By now, you’ve probably heard of Sony’s latest foray into the realm of portable gaming, known as the PlayStation Portal Remote Player, or PlayStation Portal for short. Derided as a half-measure towards a proper PlayStation handheld prior to release by some fans, and lauded as a game changer by others, one thing has become clear in the 30-plus days since its launch – the PlayStation Portal has been nothing short of a success for Sony. For more than a month, it has been one of the hottest gaming devices on the market, drifting in and out of stock at retailers, and being November’s fourth best-selling piece of gaming hardware in these United States, according to industry analytics firm Circana. You read that correctly – Sony’s $200 handheld device that requires a PlayStation 5, good internet capabilities, and does nothing but stream games outsold Valve’s Steam Deck, ASUS’ ROG Ally, and every virtual reality headset on the market. Another way to look at it is it was fourth behind PS5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Series X|S.
I don’t know that anyone predicted PlayStation Portal would do this well. Hell, even I talked myself out of needing one early after its reveal. But the reality is that this thing works, and it works well, albeit with some significant caveats. For starters, your home internet needs to be somewhat robust. Sony says you need a download speed of at least 15Mbps. I say you need far more than that to get a truly worthwhile experience, though, it’s hard to imagine that most people, especially in America, don’t have a speed of at least 50Mbps. Secondarily, you need to hardwire your PS5 to your WiFi router directly with an ethernet cable for the best experience in my, well…experience. I can’t stress that part enough. If you’re not able to physically do that in your home, then I would strongly suggest borrowing a Portal from someone else to test, or perhaps download the PlayStation Remote Play app to your phone and test it out before splurging $200.
I ignored my own advice and pre-ordered a Portal, receiving it on launch day. I’ve been using it two or three days a week since then, and while it will never replace sitting down in front of the 55-inch Sony television that I bought specifically for my PS5, it has certainly been a great companion device and proven that it has several use cases for me. My oldest dog recently passed away from cancer (cancer sucks) and for several days after, my wife didn’t want to be alone in the living room when I would usually retire to my gaming room at night. She would sit and watch her Hallmark movies while I continued my manager’s career with Bradford City on EA Sports FC 24. I do something similar while watching sports on the weekend, getting in a gaming session at the same time. It’s also great for playing a bit before bed – a role that my PS Vita used to fill for me. Looking to the future, as someone expecting his first child in the Summer, I am worried my gaming time will be limited and/or sporadic after my boy (BOY!) gets here and I’m hoping the Portal can help keep me in the game, pardon the pun. Prior to the Portal’s launch, I saw a lot of gamers musing on these very same uses on social media, and I think that if you understand what this device is and what it can do for you, there is a great value proposition here.
Now, with that said, is the Portal a perfect device? Certainly not. My home internet is a 1Gb fiber network – the fastest available in my area – and I occasionally experience stuttering when playing. I would say its around 10% of the time. It’s a fleeting annoyance, to be sure, but not a deal breaker. I may not be a smart man when it comes to technology, but there are a couple of factors working against me at home. First, I didn’t know that fiber internet loses a decent amount of bandwidth over WiFi, and second, I am a cord-cutter who streams everything. YouTube TV is streaming 24/7 at my place, and we have nearly a dozen devices connected to my network at any given time, so I am surely eating up the bandwidth I do have. Still, I can play matches of FC 24 with only minor interruption, and I also have mixed in Battlefield 2042 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 as well. During those moments of what we called “lag spikes” in the mid-2000s, those fast-paced FPS games are not fun, but I’ve also been able to pull off a positive kill-to-death ratio in plenty of matches.
Pivoting to the Portal’s form rather than function for a moment, this is a very premium-feeling piece of hardware. Sony has designed and built a device that both looks great and feels great in the hands. Even the packaging includes nice little touches like the iconic PlayStation symbols on the pull tag when you slide the box out of its exterior packaging. The Portal packs a perfect amount of heft, which I guess was to be expected considering it’s a DualSense controller with an 8-inch LCD screen slapped in the middle. The screen looks clear and vibrant, with support for up to 1080p and 60 frames per second, depending on the game and your network. As a big fan of the DualSense and its haptics, it is nice to have its features built-in to this device, which adds to its premium feel. One feature that took me by surprise is the Portal’s speakers – they are LOUD. So loud, in fact, that I keep them at only two or three clicks above zero when playing.
If you want the full effect of PS5 gaming on the go, you can opt to plug in a headset to its 3.5mm headphone jack, or use the PlayStation Pulse Explore wireless earbuds. Those are your only options for now, as the Portal has no Bluetooth capability – one of its largest drawbacks. Instead, Sony wants you to opt for their proprietary earbuds or forthcoming Elite Wireless headset that is launching in February. Both options utilize another proprietary technology called PlayStation Link, which Sony says provides lossless audio between your PS5 and PlayStation Portal. The lack of Bluetooth is frustrating, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to buy the $200 earbuds to pair with this device, especially considering it is not the primary way I am going to play PS5 games.
So, as with any purchase, whether a product is worth it or not is ultimately a subjective matter. Do you fall into one of those use cases I outlined for myself, or something similar? If so, the Portal is a nifty little device with a solid value proposition. If you’re trying to decide between the $100 Backbone attachment for mobile phones or the PlayStation Portal, it’s a no brainer in my opinion – spend the extra $100 and get the Portal. You get an 8-inch 1080p, 60fps screen with all the wonderful features of a DualSense controller, and it is a far superior experience than playing games on your cell phone.
Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised by the PlayStation Portal, and it’s clear that I’m not the only one, seeing as how Sony can hardly keep the thing in stock. To be clear, there is a time and place for the Portal, depending on your personal situation. Don’t buy it just because it says PlayStation on it – buy it because you have a real use for it. If you do that, I think you’ll find a lot to like about this surprising piece of kit from Sony. It’s not the proper successor to Vita that some of us hardcore fans have begged for, and while that device will likely never come, the PlayStation Portal has proven to be a worthwhile companion device for PlayStation 5 owners and gaming parents the world over.
* All images in this article are credited to Sony Interactive Entertainment.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Jason has been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2022. Some of his favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports, RPGs, shooters, and simulators. His favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2, logging nearly 1,000 hours in Rockstar's Wild West epic. Jason's first video game system was the NES, but the original PlayStation is his first true video game love affair. Once upon a time, he was the co-host of a PlayStation news podcast, as well as a basketball podcast.View Profile