Here is the gadget that can be the key to family peace

This year marks four years since the first version of the PlayStation 5 was released, and in the time that has passed, quite a few accessories for Sony’s next-generation machine have been released. Controllers in different colors and a controller specifically intended for professionals, VR headsets, replaceable covers in different shades, wireless headphones and earphones have arrived, and the original PS5 model has now been replaced by a slightly revised, slimmer variant.

And if that wasn’t enough, the PlayStation Portal launched at the end of 2023, which on the outside gives the impression of a handheld console, but is actually just another add-on that makes practically no sense without the base machine. It is not suitable for running games on its own, only for being able to play with programs downloaded to the PlayStation 5 even if the TV is busy at home, or if you are not even at home, but you can connect to a network that provides sufficiently fast internet.

Nothing new under the sun

What exactly is it about? PlayStation Portal essentially knows what remote access software does. You can use it to access your PlayStation 5 console via the home wireless network or the Internet, manage the menu system, launch downloaded games, which can be streamed to the hand-held device with a suitable internet connection at such a speed that the experience is close to that of the chosen game itself it would run on the gadget.

All of this is nothing new, as the well-established (and hugely unsuccessful at the time) PlayStation Vita handheld console was already able to do this when connected to the PlayStation 4, and the free downloadable PS Remote Play application still exists to this day. The latter is available for PC, Mac, iOS and Android, and in terms of basic functions, it provides exactly the same as the device offered for HUF 90,000: among other things, you can play games downloaded for PS4 and PS5 on your laptop and phone.

Of course, there is no doubt that, in exchange for the price, Sony’s novelty has its advantages. We get a well-assembled target device, which is essentially the love child of a smaller tablet and a traditional DualSense controller, with most of the latter’s extra features, including niceties such as a microphone, haptic feedback provided by built-in motors, or trigger resistance. What is missing is the touchpad, which does not appear to be a problem at first in light of the touch-sensitive display, but over time it turns out that it has its downsides.

Although the display in the middle is LCD technology and not OLED, the resolution is only 1080p, and the image refresh rate is only 60 Hz, but if anywhere, then here it is emphatically true: size is the point. In our case, 8 inches to be exact. This is significantly larger than the display of an average smartphone, and the games look pretty good on the screen of the test subject, despite the specifications that cannot be called top these days.

Furthermore, it cannot be neglected that the management of Portal is not only simpler than Remote Play, but also provides users with slightly more freedom. By this I mean that you don’t have to go to the PS5 and turn it on, because the device can wake up the machine in sleep mode via the Internet. So, if we did not disconnect the console by the classic switch off, but put it in standby mode, we can wake it up even from the other side of the world, so that we can then run games on it, such as Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 or the new one Prince of Persia.


Gallery

Márton Mohos / 24.hu

What is it like in practice?

The quality of the assembly is impeccable, even though the middle part with the screen is thin, the device does not creak, creak, creak or crunch, it is put together properly, and the use of materials is also excellent. The grip of the Portal is as pleasant and comfortable as that of a DualSense controller, and despite its weight of 1088 grams, it didn’t feel heavy even for a long time. At the same time, despite the familiar feeling, you have to get used to it after the first hand: although we get the well-known button layout, layout and design, the device is much wider due to the screen than the traditional accessory that comes with the PS5, so it can be strange in the first hours control.

Installation is very simple: turn on the machine and connect to the Internet via our wireless network, log in with your PlayStation Network account, and then virtually connect the machine to our PlayStation 5 console. Once this is done, there is nothing else to do but press the connect button, which will bring our console to life and we can take control of it. The usual menu appears, we can download and run games – we do not have access to all the functions of the PS5, but I will cover this separately soon along with the other shortcomings.

What kind of experience you will have when you start a game really depends only on what kind of internet connection you have.

According to the manufacturer, a speed of at least 5 Mbps but at least 15 Mbps is required to enjoy the streamed video game. Let’s quickly forget this, because the reality is that this is roughly enough to wake up the PS5 and navigate through the menu, but in my experience, running video games requires at least 100 Mbps or more. It is also important to make sure that the PlayStation 5 itself is not connected to the router wirelessly, but with a cable, as this makes the remote connection much more reliable on the home side.

