PlayStation has really been building the PS5 family of devices throughout the years with the likes of PlayStation VR2, the DualSense Edge, a number of headsets ranging from the Pulse 3D headset to the recently released Pulse Explore earbuds, but the launch of the PlayStation Portal feels like the completion of the PS5 ecosystem that taps into every device type.
Every PlayStation fan has longed for another portable. After the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation Portable took the portable gaming landscape to the next level, in the important ways, the PlayStation Portal does feel like the evolution of those handhelds, with a few caveats.
When it comes to comfort, the PlayStation Portal is the most comfortable gaming handheld that I’ve had in my hands, and I feel like with the flurry of handhelds that have released in the last 12 months, that’s the greatest compliment that I can give the device.
It’s quite literally a DualSense controller cut in half with an 8-inch screen in the middle, and whilst it’s maybe not the prettiest device to look at it, it absolutely proves that comfort should come first when designing a handheld. PlayStation has absolutely made the right decision in doing this as it allows an almost one for one recreation of the DualSense controller including all of the features that make the PS5 so great.
Everything down from the haptics, to the adaptive triggers are perfectly replicated in this handheld which is ultimately what elevates it far beyond using a Backbone or any other mobile controller that I’ve used for remote play. It feels like a portable PlayStation 5, with the only differences coming in the way of slightly smaller analogue sticks as well as the touchpad being replicated in either side of the touch screen, which does make games that require a lot of touchpad input a bit more finicky, but it does work well.
The screen on the PlayStation Portal is one of the highlights. It’s an LCD screen but it’s one of the best that I’ve seen on any device, often looking just as good as an OLED except for in the darkest games where you’ll get a little bit of light bleed. It’s glorious in size and a great way to play games. Battery life lasts roughly as long as a DualSense controller (4-6 hours) and charges via your PS5’s USB-C port or a separate charging brick.
As far as the setup experience goes, it’s super simple if you’ve got the PlayStation app on your phone, with the Portal showing off a QR code that you simply scan before taking over on the Portal and selecting your PS5. Similar can be said for the entire experience which feels lot more integrated than remote play experiences on other devices.
You simply just wake the Portal from sleep, it will already be assigned to your PS5, and you then get a little peak at your PS5 UI before booting in. All-up, it takes about 3-4 seconds before you’re playing from wherever you left off on your last PS5 or PlayStation Portal experience. When you’re done, simply hit the disconnect button on your Portal which will allow you to put your PS5 back into rest mode or leave it running to pick up on the big screen.
This is ultimately (along with it controlling much better) the biggest argument for getting this device over the much cheaper Backbone. There is no messing around at all, with you waking the device from sleep, pushing a single button and your PS5 being right at your fingertips with no distractions.
Obviously, the PlayStation Portal relies on streaming from your PS5 rather than playing games locally, and regardless of your setup, that’s probably never going to be a perfect situation. I was pleasantly surprised with how well my experience was using the Amazon EERO 6 Pro mesh system (review here).
It ran fairly smoothly for 90% of the time, with a clear 1080p resolution and at 60 FPS, with the minor stutter here and there, but never anything that impacted my gameplay experience too much whilst playing single player games. But even on my local network, there was still every so often that I’d boot up and the image quality would be clearly lowered or I’d be getting more stutters than usual. It still seemed to be better than playing on any other device within my home, and I’ve been using it every night in bed even if it isn’t perfect.
Ideally, you want your PS5 connected to your router over a wired connection, and you want your PlayStation Portal connected over 5ghz with it being as close to the network router as possible, so this might require some test and learning, but it’s so worth it for when you get it running well. When it is running perfectly, it feels like you’re playing a portable PS5, and because it’s all running off your PS5 in terms of saves and updates, it feels much more seamless than playing games on PC handhelds. I do recommend that you do some tests with either your phone or a computer to test your connection to remote play if you feel like your local network might not be the best.
I do wish that PlayStation had come up with a way to directly connect to your PS5, and hope that that’s maybe still a chance to come in the future, as I do think that there’s a greater opportunity with this device, particularly with how well that it feels in the hands when everything is working perfectly. Similarly, I think it’d be great for cloud gaming, which Sony are getting into rapidly, but really, these feel even more-so like missed opportunities because of how great the physical experience is with the Portal.
There’s a few other little oddities that I also hope are ironed out. For instance, if you have 120FPS modes setup on games that run at 40FPS in fidelity mode with VRR turned on, this won’t be a great experience on the Portal, so you have to manually turn that off, and similarly HDR isn’t supported so that’s another one, but if you do leave it on but it isn’t the end of the world.
Playing out of the home is obviously a less ideal experience. It absolutely works, and although it takes a little bit longer to boot initially, it’s playable although does obviously come with a big more input lag and image degradation. If you’re playing single player games, or games that don’t necessarily require too much fast-paced action, it’s a great way to play, but obviously if you’re playing COD or FIFA online, you will notice a drop in performance, and might find it’s just not worth it.
If you’re wanting to connect headphones, you can either connect directly to the 3.5mm port, or by using the recently released PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds or upcoming Elite headset. The Portal has PlayStation Link technology built in which means you can connect super seamlessly and the sound is fantastic. Unfortunately though, there is no Bluetooth, so you’re out of luck if you don’t own the Pulse Explore earbuds or have a wired solution. I’m not sure what the reasoning is for this, whether it be a latency issue with Bluetooth, but it does seem pretty odd, even if the Pulse Explore earbuds are fantastic and come highly recommended.
Whilst the PlayStation Portal might not be the handheld that a lot of people were hoping for, I do think that it’s a great addition to those that play their PS5 every day and want a more portable option for the home and on longer trips away. It feels fantastic in the hands and seamlessly connects to the PS5 in ways that don’t make it a pain to use.
The PlayStation Portal provides the best remote play experience by far with its fantastic ergonomics and an almost carbon copy of DualSense functionality. Whilst it’s not the PlayStation portable that many were hoping for, it’s a fantastic way to experience PS5 games away from your PS5 over the internet.
Feels Fantastic In The Hands
Replicates The DualSense Controller Almost One To One
The Screen Is Gorgeous
When It's Working Well It Feels Like You're Playing A PS5 Game Natively