Let’s stay in touch with Facebook Portal TV—today’s review product from Best Buy! If you’re familiar with the Facebook Portal smart display screens (which I recently reviewed in both the 8 and 10-inch formats right here on the blog), then you’ll know just how powerful these fun little devices can be. Well, the Facebook Portal TV device takes the same concept and blows it up to epic proportions by bringing it to your TV set. In other words, your television becomes the smart display screen for all of your Facebook Portal activities (though your TV is not, of course, a touch display screen, as are the dedicated Portal models). Even so, Facebook Portal TV is a very cool smart display that I’m about to tell you all about below. Let’s get started.

Facebook Portal TV Features & Benefits

Facebook Portal TV
One of the first screens you’ll see when setting up your Portal TV

Facebook Portal TV has a number of great features and benefits. Among them is the ability to make video calls to your far-away family and friends via Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp and see the people you’re talking to in larger than life form right there on your television screen. You can have up to 7 people on the call with Facebook Messenger and up to 3 with WhatsApp. Truth be told, this is probably the biggest selling point of the Facebook Portal family of products.

Portal TV also includes both a Smart Camera and Smart Sound. What this means is that its camera and microphone are both able to adapt to your location and movements in the room you’re using it in. In other words, Portal TV’s camera can follow you around the room (so you always remain in frame), and its microphone is equally adept at adapting to wherever you are in the room so that your voice always comes through loud and clear to whoever you’re addressing on the other end of the call.

Facebook Portal TV
Here I’m using the Superframe feature of Portal TV to see my photos larger than I’ve ever seen them before

Other features you’ll enjoy with Portal TV include the Story Time AR (Augmented Reality) feature whereby “classic” children’s stories incorporate you into the fun as AR versions of key characters, a Superframe feature that displays your (Facebook, Instagram, and phone’s camera roll) pictures by turning your TV into a kind of smart picture frame, and an app called Facebook Watch that lets you and your family/friends watch movies and shows while together on a video call—a feature that turns any night into movie night, even when you’re far apart. Note: I could not test this particular feature as I do not know anyone else that has a Portal TV device.

You’ll also have access to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, who is always keen to obey your every command (ok, maybe not every command). Even so, Alexa gives you control over your other smart home devices, as well as access to the entire knowledge base of the Internet. You can get the news, check the weather, find out who won the hockey game, and much, much more—any time at all and right on your TV screen.

Here you can see Portal TV’s privacy feature whereby you can slide a little round door in front of the camera

One of my personal favourite things that the Portal TV device can do pertains to user privacy. A small circular shutter may be slid in front of the Portal TV’s camera so that it cannot see or record anything that you don’t want it to see or record. By sliding the door closed, you’re also disabling the device’s microphone, though the evidence of that is less obvious and I guess we’ll just have to take Facebook’s word for it. As ominous as that may sound, I’m still really glad to see them giving us this nice little nod to personal privacy.

Finally, because this device comes from Facebook, you’ll also enjoy many of the benefits that Facebook itself entails. This includes things like reminders of friends’ birthdays and information about which of them is/are currently online so you’ll always know who you’re free to call.

Testing Facebook Portal TV

You can control most aspects of your Facebook Portal TV with this tiny remote control, though you don’t need it to use Alexa

I installed the Facebook Portal TV device on the large screen TV in our living room, which required both an electrical cord to plug it into the wall and an HDMI cable. Both are included with the device, as is a handheld remote that allows you to control your device, so everything you need to get started (aside from a TV) is right there in the box. Note: The remote takes 2 x AA batteries which I believe come included with the kit (they were already installed in the remote when I received it, though I was not the first person to open the box).

Installation and setup of the device took no more time than it took to find the HDMI input on our TV and spend a few minutes allowing the system to update its firmware once the actual setup began. Within 10-15 minutes or so this was finished. I also didn’t need my Facebook password to get started. The device generates its own password that you enter into a special box on a page that’s accessible within your Facebook account. It’s really easy to do and makes the entire setup process 100% headache-free!

Facebook Portal TV
Though not much of me is visible, here I am as the wolf in the story of Little Red Riding Hood

Once everything was up and running, I began to test out some of the features and apps. This was both fun and informative—particularly as I found out the real reason why the wolf was in grandma’s bed when Little Red Riding Hood arrived at her grandmother’s house (but I won’t spoil it for you).

Here a family demonstrates the video calling feature, which has picture in picture so you can see yourself as well

That aside, everything is BIG with Portal TV—provided you have a big screen TV to use it with. Your family and friends appear at least in actual size (if not giant), and it feels just like they’re right there in the room with you. I can definitely see the appeal of this for talking to folks you don’t get to see very often. Since my own wife and various other family members were not keen to appear on the blog, I’ve included a stock photo with models to show you the effect of this feature.

One of the 2 cables included with this kit is the standard wall plug-in you see here

What doesn’t appeal to me as much is the additional wires behind my TV set. That and the fact that with Portal TV you don’t get the benefit of a touch screen display as you do with the self-contained Portal devices. Not that these are major complaints. While I already have a boatload of wires behind my TV from devices like DVD players and PVRs (not to mention our cable and internet setup), adding to that jumble is fairly annoying, but I can certainly live with it.

Examining the Video Evidence

I’ve recently been having a lot of fun wth Facebook Portal TV. Click the play button below for a closer look at this cool device, as well as to learn more about what it can do:

Final Thoughts

Facebook Portal TV is a worthy addition to the Smart Display realm and definitely worth a purchase if you are both a serious Facebook user (with plenty of established friends and connections) and have a big screen TV to use it with. If you’re not a fan of Facebook, there are other excellent options out there that you might like more, and if you would prefer a standalone device that can easily be moved from room to room throughout your home, you might be better off opting for either the Facebook Portal Mini or the 10″ (2nd Gen.) version. Either way, the entire family of Portal devices together provide many fun and useful features that are sure to enhance lives and strengthen family and friendship connections throughout the country and around the world, and who could complain about that? Recommended if you fit the profile of the ideal Portal owner (i.e., you’re an active Facebook user with a good-sized TV). Enjoy!

2 COMMENTS

  1. I love the way technology is advancing in this area. It’s really going to keep everyone connected no matter the age or tech level. The fact that they keep privacy in mind at the same time is great too. I’m personally looking forward to trying this product with my elderly parents.

Comments are closed.