A good video chat experience is crucial at a time when in-person visits simply aren’t an option. Facebook is capitalizing on that with an early Black Friday sale for its Portal calling devices on both Amazon and its own store. Multiple models have reached all-time low prices, with the 8-inch Portal Mini dropping from its original $129 to just $65 — tempting if you want video calls on your kitchen countertop. The regular Portal is back to a record low $129, while the large Portal+ has returned to $229. The Portal TV has fallen from $149 to $129, which isn’t the absolute lowest we’ve seen ($99) but remains a good deal.
When we first looked at the latest Portal hardware, the main hurdles were Facebook’s poor reputation for privacy (that may be difficult to change, whether it’s merited or not) and a limited functionality that included a thin selection of apps. To say that things have changed in a year’s time would be an understatement, though. Facebook has been adding a slew of third-party videoconferencing services to the Portal lineup, including mainstays like Zoom, GoToMeeting and WebEx. You still don’t have a native YouTube app, but it’s safe to say face-to-face chats are more important than trending videos during a pandemic.
The Portal line might not completely replace rival smart displays as a result, although it does support Alexa along with Facebook’s own voice assistant. Its core video chat feature is a major draw, though. In addition to rich features like augmented reality tools, the smart camera tracking is incredibly useful for conversations — you can walk around the room knowing you’ll always remain in view. If you find yourself chatting while you hold your child or simply want the freedom to move, that tracking is important. At these prices, it might be worth the outlay as long as you have at least some investment in Facebook’s ecosystem.
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