If the above is given, then we can play with any of our games downloaded to the PS5, although it is worth noting here that we will probably only enjoy the single player programs, because the streaming technology is not yet ready to play an online game Call of Duty–in a match, we should have a chance against other players who play in the traditional way. The reason for this is simple: while with them, the information needed for the game makes its way to the Internet once, while with Portal it takes twice, which means a disadvantage even for the most professionals, which can be very frustrating in the long run.

Contrary to the already mentioned Spider-Man 2the new one launched in January Prince of Persiabut playing alone still requires a continuous online connection Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League also provided an enjoyable gaming experience. For most of the time I spent playing the games, I didn’t even notice that I was streaming the programs, the fluid gaming experience only broke when I got into fights with Spider-Man or the Suicide Squad, where a dozen characters were slashing/shooting on the screen at the same time. In such cases, there were crashes, slowdowns, and resolution drops, but none of them lasted more than a few moments, so they did not significantly affect my progress.

But who is it good for?

As I mentioned, most PS5 owners won’t need a dedicated device to remotely play games downloaded to their console. The price of 90,000 is simply too much for this, especially since there is an alternative available for free.

The price of the device is anyway 200 dollars/euro, which is not a significant amount to the west of us, and it does not help us that the base price is still affected by the nearly 30 percent tax. Regardless, there are situations in life when Portal can make sense, especially if paying the amount requested for it does not cause problems.

If, for example, there is only one TV at home, and it is a source of conflict if we occupy the screen for hours by playing video games, then such a device can be the guarantee of family peace. You can watch a movie/series or a fairy tale for the children on the television, but you can play on the PS5 in the meantime, just with the help of Portal in your hand. All this, moreover, after pressing a single button, without any problems, settings or waiting, totally comfortably.

In the same way, if someone is a big gamer, but travels a lot, spends a lot of time away from home, in airports and hotels, where the internet, which is essential for gaming, is often already provided, then it makes sense to invest in Sony’s solution. Although it is true that the Nintendo Switch Lite is already available for that much money, it should not be forgotten that you have to pay separately for each new game, while the great advantage of Portal is that you can play with programs whose price has already been announced once, and on the other hand, it is not for handheld consoles , but often exclusive titles developed for home consoles.

It is only a small point of interest that the gadget came in particularly handy for us in the editorial office when we had to test several games simultaneously. We only have one PlayStation 5 for one week David Stéger my colleague had the Tekken 8 because, when he wasn’t slapping me, I was able to move on from a distance Suicide Squadsong, essentially killing two birds with one stone, since I simultaneously tested the game itself and the Portal, which is the subject of this article.

And the black soup

Of course, PlayStation Portal’s fault is not only that it makes sense to relatively few PlayStation 5 users, the machine also has weaknesses and even completely incomprehensible shortcomings.

  • Although it is a basic requirement that we have a suitable internet connection, the designers of the machine did not do everything to this end. Not only does Portal not support the Wi-Fi 6E standard, which provides access to the 6 GHz band used by few devices, but not even Wi-Fi 6, we have to make do with Wi-Fi 5 – which will be completely phased out in 2024 incomprehensible.
  • There is a 3.5 mm jack input on the cover of the machine, so any wired headphones can be connected to it, but the Portal can only be connected wirelessly with Sony’s own, not cheap, PlayStation Link compatible solutions.
  • Portal is only suitable for games, so we do not have the option, for example, to launch one of the streaming applications downloaded to the console (Netflix, Apple TV+, etc.), this function is simply disabled.
  • Only downloaded games can be launched via the gadget, so there is absolutely no possibility to play on this device with programs that are available in some packages of the PlayStation Plus service, and which can only be streamed to the console anyway.
  • Although the display basically reproduces the view beautifully, I had problems with the touch-sensitive function. At least twice, when entering the boot menu, it detected nothing at all, and only a reboot helped. An even bigger problem is that the screen replaces the touchpad of the DualSense controllers (on the parts next to the right and left analog sticks), and what works perfectly on the latter is often frustrating to reproduce on the display. I did not run into such a problem, but quite a few people on the Internet complained that the touchpad Alan Wake IIsimply hung the game because the screen refused to read the necessary gestures.

For a very narrow layer

All in all, I can’t say that we are dealing with hardware that is easy to recommend. PlayStation Portal can be especially interesting for those who really care about being able to access their console from afar, and are willing to pay extra to do it all with a device manufactured by Sony, which has the biggest advantage over other remote play options, that essentially with the press of a single button, provides us with this opportunity without any hassle.

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