Facebook Portal Review: Can We Trust This Smart Display?

/ 01:51 AM February 03, 2019

The Facebook Portal and bigger portal plus are not pioneers of smart displays as Google and Amazon have like products on the market. However, the portal has an almost-specific intention, which is placing video calls via Facebook messenger user to user.  From our Facebook Portal Review, the device functions efficiently in that aspect.  Yet, despite this, most users are extremely uneasy with the prospect of a Facebook linked camera in their homes due to all the privacy issues that have come to light.



  • REVIEW PRICE- $199 ($349 for Portal Plus)
  • Size -10.1-inch (15.6-inch for Portal Plus)


The Portal and Portal plus have contemporary designs that would fit right into a stylish home. They are crafted quite competently with superior plastic materials, loud speakers that can comfortably supply a medium/large room with music as well as responsive brilliant touchscreens.

Other than the screen, the Portal’s microphones and camera are the primary things you would be engaging with. Both models utilize the same mic and camera systems- a 12-megapixel camera with a 140-degree field of view and up to 8x digital zoom and a four-mic array with 360-degree beamforming input.


The main edge The Portal has above other smart displays is its smart auto-framing camera.

Facebook calls it the “Smart Camera” and it makes video calls easier to carry out without the stress of bothering if you’re standing or sitting at the right spot or not for the other person to see you. You’re able to move freely and the person at the other end would see as well as hear you with no problems.

The Portal also comes with better video and sound quality than we’re accustomed to from Facebook messenger calls via mobile devices. Its audio is crisp and easily heard. Its picture quality is clear and bright with high frame rates.

Facebook claims these features gives The Portal better natural feels to conversations than regular video calls but from our Facebook Portal Review, it does not really hit that mark. Although the Portal makes video calling definitely easier than other smart displays or mobile devices, it doesn’t give the feeling of the people on the other end of the line being right there in the room.

The Portal comes with other features crafted to bring both parties closer. These features include being able to play songs (with individual volume controls) the other person can hear during video calls and Spotify (premium users only) music streaming. Regrettably, this only functions during Portal to Portal calls and not Portal-mobile device calls.

The Facebook Portal allows for Messenger’s amplified reality masks, which while limited, are entertaining to use. Lastly, it has an AR story-time mode that contains a couple of children’s stories and allows you read along with music, sound effects and animations. But again, it only works for Portal to Portal calls.

Beyond video calling, The Portal has relatively limited use. It can stream video from a very small number of sources. It can show pictures from your Facebook account when it isn’t in current use. It can stream music from iHeartRadio, Pandora and Spotify. There’s also very basic access to YouTube via an awkward browser display of YouTube TV that does not function with voice controls and is hard to operate by touch.


The Portal lacks HBO, Netflix or any other video services. It cannot cast content from your phone neither does it come with a web browser for searching information. Although, Facebook promises to bring better video content to the Portal soon.

You can say “Hey Portal” to adjust volume or make a call but the controls built in by Facebook are basic. There is the choice of using Alexa, making the Portal pretty much the biggest Echo Speaker ever created. Some of Alexa’s skills like the weather will utilise the display but the Portal’s Alexa version is less full of features than the Echo Show.

The entireties of the Portal’s constraints make it difficult to validate why it should be in your home. It’s essentially a huge device that does two things-play Spotify and obviously makes Facebook calls.

That’s not enough uses for a device that utilizes a valuable power outlet constantly and covers a lot of counter/shelf room as well.

But the bigger issue most people will have with the Portal is that it’s an always-watching and always-listening device connected to Facebook.

But the key issue most people have is The Portal’s disconcerting privacy intruding possibility. Although Facebook’s vice president supervising the Portal’s development – Rafa Camargo says the company was aware of the privacy fears from the start of the product’s conception. He says the Facebook Messenger calls are encrypted so the company cannot listen in on them. And also that the Portal only broadcasts video and audio feed over the internet when you’re on a call.

Facebook includes a small plastic cover to block the camera when it’s not in use and a mute button sitting at the portal’s top deactivates the microphone and camera functionality when they are not in active use. All video chats are live streamed, the device does not store or record your conversations and its Smart Camera does not utilise Facebook’s face detection capacity for individual identification but rather operates locally from the portal.


Regardless of Facebook’s tries and even with Facebook’s claim to no privacy intrusion, The Portal doesn’t seem to be worth the purchase.

So, unless you use Facebook’s Messenger calling often, the Facebook Portal does not have enough functionality to be in your home.

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