Check out our full guide on where to buy PlayStation Portal right now to scour the net for stock!
The PlayStation Portal is a strangely pitched product, and its mixed reception highlighted that immediately. The initial excitement of the confirmation of the long-rumored Sony handheld quickly dissipated when it became clear that it was only a streaming machine and one that had to be tethered to your PS5.
For many folks, despite the design, inclusion of haptics and DualSense features, PS5 integration and games that you can play on it, and the $199.99 / £199.99 price point, the fact it appeared as just a means to mirror games you already owned, from a console you already owned was a big disappointment. Especially so in the face of native-game-playing portable competitors like the Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck, and ASUS Rog Ally.
While its use case has become a little clearer now the dust has settled, and given some folks have now had hands-on, I’m convinced those who are most likely to get the best from the PS Portal are a small group of people like me; I am who the PS Portal has been made for.
PS5 power in my hands
My PlayStation 5 and TV (and PS3 and Xbox Series X) all live together in one unit in the living room. Being the main room of our small house, it’s the one that my wife and I share the most. More often than not this is watching one of the streaming services we are subscribed to. Thus, this makes jumping onto the PS5 for an evening a bit of a rarity.
Yes, PlayStation’s Remote Play does give me the option to jump on my PC to stream games from the PS5 while my wife watches television but that rather removes me from her company and the social situation. Hardly a way to spend evenings together.
Step forward the PS Portal. Injecting this handheld system into this scenario and my setup will change everything. Bluntly, in the context - and comfort - of my own home, I’ll be able to play way more games and spend way more time with my family. At the same time. No more trying to book a room in the house, no more TV negotiations, no more changing social plans, and no more having to earn extra points in order to assist with either of the first two. Also, if we start a young family can I imagine taking the Portal up to a child’s bedroom and playing while they fall asleep? You bet I can - that sounds like some optimal gaming time right there.
As a result, the PS Portal is going to improve my everyday gaming experience; it will unlock so much more potential gaming time for me, which, as a boring grown-up with relentlessly adult responsibilities that seem to expand with every passing month, is a big deal. It’ll mean that my wife and I can sit on the sofa together, content in devouring our own choice of media without annoying one another.
This won’t sound revolutionary but it is exactly how - well, at least mainly how - Sony has pitched the PS Portal; a quick look at the official marketing tells you that. “You can play your PS5 console even when someone else is using the TV it’s connected to” says one descriptor; and “No TV needed to play and no living room required.” says another heading. Simply put: ‘Someone else wants the TV? Just use the PS Portal to play games while they watch!’. It’s as simple as that, and that’s going to enhance my life to no end.
Going remote - sort of
I’ll absolutely admit that Remote Play has been around a while (since the years of the PS3) so in this respect - maybe it’s core respect - the PS Portal is not doing anything new. But, for reasons which I’ve elaborated on in another article, I can’t use the existing, ‘neatest’ handheld solutions for Remote Play such as playing on a phone or pairing said phone with a controller like the Backbone One. This only further focuses on the PS Portal as feeling tailor-made for me.
The related reasons which mean I can’t use the other handheld consoles on the market like the Steam Deck or Switch even though they offer their own experiences (and natively play games made for on-the-sofa playing) also contribute to this - I can’t physically use them.
Relatedly, I’ll take the PS Portal over those two competing units when thinking of genuine on-the-go gaming - I don’t have a huge commute and when I travel I am almost always driving so I just don’t need something to fill that gap. Thus, the streaming and PS5-tethered nature of the PS Portal suits me best again - I just don't need something that's got it own games or plays things natively.
This also means that the lower price tag makes it even more attractive for folks like me in comparison to its cousins such as the regular Switch (at £299 / £259) and the Steam Deck (from $399 / £349). At its price, allowing me to play my PS5 and PS4 games with little interruption, in a handheld capacity, as long as the internet is good enough, makes for a great portable device, and a decent solution for more play.
Regarding that connectivity, by the way, while the use-case has been heavily about providing an option when the TV is otherwise engaged, the PS Portal will be able to be taken on the go - should I need it to. Sony says that it won’t limit you to being connected to the home Wi-Fi totally, you just have to have a strong enough internet connection. This does open the door to some genuine portability use, but there are still questions. How will it work if you move from a Wi-Fi connection to a mobile data one? Will it drop out and leave you stranded? Also, Remote Play requires the PS5 to be powered up - not just in Rest Mode - so that might raise questions of energy consumption and cost, and safety, with some folks. But even if the PS Portal is at its best and safest level of portability while in the house and remaining close to the PS5, that’s still going to be absolutely ideal for me.
In the face of other premium PS5 hardware accessories that I can’t justify - I don’t need the ‘Pro’ features of the DualSense Edge controller, and while PSVR 2 is cool, I don’t really have the space for it, nor does it have the game library for me yet - the PS Portal is the accessory that excites me when it comes to augmenting my PS5 setup and will make a genuine difference in maximizing my gaming opportunities.
It looks to be a superb handheld built around a fabulous controller, it’ll immediately integrate into my primary gaming ecosystem, and ensure I can play while remaining social. Instead of booking out the TV to play games for my enjoyment or for review, I’ll now be able to just enjoy the company of my wife and pets on the sofa without interrupting anyone’s evenings. It’s perfect for me, and I am the perfect audience for it.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Rob is Deputy Editor of TechRadar Gaming, a video games journalist, critic, editor, and writer, and has years of experience gained from multiple publications. Prior to being TechRadar Gaming's Deputy Editor, he was a longstanding member of GamesRadar+, being the Commissioning Editor for Hardware there for years, while also squeezing in a short stint as Gaming Editor at WePC before joining TechRadar Gaming. He is also a freelance writer on tech, gaming hardware, video games, gardens, and landscapes and is crowdfunding a book on video game landscapes that you can back and pre-order now too.