Facebook released a device last year called Portal exclusively for making video calls using the Facebook messenger. Despite the mixed reviews about the device Facebook decided to come back with a new range of devices again this year!
So, what is different this year? A new 10-inch Portal has been joined by the 8-inch version along with a Portal camera which can be attached to the TV. The idea is that you can use the biggest screen for video calling purposes. This is Facebook’s second attempt to compete with Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Nest Hub. Therefore, now you have a Portal camera, an 8-inch Portal, a 10-inch Portal and the 15-inch Portal that remains unchanged. There is a slight price drop on the 10-inch Portal.
This dedicated Facebook calling machine is available for purchase from Facebook and other retailers. The new design has an updated look, it no longer looks like a mini TV, it is comparatively sleeker. The device has a 10-inch display with a pixel resolution of 1280×800 pixels. The Portal consists of both landscape and portrait orientations.
New and updated speakers are available for Portal with a 2.1 system using rear-firing woofer and front stereo speakers. They are great for voice calls, but if you listen to a lot of music then this device is not for you because Facebook has put more effort into the voice calls rather than the music system.
Privacy has always been an issue with Facebook, that is why the new version of Portal consists of a three-position sliding switch. It lets you block the camera and mute the microphone. You have the option of blocking just the camera which allows a smalls shutter to close over the lens and you have an option to block both the camera and the microphone. The original Portal design had a plastic camera cap.
The calls made through Portal gives you a great video and audio quality. Another intelligent feature is how the camera follows you, this means you don’t have to sit rigidly at a particular angle in front of the camera you can easily move around and the camera will follow you. Portal has a storybook function and is also integrated with Spotify. But streaming apps like Netflix do not work in the device.
The big new addition to the device is making calls via WhatsApp. It is simple, just like how you link WhatsApp to your desktop or laptop. You can link WhatsApp to Portal and use the feature easily with end to end encryption. The end to end encryption will soon be implemented on the Facebook messenger too. Portal uses the same smart display SDK for Alexa.
Video streaming is very limited on Portal. As mentioned before, Netflix and other similar streaming apps do not function. But Facebook has indicated that the Amazon prime video will soon be available on the Portal devices. Unlike Google’s smart displays you cannot cast the screen from your phone or tablet to the Portal’s screen. Streaming is easy, but the Portal’s speakers are not meant for playing music but for making voice calls and video calls.
Portal’s photo integration is limited as compared to Google’s Nest Hub, but it serves as a digital photo frame and it can display slideshows from Facebook and Instagram. Overall, Portal has some new features and reduced prices. The design is much sleeker but the limitations still exist. The video calling feature is primarily limited to Facebook and its services.