Hands on: Facebook Portal TV Review

First impressions

Facebook Portal TV is a real attempt to turn your living room into a science fiction work. One may wonder if people will want to switch their smartphone to a TV for personal video calls, but there is no doubt that Portal TV has impressive technology and potential.

Key specifications

  • Price of the opinion: $149.99
  • Resolution 12.5MP
  • 120 fields of vision
  • 8 micron array in far field
  • Dimensions: 190 x 57 x 30mm
  • Weight: 310g

What is Facebook Portal?

The TV portal is a new gadget for the smart home of Facebook – yes, Facebook. It plugs into your TV to turn your widescreen into a hub for video calls via Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Through Alexa integration, you will be able to make and answer calls only with your voice. Thus, the faces of your family / friends will appear on the big screen to replace Phillip Schofield.

It’s not just a webcam built into Alexa: the Portal TV is filled with high-tech hardware, which allows the camera to follow your face and keep it in focus as you move into your living room. An ultra-large sensor can keep multiple people in the frame at the same time, while allowing you to focus on one person if wandering children in the background keep hitting the camera.

In addition, Portal TV offers a wide range of software, allowing you to manipulate Instagram-style AR filters during a video call or to watch a movie from Amazon’s Prime Video Library (if you have a subscription ) with a friend in another house.

Facebook Portal TV Award – How much will it cost?

The Facebook Portal TV will cost $149.99, and lies between the other devices of the Portal smart home: the Mini Portal ($ 129) and the standard 10-inch portal ($ 169).

That sounds pretty expensive at first glance, but given the high-end hardware it contains, you get value for money – as long as you make good use of video calls on TV, of course.

Facebook TV Release Date – When will it be available?

The Facebook Portal TV will be available for purchase on November 5th.

Facebook has also confirmed that its other Portal smart home devices, Portal and Portal Mini, will start being marketed from October 15th.

Preview of the Facebook portal TV

Chatting with your friends and family members via a video-based video chat is not a new concept – it has been featured in many movies and science fiction shows for quite some time, including Back to the Future, an amazing prediction of precision and technology. Decades later, it did not really succeed at home.

Of course, it is possible to make a video call on your smartphone / tablet, Skype via a laptop or even via ChromeCast on a larger TV. However, none of these forms offer the simplicity or immediacy of being able to command your TV “call grandmother” and then see her wrinkled face appear on your widescreen.

Well, all of this is about to change – and the company that wants to offer such a product to the masses is none other than Facebook. For us, Britons, seeing Facebook release material outside the Oculus brand is an unusual move. However, my practical demonstration quickly showed how this new device fits perfectly into the Facebook ecosystem.

Facebook TV portal

You can use Alexa or the supplied remote control on Portal TV to navigate the menus.

Portal TV not only allows easy integration of all photos you have uploaded to Facebook and Instagram to serve as a bike screensaver on your TV, but also uses Facebook Messenger to initiate and accept video calls.

A representative of Facebook flipped through the various menus via voice command. Portal TV currently supports Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, but the Facebook team has confirmed that it will arrive with a later software update, with Facebook’s own wizard, as well as Google Assistant.

Alexa works perfectly, recognizing accurately and meeting my requirements. Facebook claims that its own portal assistant will be better optimized for Facebook’s communications applications and applications, but I would be perfectly happy if Alexa remained the only option. And if you prefer not to use voice assistant to navigate the menus, Facebook also includes a small remote control.

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During the demonstration, the TV took off with an “incoming call” notification. A Facebook representative responded to the call via Alexa and then a live stream was broadcast indicating that two other members of the Facebook team were sitting in a separate hotel room. The presentation of the pictures was very similar to what you got with Facebook Messenger on the phone. A small box in the corner showed a video of my face, while the rest of the screen showed the two people with whom I was in communication.

Facebook TV portal

Portal TV allows you to transfer Messenger and WhatsApp video calls to the TV with 720p resolution

The quality of the video was good, although it was not very clear because it reached the size of the television. Portal TV has a 12-megapixel camera with a video resolution of up to 720p. It’s not particularly high; I am a little disappointed by the fact that it does not appear at all in Full HD (1920 x 1080). Nevertheless, the work remains satisfactory.

