Facebook now has several different smart displays aimed at video calling and helping you connect with your loved ones. These range from a small screened device that looks like a digital photo frame to a camera that plugs into your television.
Each of these devices is intended to make video calling more convenient, interesting and accessible. But which of the Facebook Portal devices is right for you?
We’re here to help you work out the differences and decided which version to purchase.
Which is the best Facebook Portal device for you?
There are currently four different Facebook Portal devices. These devices offer mostly the same experience with slight differences in specifications and features. There’s the small but snazzy 8-inch Portal Mini, the larger 10-inch Portal, the premium 15-inch Portal+ and the Portal TV.
Each is designed to slot comfortably into your home and give you the ability to easily make and receive video calls with friends and family members with a minimum of fuss.
The devices mostly offer a similar experience and functionality meaning the one you choose will likely depend on your budget and how much screen real estate you want.
What can Facebook Portal do?
For the most part, the main focus of all the Facebook Portal devices is video calling. Using these smart displays, you can place or receive video calls via either Facebook Messenger video calling or WhatsApp calling. Video calls can be made to and from phones, tablets and other Portal devices so the process is as easy as pie.
These Portal devices all have AI-powered smart camera technology that automatically tracks people on the call. With wide-angle lenses and built-in intelligence, the cameras will follow people around the room and allow them to move around more naturally. All the while users don’t need to worry about holding a phone or tablet and trying to frame themselves in the shot.
Augmented reality experiences
Facebook has also attempted to make video calling more interesting with the addition of other smarts into these displays. This includes things like AR effects to add silly faces, masks and visuals on the call, AR games that you can play with friends while on the call and Story Time. The latter of these is the most interesting as it lets Portal users tell read children’s stories via the video interface. This includes 15 different stories which add AR effects to the call as they’re being told, the likes of Llama Llama, Pete the Cat and Otto are available with more coming in future.
We like this addition to the system as it gives family members the chance to get involved with things like bedtime routines even when they’re miles away.
More than just video calling
Facebook Portal is designed to not just be great for video calling, but also to keep things interesting in other ways. For example, there are familiar apps built into the devices to keep you entertained. These include things like Spotify, Deezer, Words with Friends and Draw Something.
With Portal TV, things can get really crazy with Mic drop. This is like karaoke but for video calls. Allowing you to lip-sync along to songs on an augmented reality stage, just for your captive audience.
“Hey Portal” Voice Control and Amazon Alexa
As you’d expect from a smart display, all the Portal devices are also controllable with your voice. Each has Amazon Alexa intelligence built-in and can do anything Alexa can do. With a smart display, that also means you get a similar experience to the Amazon Echo Show with access to all the same skills that Alexa has.
You can use Facebook Portal displays to listen to your favourite tunes via Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited and more, check the news, control your smart home and more besides. You can also use the screen to watch your favourite shows via Amazon Prime Video.
Facebook also has its own voice control system that the company says it is constantly striving to improve as well. “Hey Portal” commands will wake the device and let you do more in future.
Each device sports some fairly powerful and surprisingly capable built-in speakers for your audio enjoyment too.
Work as a photo frame
As you might expect from a device that’s designed to look like a digital photo frame, Portal devices do also have that functionality as well. They’re able to display your favourite photos and serve as a reminder when it’s a friend’s birthday too.
Private by design
Each Facebook Portal device is built to be “private by design” – Facebook knows having a camera in your home can be unnerving. So it’s designed these devices with hardware-level buttons to slide a shutter over the camera and mute the microphone in a way that even if the device was hacked no one could access the audio or video recording capabilities.
For extra security, Smart Camera and Smart Sound use AI technology that runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers. If you use the “Hey Portal” command then your voice interaction with the device may be recorded and reviewed by a trained member of the Facebook Portal team, but this is to help improve the system. If you don’t like the idea of that you can turn off storage in the settings and delete anything it has recorded too.