Facebook officially introduced the Portal, its first smart display will be available in the standard version and in the Plus version, equipped with an even wider diagonal screen. In addition to being unprecedented devices for the giant social networks, it is also the first hardware products marketed by Facebook – except for some timid (and unsuccessful) attempts to enter the field of mobile devices in collaboration with HTC.
Facebook Portal and Portal Plus are smart displays focused on the video chat functionality: users who use it can call other owners of a Facebook Portal / Portal Plus, but also anyone who uses Facebook or Facebook Messenger. The other smart features include the ability to manage the music services like Spotify and Pandora, and little more like streaming video from Facebook Watch – it is not possible, for example, to view the contents shared on the social network, or surf the net or use the app like YouTube.
Facebook Portal is equipped with a 10-inch 720p display and a dual speaker, while the Facebook Portal Plus is equipped with a 15.6-inch display with 1080p resolution, two speakers and a subwoofer. The Plus version display can rotate and take an orientation in portrait or landscape.
The specific focus on video chat implies the use of specific functions that simplify the performance of this activity: in both variants there is a tracking system that always keeps the subject of the chat in focus and framed; if there are more people in the room the wide-angle lens is used to frame them all, if there is only one person, the camera automatically zooms on the face.
To protect privacy, Facebook Portal and Portal Plus are equipped with a button that blocks camera and microphone operation. This is not a simple software deactivation, but an interruption of the circuit that allows both components to work; an anti-hacker measure that is not out of place, given that just a few months ago Facebook was involved in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that significantly contributed to giving users a renewed sensitivity towards the issues concerning the protection of personal data.
For the rest, the video chat features are the same that you can use with Facebook (multiple chats, use of masks and effects, etc.), plus some other news – for example, you can play the music in the common video chat. The devices are able to reproduce a limited number of applications, including, in addition to the aforementioned Spotify and Pandora, also iHearRadio and the news service, Newsy. In the absence of a digital assistant developed directly from Facebook, the company used the collaboration of Amazon integrating Alexa and does not exclude the future integration of Google Assistant. The number of apps is set to expand later, but for now, Facebook has not opened the platform to developers.
Facebook Portal and Portal Plus will be available in November, priced at $199 and $349 respectively; who decides to buy a pair of Portal will receive a discount of $100. Both are now available to pre-order through Amazon.com and will be shipped on November 8, 2018.
|Portal from Facebook. Smart, Hands-Free Video Calling with Alexa Built-in||$199.00||Buy on Amazon|
|Portal Plus from Facebook. Smart, Hands-Free Video Calling with Alexa Built-in||$349.00||Buy on Amazon|