Facebook introduces Portal, its new video calling smart display with Alexa built-in

(Image credit: Facebook)

Facebook has just introduced a pair of new communication devices that are aimed at bringing you closer to your friends and family. These new widescreen displays are designed to help you feel as though the two of you are in the same room. The smaller of the two options, the Portal, offers a 10-inch display, while the Portal+ jumps up to a 15-inch display that can pivot between portrait and landscape modes. Unlike when making a video call on your mobile device, these allow you to be hands-free, so you can use your hands to show off items, wave, and more while chatting with your friends and family.

On the surface, these may look like some of the other smart displays on the market, like Lenovo's Smart Display (opens in new tab) or Amazon's Echo Show (opens in new tab), it's what's inside that makes it different. Its Smart Camera feature will automatically pan and zoom the camera to keep everyone in view as you move around during the chat, and Smart Sound ensures that the background noise is reduced and enhances the volume of the other party on the call.

You can use Portal to call your Facebook Messenger friends, even if they don't have a portal, and each call supports up to seven people at once. You can use the Portal hands-free by using the command "Hey Portal", and it also has Amazon's Alexa built-in so you can access all of its great features as well.

Understanding that it doesn't have the best reputation in the industry when it comes to privacy, Facebook has baked in a bunch of features to help keep this device more secure. You can completely disable the camera and microphone with just a single tap, and both the Portal and Portal+ come with a camera cover to easily block the lens at any time. To prevent unwanted visitors from using your Portal, you can set a passcode from four to 12 digits in length. Facebook says it doesn't listen to or store the contents of any Portal call, and all of the A.I. features for Smart Camera and Speaker run locally in the device, not on Facebook's servers. The only time Facebook will send anything through its servers is after you initiate a "Hey Portal" command. You can delete the voice history from your Facebook Activity Log at any time.

Pre-orders are available from Facebook (opens in new tab) right now, with the smaller Portal being priced at $199 and the Portal+ coming in at $349. You can save $100 when buying two of them at the same time, and these will also be available at other retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.

Jared DiPane

Jared started off writing about mobile phones back when BlackBerry ruled the market, and Windows Mobile was kinda cool. Now, with a family, mortgage and other responsibilities he has no choice but to look for the best deals, and he's here to share them with you.

  • I predict this will flop badly. While people might enjoy Facebook, I doubt those same people want a limited device in their kitchen as they have a phone or tablet they take everywhere already.
  • Think I'll pass.
  • If it is like my newsfeed, calls will be filtered to just those that Facebook thinks I need to see. There will be calls from yesterday and the week before. There will be ads interspersed with calls from people I have never heard of. It will suggest people I need to call and periodically pop up calls from years ago.
  • Fact is people are getting bored on FB needs a new social site.
  • Utterly pointless
  • Hahaha...….Hahahahahahaha….I make coffee naked! Just a warning!