Facebook launched its Portal smart displays almost a year ago, following a lengthy delay in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Now, there’s a new generation of Portal hardware. For anyone who still inexplicably trusts Facebook enough to put one of its cameras in their homes, there are two new Portal displays, plus a TV accessory that adds video chat to the biggest and best screen in the house.
The new smart displays are called simply Portal and Portal Mini. The Portal has a 10-inch display, and the Portal Mini is only a little smaller at 8-inches. As before, Facebook’s main pitch is video chat. You can place calls to other users via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, and the cameras use facial recognition to follow you around the room. It is, by all accounts, effective if you want to place video calls with a stationary device rather than your smartphone.
When you’re not using the Portals, they look like digital photo frames, capable of showing you images from Facebook. They can also stream video from Facebook Watch. Otherwise, they’re much less full-featured than smart displays from Amazon or Google. There’s little to these devices unless you’re deeply committed to the Facebook ecosystem. The Portal and Portal Mini will cost $129 and $179, respectively. That’s vastly cheaper than last year’s $350 Portal Plus.
In addition to video calls, the Portal TV acts as a media streaming box with support for services like Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, and Showtime. Facebook says more services are on the way, but it’s unknown if Netflix is among them. It would really have to be for the Portal TV to be a viable streaming device.
Of all the companies looking to get cameras and microphones in your house, Facebook is probably the least trusted. However, all the new Portal devices have a button to disable the camera and microphone, as well as a physical camera shutter. Portal TV will cost $149 when it ships on November 5th. That’s several weeks after the new Portal smart displays, which come out on October 15th.
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