Is PlayStation Portal worth all the restock hype? Here's the pros and cons

Gameplay of Horizon Forbidden West on the PlayStation Portal
(Image credit: Sony / Tom's Guide)

The PlayStation Portal has been a divisive device since launch, even though it's sold out pretty much everywhere. Some people who were anxiously awaiting the device ended up disappointed, while others found themselves in love with the Remote Play-only handheld. Regardless, there's lots of people looking for PlayStation Portal restock. Should you?

At times I’ve found myself in both the love-it and hate-it camps. The PS Portal is a device that lives and dies by your home wireless network. When it works, you can move anywhere in your house playing your PS5 without any real issues and it honestly feels a bit magical. I’ve been able to sit on a different floor of my house and play games like Horizon Forbidden West with zero latency.

However, to get to that ideal, latency-free experience, I had to reconfigure my router to see what the problem was — something others may never reach if the throughput speeds of their home network aren’t high enough. Otherwise, expect an unplayable experience. 

Having lived both the highs and lows of the device, here are the 3 things I love about the PlayStation Portal and 2 things I could do without.

PlayStation Portal: What I love

The PlayStation Portal on a counter with the start screen for Horizon Forbidden West

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The design is outstanding

I spent a lot of time talking about it in my review of the device, but I'll reiterate it here: The design of the PlayStation Portal is really sleek. It’s a perfect replica of the PS5’s DualShock 5 controller wedged between an 8-inch LCD screen. The buttons have the exact same spacing and feel as a regular controller, and the triggers’ haptic feedback is a premium touch that no other MFi controller can offer.  

Being able to feel the bow tension in Horizon Forbidden West really improves the overall immersiveness of the game. Without that force feedback, it'd be hard to go back and forth between the DualShock 5 and PlayStation Portal.

Is there anything bad about the design? Well yeah, it's less portable than I'd like and it doesn't come with a carrying case, but the premium design goes a long way in making this feel like a good use of $200. 

PlayStation Portal restock tracker

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Sony's willingness to create another handheld

This is more of a philosophical point than a physical attribute about the Portal, but I love Sony's willingness to experiment with portable handhelds again. 

When Sony discontinued the PlayStation Vita a few years back, it felt like Sony was going to walk away from the portable form factor forever. The Portal may not be the Vita reincarnated (something I'll talk more about in a minute) but it shows that Sony is willing to experiment with portable devices to see what lands with consumers. 

The PlayStation Vita in the hands of a gamer

RIP to the king of Sony portable consoles. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When it works, it's awesome

Finally, although my experience was largely a poor one, I loved seeing others enjoying their PlayStation Portal. 

My colleague, Rory Mellon, fared much better, with less stuttering and noticeably lower latency — so have dozens of others on Twitter who sent videos or first-hand reports of their experience. When it's working for you, the possibilities of when and where to play it feel endless. When it's working as it's supposed to, the Portal really embodies Sony's motto of "Play Has No Limits".

PlayStation Portal: What I hate

PlayStation Portal being tested.

(Image credit: Future)

It only does Remote Play and depends on Wi-Fi

So what's there not to like about the PlayStation Portal? For better and for worse, the PlayStation Portal is a Remote Play-only device and that means there’s no local storage whatsoever. Unlike the Nintendo Switch that can play games off cartridges or digital download codes, the Portal can only stream games remotely from your PS5  — and that can cause a wide array of problems.

For starters, the device is going to function differently on every network. Having great download speeds doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a great experience (as I found out) and it will come down to the speeds at which your PS5 can pass data to and from your router. In short, without it being wired, you could be in trouble. 

You can't use it for video streaming

Without local storage, however, you also can't use any of the PS5's streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video due to DRM rules. Want to watch a YouTube on that larger screen? It's not going to happen.

And look, I know not everyone wants to use an 8-inch HD screen for video playback, but I'd love to occasionally watch a clip on YouTube between gaming sessions. It wouldn't be my main use for the console, but not even having the options is a real bummer. 

Traveling with it is awful (for me)

The Portal's variability also means that you really can't take this anywhere with an unstable connection. Although Sony only recommends having a 5Mbps connection, any signal interference can create dips in playback. 

Imagine playing a game like Elden Ring where, just as you're about to be attacked, latency prevents you from dodging. It makes games that are already difficult nearly impossible to play.

I understand that Sony wasn't trying to make a Vita successor here, but being able to download and play the best PS5 games — even at a much lower resolution than usual — would've alleviated these performance issues and ensured that everyone had the same experience, regardless of connection stability.

PlayStation Portal: Bottom line

After a month with it, I definitely don't hate the PlayStation Portal — but it's not something I play every day, either. 

Despite improving the performance of my network, I'm still much more likely to reach for my Nintendo Switch OLED before bed — having no latency and better game selection simply make it the more enjoyable experience.

If you've been enjoying the PlayStation Portal, however, I think that's great. I don't think it's a device that everyone needs given its limitations, but if you're someone who already owns a PS5 and regularly doesn't have access to the TV it's connected to — or simply wants the freedom to play in any room — the Portal could be a great solution. Now, you just need to find one in stock. 

Need help? Here's where to buy the PlayStation Portal

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Nick Pino
Managing Editor, TV and AV

Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.