Facebook Portal has only been in my home for a couple of weeks and it’s already making a big difference.
It’s always hard deciding where to spend Thanksgiving, but this year was harder than most. My daughter is England. My elderly parents are in California, and travel is not really an option. My husband’s family is in Georgia. This year is a bittersweet one for his family in particular. They are celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time without my father in law. This loss is fresh, and the wound not closed. The scars of shared grief have pulled us in closer. We’re acutely aware of time and ties and don’t want to miss a moment together.
But how to be in three places at once? How to bring everyone together?
Video conferencing is a good way to see your family when you are away from them. But up until now, it meant huddling around a phone or device with a blurry “head in a box” style feed. Facebook Portal is a thousand times better. It’s a game changer.
The difference between Portal and any other video conference/calling device or software that I have tested is night and day. With Portal, you get widescreen coverage and can get the whole family in the picture. And that picture is crystal clear and glorious.
Calling while you cook dinner? No problem. Facebook Portal’s software will track your movements around the kitchen, and dial down the background noises so you can continue to chat as if the person was sitting at your kitchen island.
Thanksgiving morning we gathered around the screen to call my daughter in England. A few hours later, we joined our family in Georgia and got to see the entire family, and they us.
Facebook Portal works through Facebook Messenger. It requires that both parties in the call have Facebook Messenger. With a Portal, you can call anyone that you are connected to on Facebook. This tech is obviously better if both sides of the call are using the Portal. We tested using a Portal Plus in my home, and a portal in my parent’s house. It’s great for my senior parents as they just tap the screen to call and answer. Boom, we are together.
The Portal Plus is a great addition to the kitchen, not just for video calling but for the included apps. I can watch Facebook videos and the Food Network while cooking. I can ask Alexa to play music or find facts for me. And I can control all this with my voice. When I am not using the Portal, it displays a gallery of my latest images. At the moment I am traveling and my family is loving that they get to see my latest photos, without even logging in. Although I think they are a little jealous of some of the food photos I have been taking. The Portal plus is my favorite because of the large screen that is easy to rotate, to match the aspect ratio of the videos you are watching or the devices of the people you are chatting with. The display is big and beautiful and the sound quality from the built-in speaker is also great.
The elephant in the room with the addition of the Portal to our lives is the question of privacy. Not everyone in my family was initially entirely comfortable with yet another device in the house that could potentially listen to us. We already have a somewhat complicated relationship with Alexa. But the fact of the matter is that we already use Facebook Messenger for messages and for calling. The device is not giving any additional access, in that regard. We have the ability to cover and close the camera when we are not on calls. And if we really want to be sure that nobody is watching/listening, we can unplug the device.
Even the doubters in my family were won over by the brilliance of the interface. We might unplug our unit while it’s not in use, but our Portal is here to stay.
Want to spend more time with far-flung family over the holidays? Then check out the offers for Portal at Best Buy. Right now, you can save $100 when you buy 2!