PlayStation Portal review with Vita
Image: Chris Button.

PlayStation Portal review: the orchid of gaming handhelds

When the PlayStation Portal was first announced last year, I was one of many sceptics. A $329 streaming-only handheld device? My PlayStation Vita-loving heart wept for Sony’s bygone era of standalone portable gaming machines.

Fast-forward to today, and all I want to do is play my long-neglected library of PlayStation games on this niche device. Many reasons make it a tough sell, however. For starters, you already need to own a PlayStation 5 console, as cloud streaming is a no-go. It also runs on older Wi-Fi technology, which isn’t ideal for a device completely reliant on network connectivity.

All of this is to say that it’s a big outlay for a rather singular purpose. As a portable method of playing PS5 games, it’s terrific, with some caveats. It’s the orchid of video game handhelds: given the perfect conditions, the PlayStation Portal thrives. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to enjoy the best experience.

PlayStation Portal review

First impressions

On paper, the PlayStation Portal is made specifically for people like me. I love handheld gaming. I grew up on the original Game Boy, and I play my Nintendo Switch in portable mode far more than docked to a TV. Between a big-screen experience and something I can play anywhere at any time, I’m picking the latter more often than not.

Unboxing the PlayStation Portal elicited a giddy chuckle. I’d seen pictures and videos of this thing, but nothing prepared me for how goofy the device looks in person. From behind, it looks like someone tried with all their might to stretch a DualSense into a ridiculously wide controller. Don’t get me wrong, I love silly and I love novelty, so it was right up my alley.

PlayStation Portal DualSense rear
Compared to a regular DualSense controller, the Portal looks downright goofy. Image: Chris Button.

Naturally, it’s the front that truly matters. In between the mega DualSense-like grips is an eight-inch LCD touchscreen where all the action takes place. For a device based purely on streaming, it’s a bummer it’s not the more vibrant OLED technology. It also caps out at 60Hz, which makes more sense, given the greater bandwidth required for high-frame-rate visuals. Nevertheless, it’s still a crisp, nice-looking display with plenty of space to see the action.

False start

Booting up the PlayStation Portal for the first time yielded a less-than-impressive beginning. Because it relies on you already having a console, the first step is to connect the Portal with your PlayStation 5. Simple enough. Based on the familiar PlayStation operating system, the portable device eases you through the setup process. After connecting to the Wi-Fi network, you then sync with your PS5.

This all went off without a hitch. What followed was not as smooth. Long loading times, choppy performance, and dropouts all plagued my initial PlayStation Portal sessions. So, what was going on? I have an NBN 250 connection, meaning my home internet easily surpassed the recommended 15Mbps speeds.

DualSense Portal comparison
Once up and running, the Portal is extremely cool. Image: Chris Button.

Just because you have a relatively speedy connection doesn’t mean that your Wi-Fi network is ideal for streaming games, however. One of the other recommendations is to hardwire your PS5’s internet connection using an Ethernet cable. Fortunately, I was in the process of rearranging some Wi-Fi mesh units while reviewing a Wi-Fi 7 router, so I plonked one near the console, plugged in an Ethernet cable, and tried again.

Talk about a night-and-day difference. Every play session that followed was immeasurably smoother: the Portal connected faster, games no longer dropped frames, and my sleep schedule was forever ruined by playing Like a Dragon in bed.

After a rocky start, the PlayStation Portal showed its true potential.

PlayStation Portal specifications

Display8-inch LCD touchscreen 1080p resolution 60Hz refresh rate
ControllerDualSense Wireless Controller features: haptic feedback, adaptive triggers
PortsUSB-C 3.5mm audio jack PlayStation Link wireless technology
Network technologyWi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)
Price (RRP)$329.95
WarrantyOne year
Official websitePlayStation Australia


After my initial snafu getting started with the PlayStation Portal, it wasn’t long before I was hooked. Games like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 ran smoothly, while I fell down the rabbit hole of Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The tight DualSense integration certainly helps, too, providing one of the best controller inputs of any handheld gaming device to date. My only frustration stemmed from needing to double-tap the screen in the absence of the original controller’s touchpad.

With my PS5 connected via a hardwired Ethernet connection, and the Portal on my home Wi-Fi, every session went flawlessly. Technically, you don’t have to use the same network to stream games. To test this, I tethered the Portal to my phone’s 5G hotspot. However, it took a while to establish a remote play session, and once it finally connected, the result was a slow and low-resolution output. Take this anecdotal experience with a grain of salt, as I’ve heard others have had better luck when using phone internet.

