PlayStation Portal Review: A PS5 in Your Hands, With Limits

Subhan N

This streaming device for home use on Sony’s PlayStation 5 is the best method to play Sony games from anywhere, however it’s not as great as it could be.

Sony is obsessed with ways to expand its PlayStation 5 experience beyond your television. In the past I looked at PlayStation VR 2. PlayStation VR 2, an immersive headset with a tether that allows you to use PS5 games. For $200, the (PS200, $AUD330) PlayStation Portal is a lower-cost, less radical alternative. Bring your PS5 into another room of your home, only as a handheld streaming device. However, despite its handheld gaming design, it’s significantly more limited and specialized than you imagine.

I’ve been using the Portal for several weeks, and I’m liking it very much. However, I have difficult time giving it a thumbs up. Its controls are great as is the display, which is big and sharp, however the quality of streaming isn’t great or reliable. I also can say that this device is a complete blunder. Sony is a gaming company that has their own consoles for handhelds similar to the Vita at one time it now has a product that appears to be a standalone device but it’s not. The Portal cannot play games by itself. Instead, it streams them through your PS5. Imagine it as an PS5 controller that grew an LCD at the center.

Scott Stein/CNET

I immediately went to Madden 24 downstairs just two floors beneath the PS5. It seems that there aren’t any handhelds with Madden (no Switch, no Steam Deck). I tried a Jets-Raiders Sunday Night simulation and enjoyed the full range of actions I’m used to when taking on and playing. The display of the Portal even though it was 1080p and LCD, appeared sharp. It’s 8 inches wide, meaning that text appears readable, a issue for some handhelds that play video games or PC games like Steam Deck. Steam Deck. When streaming was running for a while and the graphics appeared very sharp and vibrant. But, the frame rate fluctuated. I observed that a play abruptly became hiccuped, and I was unable to make an opportunity due to it.


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There are a few audio options available

The speakers in the Portal are good however, for headphones, you’ll need to connect something wired through the 3.5mm port or utilize Sony’s exclusive Pulse headphones, earbuds, or over-ear ones to connect wirelessly. It’s a bit annoying that standard Bluetooth audio isn’t compatible.

I installed a pair The Pulse Explore wireless headphones that came together with the Portal that will be delivered in December at a price of $200 (PS200, or AU$330). They’re big and also, they employ a wireless audio protocol that is proprietary known as PlayStation Link to connect to the Portal by one button press (the Portal has its own button for the initial setting). For games to play on PlayStation 5 PS5 direct, the headphones utilize the USB dongle that’s similar to the PlayStation’s previous Pulse headphones. They can also be used as regular Bluetooth headphones, which I haven’t tried. On the Portal I tested, they’re functional and sound great, however not particularly impressive to my AirPods Pro-spoiled ear.

Two boxes two boxes, two of them, a PlayStation Portal and Pulse Explore Earbuds on a wood table

It comes with the PlayStation Portal and Sony’s Pulse Explore earbuds, waiting to be opened. The Portal does not support standard Bluetooth headphones.

PlayStation Portal in hand

The Portal might be the best method for you to enjoy PS5 games with a handheld device from any location at house, yet it’s definitely an idea Sony could further refine. It’s a reminder of PlayStation’s remote play capabilities are fantastic, but it’s really an additional device with the same streaming functions that you can access on tablets or phones as well as a wireless or snap-on controller that runs the PS Remote Play app. Sony has enhanced the experience of the Portal control and display however, the quality of streaming isn’t any different.

Check this out: PlayStation Portal Review

For more information, be sure to check Sean Booker’s video for the most up-close impressions.

More powerful and more durable than the Backbone

After taking this out from the package for the first time I thought it looked funny. It’s clean, but funny. The tablet-like display is encased in two halves of the full game controller, and some swirling contour lines that look traditional Sony. The USB-C charging port is hidden beneath, almost like it’s hidden. It’s not a very portable device. It’s oddly shaped and doesn’t come with an case. With its grips that jut out, it’s similar to the Sony Batarang. However, it’s not designed to be taken away from your house.

An PlayStation Portal handheld accessory next to the Sony DualSense controller, on grey background

The Portal is next to the DualSense PS5 controller. The Portal is larger, yet it has similar controls.

Scott Stein/CNET

Sony’s answer to Nintendo Wii U GamePad, that you might remember as a method to play games at living room away from your television screen. It offered excellent video quality however, it needed to be connected with the Wii U to work. The Portal will play games from your PS5 console’s games anyplace you have a Wi-Fi connection Similar to how Remote Play already works, however, it’s designed to function best with your home network.

Why would you buy Portal? Portal one, then? There are a number of decent game controllers that snap on for smartphones, such as those from the Backbone One that work with PS Remote Play and can be portable PS5 players as well. Well, at this point I’ve played with a Backbone One, I can already reveal a key difference between the two: Sony’s Portal is a superior controller.

PlayStation Portal and Backbone One game accessories next to one another to see if they are comparable

The Backbone One (bottom) is good for a phone however it’s the PlayStation Portal has better-feeling controls.

Scott Stein/CNET

Controls are why the Portal is enjoyable. The buttons, the grips and the sticksall of them feel as the real DualSense for the PS5. There are haptics and the triggers provide identical force feedback. It makes a significant difference in the way the games I am playing and that’s the reason my son of 17 doesn’t like gadgets like Backbone One for playing his own games. A majority of handheld controllers aren’t as comfortable like a regular controller. However, the Portal is different.