There were some connectivity issues, however, with the breaking of the video stream repeatedly. Facebook assured me that it was due to the poor quality Wi-Fi network of the hotel rather than anything related to Portal TV. This is a reasonable excuse, and as Facebook recommends a bandwidth speed of 500 Kbps, this should not be a problem for most homes.

That said, I have the feeling that Facebook could have included an Ethernet port on the back of the device. limited to Wi-Fi connectivity. Facebook’s reasoning might well be to keep the design simple, since portal TV has only ports for power, HDMI (for TV-out) and USB-C ( for data transmission).

The Portal TV can be attached to the top of your TV or, if you prefer, sitting on a piece of furniture below with its own built-in stand.

Facebook TV portal

The configuration seems simple, so you need to connect it to the power supply and the TV while connecting to your router via Wi-Fi.

Portal TV is not just a standard webcam for your TV. it’s packed with fascinating technology. The most impressive was its tracking feature, allowing the camera to keep youAll around your living room, a tip similar to the camera on Google Nest Hub Max. Portal TV can also use this option to adjust the microphone sensitivity. You do not need to scream in the room to be heard.

And if you think that many people in the same room might confuse these tracking features, that’s not the case. It is possible to switch to a wide-angle view if two people are sitting apart and to follow both people simultaneously if they are traveling. What happens if an energetic young child runs around the room and disrupts the tracking sensors? It’s not a problem – just select people you want the camera to focus on.

Here too, there are some super-interesting software keys, with Portal TV supporting AR features such as those found on Snapchat and Instagram, where you can give yourself a cartoon hat or crazy sunglasses.

Facebook TV portal

Portal TV takes full advantage of RA experiences, especially with children’s entertaining story time

Facebook goes even further with the Story Time feature, ideal for interacting with your kids if you are on a business trip. Once activated, it will display the words of the story on your screen so that you can recite it to the younger ones. The stream your kids watch will feature many story-themed AR animations that decorate the screen for a more interactive and engaging experience.

This is a superb addition that shows a great understanding of parents who have trouble entertaining a child on the phone. Any parent who travels frequently or lives long distances will no doubt find it extremely useful.

Facebook has also confirmed the possibility of offering adult-centric features, including games and support for existing apps. The most notable is the partnership with Amazon: you can watch the content of Prime Video with a friend during a video call or start playing karaoke with the display of lyrics on the screen with all your favorite songs via Prime Music.

Facebook employees have suggested that application integration will only increase in the future and that they are open to customer feedback in the form of enhancements to existing features and the creation of new products. new ideas. Portal TV certainly has potential.

Facebook TV portal

You can cover and disable the Portal TV camera and turn off the microphone when the device is not in use.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: intimacy. Placing your company’s all-auditory hearing aid in your living room at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal is like a nightmare of privacy protection.

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Facebook has not been slow to address privacy issues in a reassuring manner. A slider is built into the device and can be nested to cover the camera when you do not use Portal TV. If that was not enough, Facebook also included a switch that you can turn off to turn off the microphone and the camera, with a red light warning you of its power state.

On the support page, Facebook states that it does not listen to, display, or store the content of your video calls on the portal because each video call is encrypted. In addition, Smart Camera’s artificial intelligence technology runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook’s servers. Portal does not use facial recognition either, so any privacy concerns can be mitigated.

Of course, these are all the promises of Facebook and it is up to you to trust the company if you end up buying one of the portal devices. At the very least, I’m excited about how Facebook is implementing privacy measures with its new range of Portal devices.

Facebook Portal TV – First verdict

Will Portal TV be as successful as traditional smart home speakers in invading homes, proving another Prediction of Back to the Exact Future? I am not convinced. Video chat on the big screen is not necessary because tablets, laptops and smartphones already offer a perfectly capable experience and, no doubt, more convenient.

I think there will be an attraction for those who are often absent from families on a business trip or for anyone who wants to see more than one person in a single stream – but it’s a niche demand, especially at the cost of £ 149.

We will soon have the TV test on the portal, so stay tuned for our latest impressions and verdict.

A “practical test” is our first impression of a product only – it is not a complete test or a verdict. Our editor must have spent some time with the product to quickly describe what he is using. We call these “practical exams” to make them visible in searches. However, they are still not marked and do not give recommendations.
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