Every company wants to put a screen in our home. There are Google Home devices, Amazon Echo devices, and now the Facebook Portal screen. The latest Facebook Portal Go offers some unique features, but it’s not for everyone. I used Portal Go to do my home test.
Facebook Portal Go is a sleek-looking desktop smart display. The 10″ screen on the front looks bright and sharp / The camera and microphone are right above the screen. I like the sliding security cover to cover the camera. It’s different from what we’ve seen on other devices and just look cool.
The back of the Portal Go is covered in gray fabric. This is a trend we’ve seen from Google and Amazon devices. I like it! It helps these high-tech devices better fit into our homes. At the top, you will find 3 buttons, volume up, volume down and a round button to disable/enable the camera and microphone. There is also a small handle on the back! This is important because Portal Go is designed to… GO! It has a built-in battery and charging cable more like a mini dock. Place the Go on top of the charging “pod” and it will charge. Works great all the time and it should give you some hours of use without plugging in. I like this! Usually I like to make video calls on the smart display, but I don’t like being confined to a single location. Good job Facebook!
The software side of things is pretty cool on Facebook Portal Go. The interface feels refined! I didn’t expect it to be too horrible but I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the interface feels. Setting it up was super simple using my phone, and navigating the menus was pretty straightforward as well.
Facebook also has a small app ecosystem on the Portal. You have many of the usual suspects in the app store (or preloaded) including web browsers, Zoom, Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio. It’s nice to see Microsoft Teams and Plex as application options as well.
Don’t forget, this is a Facebook device so you will also find a lot of Facebook apps on the Portal. The Watch app lets you watch videos on Facebook, the Facebook Live app lets you use the Portal to go live on your Facebook feed. The portal also includes your Facebook photos so you can flip through your memories or set them as your screensaver. Treat it like a digital photo frame!
Oh hey… Alexa… how are you?
On top of that, Facebook has partnered with Amazon to integrate Alexa into Portal Go. Wait a minute… doesn’t that make this an Echo? Basically! Just say “Alexa” and it will summon Amazon voice search. The screen will show results including weather forecast, smart home control etc. So…yes… it’s basically a great Facebook smart display ALSO a device Amazon Echo.
I saved the most important thing for the last video call! That’s what Portal Go is all about. That’s what the Portal is designed for. In my tests, it did a great job at Facebook video calling. You can make group video calls as well as single video calls. The process is very simple, select a contact and tap the video button. That’s it. Facebook has done a great job of keeping things simple for Portal Go’s most important functionality.
Who would this be good for?
How do you video chat with people? That is the important question here. If you’re into Facebook and use Facebook video calling with friends and family, then this is the PERFECT smart display for you. Portal designed for “Facebook Users!” Of course!
If you’re a video caller on Facetime or Google Duo – Portals won’t make sense for you. You can’t do it on Portal Go. It’s all about which “ecosystem” you use the most.
I am very impressed. Facebook may be a little late to the smart display game, but they’re doing a great job. The hardware is, in some ways, better than what we’ve seen from Amazon and Google. It is at least on par. The software is still thin in terms of application and integration compared to others but better than I expected. The Alexa integration adds several features. Meta was smart to add Alexa instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Facebook offers a viable option for anyone using Facebook messaging and video calling as a primary way to connect with family and friends.
You can buy the Facebook Portal on Amazon, at most big box stores, and directly from Facebook for $200 — it’s on sale for the holiday 2021 for $150.
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