PlayStation Like a Dragon gameplay
Image: Chris Button.

Given the DualSense controller’s notoriously short battery life, I wasn’t expecting much from the PlayStation Portal. In a nice twist, I enjoyed roughly a half-dozen hours before needing to charge. For reference, I typically had the screen brightness on low, and I switched off the controller’s lighting effects.

Otherwise, the PlayStation Portal closely replicates the experience of playing PS5 games with minimal compromises. With the benefit of a strong network connection, it’s fantastic. Given that it relies on multiple variables, though, not everyone is guaranteed the same experience.

Not helping matters is the odd decision to equip the PlayStation Portal with Wi-Fi 5 instead of the same Wi-Fi 6 technology used by the PS5. Wouldn’t you want a device entirely dependent on network quality to use the best tech for its intended purpose?


Arguably the PlayStation Portal’s biggest drawcard, aside from the DualSense integration – is its built-in screen. Unlike many phones and tablets, the Portal streams games in their native 16:9 ratio, taking full advantage of the big screen.

No letterboxing or black bars impede your view, and there’s minimal fuss with settings. Although there are workarounds to stretch pictures and fully use a phone’s display, it pales in comparison to how naturally the Portal works.

PlayStation Portal Vita comparison
I still yearn for the days of the Vita… Image: Chris Button.

I mentioned the omission of OLED earlier, a display technology known for its colour accuracy, vibrancy, and contrast between light and dark imagery. It’s a nice-to-have but not a necessity. The PlayStation Portal’s LCD screen looks swish, producing strong colours and cranking the brightness when needed.

Being LCD means it doesn’t have the greatest viewing angle, though, losing contrast and colour depth when viewed from the side. However, it’s not much of an issue whatsoever, considering its status as a handheld device designed for holding directly in front of you.

A major benefit of the Portal’s display is showing games in their native aspect ratio. Using Remote Play on a phone or another device doesn’t take up the entire screen due to aspect ratio discrepancies. Although there are workarounds for this, there’s no need for them with the Portal. As long as you’ve got a decent network connection, it just works.

Sound on

Although I was pleased with the adaptability of the LCD’s brightness, the Portal’s volume was all-or-nothing. Its built-in speakers are totally serviceable, producing crisp and clear audio, albeit without much bass. However, even on the lowest volume setting, it was too loud for when I wanted a quiet gaming session before sleep. Turning it down any lower put the device on mute.

The good news is that you can use headphones for a fuller soundscape and better volume controls. However, the PlayStation Portal doesn’t support Bluetooth, ruling out many wireless headphones.

Portal ports
There’s a 3.5mm audio jack, although it’s a bit awkward to access. Image: Chris Button.

Instead, the device uses PlayStation’s proprietary low-latency wireless technology, restricting your options to first-party gear like the Sony Pulse Explore earbuds. Although disappointing, I don’t believe it to be a brazen cash grab. Even when using my AirPods Pro with the Nintendo Switch, I notice a brief delay between on-screen action and the audio. PlayStation Portal’s lack of Bluetooth is clearly a deliberate design decision aimed at ensuring the best possible audio experience – even if it comes at a cost to consumers.

Fortunately, there’s a 3.5mm audio jack somewhat awkwardly located on the Portal’s underside, next to the USB-C charging port. When my partner wanted to watch some Dimension 20 on TV, I plugged in my wired SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro headphones and had a blast on the Portal.

Who is the PlayStation Portal for?

I had one main question in mind when reviewing the PlayStation Portal: why should you pay $329 for a one-purpose device that ultimately achieves the same result as your phone? You can always pay $179 for a Backbone One phone controller grip if the input method is your biggest hang-up.

Going hands-on with the streaming device well and truly defeated my scepticism. The PlayStation Portal is the best way to play PS5-compatible games away from the console. It faithfully recreates the feel of using a DualSense controller, and the generously sized LCD screen is the ideal size to portray necessary details across many different genres. At the same price as the premium DualSense Edge controller, the Portal appeals to me more, although it relies on more external factors.

It’s very much a church-and-state scenario: if you like to keep your phone and gaming devices separate, the PlayStation Portal is the perfect solution. Just make sure you’ve got the home network to support it.

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PlayStation Portal
Value for money
Ease of use
Excellent design
Provides a premium handheld gaming experience
Great-looking display that supports games' native aspect ratio
Only has Wi-Fi 5, and requires a rock-solid network connection to function
No Bluetooth headphone support
Requires a PS5 console