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PlayStation Portal Review – A Well-Constructed Peripheral With A Specific Audience In Mind

PlayStation Portal ReviewHonestly, I was excited for the Portal the moment I saw it. I also pre-ordered it on day one and bought it completely out-of-pocket. This peripheral is closer to what I want compared to anything else on the market right now. Before the Portal, I tried a couple of the bigger-named phone controller peripherals, like the Gamesir V2, PlayStation Backbone, and Razer Kishi. I vastly preferred the latter despite the inverted joysticks, but it still felt too clunky to want to use regularly.

The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was knowing it doesn’t function like any other mobile streaming devices out there. However, my view on the Portal changed soon after I started using it: It functions like a controller with a screen.

PlayStation Portal Review – A Well-Constructed Controller Peripheral With A Specific Audience In Mind


Not to stray far from a good thing, Sony almost literally took out the centre of the DualSense controller and replaced it with an 8″ touchscreen. The Portal does not feel frail by any means, but the thin nature of the screen makes me worry about breaking it on a regular basis. For the sake of science, I did try just a tiny bit of bending and twisting with the controller handles just for an idea. There is a tiny bit of give, but nothing about the device is flimsy, delicate, or loose. Still, like any good electronics owner should, always get a screen protector and a case to keep it in just to be safe.

On the top of the screen on the left side is the Power button and the PlayStation Link button used to sync with compatible headsets. On the top right are the volume buttons. Apart from the standard DualSense controller buttons, sans the physical Touch Pad, is a headphone jack that hides itself under and behind the screen. The USB-C charging port hides itself next to the 3.5mm jack as well.

Like the PS5, the Portal does not directly connect to any Bluetooth devices. The only connectivity exception are the Pulse headsets that connect via PlayStation Link.

The touchscreen is an LCD screen, but it still looks vibrant, even on lower brightness settings. Arguments can be made for using an OLED instead, but PlayStation has made good use of LCD screens on both the Portal and the second PS Vita model. A strong comparison I can make is the OLED screen used on the Nintendo Switch. At comparable brightness, this LCD could be mistaken for an OLED screen.

For the first minute or so, the remote play feed can show some image residue, where the refresh rate doesn’t quite match the incoming signal. This goes away quickly. This could be due to lower temperatures where I live and the Portal needing to warm up first. While this doesn’t inhibit the device, it’s still worth mentioning.

After gaming since 1995, I can say that the DualSense controller offers me the most comfortable experience for console gaming. To boot, having the DualSense ergonomics on a portable peripheral is exactly what I want. With that said, the device makes a distinct silhouette, taking up about twice the space of a standard DualSense.

Due to the added weight from the touchscreen, you need to anchor the Portal more with your palms while you hold it. You don’t feel this difference as much in a normal sitting position, since gravity helps keep the device in-hand. Regardless, even with the extra 248 grams, the weight of the Portal doesn’t feel that much more than the DualSense does, which comes in at 280 grams. Still, as a person who often plays while lying down on the couch, I need to grip the controller even more with my palms than I would with a DualSense.

That extra effort does influence how naturally you move the joysticks. While a little frustrating in the wrong situation, this experience mimics any other Remote Play variation also available on the market. Despite this, the Portal still feels exactly like a DualSense in your hands, albeit with some extra weight.

Another worthwhile mention is the smaller version of the joysticks used with the Portal. Instead of using the normal DualSense joysticks, the Portal uses joysticks similar to the PSVR2 controllers. This reduces the needed push to move the joystick around, which helps compensate a bit for the need to grip the handheld differently than the DualSense. The difference can still be felt, though, especially if you hold the Portal higher or at odd angles.

The audio output on the Portal drastically lacks the kind of quality found in televisions and stereo headsets, but it’s far from inadequate. Like many portable devices, phones included, the Portal does not include front-facing speakers. In this case, sound comes from two openings on the top of the screen. There’s no 3D audio coming from the Portal, but sounds are still nice and clear.

What does make sound quality strange is the volume range, particularly at the low end. There is a significant drop from the lowest audio option to muting sound. I didn’t notice it at first, but I definitely realized when I played while my spouse slept next to me. I see this quite often with portable devices as a compromise for device size and shape. This could be seen as a cost-saving choice, but it neither harms nor helps the device as a whole.


The process to set up the Portal is simple: establish an internet connection, update the software, and then log into your account. In general, PlayStation devices associated with the PS5 update their own internal software in no more than 30 seconds. In comparison, the Portal takes about 5 minutes to download and install its update. This was consistent with both the initial software update and the update released the last week of November.

In similar form, the initial login to your account takes about 30 seconds. After that, it’s five or fewer. From there, press Cross to play, and you connect in two or three seconds on a home connection.

If you decide to switch to a different PSN account, you need to sign out of the first account. This process removes any previously entered account information. Then you enter in the information for the second account to log in with the second account. As of this publishing, there is no way to have multiple users on a Portal at the same time. My spouse and I both use the Portal, so this particular inconvenience only affects a very specific group of people. Thankfully, though, a more universal benefit is that the Portal saves as many internet connections as you need. Unlike with PSN accounts, you don’t need to keep re-entering wireless passwords.

The Portal features similar controller customization options to the DualSense but in a limited capacity. The controller lights can either be on or off, with no dim option. The same goes for the light in the mute button. Seeing the lights along the side of the controller edge is great, but most of the time I lean toward power saving and turn them off. If I could dim this light, I most certainly would.

Thankfully, the haptic feedback and the vibrate functions still offer the strong, weak, and off levels. Being able to adjust this is almost necessary with the Portal. In particular, lower or no feedback makes playing hectic games on this easier to handle. Considering the extra grip needed to hold the device, needing to grip the triggers harder as well taxes you quickly and affects your results. Equally so, full control over this setting still lets you change the haptic intensity based on the games you play.

