The design of the PlayStation Portal is revolutionary for folks with hands like mine

The PlayStation Portal handheld games console being held in the hands of a model
(Image credit: Sony)
Where to buy PlayStation Portal

The PlayStation Portal handheld games console being held in the hands of a model

(Image credit: Sony)

Head over to our full guide on where to buy PlayStation Portal right now to try and nail down your unit!

I recently wrote about how the PlayStation Portal seems to be tailor-made for me from a lifestyle perspective. However, it’s also very much being made for me from a technical and accessibility perspective. I have very different hands - or ‘special’ as my mum and dad used to call them. And Sony’s portable PS5 streamer will be the first portable gaming console that I’ll be able to use in literal decades; a huge breakthrough in accessibility for me, and others like me.

With stubs for index fingers, an even smaller stub for one middle finger, a bendy ring finger on one hand, and small fingers across the rest of the board, I’m in a position where the last handheld I could actually use was a Game Boy. From the 90s. About 30 years ago. 

That’s a heck of a long time and means that I’ve missed out on a bunch of innovations, excitement, and, importantly, portable hardware and games. Even though this was through no fault of my own - I was just born with these different hands - I’m still a bit sad about the lack of portable gaming that’s been in my life. But in a couple of months, that’s all going to change, as when the PlayStation Portal comes out, it’ll be the first handheld games console that I’ll be able to use. Yeah, we’re not exactly lacking for handheld games consoles right now, but this is the most important one for me, and folks like me in, well, ever, arguably. 

Dealt a bad hand

Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch size comparison against red background

(Image credit: Future)

What about the Nintendo Switch or the Steam Deck, I hear you cry. Well, with their asymmetrical, tight control schemes, and general shape, they are just not compatible with my hands - I can just about hold them, but I cannot use them. A critical difference for an interactive bit of kit. There are two key reasons for this.

The biggest reason is that the design approach to modern handhelds has been to build the controls around a compact system and screen; spreading them out, applying them to what is essentially a flat, tablet-like slab, and trying to squeeze in wafer-thin shoulder buttons. All of which is a bad recipe for me. When this is applied to something hefty too, like the Steam Deck or even the ASUS Rog Ally, I’m just in a whole world of pain. But even being lightweight doesn't remove this problem: the same goes for the Backbone One controller - despite being lightweight and phone-compatible, it's got squished controls and asymmetrical sticks.

Another factor is the introduction and large-scale adoption of asymmetrical control pads and schemes. Brought into the mainstream by Xbox consoles, this diagonal or offset alignment of the thumbsticks has made for controllers I can’t use. In brief, having two central analog sticks (like those you see on a DualSense wireless controller) means I can still deploy my other fingers on shoulder buttons; offset those analog sticks and, this means my whole hand has to turn and move position. 

As a result, because I need my pinkies to use the triggers, I have nothing to actually hold the pad with. This isn’t to pour scorn on that controller layout, by the way. I understand that it’s more ergonomically comfortable for most folk; I’m just not most folk. Thus, apply these control layouts to handhelds like the Switch and it’s just a non-starter for me in terms of trying to balance, using the sticks and the shoulder buttons smoothly and together, while also trying to hold the damned thing. 

Tailor made

The PlayStation Portal handheld games console being held in the hands of a model

(Image credit: Sony)

The PlayStation Portal by comparison is coming to my rescue and will remove all of my existing obstacles to portable gaming, and in one fell swoop, the design of the Portal offsets both my main problems with portables. 

Sony’s PlayStation Portal is a handheld that’s built around a controller. Putting it simply, the best portable and ergonomic device that Sony currently makes is the PS5 DualSense wireless controller. The design is superb, it’s great for casual or fast-paced play, and the ergonomic form factor is beautiful. Therefore, building a portable console around the gamepad makes for a better starting point for me from an ergonomic standpoint. This approach makes a huge difference as the design scheme can remain largely the same as the DualSense - symmetrical layout, same-sized buttons, etc. - and my hand position doesn’t have to change a jot to be able to get the best out of it.

While handheld controls for the likes of the Nintendo DS and 3DS weren’t overly complex, and the layout on the PSP and PS Vita was symmetrical, they were either far too top-heavy for my small hands and not worth the time trying to master them to any degree (full mastery was obviously out of the question). So I would always be far more comfortable playing with a DualShock on my PS2 or PS3. And thus, as the years rolled on, I was well and truly in the PlayStation ecosystem, by default.

From an accessibility perspective, it looks certain to be an incredibly important portable gaming console - and totally revolutionary for me

Thus, with ergonomics in the bag, another feather in the PlayStation Portal’s cap is that it’s a handheld already in my primary ecosystem and preferred console setup - it’s literally made to play the vast majority of games I own and will own. No making new accounts, no juggling multiple platforms (any more than I already have to, admittedly), and it’ll just slot seamlessly into my gaming life and setup. 

So, from a different perspective this time, while many folks will think the PlayStation Portal is missing the portable mark by a margin, and it’s unnecessary or a bit of a waste, it’s going to be perfect for me and hook me into a world of gaming I thought was long gone for me. From an accessibility perspective, it looks certain to be an incredibly important portable gaming console - and totally revolutionary for me. Without something like the PlayStation Portal, I wouldn’t have the chance to play something - anything - portably, so as far as I’m concerned, the PlayStation Portal is already an awesome PS5 accessory.

Swot up on the games that we’ll be able to play on the PS Portal with our guides to the best PS5 games and the best PS4 games. 

Rob Dwiar
Managing Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Rob is the Managing 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 Managing Editor, he was TRG's Deputy Editor, and 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 just 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.