PlayStation Portal: Hands On With Sony’s New Remote Play Handheld – IGN

PlayStation Portal: Hands On With Sony’s New Remote Play Handheld – IGN

Sony has a storied, if a bit neglected, history with handheld gaming. The PlayStation Portable launched in 2005, back in the PS3 era, bringing with it funky UMD cartridges and what were at the time some of the best graphics seen in a handheld gaming device. Its followup, the PS Vita, launched in 2011. It was beloved by its hardcore fans, but never really got the developer support it needed to carve a meaningful hold in the handheld market, which Nintendo still dominates today. But now we’re getting a new PSP, in a sense:

The PlayStation Portal is a $200 handheld device that puts PS5 games in the palm of your hand… as long as you’re on Wi-Fi. Previously known as Project Q, Portal uses the PS5’s remote play feature to stream games from your console. Importantly, the Portal also offers all the features and ergonomics of the PS5’s excellent DualSense controller, including haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, and its touchpad.

To be clear here, Portal isn’t doing anything inherently new. Remote Play has existed since the PS3 era, allowing you to stream games from your console to a handheld, smartphone, tablet, PC, and Mac. That said, Remote Play has never really been an ideal experience – you’re either compromising on visual quality, control setup, ergonomics, or all of the above. You can make it work, but it’s not super convenient.

All of the DualSense’s best features are available here.

The goal of the PlayStation Portal is to eliminate those pain points and make Remote Play as easy as just picking it up and playing. The Portal can do something other Remote Play devices can’t: wake up your PS5 just by turning it on, so it’s ready to go. Its design essentially takes a standard DualSense controller, chops it in half, and slaps those two controller grips to the side of an eight-inch, 1080p LCD display. It’s definitely a little weird when you’re used to the more singular-looking designs of current handhelds like the Nintendo Switch and Valve’s Steam Deck, but it’s also lighter than either of those while still giving you both a large screen and full-size controls.

The DualSense grips feel exactly like a regular DualSense controller, and all of their best features are available here. Trying it out with Astro’s Playroom, I could feel the haptics showcase just as well as when I experienced it on a DualSense, and the Portal’s adaptive triggers simulate the pull of Aloy’s bow in Horizon Forbidden West in exactly the same way. Even the DualSense’s touchpad is available, though instead of the single center panel, two touch areas pop up in the bottom left and right of the display when you touch it. The only DualSense feature missing, technically, is the light bar, but that’s a forgivable omission considering how nonessential it is to most games.

Beyond all the regular DualSense inputs, there’s a USB-C port for charging, a 3.5mm jack for wired headphones, and a small pair of speaker grilles if you don’t want to use headphones. Connectivity-wise, it supports Wi-Fi and PlayStation Link – more on that in a minute – but no Bluetooth.

The eight-inch screen feels expansive.

On the visual quality front, the PlayStation Portal delivers. The eight-inch 60hz LCD display succeeds at translating PS5-quality visuals into a handheld format. Colors looked bright and vibrant – though Sony hasn’t given me any brightness, color gamut, or HDR specs beyond that it’s an LCD panel – and the 1080p resolution offers a nice pixel density for the screen size. Does it look as good as playing on a 65-inch OLED TV? Of course not. But as far as handhelds go, the eight-inch screen feels expansive.

The video, of course, is being streamed from your PS5 rather than run locally on the device, and the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over all game streaming devices is always latency, or the slight delay between when you push a button and when the action on the screen responds. During my demo, I played Astro’s Playroom, Horizon Forbidden West, and Returnal, and while I wasn’t able to do any precise measurements, I didn’t experience any noticeable latency. Of course, this was a private demo under ideal conditions, so that experience could change depending on your personal Wi-Fi setup.

Remote Control

The PlayStation Portal’s use of Remote Play, rather than cloud streaming, sets it apart from most other game streaming platforms like Xbox Cloud Streaming and Nvidia GeForce Now. Whether you’re in the same room or on the other side of the world, your home PS5 is turned on and running your game, beaming it directly to you, as opposed to cloud gaming where the game you’re playing is being run on some remote server. Of course, this means you need a PS5 in order to use PlayStation Portal, but it also means that not only your account, progress, and trophies are there, but also your actual PS5 home screen. You can swap between games, or even run any other PS5 app, just as if you were playing directly on a TV, whereas with cloud gaming you typically have to quit out and reconnect if you want to change games. It’s certainly smoother.

That said, you don’t actually have to be in the same room, or even on the same local network as your PS5 in order to stream your games. The experience will be most ideal when you’re at home, but so long as both your home connection and the one at the location you’re playing are strong it will still work, though latency will become a much greater factor under those conditions.

To be clear, the Portal doesn’t run anything locally, not even basic apps. So if your Wi-Fi goes down or if someone else wants to use your PS5, it’s not going to work. The system UI on my demo unit wasn’t final, so I couldn’t see what the experience was like initially powering on the device and getting started, but I was told that there will be a simple UI for connecting to Wi-Fi and establishing the Remote Play connection. That’s it, though – you won’t be able to use it to connect to other game streaming platforms or as a multimedia device – though technically once you’re connected to your PS5, you could load up Netflix there and stream that to the Portal.

For audio, the Portal has a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as a small set of speakers that are passable but nothing special. Remember, there is no Bluetooth available, so you won’t be able to connect to wireless headphones that way – not even PlayStation’s own Pulse 3D headset. It does have something called PlayStation Link, which is Sony’s new connectivity standard for PlayStation devices, and that’s built into some of its brand-new hardware. I got to test out the new Pulse Elite headset and Pulse Explore wireless earbuds, which are the only currently announced headsets that use the standard, but Sony told me that PlayStation Link will be available for third-party headset makers to use in their future products, but that’ll be a ways off. It’s a bit disappointing that we’ll have to buy brand-new headsets to use with the Portal, since that’ll add to the cost.

Battery life is another big question mark.

Battery life is another big question mark. The Portal’s battery size hasn’t yet been finalized, so Sony wasn’t willing to make any estimations for how long you’ll be able to play untethered. Normally, I wouldn’t be too bothered by that, considering that without a power-hungry processor inside you’d think the Portal should in theory have significantly more longevity than something like the Switch or Steam Deck. On the other hand, the standard DualSense is known for its fleeting lifespan between charges, and it doesn’t have a screen to power. Hopefully there’s a substantial battery packed into the tablet portion of the Portal, otherwise we might be looking at needing to plug in every few hours. Either way, we’ll be sure to test that out once we have the finalized PlayStation Portal in for review later this year.

The last question I know a lot of people are wondering is, who exactly is this device for? It’s $200 for a remote-access window into your PS5. At that price, honestly, I kinda get it. The Portal is unlikely to be someone’s primary way to play PS5 games – that’s what your TV is for. But for times when someone else wants to use the TV, or maybe you have small kids in the home and don’t want to put God of War on the big screen, and maybe you just want to be able to play in a different room without buying another full-on TV. In that scenario, the Portal offers a compelling use case. And while it’s not quite as portable for on-the-go gaming as a Switch or Steam Deck, it’s less expensive and it does let you keep playing your PS5 while out of the house, so long as your destination has decent internet connectivity. You just probably shouldn’t count on hotel Wi-Fi being strong enough to handle the connection.

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