A big topic to mention is the Touchpad. Its hidden placement on the touchscreen is to the immediate bottom right of the left joystick and vice versa for the right joystick. This makes for an easier motion than when using the standard DualSense.

However, this comes with its own compromise. To use the Touchpad button, you first press the screen to make the buttons appear and then need to tap it again to register an input. For instance, to bring up a map for Baldur’s Gate 3, I double-tap the screen to bring up the map.

Thankfully, the Touchpad is rarely used for any function that demands instant access. Either way, the double tap for one action still requires extra thought, even after I got used to it. Though for a different reason, the Touchpad button could benefit from a setting to let you press the screen once to hit said button, even when invisible on the screen.

The software included in the Portal is a couple steps up from barebones. The basic settings are there for adjusting haptic feedback strength, brightness, and connecting to the internet or select headsets. There’s even an airplane mode, which can only be included as another way to conserve power when not using the Portal.

Considering the intentionally limited processing power in the Portal, I wonder what kind of changes future software updates could add to the device. Either way, the experience is dedicated solely to its intended purpose.

Remote Play

For the sake of transparency, here is the information for my wired home connection:

171.0MBs download, 9.2MBs upload, NAT type 2

When playing from the same internet connection as my PS5, the delay is closer to 1/10th of a second. This makes many more games easier to play, but you still feel that slight delay when playing the most demanding timing-based games. I am able to acclimate to the difference with rhythm games just because it’s just a matter of shifting timing on all button inputs. Shooters are much more tricky because anticipating enemy movement is next to impossible.

Using the same wired connection at home, I also used my phone to play while away from home.

98.5MBs download, 14.5MBs upload, 5G Verizon using a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra as the mobile hotspot

When playing this way, 50 miles from my house, I experience 1/2 of a second input lag. As a layperson’s estimate, I basically compare it to the time it takes to say “spam.” It’s also worth mentioning that making the initial connection to your PS5 through a mobile hotspot can take between 30 seconds to a minute.

Acclimating to this discrepancy is quite possible. For me, it was something I didn’t struggle with. At the same time, I don’t play many competitive games anymore, with my daily routine consisting of Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail for dailies. Then I boot up a game from my backlog, like Yakuza or Baldur’s Gate 3.

Still, even playing shooter-RPG Cyberpunk 2077 takes extra effort. The most significant hindrance comes with gunplay. In this game, enemies don’t move particularly fast when compared to online shooters. As mentioned before, you can’t necessarily anticipate enemy movement to properly adjust your inputs.

I also tested Remote Play on a 4G connection 15 minutes from my home:

94.8MBs download, 12.1MBs upload, 4G Verizon using the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra as the mobile hotspot.

The quality of this experience seems to depend on several variables, of which the only one I can safely assume is how many people are using the same cell tower at the same time. At low-traffic times, the Remote Play experience mimics that of the 5G.

However, in high traffic areas, video quality drops resolution while the audio gets choppy. The gameplay itself still responds as quickly as the other mobile connections most of the time. In this state, the bad connection notification appears rather often but you can still do some light gaming as long as the tower doesn’t get too many people on it.

It’s also worth mentioning that the population around the 5G tower I used (around 100,000 people) is vastly greater than the population around the 4G tower ( around 4,000 people). So, results for these scenarios may vary depending on your situation.

One customization setting the Portal is missing is adjusting the streaming signal it receives. If it allowed you to choose between the normal 1080p and a 720p resolution for the stream, then perhaps the Portal could be more accessible to more potential buyers.

All in all, the PlayStation Portal works the best when gameplay isn’t based on scrupulous timing and the connections on both ends of the remote signal are the strongest. Again, gaming can work on the Portal, but the experience requires more effort to get used to, no matter what connection you use or genre you play.

Review In Conclusion

After using it for an extensive length of time, the PlayStation Portal feels more like a controller option than a streaming device just because it only connects to the PS5. Controllers like the SCUF or DualSense Elite share similar uses and similar costs. While those controllers can also connect to different devices, they don’t feature their own screens.

Another personal perspective is that I have very little long-term interest in competitive controllers. This preference comes after trying a SCUF controller, the Razer Raiju, and the Thrustmaster E-Swap. These are all great controllers in and of themselves, but they just are not for me. The Portal costs $200 at retail, but many gaming peripherals cost that much or more, headsets included.

Even if the Portal limits itself in some ways, it fits a very specific niche that other devices just don’t. Something can be said about that as well. In a public statement, Sony indicated that the Portal is not intended to make a profit. A company must be in a pretty good financial place when it can manage to create unique peripherals like this. With all that in mind, giving players options never hurts, even if the device requires the internet to use.

The PlayStation Portal is by no means perfect. Needing to double tap the screen to use the Touchpad is annoying, and so is the potential lag that can come with Remote Play. Like many products on the market now, the Portal requires a good internet connection for it to work well.

It also lacks the kind of settings to put this product over the top. Being able to dim the decorative lights is a small but personal thing, and leaving out any control on the stream resolution limits the device’s relevancy to those with fast internet connections.

Still, for the right audience, this is a great peripheral for the PS5. The Portal can free up a TV for other family members or for a TV show, leaving you free to play anywhere in the house. With a little finagling, you can potentially play the Portal almost anywhere there’s a cell tower.

PlayStation Portal hardware purchased independently by reviewer.



The Final Word

The PlayStation Portal offers a unique way to Remote Play the PS5: It takes what made the DualSense Controller so successful and incorporates a portable screen onto it. Setting options are rather limited, it requires an Internet connection to use, and using it away from home takes extra effort. All in all, this is a great controller option in many living situations that feels so much better than connecting a phone to a controller.