Test Facebook Portal Go: a battery-powered WhatsApp and Messenger assistant

Ergonomics

Facebook is abandoning the “photo frame” appearance for this new version of the portal. No base is provided, the device is self-sufficient. This time, impossible to position it as we see fit, it must be installed horizontally.

The Portal Go adopts a very different aesthetic from the previous version, which could be oriented vertically or horizontally.

The Portal Go adopts a very different aesthetic from the previous version, which could be oriented vertically or horizontally.

On the other hand, it is suitable for you from room to room thanks to its handle and its integrated battery. Simply put it on its station to fully recharge it, in order to benefit from 5 hours of video calls or 14 hours of audio playback; In any case, this is what Facebook announces. The circular tip of the docking station is not very ergonomic and does not systematically start charging the device. We would have preferred a magnetic system to facilitate the positioning of the smart-display on its base.

Battery operation is very valuable for this kind of product, even if the charging tip is not the most ergonomic.

Battery operation is very valuable for this kind of product, even if the charging tip is not the most ergonomic.

Dressed in a gray fabric, the Portal Go hides a sound system consisting of three speakers. On its edges, two tweeters produce high-pitched sounds; on his back, no woofer takes care of the graves. The device retains its 10.1-inch screen and four microphones, already present on the standard Portal. Its rendering, however, seems difficult to read or navigate on the screen, the latter obviously not being tiltable.

The Portal Go is compact and its format simplifies transport.

The Portal Go is compact and its format simplifies transport.

A power button is placed on the back of the smart-dispay, while three other controls are present on the top of the device. Two of them allow you to adjust the sound level and the third disables the microphone and camera.
And if that’s not enough, a cover, something not very coarse, can be manually slipped in front of the lens. A reassuring option for some users, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked Facebook in 2018.

The controls, placed on top of the screen, can be operated when the user wears the device.

The controls, placed on top of the screen, can be operated when the user wears the device.

Anyway, the Portal Go retains its appeal, which is none other than its smart camera (up from 13 Mpx to 12 Mpx on this model). Equipped with a 125° field of vision, it follows the user in his movements so that he remains in the frame. In the same way, the camera zooms in and out to adapt this frame to the number of interlocutors present.

Once the camera is revealed, the microphone is automatically activated.

Once the camera is revealed, the microphone is automatically activated.

Functions and applications

In all, four different profiles can be installed on the smart-display, each with its own contacts and preferences. To maintain some privacy, it is also possible to limit access to this information by means of a four-digit code; a second can also be configured to unlock the screen.

It is possible to lock the smart-display using a code.

It is possible to lock the smart-display using a code.

Plugging in Portal Go for the first time will install the latest available update. And as with a smartphone or tablet, the smart-display must be connected to the Wi-Fi network for the download to begin. Connection that the device sometimes loses unexpectedly.

Then begins a waltz of identification requests to the networks. Facebook, Whatsapp and Workplace (Facebook’s professional network), first of all. It is obviously possible to refuse certain connections, but the device then loses its usefulness, its main asset being video calls.

The user must tick the social networks that interest him.

The user must tick the social networks that interest him.

Once identified, the user finds his contacts on the smart-display and can identify some as favourites. On Messenger, calls can include up to 8 people, when Whatsapp integrates 4, user included. During the call, different options can be activated: use filters, read stories, play with others, etc. Note that it is also not possible to send written messages via these platforms; which we believe is sorely lacking.

Even during a call, the Portal Go follows you wherever you go and can be placed anywhere in the house.

Even during a call, the Portal Go follows you wherever you go and can be placed anywhere in the house.

The Portal Go also asks you to log in to Amazon. Why ? Because once again, it is the voice assistant Alexa, developed by the American giant, which was chosen by Facebook to insert its Portal range. The user can ask him to set an alarm clock, give him the weather forecast, or turn on the radio. Alexa can also serve as an interface to control the connected equipment present in the house. But the use of the voice assistant is not the most intuitive. For example, when Alexa launches the radio, it is not possible to change the frequency. It is therefore necessary to ask him for a specific radio from the start. Once created, the radio plays in the background, but the window disappears from the screen. You must then access the drop-down menu at the bottom of the screen to have or ask Alexa to stop the radio. Same observation for the alarm functionality. Once the time arrives, the Portal Go starts ringing, but no window appears on the screen and it is impossible to stop the alarm clock with the commands of the Portal: only Alexa can stop the massacre.

And to use the basic applications, the requests for identification to the networks resume with a vengeance. These are the photos published on Facebook that appear in the album or those of your Instagram account. Otherwise, it is also possible to transfer photos from a smartphone using the Portal application. A somewhat obsolete system that reminds us of the operation of iTunes. For the calendar, it is the same: the user has the choice between connecting to his Google Calendar or to his Outlook.

Besides these main applications, it is possible to download others. Among them, Zoom, BlueJeans, Webex and soon Microsoft Teams complete the videoconferencing experience. They bring a professional dimension to the use of Portal Go, which can take on the role of a second screen on your desk. Applications to follow the news are also available for download; as well as music apps with Spotify, Deezer and Tidal.

But the list of absentees is long, too long. Instagram, which Facebook has nevertheless bought, does not have its application on Portal Go. No video on demand service either (MyCanal, Prime Video, Molotov) or YouTube application, while the 10.1 inch of the screen are enough to watch series and videos. It also lacks some VOIP services like Skype. The smart-display offers shortcuts to these platforms, somewhat useless, it must be said, since they simply redirect to the browser. Note that the Amazon Echo Show 10 has Netflix and Molotov services on its screen.

All downloaded applications and shortcuts are grouped in the tab

All downloaded applications and shortcuts are grouped in the “Applications” tab.

Finally, we also regret the lack of fluidity of the smart-display during certain commands. Latency slows down the experience, whether it’s scrolling through photos, opening an app, quitting it, or even unlocking the device. The unintuitive interface does not improve this experience. We find ourselves several times having to look for a basic functionality, easily accessible on other devices in this range.

Screen

The Portal Drops the large black bands that the Portal used to sport. The new version comes with a 10.1 inch display that has 800 x 1280 px and comes with the option to automatically adjust the brightness according to the device environment. With a temperature reaching 6,459 K, the smart-display does much better than its predecessor and approaches the expected 6,500 K (video standard). The colorimetry is also improved on this model. Our probe reveals a Delta E of 4; Knowing that below 3, the eye is not able to detect the colorimetric drift.

This smart-display thus has a well-calibrated, but perfectible screen. Rates remaining on certain colors, such as blue and magenta, which are too dull.

Colorimetry

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

4

Colorimetric drifts are noted on the Portal Go screen.

Colorimetric drifts are noted on the Portal Go screen.

On the other hand, no improvement on the reflectance, which reaches 55.7%; knowing that a mirror reaches 100%. For comparison, the reflectance rate of the iPad Mini is only 26% and offers pleasant reading conditions, indoors or in the sun.

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