For anyone who hates anything related to Facebook social activity, this thread may not be for you, in which case, probably best not to read this and start moaning!
For anyone else who's curious, I've just got the TV version for my elderly mum who's isolating and I'm part-time caring for, so I have to isolate too, although I go home to isolate for a couple days a week. So anyway, as this Covid-19 thing is likely to be going on for some time, video chats with family members seemed like a good thing for the elderly to have access to. I decided on the Portal-TV because she can turn the TV volume up and the screen is big!
It comes nicely and minimally packaged, reminds me of Oculus stuff and includes a remote and a power supply that looks very similar to the Quest one but 12V so hard-wired at the plug end and has a barrel plug at the Portal end. It would have been nice to have another USB-C plug and cable for future flexibility and spares. There's also a USB-C socket on the Portal for stuff (I haven't figured out all the functions yet), so maybe they didn't want to confuse people plugging in the cables. You need to have a spare HDMI cable or buy one as it's not included so points lost for that. The Portal-TV itself sits on top of any TV similar to most webcams, has a button on the side to turn the camera and mic off/on and also a physical cover that slides over the camera if you want to be doubly cautious.
You must have a Facebook account to use it. You can chat with Whatsapp users who don't have a Facebook account but you need one and of course you can chat with Messenger users. I set up an account for mum and added family members, she was very keen not to add anyone else. Contacts are sorted out on the Facebook website/app on your phone/PC, then they appear on the Portal, you can also add favourites to the Home screen. This is good because on the Portal mum won't see any social shenanigans, she won't even see friend requests (I assume) as that all happens on Facebook. For her, it'll just be a video-phone with the people she wants on it.
It's pretty simple to use for anyone who usually has a problem with tech. When someone calls, a light on the Portal starts flashing and it starts ringing, you then just accept the call with the ok button on the remote and that's really it. If your TV has HDMI-CEC, it'll switch automatically to the Portal when someone calls and switch back when it's off, unfortunately my mum's TV doesn't have it so she has to press the input button on her TV remote but luckily it's at the top and she seems ok with it. I may get an auto switcher though just to make things super simple. I think I may also put a little round green sticker on the Portal ok button and a red one on the off button, so they're effectively the start and end call buttons.
Having access to Facetime users would be good but I can't see that happening. Connecting to people in Facebook Horizon would be fun though, similar to how you could chat to people on their phones when using Spaces, that might be possible.
The camera is clever, following people and keeping them in shot, zooming in when you're close together or there's just one person there... I really like it. It's a digital zoom and pan though so if you're far away and it zooms right in, the quality can suffer a bit. For anyone watching on a tablet of phone, it's still likely to be better quality than what they're sending to you, and when it's zoomed out, quality is superb. I think Facebook have increased the number of simultaneous participants to 8 now and we've planned a family get together once a week.
Oh, and it also has Alexa built-in but not sure mum will use that, may sort out an amazon account for her at some point because it uses Alexa for all of its voice commands. There's also a few apps, and a mean few, Red Bull TV seems to always find a way onto Facebook/Oculus stuff, are they getting free drinks or something? Two Portal-TV users can co-watch a Facebook Watch show and see/listen to each other as if in the same room.... great if it added Netflix too.
Bottom line is it was a great buy and has been used a few times already and likely to be in regular use... even when our current situation improves!
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