Sony’s New Remote Play Handheld – Sony has a long history with handheld gaming, despite sometimes being overlooked. Back in the PS3 era, in 2005, the PlayStation Portable made its debut, bringing with it quirky UMD cartridges and some of the greatest graphics ever seen on a portable gaming system. The PS Vita, its successor, debuted in 2011. Although it had devoted followers, it never truly had the developer backing it required to establish a sizable foothold in the handheld gaming market, which Nintendo still rules over today. But now, in a way, we’re receiving a new PSP:
As long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi, the $200 PlayStation Portal puts PS5 games in the palm of your hand. The PS5’s remote play functionality is used by Portal, formerly known as Project Q, to stream games from your console. Crucially, the fantastic DualSense controller from the PS5—complete with haptic feedback, adjustable triggers, and touchpad—is also supported by the Portal.
Let’s be clear: Portal isn’t doing anything particularly novel. Since the PS3 era, there has been a feature called Remote Play that enables you to stream games from your console to a handheld, smartphone, tablet, PC, or Mac. Nonetheless, Remote Play has never really been a perfect experience because you have to give up either visual quality, control layout, ergonomics, or all of the above. It can be done, but it’s not particularly practical.
The Best Features Of DualSense
Eliminating these hassles and making Remote Play as simple as picking it up and playing are the two main objectives of the PlayStation Portal. The Portal wakes up your PS5 just by turning it on, making it ready to play—something that other Remote Play devices cannot accomplish. Its design essentially involves cutting in half a conventional DualSense controller and placing the two controller grips next to an eight-inch, 1080p LCD screen. Although it looks a little strange compared to other handheld devices like the Nintendo Switch and Valve’s Steam Deck, it is also lighter and still has a huge screen and full-size controllers.
The DualSense grips manage to replicate the familiar sensation of using a standard DualSense controller while incorporating all of its standout attributes. The sensation of the haptic feedback was equally immersive when I delved into Astro’s Playroom, much akin to my encounters with the traditional DualSense. Moreover, the adaptive triggers on the Portal accurately mimic the tension felt when drawing Aloy’s bow in Horizon Forbidden West. Surprisingly, even the DualSense touchpad retains its presence; however, upon touching it, two distinct touch areas manifest at the lower left and right corners of the interface, deviating from the single central panel arrangement. Notably, the omission of the light bar, the sole DualSense feature that is technically not included, can be forgiven considering its limited necessity for the majority of games.
There are additional USB-C ports for charging, a 3.5mm connector for wired headphones, and a small pair of speaker grilles if you don’t want to use headphones in addition to all the standard DualSense inputs. It lacks Bluetooth but supports Wi-Fi and PlayStation Link for connectivity. More on that in a moment.
The eight-inch screen appears to be very big
The PlayStation Portal excels in terms of graphic quality. The eight-inch 60hz LCD panel is successful in converting PlayStation 5 quality pictures into a portable format. Although Sony hasn’t provided me with any brightness, color gamut, or HDR specs beyond the fact that it’s an LCD panel, colors appeared bright and vibrant, and the 1080p resolution delivers a great pixel density for the screen size. Is the visual quality comparable to watching on a 65-inch OLED TV? Obviously not. But, compared to other handhelds, the eight-inch screen seems big.
From the vantage point of the viewer, it’s important to note that the film is currently being streamed via your PS5, as opposed to running directly on the device itself. One recurring concern that looms over all platforms offering game streaming services is the matter of latency – that slight delay between the instant a button is pressed and the corresponding reaction unfolds on the screen before you.
During my trial, I engaged in sessions with Returnal, Horizon Forbidden West, and Astro’s Playroom. While I wasn’t able to conduct precise measurements, I remained vigilant for any traces of latency. It’s worth acknowledging that this was an exclusive, personalized trial under optimal conditions. It’s plausible that the Wi-Fi setup you have might diverge from the conditions we enjoyed, thus influencing the outcome.
The distinction of the PlayStation Portal from most other game streaming services such as Xbox Cloud Streaming and Nvidia GeForce Now lies in its utilization of Remote Play as opposed to traditional cloud streaming methods. Unlike the concept of cloud gaming, where the game you’re playing runs on a remote server far away, the PlayStation Portal operates by harnessing the power of your home-based PS5. This PS5 runs the game and transmits it directly to you, whether you’re in close proximity or situated miles apart across the globe.
This setup inherently mandates the presence of a PS5 console for you to make use of the PlayStation Portal. However, this arrangement comes with the added benefit of granting access to your familiar PS5 home screen, complete with your account information, progression status, and earned trophies. Notably, the functionality isn’t limited to just gaming – you have the flexibility to seamlessly switch between different games and even explore various other applications available on the PS5 platform.
Yet, you don’t actually need to be in the same space as your PS5 or even connected to the same local network in order to stream games. The experience will be best while you’re at home, but as long as your home connection and the connection where you’re playing are both good, it will still work. Nevertheless, in those circumstances, latency will become a much bigger problem.
To be clear, not even simple programs are run locally by the Portal. So, it won’t operate if your Wi-Fi goes off or if someone else wants to use your PlayStation 5. I couldn’t see what it was like to turn the device on and get going because the system UI on my demo unit wasn’t finished, but I was told that there will be a straightforward UI for connecting to Wi-Fi and creating the Remote Play connection. Although theoretically, if you’re linked to your PS5, you could load up Netflix there and stream that to the Portal, you won’t be able to use it to connect to other gaming streaming services or as a multimedia device.
The Portal contains a 3.5mm headphone connector for headphones and a modest set of serviceable but unremarkable speakers for audio. Remember that there is no Bluetooth available, thus even PlayStation’s own Pulse 3D headset cannot be connected to wirelessly. It does have PlayStation Link, Sony’s new communication standard for PlayStation devices, and some of its brand-new hardware is equipped with it. The only headsets that have been officially announced to use the standard so far are the new Pulse Elite headset and the Pulse Explore wireless earbuds, which I had the opportunity to test out. However, Sony informed me that PlayStation Link will eventually be made available for use in future headsets produced by third parties, though this will take some time.
Another significant question is battery life
Another significant question is battery life. Sony refused to provide any projections for the length of time you’ll be able to play without a connection because the size of the Portal’s battery hasn’t yet been determined. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be too troubled by that because the Portal shouldn’t theoretically last as long as a Switch or Steam Deck because it doesn’t have a power-hungry processor inside. The regular DualSense, on the other hand, lacks a screen and is infamous for having a short battery life. Ideally, the tablet element of the Portal has a good battery inside; else, we might need to plug it in every few hours. We’ll make sure to check that out once in either case.
The last query I’m sure many folks have is, “Who exactly is this device for?” A remote-access window into your PS5 costs $200. Truly, for that price, I sort of understand. You should use your TV instead of the Portal to play PS5 games, as that is unlikely to be the case. But what if someone else wants to watch TV, you have young children in the house and don’t want to play God of War on the large screen, or you just want the option to play in a separate room without having to purchase a second full-size TV? The Portal presents a compelling use case in that scenario. And even if it’s not quite as portable for gaming on the move.