PlayStation Portal – life-changing tech (Picture: Sony)
A reader explains how the PlayStation Portal has greatly increased how much time he can spend playing games, despite having a family.
My darling wife bought me a PlayStation Portal for Christmas… I say my wife bought it, I pre-ordered it and justified the cost by saying ‘it’s a Christmas present’. It was quite a strange sensation, actually, to be 38 years old and counting down the days again. She also surprised me with a copy of Super Mario Bros. Wonder.
I know what some people are thinking. ‘What did ya want one of them for!’, as they rush to the comments section already. Well, stay your keyboard warrior hands dear reader, as I introduce you to the screen-hogging pair I call my children. And I’ll add my wife in there as well, why not.
I only play for around one hour per evening, once the TV tyrants have gone to bed. Sometimes I can squeeze 90 minutes out if I put cocktail sticks between my eyes to keep them open long enough. So, with the purchase of this magic machine I’ve now added an extra little gaming session into my life.
The appeal for people like me (i.e. anyone without a monopoly on the TV to which the PlayStation 5 is connected) is surely easy to see, just as I can see it would be basically useless to my teen or twenties self, when I had more hours to play video games than there were video game hours to play.
In those winter evenings, where the final hour or so is whiled away as a family in the living room, with the kids watching Bluey and my wife winding down on her phone or crocheting I’ve been able to play the PlayStation 5. This is priceless and such a welcome addition to my life.
How many extra hours am I going to get doing my favourite hobby through having this? I might increase my entire play time for the year by what, 20-30% realistically? (That low because not every evening will be spent like this, obviously, and more is the pity, but I am reliably informed that sometimes children do need to be bathed.)
Once more I hear the indignation of the nay-sayers. ‘There are other devices that do this already!’ I can almost hear the pooh-pooh brigade mobilising as I write. Steady on once more, dear friend. Let’s hold hands and go skipping through the garden of options and explore the most popular alternatives that I have owned in the past.
The Backbone is a very good device, which can basically turn your phone into a mini-PlayStation Portal for half the price. But the operative word there is mini. A phone screen, as crisp and beautiful as the resolution is on my iPhone Pro Max, is just too small to play AAA games like Cyberpunk 2077 for any serious length of time.
Maybe if you also had a Game Boy magnifier lying round it might work, but in my experience it’s not big enough. Mini also applies to the controller grips, which are so small even my modestly sized man-hands found them a bit awkward to use for a proper length of time.
And do I really want my mate Matthew interrupting my burgeoning friendship with Idris Elba’s Cyberpunk character to text me football memes? I do not, thank you. So, it’s a perfectly fine solution, but as Erik Ten Hag says: good is not good enough.
The Steam Deck (and rival alternatives) is also capable of remote play, and this is a serious consideration given the screen and controller are excellent. It is almost double the price, at £350, but you get a lot of bang for your buck with access to Steam, natively running games, and it being a PC in your hands.
For remote play, all you have to do is fire it up, mess about with some settings, and you’re in… well, I’ll stop you there. I’ve been a console gamer since 1993 and ‘messing round with some settings’ is not the sort of attitude you can associate with me. I’m offended enough choosing between frame rates and resolution!
I am an inherently lazy console gamer. I want to pick it up, press a button, and it be ready. The Portal is totally frictionless, with no compromises. Just pick it up, press the PlayStation button and 10 seconds later you are up and running. With all the haptics and rumble and full-size glory of the DualSense to boot. It’s worked pretty flawlessly for me too, I expected far worse lag or connection hiccups but so far, a month in, I have had very few issues.
Negatives? Oh, I am so loathe to mention any, but seeing as you’re asking, if it were up to me I would have made the screen a little better. The resolution is great, but the colours aren’t quite as good as my big TV. Now yes, it does seem a bit unfair to compare it to a TV which cost five times as much as the device itself, but you asked for negatives, so that unfair comparison is on you.
So that’s the tea for me, a big increase in my gaming time with a device which is best-in-class given what it is trying to achieve. It doesn’t want to achieve much, true, but like they say on MasterChef: if you’re going to go simple, you better make it perfect, and that’s what Sony have done. I am super happy with the little thing.
As it happens, we’ve also, as a family, been playing loads of the other Santa delivery, Super Mario Wonder, so I’ve never had it so good! (Other than the aforementioned glorious teens and twenties, when I was free from the gaming shackles of children, a partner, a proper job or indeed responsibilities of any kind. Ah, those were the days…)
By reader Henshin Agogo
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