One thing to note about haptics however: They have a different feel than an ordinary DualSense. The motors that rumble get noisy at times, and they are less subtle to my hands when playing Games I’ve played. However, I’ve never experienced the haptic feedback of a streaming handheld before, however, so the sound quality here is an enormous plus.

Setup screen in PlayStation Portal

The process of getting access to the Portal connected is relatively simple however, I encountered some issues with streaming quality.

Streaming quality: Not always great

The way that the Portal plays PS5 games, is perhaps the most significant negative that the Portal is a bit sloppy. It’s not the same smooth and silky experience that you get playing on the real PS5. The frame rates for streaming smoothness, overall gaming experience and speed are quite different. It’s certainly serviceable, and the software could improve, but the quality of streaming has been erratic. Sometimes it’s amazing, at other times, it’s just okay. Your mileage may differ.

Madden football game on the screen of PlayStation Portal handheld held in the palm of your hand

Most likely the primary purpose I’ll get for Portal will be to use it for Portal The Portal will be to finally have a a handheld Madden.


My kid playing Gran Turismo 7. Crisp detail and diverse frame rate.

Gran Turismo 7 and WipeOut Omega Collection were extremely accessible via Portal. Portal (and my children were very involved in playing using it) however, I had to switch controller-motion steering off for GT7. Motion controls were too slow. The frame rate was steady enough to make me feel like I could play with ease however I was unable to experience that more exact timing playing in the actual PS5.

I took my Portal into my sibling’s home for Thanksgiving and show my son my PS5 games collection. It was an enormous amount of fun and the games ran pretty well when I had the PS5 at home, which is about sixty miles from home. It was a nice surprise. When I took the Portal to CNET’s CNET workplace to present it to my colleagues — it was carried in the Ziploc bag inside my backpack since the oddly shape of the Portal does not come with a carry case the Portal didn’t run even a bit.

The setup was simple, but certain things are a bit odd

Set up of the Portal is easy and doesn’t require a connection to the PS5 in any way to pair. I signed in using a QR code on PlayStation Mobile, downloaded the PlayStation Mobile app. It then found an existing PS5 and connected. There are a couple of options available in the Portal to adjust the brightness and speed of connection however, it’s not a complete kind of system.

The fact that it’s bare-bones causes problems however. I tried to bring Portal Portal in the workplace to demonstrate employees how it works but it wasn’t able to get onto our office’s Wi-Fi. One reason for this is that the Portal cannot handle pop-up WiFi logins. That means it’s impossible to play in many locations where you can try playing games on the go. If the Portal cannot connect to the PS5 due to any reasonsuch as, for example, turning the PS5 off instead of placing it in sleep modeit’s like the Portal doesn’t have any advice to offer. It basically just ignores the console and states that it cannot be found.

Another peculiarity of the Portal that is its biggest limitation in control, is the way it attempts to emulate the DualSense touchpad that can be clicked. The Portal does not have any touchpad whatsoever and utilizes the touchscreen to emulate one. However, I’m still trying to figure out the way of making this happen. On-screen glowing circles suggest possible interactions, but I’m not able to make it work. I believe it’s through tapping? I was unable to call a quick timeout in Madden due to it. All PS5 game that is heavily on the touchscreen may cause a weird sensation in Portal. Portal — but it’s just a cautionary note.

This animation is part of the portal’s connecting. It requires establishing links to the PS5 prior to playing.

Should you buy a PlayStation Portal?

If the Backbone One costs about $100 and the PS5 controller is priced at about $60, charging $200 for the screen-enabled Portal isn’t a huge upsell. It’s however completely ineffective, and extremely special. It’s really an online streaming screen that is paired to its own controls that makes it extremely special. The controls are promising but the streaming capabilities create a feeling of being more slow in my older home network rather than a dedicated game console such as Steam Deck or Steam Deck or even a Switch.

I’m still unable to forget, after a few weeks of playing PlayStation Portal PlayStation Portal, that this device is a concept of the direction Sony should be heading when it comes to handheld gaming. It’s a good idea, but by relying on the PS Remote streaming technology that exists. I am thrilled that Sony is back in the handheld gaming -kind of however, what could happen if Portal was truly seamless optimized video, straight connected with the PS5 as it did with the Wii U had? What would happen if the Portal came with a real touchscreen like the DualSense? What could happen if Portal was able to play offline games… and stream gaming directly from the cloud without having a PS5 even being required?

These are possible pieces of what the future of Portal could be. However, at the end of 2023 it will be it will be the Portal 1.0 isn’t that. The Portal does come with support for software updates, but it’s not clear what Sony is planning for it.

If you’re those PS5 owner looking for an all-in-one device for home-based remote gaming and can afford it to spend, this isn’t an unwise purchase at all. It’s still an experiment rather than an actually optimized product. In comparison to similar Sony PlayStation product that exists in the present it seems like the Portal is quite great… however, it’s not often enough.

In the year that handheld games systems have returned all over the world, I’d like to have Sony make handheld consoles once more. Perhaps the Portal could be a first step in the right direction. Don’t give up, Sony — just make it better next time.

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