Do you trust Facebook to put a camera and microphone in your living room? If not, you’ll want to avoid Portal, its new smart displays focused on video chat.
Portal and Portal Plus make it easy to keep in touch with friends and family when you can’t see them face-to-face in real life. They can also play music, stream video, and do anything Amazon Alexa can do.
Not a lot of us trust Facebook. It has a somewhat shady track record of looking after our data, what with its involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a more recent hack that affected 50 million accounts.
But the social media giant hopes that we’ll forget all about that and welcome a Facebook camera into our homes.
Facebook Portal wants a spot in your living room
Portal is Facebook’s answer to the Amazon Echo Show. Its primary purpose is to make video calls — the thing any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do — but Amazon Alexa is built-in so it can be your assistant, too.
The display is available in two sizes; the standard Portal looks a lot like the Echo Show, whereas the Portal Plus is much larger. They feature cameras that cleverly identify people and move to ensure they are always in frame during a call.
If multiple people are in front of the camera, the Portal will use a wide-angle lens to fit everyone in. When there’s only one, it will use a zoom lens that provides a better view of your face.
All of the video chatting features you would find on Facebook are there, including group chat with multiple people, stickers, and effects. You will also use your existing Facebook or Facebook Messenger account to sign in.
Portal cares about your privacy. No, really!
When you’re not video chatting, you can use Portal to watch shows on Facebook Watch or The Food Network, or to stream music from Spotify, Pandora, or iHeartRadio. There’s also a news service called Newsy that will help you stay up to date.
But Facebook understands that some users might be concerned about allowing a device that’s always listening into their homes, so it has provided a number of privacy protection features.
When you’re not using Portal, you can block its camera using the built-in cover. If you don’t want to use Alexa, either, you can flick a switch that disables the camera and microphone altogether.
That switch doesn’t rely on software for deactivation, either; it physically cuts the camera and microphone out of the circuit so that they can’t be used. In addition, a number of Portal’s features are opt-in, and there is no video recording feature.
Portal arrives next month
Portal will be available in November, with prices starting at $199 for the standard model, which features a 10-inch 720p display and two speakers. The Portal Plus, which features a 15.6-inch 1080p screen and two louder speakers with a subwoofer, costs $349.
Buy two at a time and Facebook will knock $100 off your total bill.
Preorder your Portal today from the official website.