In-depth test of the new Sony accessory for PlayStation 5 for playing on the go, but don’t call it a pocket console
PlayStation Portal marks a special release for Sony, a sort of return to the days when it produced portable consoles. But this PSP, which shares the acronym with the very first PlayStation Portable, is not a real console: Sony calls it Remote Player, and it is actually a completely new category in the panorama of console accessories. PlayStation Portal is also profoundly different from the plethora of more or less pocket-sized machines on which it is possible to play PC titles or those streamed in the cloud, such as Steam Deck or the more recent ROG Ally. But then, what is the new PSP? Portal is used to reproduce everything that happens on the screen of your PS5, as long as both devices are connected to a sufficiently powerful Wi-Fi network: it is paired the first time with the console you have at home, which from that moment can be ” awakened” at any time from the laptop and transmit on the 8-inch screen what is actually running the main PS5. With limitations: on Portal it is not possible to launch games from the cloud, but only what is installed or runs on disk inside the PS5. Furthermore, it is not possible to play multiplayer or use a controller that is different from the one nestled around the screen, which reproduces a classic Dual Sense in all respects, thus providing a portable experience but without compromises on the controller side.
Although Sony insists on presenting Portal as a device for playing at home when the TV screen is busy, the usage scenarios can be very different. It is also possible to play thousands of kilometers from your living room, for example, as long as the PS5 is in standby mode and Portal is connected to a Wi-Fi network with speeds of at least 5Mbps. This figure is really the bare minimum to allow titles not to stutter with significant lag: but reaching 20 Mbps, in our experience with a pre-launch unit of the device supplied by Sony, proved essential to have a better experience. In general, the faster the network, the better the streaming fluidity: with a good fiber, for example, the fluidity of games will be almost identical to what you would experience on the home screen connected to the PS5. Naturally, content streaming is subject to bottlenecks and slowdowns when the bandwidth is congested, perhaps from other downloads in the home or from a large number of connected devices. If the Wi-Fi does not have the same range throughout the home, an exclamation point will appear on the Portal screen advising you to return to where the coverage is optimal.
Those who use the PS Remote Play app on iOS or Android devices already know what to expect: with that solution, you can remotely stream your games to the screen of a smartphone or tablet, by connecting the controller or using the touch ones on the screen. In general, however, PlayStation Portal is a device dedicated exclusively to this purpose: pairing is faster, although not immediate (every time you turn on the console remotely, pairing will take a handful of seconds), and the stability of the connection improve. The real strengths of the Sony novelty, however, lie in the controller and the quality of the screen. The latter is an 8-inch LCD, capable of full HD resolution and 60 frames per second of refresh. If it is true that all the pro features of the PS5 are cut out, such as 120Hz, it is equally true that the quality of the display is excellent: excellent colours, excellent brightness and the perfect size to admire every detail of the game. Despite being an HD LCD and not a 4K OLED, the visual quality will often be indistinguishable from what we are used to on big screens. As for the controller, DualSense lovers will find the exact same experience, with all the buttons available, including the touch pad recreated on both sides of the screen. There is no lack of full support for haptic feedback, triggers with resistance and all the other features of the original controller, including its excellent ergonomics, which has remained intact thanks to the courageous and functional design of Portal, “heavy” at just 530 grams.
In short, against any initial skepticism, PlayStation Portal is a successful experiment, also considering the not particularly demanding price: 220 euros. Of course, it has its flaws: it doesn’t support Bluetooth, for example. To play with headphones, you can use those with wire and classic jack connector, or the new Sony earphones with PlayStation Link protocol, the Pulse Explore, which however cost the same as Portal. Even the system menu still appeared immature to us, at least in its version on the pre-launch unit: it is not always immediate to understand how much battery is available or how much it has been recharged, for example. Turning on Portal then wakes up the main PS5 regardless: inconvenient if you simply want to update the device, check its options, or check battery life. It’s also a shame that it’s not possible to connect a controller to play Portal by placing the streamer on a stand, for example. These are limitations that can be fixed with a future software update, we hope. Surprising in a positive sense, however, is the battery life: which is not exceptional, but allows you to play the same time that a DualSense requires between one charge and another, therefore approximately 5 or 6 hours.