Facebook has updated its Portal range of smart home hardware, launching two all-new devices in the Portal TV and Portal Mini, while also giving the original Portal a major refresh.
Like last year's model, the 2019 Facebook Portal is a 10-inch HD smart display. The Portal Mini is a similar proposition but features a smaller 8-inch HD screen, with both devices adopting a stripped back 'picture frame' design intended to help them better blend into their surroundings.
As with the 2018 Portals, the duo are very much focused on home video calling, sporting an AI-powered camera capable of tracking your movements so you're less likely to veer off-screen when connected. Both landscape and portrait modes are supported and Adaptive Display technology has been added to automatically tweak brightness levels.
Controls have been improved, too, and there's now a sliding toggle button that lets you enable/disable the camera and microphone more easily than before. Peace of mind here is offered by an integrated physical cover that slides over the camera lens when it's not in use, and a red LED light that indicates when the mic is turned off.
Facebook says both devices also feature a better speaker set-up, so you can use them to listen to music when you're not busy video chatting. This is comprised of two full-range speakers and a sub-woofer, but it remains to be seen if the Portals can rival the sound quality of the best smart speakers, particularly those made by the likes of Apple and Sonos.
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The final big addition is the integration of WhatsApp calling to the Portal range. Previously, Facebook Messenger was the only game in town, but you'll now be able to choose which of the Menlo Park-based company's chat services you use to connect to your friends and family.
Pre-orders for the Facebook Portal and Portal Mini are now live (opens in new tab) ahead of an expected October 15 release date. The 2019 Facebook Portal will set you back $179, while the Portal Mini is priced at $129.
The 15.6-inch Facebook Portal+ remains unchanged and costs $279.
Facebook Portal TV: Has Facebook finally cracked the hardware game?
The Portal TV is arguably the most interesting addition to Facebook's burgeoning hardware range.
Rather than being a standalone device, it's a camera that transforms your TV into a smart display, connecting to your set via HDMI and coming bundled with a small remote control to navigate its interface.
With a 120-degree field of view and 8-field mic array, it's more suitable for larger spaces than the Portal or Portal Mini, whose cameras only extend to 114-degrees.
The Portal TV also boasts a unique feature in 'Watch Together', which lets you – wait for it – watch shows together with other Portal TV users whilst on a video call. Sadly, only Facebook Watch content is currently on offer, but that's not to say other streaming service couldn't be added in the future.
Thereafter, its feature set is largely similar to that of the Portal and Portal Mini: 'Storytime' AR mode for children, a built-in web browser, Amazon Prime Video and the choice of two different digital assistants.
Facebook's own digital helper is summoned when you say "Hey Portal" and is used for Portal-specific features like starting a video call with one of your contacts, while Amazon's Alexa is also on hand for web searches and to connect with select other smart home devices – these include the Ring Video Doorbell 2, our current pick for the best video doorbell for most people.
The Portal TV is priced at $149 with pre-orders (opens in new tab) already being taken, though it won't start shipping until November 5.
As well as being available in the US and Canada, all three new Portals are going to be coming to the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand.
Facebook Portal privacy: Can the social media giant finally be trusted?
Facebook isn't necessarily the most credible firm when it comes to user privacy, so it's understandable you might be concerned about putting a Facebook camera in your living room.
And while the physical lens cover and microphone light found on all three new Portals will help allay fears Facebook might be watching or listening to you when you don't want it to, it gets more complicated when you are actively using a Portal device.
While the company says it hasn't given Portal cameras any facial recognition or biometric powers, it has confirmed some "Hey Portal" voice interactions may be recorded, stored, and manually reviewed by Facebook staff with a view to service optimizations.
This is the case with many if not most smart speakers and displays, but you can opt-out of it relatively easily in the Settings section of your Portal. You can learn more about how Facebook handles voice recordings here (opens in new tab).
Facebook has also acknowledged that it will collect some more general data on how you interact with your Portal, which will inform into the ads you see when using Facebook – so frequent video callers may see more ads related to video calling.
For more information on Portal devices and privacy, check out Facebook's FAQ (opens in new tab) on the subject.
Alternatively, we can tell you how to remove personal information from the internet, if you want to completely erase your digital footprint.
Facebook Portal vs Portal Mini vs Portal TV
Here's a quick final look at how the key features of the three new Facebook Portal models compare:
Lastly, it's worth noting that Facebook is offering a launch promotion for its new Portal devices, which will save you $50 when you buy two products together.
If you can handle that much Facebook in your life, it sounds like a pretty good deal...
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