- PS Portal is the latest portable device from Sony which functions as an accessory for the PS5.
- The portable device cannot work without PS5, lacks any sort of native usage or cloud streaming, access to the PS Plus Premium library, and Bluetooth support.
- Some shortcomings aside, cloud streaming was an integral feature and Sony could have made the PS Plus Premium tier more attractive with this opportunity.
- Handheld devices are booming these days, and it was an optimal chance for Sony to come up with a strong contender instead of a barebones device.
Admit it, handheld devices are a ton of fun. You can carry your console anywhere and whip it out to enjoy a few games at your convenience; it’s a sublime feeling. However, what if your console is severely limited like it’s useless if you don’t have additional hardware? Would you still be able to enjoy it if all it did was serve as an extension of a console you have to buy on top of this device?
This dilemma is plaguing PlayStation’s latest portable device, PS Portal. Back when it was first leaked as Project Q, there were a ton of speculations and possibilities surrounding this mystery project. I was positively excited about a new Sony handheld, but the official reveal left most of us quite disappointed. PS Portal’s lack of definite features and role as a glorified PS5 accessory crushed the dreams of many PlayStation fans wanting a handheld.
PS Portal Is Quite A Hard Sell
Before deciding, let’s look into what features the PS Portal provides. For $200, you get an 8-inch 1080p LCD and a DualSense controller to stream your games over wifi. The built-in controller with PS Portal possesses all the features of the PS5’s DualSense like haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. The device is a streaming terminal to access your games in an easy-to-handle portable console.
So then, what’s the problem? It is a critical fact that PS Portal can’t function without a PS5. To stream a game, it must be running on a PS5 console connected to preferably the same wifi as the Portal, but it can be different too. Not only do you need a $500 console on top of the PS Portal, but streaming over wifi brings latency issues that can disrupt the connection fluidity. What’s the purpose if I need a second device for it to function?
Moreover, the device has no Bluetooth compatibility. The new Pulse Headsets and Earbuds can be connected to it through a low latency feature called PlayStation Link, but any other device like Bluetooth headphones cannot be used with it. Lack of Bluetooth connectivity in favor of standard wifi also increases the latency problems. PS Portal is effectively just a mini screen for your PS5 with its controller.
Sony would probably say they're restricting it to headphones with "optimal low latency" but I mean… damn pic.twitter.com/f8lzdY4MaB
— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) August 23, 2023
A Smartphone Can Do Everything Sony’s PS5 Accessory Can
With all these issues, can a $200 price tag be justified for what’s simply a PS5 accessory? And if that is not evidence enough, let me point out a critical flaw. The ability to stream games from your PS5 to a handheld device can be done with an iOS or Android device too with the Remote Play App. All the features PS Portal can provide, your much more versatile smartphone can do it easily.
I can download the PlayStation Remote Play app on my phone, and connect PS5’s controller with it since I can’t use it to play games on the PS5 either way. Why? Because PS Portal streams the game running on the PS5; the console and Portal cannot be used simultaneously. So the free controller can be paired with the phone and do everything that PS Portal is offering.
So what’s better, a $200 accessory just for PS5 Remote Play, or your smartphone with full Android capabilities that can also accomplish this? I’ll leave this to your judgment. In a nutshell, PS Portal is a highly niche product that can cater to the needs of a select few people, but it could have been a lot more than a simple streaming terminal, and the opportunity was ripe for a true handheld.
PS Portal Should’ve Included Cloud Streaming Functionality
The rest of the demerits can be overlooked, but some things have me genuinely confused. If Sony wanted to create a streaming device, then why doesn’t it support cloud streaming services? That seems quite counterintuitive to the base concept of the device. Even if the console doesn’t have any native services, cloud streaming would have given it an appreciable library. At this rate, it’s no better than my smartphone’s Remote Play.
This was also the perfect opportunity to make the PS Plus Premium tier much more attractive for consumers. Most gamers prefer to stay at the Extra tier because of its native library, and there wasn’t a very strong incentive to go for the Premium. If Sony had introduced a cloud streaming-only device, players would have been able to make use of the Premium tier services as the principal feature of this device. And after the recent price hike, the service is in dire need of a supporting factor anyway.
This would have boosted the consumers of the service and was ample chance to market it as such. It feels like such a waste not being able to run the PS Plus Premium library for a device that is solely made for streaming games. $200 was such a good price point only if it had given the ability to stream directly from the server. I think PS Portal’s usability took a strong hit by omitting this key feature.
Another important thing is how adding cloud streaming would have negated the smartphone comparison. PlayStation’s Remote Play allows you to stream your games running on the home console to your phone, exactly what the PS Portal does. But if Sony had included cloud streaming capabilities in it, it would have gone beyond the smartphones’ domain and would have made the PS Portal a more recommendable choice.
This is what PS Portal should have been in the first place. And while we’re on the topic of what could’ve been, I surely wouldn’t have minded at least an OLED display and Bluetooth support for better connectivity. Having used multiple consoles myself, I feel those were necessary additions for a modern device. Still, those features are more on the luxury side, but omitting cloud streaming capabilities is a self-damaging move and has made this new device a very hard-to-recommend purchase.
Sony Needs A Good Handheld Contender
Sony missed a golden opportunity to come up with a competitive handheld console. This is even more critical when you consider that handheld consoles are slowly becoming quite an attractive option. On top of portability and ease of use, they also bring exceptional hardware and a strong library now, not toned-down versions of games. These features contribute to the growing popularity of portable devices.
Taking note of this, more and more handhelds are starting to emerge. After Switch’s overwhelming popularity, Switch 2 is also around the corner now. Moreover, for PC enthusiasts like me, Steam Deck was the stuff of dreams and even more and stronger options like ASUS ROG Ally have started emerging. Not to mention, even Xbox is rumored to be stepping into the handheld console domain. Sony is lagging now.
It’s honestly depressing to see no further handheld consoles from Sony. PSP was a major part of my childhood and I’ve made precious memories with it. Seeing it now still gives me an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. Though I never owned a Vita, the PSP was enough to make me wish for another Sony portable console. This PS Portal had me hyped since its leaks, but seeing the actual product was nothing but a disappointment.
All of these factors reinforce the need for a true handheld device from Sony. With the competition heating up in the portable division, Sony needs to step up their game. A portable device with at least Steam Deck-level hardware and the capability to run games of Sony’s older hardware natively while possessing the option to run the latest games through cloud streaming would be reason enough for me to fall in love with it.
I know native backward compatibility in a single device is too much to ask since Sony never provided this feature, but one can dream. Putting the fantasies aside, a realistic demand would be to create a modern handheld console for Sony’s titles, or at the very least provide cloud streaming of the PS library directly off of the server. But the critical problem is whether Sony will consider it. It released a barebones device and yet people are still buying it, which is honestly the core of the problem.
I believe this is going to be Sony’s biggest failure. They should’ve make another handheld like PsVita. But it should be compatible with regular SD cards. And should have Ps1-Ps2-Ps3-Psp and PsVita library with it. Because market shows people really into retro games. And they bought unkown handhelds
In a nutshell, Sony’s new PS5 accessory-esque handheld leaves a lot to be desired. With minimalistic features, it’s a very difficult purchase. This was a prime opportunity to introduce a cloud streaming-ready console that makes use of the tech giant’s subscription service, let alone a proper handheld console. Portable devices are on a roll these days, and Sony would benefit a lot from releasing a more attractive handheld device.
PS Portal, priced at $200, is available for pre-order right now and will start shipping on November 15, 2023.
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