PlayStation Portal: Sony's PS5 handheld is frustratingly close to what I wanted

PlayStation Portal on a coffee table
(Image credit: Sony)

As someone who owned a PlayStation Portable and then a PS Vita, the whispers of a new handheld from Sony were tantalizing. No, I didn't think they could squeeze PS5 performance into a handheld, but Sony often pushed the boundaries with its handhelds and I hoped to see that again.

Sadly, that is not an apt description of the PlayStation Portal, which Sony has now announced will arrive later this year starting at $199. Now if you've considered a Steam Deck, Asus ROG Ally, or even a Nintendo Switch OLED you are probably thinking that sounds like a steal.  You're not entirely wrong, it's a nice-looking piece of hardware for $199, but it's crucial to understand that, unlike those others, this is purely a PS5 accessory.

Portal to PS5 gaming

I own a PS5, but between my son's hostile takeover of the console and my own limited time for gaming, I only infrequently find the time to use it. A new PlayStation handheld could fix all of that. (Ok I still probably wouldn't have time and my son would likely take that over too, but let me have my dream.)

So it was with wrapt attention that I checked out the early first impressions that a few had of the PlayStation Portal. At first glance, I was thoroughly impressed with the design, but as we dug into the actual features I found myself sorely disappointed. You see the PlayStation Portal is strictly a Remote Play device, there is absolutely nothing happening on the handheld itself. Now to be fair it looks like the best possible Remote Play device with a high-resolution 8-inch display, built-in DualSense controls, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C port, and a pair of speakers, however, it's still dependent on running off of your PS5.

Sony PlayStation Portal

(Image credit: Sony)

Outlook

Now this isn't bad for everyone, if you are the sole user of your PS5 this could be a nice little extension of your console for when you want to game in bed, in your kitchen, in a bath (no, probably don't do that one), or away from home if you have a good enough connection in both locations. It even has the ability to power on your PS5 by simply turning on the Portal, every other Remote Play device is dependent on your having left the console on or in Rest mode.

For me, I simply wanted more. At a minimum, I would have hoped the console could stream games from PlayStation Plus Premium, but no you are only able to play games that you have installed on your PS5. We do have some outstanding questions about the Portal as well, Sony hasn't offered any guidance on how long it will last on a single charge. Overall I can see the appeal of the Portal for some users, but for those of us who had dreams of a new PlayStation handheld, this isn't it.

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Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.