Every company wants to get a screen into our home. There are Google Home devices, Amazon Echo devices and now Facebook Portal screens. The latest Facebook Portal Go offers some unique features but it’s not for everybody. I took the Portal Go for a test in my home.
The Facebook Portal Go is a slick-looking countertop smart screen. A 10″ screen on the front looks bright and sharp/ The camera and microphone sits just above the screen. I love the privacy cover that slides to cover-up the camera. It’s different than what we’ve seen on other devices and just looks cool.
The back of the Portal Go is wrapped in grey fabric. This is a trend that we’ve seen from Google and Amazon devices as well. I love it! It helps these hi-tech gadgets fit more comfortably into our homes. On the top you’ll find 3 buttons, volume up, volume down and a circle button that disables/enables the camera and mic.
There’s also a small handle on the back! This is important because the Portal Go is designed to… GO! It has a battery built-in and the charging cable is more of a mini dock. Set the Go on top of the charging “pod” and it charges up. Life up the Go and it’ll give you a handful of hours of use without being plugged in. I love this! Often I want to make a video call on a smart screen but I don’t like being tied to a single location. Well done Facebook!
The software side of things is pretty interesting on the Facebook Portal Go. The interface feels refined! I didn’t expect it to be horrible but I was surprised how clean the interface felt. Setting it up was super simple using my phone and navigating the menus was pretty self explanatory.
Facebook also has an small app ecosystem on the Portal. You have many of the usual suspects in the app store (or pre-loaded) including a web browser, Zoom, Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio. It was nice to see Microsoft Teams and Plex as app options too.
Let’s not forget, this is a Facebook device so you’ll find plenty of Facebook apps on the Portal too. The Watch app lets you check out videos on Facebook, the Facebook Live app lets you use the Portal to go live on your Facebook feed. The Portal also pulls in your Facebook photos so you can flip through your memories or set them as your screensaver. Think of it as a digital picture frame!
Oh hey… Alexa… how YOU doing?
On top of all of this, Facebook has partnered up with Amazon to integrate Alexa into the Portal Go. Wait a second… doesn’t that make this an Echo? Basically! Just say “Alexa” and it summons the Amazon voice search. The screen will display results including weather forecasts, smart home control, etc. So… yeah… it’s basically a cool Facebook smart screen that is ALSO an Amazon Echo device.
I saved the most important thing for last, video calling! That’s what the Portal Go is all about. That’s what the Portal is designed for. In my tests, it does an awesome job at Facebook video calling. You can do group video calling as well as single video calling. The process is simple, pick a contact and hit the video button. That’s it. Facebook did a great job of keeping thing simple for the most important function of the Portal Go.
Who would this be good for?
How do you video chat with people? That’s the important question here. If you’re heavy into Facebook and you use Facebook video calling with your friends and family, this is the PERFECT smart screen for you. The Portal is designed for “Facebook people!” Duh!
If you’re someone who video calls on Facetime or Google Duo – the Portal just wouldn’t make sense for you. You can’t do either on the Portal Go. It’s all about which “eco-system” you use the most.
I’m impressed. Facebook may be a little late to the smart screen game but they are doing an awesome job. The hardware, in some ways, is better than what we’ve seen from Amazon and Google. It’s at least on par. The software is still slim on apps and integrations compared to others but is better than I expected. The integration of Alexa adds a zillion features. It was smart of Meta to add Alexa instead of trying to re-invent the wheel. Facebook offers a viable option for anyone who uses 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 2021 holiday for $150.