Facebook Portal. A smart display for video calls and then some.

Facebook’s got a new product for you. The Facebook Portal is a smart display with Amazon Alexa that make video calls. Unlike the closest comparison, the Amazon Show, the primary function of the Portal is to make video calls. And Facebook has really put some effort to set the Portal apart when it comes to video calls.


Facebook Portal

The Portal comes in two models; Portal and Portal+. The main difference between the Portal and the Portal+ is its size. The former with a 10.1″ (720p) screen and the latter with a 15.6″ (1080p) screen. Even with a 5″ difference, the Portal+’s display is in portrait orientation that towers well above the Portal. Both models come with ambient light sensors and have a 4-mic array (2 front, 2 rear).

Portal and the Portal+.

The most important being the Portal can do is make calls. The Portal can make voice and video calls between a Portal and another Portal and between a Portal and mobile devices (smart-phone and tablet) via Facebook Messenger. It still works if your mobile device doesn’t have a front camera as it will fall back to voice calls.

Make calls between Portal and mobile devices.

Next are thoughtful features that enhance video calls. First is motion tracking. What this means is that as you move around, the camera is smart enough to follow you. Second is the ability to detect when other people enter the frame. When this happens, the camera will zoom out to capture everyone. Another neat feature is prioritizing the participant’s voice which in-turn will minimise background noise. Useful if the background noise is distracting.

Smart enough to keep everyone in frame.

When the Portal is idle, it goes it into a mode called SuperFrame. In SuperFrame, Portal turns into a photoframe which displays your custom selection of photos and videos from your facebook account. Also in this mode, the current time and weather is displayed and album artwork when listening to music.

In terms of voice assistant, Facebook has decided to go with Amazon Alexa. You should expect to do the same things as you would if you’re already using an Alexa device but Portal promo material states that Alexa’s function may vary from your standard Alexa devices. Interesting to note also that Portal responds to commands that begin with “Hey Portal”. This can be seen in the promo video that shows the user uttering “Hey Portal, call Lauren”.

Portal comes with Amazon Alexa.

Current services supported on Portal are Spotify, Pandora, iHeart RADIO, Food Network, newsy, and Facebook Watch. More services will be added as soon.

Play your favourite music on Spotify.


Price and Availability

The Portal and Portal+ is going for USD$199 (RM828) and USD$349 (RM1,452) respectively. It will be available on November 19 2018 and you can pre-order it now here. Currently it’s only available in the US and no other launch countries have been mentioned. Keep it on jumpadevice for more updates.