store or download capability. Basically, it doesn’t have any internal gaming features, making it quite different from Sony’s previous portable consoles.
What is the Purpose of the PlayStation Portal?
The PlayStation Portal serves as a way to play games from your PlayStation 5 on a portable screen. It acts as a portal to your PS5, hence the name. However, it’s essential to note that the Portal requires a strong WiFi connection to your PS5 in order to function.
Ideal conditions would involve a local WiFi connection between the PS5 and Portal, allowing for optimized data flow and faster response times. However, you can also stream from your PS5 to any WiFi network, meaning you can connect to your PS5 anywhere with a decent WiFi connection. Turning on the Portal even turns on your PS5 at home.
You might be wondering if Sony Remote Play, which allows you to connect your PS5 to your phone using an app, already fulfills this purpose. The answer is yes, apart from the ‘remote switch on’ feature. However, the Portal offers a simpler and faster way to connect to your PS5, and its hardware and controls are optimized for PS5 gameplay. It eliminates the clunkiness of Remote Play, making it a more appealing option. Additionally, the local WiFi connection should improve frame rates and response times. However, its performance on bus-quality WiFi remains to be seen.
Who is the PlayStation Portal For?
If you’re a fan of Remote Play and desire a seamless and high-fidelity gaming experience in one package, the PlayStation Portal is perfect for you. It provides all the familiar features with potentially fewer glitches and dropouts.
However, for everyone else, the Portal may be a confusing addition to the mobile gaming market. Its unique capabilities have drawn comparisons to Nintendo’s ill-fated Wii U console, which had a portable-looking touchscreen controller limited by its Bluetooth range.
Despite these comparisons, the PlayStation Portal offers more versatility. Nevertheless, its performance on average WiFi networks and its inability to stream PlayStation’s cloud gaming service without a PS5 are factors to consider. However, it’s likely that Sony will release a solution for streaming PlayStation subscription-based cloud gaming without the need for a PS5 in the future.