Did anyone call for a device that can just make video calling better? No. We have smartphones, tablets, and laptops for that. So why did Facebook think of a device with an always-active microphone and an always-active camera? We don’t know. But still, this has been Facebook’s debut in the gadget world so let’s collect the pieces and find the goods and bads of Facebook Portal and Portal Plus.

Facebook Portal

Way Behind Other Smart Displays

First, we have a $199 Portal and then we have a $349 Portal Plus. Both the devices are not one of their kinds and we can find similar smart displays available from Amazon and Google.

Facebook Portal

The devices such as Amazon Echo Show or various Google Assistant powered smart displays are playing videos, controlling smart home gadgets, keeping you updated about the world whereas Facebook Portal devices are letting you make good video calls to other Facebook Messenger users.

Let’s just pretend for once that we are really obsessed with video calling. We would like to video call everyone and there are people who do not trust messenger anymore. So what if we want to make a WhatsApp video call? Mark owns WhatsApp then why only the messenger video calls?

But these all are just assumptions and the reality is that Portal and Portal Plus is just offering you a better video calling experience to the limited contact list of the Facebook Messenger. It is not efficient in performing other tasks such as smart home gadget control, or playing online videos of your choice, etc. To sum it all up- Portal is certainly not a general purpose smart display.

The Goods About Facebook Portal Devices

Video Calling. That is somewhat the only thing that sets this device apart from the others. Portal with 10.1-inch display and Portal Plus with the big 15.6-inch display are designed astonishingly. While the smaller version is little similar to Amazon Echo Show, the bigger one feels like a screen placed in food outlets to place orders. Both the devices have quality plastic material along with responsive, bright screens and fairly loudspeakers.

Considering the fact that these are the first generation products, Facebook has managed to pull off a nice set of hardware. Apart from the build and design, the most important things that matter the most for this device are the cameras. Both the models have a similar pair of camera and microphone that includes a 12MP lens with 8x digital zoom and 140-degree view field, and a four-mic array set.

The intelligent, auto framing camera is what makes it way better than the likes of Lenovo Smart Display, Amazon Echo, Google smart displays in terms of video calling. The responsive displays also compete quite well with the other smart displays.

The Bads About Facebook Portal

If you are thinking that Portal’s inability to perform like other smart displays is bad then you are wrong. As we said, we can, for once, pretend to be obsessed with video calling, but how can Facebook justify the always-listening mic and always-watching camera? Isn’t one video call is asking for a lot? With so many Facebook scams happened in recent past, this is a bigger concern than just product performing differently.

Verdict

It would have been a good device if we had a wide range of video sources to play videos if it supported other platforms than just Facebook Messenger such as WhatsApp video call, or it had the wider functionality of controlling gadgets rather than just playing music and video calling. And it would have been a great device if Facebook was not playing with our privacy again.