Facebook recently announced an update to its line of Portal smart displays. The announcement included a revamped version of the 10-inch Portal display and the addition of a new 8-inch Portal Mini, a larger Portal Plus and Portal TV, a device that sits on top of your television set and uses the screen to video chat.
Each device was designed to focus on video calling and Facebook’s own “Hey, Portal” set of voice commands, as well as featured Alexa capabilities.
Even if you aren’t completely sold on Facebook’s line of smart displays amid continuing privacy concerns, here’s what you need to know about the Portal family.
What can Facebook Portal do?
Portal is unique in the smart display market as it lets you video chat with friends who also have a Facebook account. The display sits either on your desk or table or on top of your TV, and the camera follows you around the room as you walk, so you can video call someone entirely hands-free while you do other things. The camera has the ability to focus on you even in a packed room, and also comes with a voice-enhancing microphone that reduces background noise.
While stationary, Portal can show sliding pictures from Facebook photo albums, weather reports, or daily reminders.
You can also use the device’s speakers to stream and play music from apps like Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio or Pandora.
How are the Portal, Portal Mini, Portal Plus and Portal TV different?
The main difference between these four devices is screen size. The new Portal’s screen is 10 inches, the Portal Mini has an 8-inch display, Portal Plus a 15.6 inch screen, and Portal TV is exactly the size of your TV screen. Each device’s display can be set to portrait or landscape mode.
Are these devices secure?
Facebook says the Portals don’t listen to or keep records of your video calls. Each call is encrypted, and the cameras and microphones run locally—not on Facebook’s servers. The company also says the Portal cameras don’t identify users specifically, unlike the Google Home Hub Max, which utilizes facial recognition data to separate out user profiles.
On top of that, there are switches on the top right corner of the Portal that let you turn off the camera and microphone, as well as a physical camera cover if you don’t fully trust the switches.
Like the majority of companies with smart home products, Facebook admits to collecting some behavioral data, like how frequently you make calls and how long they last. It also keeps a record of your voice commands, used for quality assurance and improvements to the technology. Facebook lets you access and delete these records from their servers.
Who should own Portals?
For Portal-enabled video calling to work, you and the person you’re calling have to either own a WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger account. But they don’t have to have a Portal—it communicates with WhatsApp and Messenger apps on iPhone and Android devices.
How much do Portals cost?
As of this article, Portals can be found direct from Facebook’s store page, as well as on Amazon. Alternative options in the market include Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max.
Should I get the 2nd Generation Portal over the 1st Generation?
With Alexa built-in and support for video calling with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger users, the 2nd generation Portal comes in a brand new 10” display sporting a new exterior design. The new design makes it look similar to a digital photo frame.
Camera quality improves slightly from 12MP to 13MP while support for landscape and portrait mode remains the same.
Aside from the redesigned look, the Portal 2nd Gen and the 1st Gen remain relatively the same in specs, and with the introduction of the two new Portal devices (Portal Mini and Portal Plus), Facebook smart home owners will have more choices based on their budget.