Well, the day has finally come. The new PlayStation portable, the Portal, has arrived and review embargo has lifted. The reviews are starting to come in, and oh, boy… let’s just say they’re very transparent.
Taking a (deserved) Battering
It’s an odd one, this. The PlayStation Portal’s hardware is very capable. The controls and ergonomics appear to be really good. The screen looks fantastic.
However, not all is well in Portal land.
This is a portable streaming device from PlayStation… that is not compatible with PlayStation’s game streaming service? That’s right. This is, for the time being, a PlayStation 5 remote play device.
What on Earth were PlayStation thinking? The whole thing is a puzzle box. But then again, that’s PlayStation portables for you, isn’t it?
Old Habits Die Hard: Unnecessary Proprietary Cr*p.
No PlayStation portable would be complete without unnecessarily proprietary cr*p. For the PSP and Vita we had storage that was way too pricey. Since this device does not require storage, there’s no way to implement proprietary stuff.
Just kidding. This is PlayStation after all. So what they’ve done is lock the wireless headphones behind a proprietary protocol. No, no Bluetooth for the PlayStation Portal.
As of now, the PlayStation Portal is only compatible with a couple of PlayStation (overpriced) wireless headphones. The reason? The usual whatever from Sony. We want to ensure quality, yada yada yada.
The Funny Thing Is…
As you know, PS5 remote play is nothing new. It’s been here for a while, even on mobile phones. So, what’s different here?
It’s a bit… worse? There are conflicting reports about bandwidth, compression and so on. But apparently, some phones with Bluetooth controllers have better performance than this dedicated device.
So, Does the PlayStation Portal Have No Place in the World?
I didn’t say that. I think it does, actually. The hardware is really excellent. The controls are super nice, and the screen seems to be of good quality.
However, PlayStation has done it again with bad implementation of a good idea. Why on EARTH would you not put PlayStation Now on this thing, so that people with last-gen devices or even outside of the PlayStation ecosystem can get a low entry point to it?
And what’s with the proprietary headphones? Bluetooth has come a long, long way, with sophisticated audio codec support, low latency, low power consumption, the list goes on on and on.
How to Fix It
Simple: make it so that you can use any wireless headphone you have, and chuck PlayStation Now support in. That’s it. For $200, that’s a really compelling argument. As it stands, it’s a glorified toy for people who own a PS5 who might not yet have a setup for remote play.
And that is too much of a niche market for this product to be successful.