We tested Portal, the smart speakers to make WhatsApp video calls from home

Over the past few years I have chained tests of different smart speakers of all makes and types. With display, without her, in different ways and designed for different uses. Now, I have been the last month testing the Meta Portal (old facebook) that have arrived in Spain and are the loudspeakers with a screen that I have used more than ever thanks to a fundamental ally: WhatsApp.

Even if Google and Amazon they have become the benchmarks for smart speakers. Your models with a screen, Nest Hub Y Show family, have been focused towards being the control of the home and our daily tasks, while the Portal are oriented more towards the social section.

For the past 30 days I have been using Portal Go and Portal + (229 and 369 euros, respectively), smart speakers with a screen that give real meaning to having a computer of this type at home. It manages to mix the use of daily consultation and home management with being able to make video calls with anyone in a comfortable way.

Same idea, two uses

If a few years ago the most common thing was to call the landline, Meta wants with the new Portal to renew that experience of socializing at home into the 21st century through video calls. Even if Portal Go and Portal + they appeared together and share some aspects, they are smart display speakers for two completely different uses.

Portal Go

Portal Go is designed to take anywhere in the home. It has a system of magnets that serves as a base to charge it, but it has a handle on the back to move it around all rooms. The idea is that it accompanies us whether we are in the living room, in the kitchen or in the study. It has full autonomy as long as it has battery and WiFi.

Portal + for its part has a more leisurely use and is designed to always occupy the same hole in the home. That is, you have to better think about where you want to place it to use it more frequently. How was it with Portal, Portal + is ideal to place in the living room or a large desk table to make daily video calls from there, either at work or with family and friends.

Portal +

Beyond the way of being able to move it or not, the main difference between both models is in the screen size. While Portal Go has a 10-inch panel, Portal + goes up until 2 p.m., which is a large screen that gives a feeling of total immersion.

Both models have a camera with an environment recognition system that, thanks to the artificial intelligence of its Smart Camera system recognizes the people who are in plane to reframe the scene and follow you. It will not be necessary to remain static in front of the speaker, but it will be able to recognize where you are or how many people are in the conversation to frame in tune in the same way that they already do. the latest Apple iPads with Centered Framing. The big difference between the Portal is in the field of vision since the Go is slightly smaller (125º vs 131º of field of vision).

Portal Camera +

Do not forget that the Portal are smart speakers and as such they sound, and they do it very well. Both have a set of two 5W full frequency speakers and one 20W woofer, with what you can fill the room without problem both to listen to music and to carry on a conversation from several meters away. And it is that in addition to the speakers it has a set of four microphones with an artificial intelligence system that minimizes background noise and improves the voice of the speaker.

Alexa and WhatsApp

The Portal have their own operating system, but it comes with two main allies to make sense of it and make its use really comfortable and easy: Alexa and WhatsApp.

WhatsApp call in Portal +

On the one hand, it integrates Amazon’s smart assistant, which allows us to interact with the speaker in the same way as we would with an Echo, that is, from asking curiosities to controlling lights or connected plugs. On the other, it has a series of applications, mainly oriented to video calls, with the clear objective of being a social device, and This is where its greatest virtue for the Spanish market comes: WhatsApp.

As it is a Meta device, we can synchronize our Facebook, Messenger or WhatsApp agenda, in this way we can initiate conversations from any of the three applications directly from the Portal screen. However, due to the use of WhatsApp in Spain, it is especially interesting to make video calls (or calls) to the application to other mobile phones.

Portal Go

To do this, the most convenient thing is to save a series of favorite contacts (family and friends we call the most), in this way it will be enough with two clicks on the screen to start a conversation. It’s so easy that my three-year-old has learned to use it for himself to call.

In WhatsApp, not only does the automatic reframing work (which is perfect for video calls with children at home), but it also has a series of effects in augmented reality that add a plus to the experience of the application that, for now, cannot be had on any mobile phone.

Portal +

Beyond WhatsApp, among the applications that can be found are others of a more professional scope such as Webex or Zoom, entertainment such as Spotify or Netflix, as well as there are another series of websites that we can access directly as there is no application. Of course, we will also have a browser to access the websites we want.

Privacy

The thorniest point of the new Portal is, as always, privacy. As with the smart speakers from Google or Amazon, the user can be rejected by sneaking a device with microphones and a camera into their living room or bedroom. In addition, here, it is worth taking into account the reputation of the company with the different data leak scandals that it has had in recent times. Meta is aware and ensures that both are designed to protect privacy.

Privacy notice in Portal Go

In both models you can find a series of features designed to give the user greater privacy. To begin with, the cameras have a physical cap that covers the lens and it is completely dark. Also, when the lens is covered, apps cannot launch the camera.

On the other hand, we find a button That turns off the camera and the microphones. Even if we say the command ‘Alexa’ or ‘Hey Portal the speaker will not activate. This is interesting to ‘disconnect’ the speaker completely or if we just want to make a call, have the lens covered but the microphones activated.

Buttons and camera lid in Portal Go

Meta explains that the Smart Camera system does not use facial recognition to identify the people who are in plane, as well as the tracking system that details who is in plane runs locally and is not shared with the global Facebook servers.

Likewise, Portal includes a home mode to share the speaker with another person in the home without having to share contacts or applications. It’s really easy to set limits so that other members of the household can’t, for example, chat with someone else’s contacts.

Portal +

I buy it?

The new Portal Go and Portal + are one of the best smart speakers you can buy. They are for very different uses and come to meet different needs. In my case, The one that has best adapted to my lifestyle has been the Go, which, without a doubt, would be the one that I would buy.

It’s versatile, comfortable to wear, and you really get the hang of it. During the month that I have been using it, I have used it more than other Google or Amazon speakers with a screen that I have at home. The possibility that it can be used without cables for a long time (the battery performs very well) is a great point in favor, and being able to call from WhatsApp to talk with your parents or grandparents is the great reason to buy them.

Portal Go

In contrast, the Portal have two major problems: on the one hand the price. The 229 euros for Portal Go and the 369 euros for Portal + can make them prohibitive for many families. Not only do they compete against speakers that move like the Echo Show 10, but they also do it against tablets like the realme pad, the iPad or the Xiaomi Pad, tablets that can meet the needs of these speakers in the same price range.

On the other hand, it is the brand image. Putting a Meta device at home can still generate rejection from many users who trust Amazon or Google more than the old Facebook.

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