PlayStation Portal review: A quirky gimmick or game-changing innovation?

Picture a flat, tablet-like display wedged between two halves of a full game controller
The image shows PlayStation Portal.— X/@Zuby_Tech
The image shows PlayStation Portal.— X/@Zuby_Tech

Sony just can't resist the temptation to expand the PlayStation 5 experience beyond the confines of your living room. Enter the PlayStation Portal, the latest attempt to bring your PS5 gaming sessions to another dimension within your home. Priced at $200 and hitting the market this week, this curious gadget compels you to take your PS5 gaming on the go, but with some serious strings attached.

Having toyed around with the Portal for the past few days, let me tell you, it's a mixed bag. While the controls boast excellence, the streaming quality is a roll of the dice. This device is downright bizarre, even for Sony, a company renowned for pioneering handheld consoles like the Vita. The Portal poses as a standalone handheld but lacks the ability to play games independently, it only streams them from your PS5. Imagine a PS5 controller that sprouted an awkward screen in the middle.

The design? Goofy. Yes, it's sleek but undeniably goofy. Picture a flat, tablet-like display wedged between two halves of a full game controller, bearing those signature swooping contour lines that scream vintage Sony. However, its lack of portability stands out, accentuated by its awkward shape and the absence of an accompanying case. With protruding grips, it's akin to wielding a Sony Batarang. Then again, Sony never intended it to venture beyond your home.

Comparing it to the Nintendo Wii U GamePad, Sony's answer, the Portal attempts to echo the concept of playing games away from the TV screen within your home. However, unlike the Wii U's pristine video quality (although with limited proximity), the Portal extends gameplay across your home Wi-Fi network, using the familiar Remote Play technology already functioning with phones and tablets.

Portal or no Portal?

Now, why should one even consider buying a Portal? Granted, there exist decent snap-on game controllers like the Backbone One compatible with PS Remote Play, doubling as portable PS5 players. However, the defining factor, after experimenting with both, lies in Sony's Portal possessing an unequivocally superior controller.

The Portal's forte lies in its controls—the grips, buttons, and sticks mirror the actual DualSense for a PS5. With haptics and triggers delivering comparable force feedback, the gaming experience closely mimics that of using a standard controller. This is precisely why my teenage nephew shuns devices like the Backbone One for his gaming sessions. Most handheld options fail to capture the essence of a standard controller, yet the Portal excels in this regard.

However, a warning on the haptics: they differ from the typical DualSense. At times, the rumble motors tend to be overly loud, lacking the finesse experienced with conventional gameplay. Nevertheless, experiencing haptics on a streaming-based handheld is an entirely new frontier.

Setting up: Yay or nay?

While setting up the Portal proved relatively simple, the streaming quality falls short in consistency. Unlike the buttery-smooth experience of playing directly on the PS5, the Portal's streaming frame rates and overall gameplay exhibit noticeable fluctuations, albeit serviceable. Given that I tested a prelaunch device, software updates might iron out these issues, but as it stands, the streaming quality remains erratic.

Engaging in some games on the Portal offers a novel experience, particularly when playing in locations distant from the PS5. Despite the crispness of the 1080p LCD display spanning 8 inches, occasional frame rate variations marred the otherwise immersive gameplay.


Audio options present another limitation. For headphones, users are confined to either a wired connection via the 3.5mm jack or Sony's proprietary Pulse earbuds or headphones. Surprisingly, Bluetooth audio support remains conspicuously absent, a frustrating aspect for users wanting versatility in their audio devices.


Intriguingly, the Portal's attempt to replicate the DualSense clickable touchpad using the touchscreen introduces a peculiar problem. The absence of an actual touchpad renders certain in-game interactions challenging, leading to potential gameplay hindrances in titles relying heavily on this feature.

Final verdict

The burning question remains: Should you invest in a PlayStation Portal? It's a difficult question. For roughly $200, the Portal, when contrasted with the Backbone One's $100 price tag or a $60 PS5 controller, doesn't appear too pricey. Yet, it caters to a highly specialised niche, serving as nothing more than a remote streaming screen mixed with its own controls. While the controls demonstrate promise, the limitations in streaming functionalities position it more as an experiment rather than a finely-tuned product.

For the PS5 owner yearning for a robust portable gaming experience through remote play and with the means to afford it, the Portal might warrant consideration. However, its experimental nature overshadows its optimisation.