OPINION: I was in shock when Sony revealed the price for the PlayStation Portal earlier today.
Priced at £199.99/$199.99, the PlayStation Portal costs the same as a Nintendo Switch Lite. That would make a lot of sense if the Portal was able to run games natively, even if it was just indie or older PS4 titles.
However, the PlayStation Portal is incapable of running any game natively. Instead, it can only stream games installed on your PS5 console over a Wi-Fi connection. This means the PlayStation Portal offers the same capability of any smartphone, tablet or laptop which has the PS Remote Play app installed.
As a result, the PlayStation Portal device has no need for powerful specs or an elaborate cooling system. So here begs the question, why is the Portal so darn expensive?
Sony has even skimped out on high-end features such as an OLED screen, eSports-grade refresh rate and support for 5G. What’s more, Bluetooth is absent, so you’ll need to pay a staggering £129.99/$149.99 for the Pulse Elite or £199.99/$199.99 for the Pulse Explore to benefit from wireless audio, courtesy of the new PlayStation Link proprietary wireless audio technology.
The Portal has a barbones spec sheet that fails to justify the high cost, especially when you consider the Xbox Series S can be purchased for a similar price during a sale.
Sony will likely point towards the DualSense controllers that sandwich the Portal’s display. By stuffing in advanced technology such as haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, those gamepads have likely pushed up the cost of the Portal. A DualSense controller costs $69/£59.99 alone after all.
That can’t be used as a valid excuse though. I’d personally rather ditch the haptic technology altogether if it pushed down the price of the Portal and extended the battery life. Or alternatively, I’d rather see Sony prioritise the inclusion of an OLED screen instead.
These poor decisions, along with an excessively high price, make the PlayStation Portal an odd proposition. Since it requires a Wi-Fi connection and a wireless link to your PS5, it’s only really viable to use at home when the living room TV is occupied. It certainly can’t be used as an on-the-go gaming handheld like the Nintendo Switch.
But despite that long list of significant flaws, I can’t help but be tempted by the PlayStation Portal. It may be very limited in terms of functionality, but it promises to fill a very specific need that would genuinely be useful.
As my PS5 is hooked up to my living room TV, it’s not possible to play it whenever I fancy. Sometimes my fiance will want to catch up on the latest Netflix series, while other times I’ll simply be too lazy to get out of bed. In such situations, I usually start playing my Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck instead. But whenever I’m really engrossed in a new PlayStation exclusive, be it God of War Ragnarok or Horizon Forbidden West, I can’t help but wish the PS5 offered a portability mode like the Nintendo Switch does.
The PlayStation Portal makes this possible, enabling me to continue playing my favourite PS5 games, even when I don’t have access to the living room TV. It also opens up the opportunity for multitasking, as I’d be able to play a PS5 game in handheld mode, while also watching football on TV. These aren’t hypothetical situations either, as this is exactly how I use my Nintendo Switch – in fact, I use the Switch far more often in portable mode than I do in docked mode.
Judging by the boom in popularity of handheld gaming systems in recent years – with notable examples such as the Switch OLED, Steam Deck and ROG Ally – I get the impression that there are many people that share my mindset. I only share a living room with one other person, so I’m sure those living with a large family would love the option of playing PS5 games on portable devices whenever the main TV is occupied.
Will the PlayStation Portal be able to justify its steep price? Judging solely by the specs, I’d have to say no. But on the flip side, if the PlayStation Portal is able to scratch an itch that no other device can, then maybe it won’t be such a bad purchase after all. I’m sure I won’t regret it once I start playing Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 from the comfort of my bed.