I finally got a PlayStation Portal — don’t make the same mistake I did

Marvel's Spider-Man 2 on PlayStation Portal
(Image credit: Future)

There’s every chance the PlayStation Portal is the most divisive gaming device in Sony’s history. Some folks are head over heels for it, others think it’s a glorified $199 DualSense controller split in half by an average LCD screen, while most of us simply can’t get our mitts on the damn thing.

The main reason for that is due to the Portal being harder to track down than a snow leopard. A snow leopard wearing an invisibility cloak designed specifically for big cats. So if you find yourself thirsting after the PS5 game-streaming device, make sure to check in regularly with our PlayStation Portal restocks tracker. 

Just please don’t replicate my recent act of impulsive idiocy. Last week, after months of being intrigued by the streaming gadget since it launched last November, I finally caved and paid a third-party Amazon UK retailer £260 for a PlayStation Portal. That’s $330 going by today’s exchange rates, and also £60 over the PS Portal’s official price here in the frigid climes of good old Blighty. It’s another classic example of me being too much of a manchild to be trusted with human currency in a fiscally responsible manner. 

That already overpriced figure has since ballooned after I promptly forked over even more money for a Wi-Fi 6 router I thought would fix a major Portal problem. 

My heart sank when I discovered swinging around Manhattan with Pete and Miles in the normally phenomenal Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was a complete stutter-fest on the Portal.

Our Managing Editor of TV and AV Nick Pino did not have a fun time in his PlayStation Portal review. And I totally get why.

Out-of-box, my first impressions of streaming some of the best PS5 games on the Portal have been downright ghastly. A few hours in, I was ready to return what’s proven to be one of the most unexpectedly sought after products in PlayStation history. Booting up Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection, shooting felt soupy thanks to a combination of input lag and stuttering, while clear visual artifacting blighted Nathan Drake and Chloe Fisher’s awesome adventures even with both games set to Quality mode.

My mood plummeted further the more I played the PlayStation Portal during these first few hours; despite having 1GB fiber optic that consistently allows me to download the best Steam games in a flash on my desktop. My heart sank when I discovered swinging around Manhattan with Pete and Miles in the normally phenomenal Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was a complete stutter-fest on the Portal. 

Return(al) to sender

Returnal may look good here, but that's largely down to this snap being taken in the game's excellent photo mode. In motion, it can look blurry on PlayStation Portal. (Image credit: Future)

The worst experience? That would be playing stellar roguelike shooter Returnal. A brief gameplay stint that was initially so ugly on my PlayStation Portal, it looked like a PS3 game the streaming signal was so poor.

I say all of the above like I’ve time traveled straight from 2001 to play Sony’s streaming gizmo on a 56k dial-up modem. To be clear, I’m privileged to live in an area of the U.K. where I have access to a 1GB fiber optic connection that has never once failed me in almost three years. At least not until PlayStation Portal crashed the party.

After doing a lot of research on Wi-Fi 6 routers, I then decided I liked the Portal’s design just enough to invest in a new modem to hopefully improve the streaming experience.

For all the negatives I’ve complained about surrounding performance on the handheld device, it feels lovely to hold, sports the same pleasing haptic feedback and adaptive triggers of the DualSense and DualSense Edge and that LCD screen is vibrant and bright enough I can kinda forgive its subpar black levels.

In a shock twist of events, there’s a sort of happy story at the end of this overpriced rainbow. It turns out, upgrading my internet provider’s stock router with the TP-Link AX5400 ($149 @ Amazon) has drastically improved my PlayStation Portal experience.

Wi-Fi so serious? 

It may be an ugly black box, but the TP-Link AX5400 has significantly improved my time with the PlayStation Portal compared to my previous router.  (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

"My new Wi-Fi 6 router has reduced stuttering and improved image quality when streaming my favorite PS5 games on PlayStation Portal"

Even though my PS5 has always been hardwired to every router I’ve owned via ethernet cables since buying Sony’s smash hit console, my old Hyperoptic one simply wasn’t playing well with the Portal over Wi-Fi. Boosting my wireless speeds from around 300 Mbps to around 750 Mbps thanks to the AX5400 has made a big difference, though. Yet bear in mind, Sony itself says a 15 Mbps connection should be up to the task of providing quality streaming experiences. Take that official advice with your own bodyweight in salt.

The TP-Link AX5400 Wi-Fi 6 has significantly limited stuttering, reduced input lag and improved image quality when streaming my favorite PS5 games, no question. So much so, I’ve now had close to great experiences with Cyberpunk 2077 and the brutally tough Sifu (which is currently free to PlayStation Plus subscribers) on my PlayStation Portal over the last couple of evenings.

TP-Link AX5400 WiFi 6 Router: was $169 now $149 @ Amazon

TP-Link AX5400 WiFi 6 Router: was $169 now $149 @ Amazon
TP-Link’s highly-rated Wi-Fi 6 router can support connections up to 4.8 Gbps, which makes it ideal for fast-paced online gaming or even 8K streaming. Its USB 3.0 slot also proves handy for hassle-free media sharing, while the presence of TP-Link’s HomeShield system adds welcome security features like IoT Device Identification and parental controls to keep your Wi-Fi as safeguarded as possible.

But these gaming highs I’ve worked hard to achieve have resulted in a total outlay of £440 (or around $515). This has been a teeth-gnashing game-streaming experiment that’s hit my wallet hard. For $115 less, I could pick up the new PS5 Slim for $399 on Amazon in a bundle that includes the aforementioned, oh-so-good Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. I can hardly claim this whole experience with the Portal has been a savvy investment.

So what I have learned from this rollercoaster, slightly stupid game-streaming experiment? Don’t overpay for products, people — it’s against the central mantra of Tom’s Guide, after all. And do some serious research on PlayStation Portal, your router and the quality of your broadband if you do manage to find one going for $199 before you part with your precious pennies.

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Dave Meikleham
UK Computing Editor

Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal. 

  • LoopBak127
    Try plugging the PS5 into the wired network. That's what I do and everything works fine. I know, we live in a world where suggesting that is outrageous. Just try it and see how it plays out.
    Reply
  • CGCYT1991
    To be honest the way I look at it is the PlayStation Portal is simply literally a glorified remote Play handheld gaming device and it's simply not for me the PS Portal is only good for people who don't have free time to be on their PS5 however you can literally do the same thing with a smartphone and simply download PS remote play then purchase the backbone one PlayStation edition controller with 4G LTE or 5G cellular service you'll be able to stream your PS4 or PS5 console anywhere you go and it's a lot more compact than carrying around the PS Portal you will save $200 by investing your money with the backbone one PS Edition controller it's worth every penny
    Reply
  • Aiodensghost
    To be honest, even if I were to replace my router, the Portal is STILL useless to me. Public WiFi, as well as my phone hotspot, are not fast enough for me to use this device on the go like I do with my Switch OLED.

    Unless Sony releases another handheld like the PSP or PS VITA, where the games are rendered NATIVELY, NOT STREAMED, I'm not buying another Sony handheld. Then there is the way Sony treated the PS VITA, period.
    Reply
  • Aiodensghost
    CGCYT1991 said:
    To be honest the way I look at it is the PlayStation Portal is simply literally a glorified remote Play handheld gaming device and it's simply not for me the PS Portal is only good for people who don't have free time to be on their PS5 however you can literally do the same thing with a smartphone and simply download PS remote play then purchase the backbone one PlayStation edition controller with 4G LTE or 5G cellular service you'll be able to stream your PS4 or PS5 console anywhere you go and it's a lot more compact than carrying around the PS Portal you will save $200 by investing your money with the backbone one PS Edition controller it's worth every penny
    If Backbone One was compatible with USB C/ Android. And even then, the placement of the analog sticks is wrong. The analog sticks should be symmetrical, not staggered like they did. I also find that the phone is TOO SMALL for several of the games I play... when you play JRPGs and can't read the text, you're screwed... and that was my experience playing Persona 5 over Remote Play. In fact, the ordeal was so bad, I've never used Remote Play on my PS5 again, instead opting for games to release on Switch.
    Reply
  • Aiodensghost
    LoopBak127 said:
    Try plugging the PS5 into the wired network. That's what I do and everything works fine. I know, we live in a world where suggesting that is outrageous. Just try it and see how it plays out.
    He DOES have it wired in. He has wired his in since it's been possible.

    The device still sucks for portable play, though.
    Reply
  • why123
    This is where one of the PlayStation Portal's biggest oversights can't help but make you wonder if things could be better. The Portal only supports Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), which has been around since 2014... using wifi 6 is useless on PS5 and PS PORTAL they both only use wifi 5. So don't waste time and money upgrading, there is actually very few devices that use wifi 6
    Reply
  • taito2000
    This is why I’ve been hesitant to get the Portal, and why I regretted the Google Stadia. I’m out in the sticks, but I’ve had Frontier here for a few years, including the time I had the Stadia. So, when its connection was totally awful, and it really hadn’t been (including how I could download gigantic PS5 games without many problems), it was extremely frustrating.
    Reply
  • AnthonyTV
    After "I bought a PlayStation Portal, don't make the same mistake as me", you didn't need an article.
    Reply
  • why123
    Aiodensghost said:
    If Backbone One was compatible with USB C/ Android. And even then, the placement of the analog sticks is wrong. The analog sticks should be symmetrical, not staggered like they did. I also find that the phone is TOO SMALL for several of the games I play... when you play JRPGs and can't read the text, you're screwed... and that was my experience playing Persona 5 over Remote Play. In fact, the ordeal was so bad, I've never used Remote Play on my PS5 again, instead opting for games to release on Switch.
    They do have it for android usb/c both Xbox and PS versions
    Reply
  • why123
    admin said:
    Sony’s game-streaming handheld just wasn’t cutting it out-of-the-box for me. The solution? Throw even more cash at the problem for a gadget I’ve already overpaid for.

    I just overpaid for a PlayStation Portal — and it’s the dumbest purchase I’ve ever made : Read more
    Change your video output settings on your playstation or unplug your HDMI cable on the back of your PS... If you have your video settings set to auto it will set your resolution and frame rate to your TVs and not the best for Portals. Give it a shot it helps alot. 😏
    Reply