Just a day before Google is expected to launch its own smart display, Facebook is launching a smart display. The company has been working on a smart display product for a while, and it finally made things official this afternoon with the Portal and the Portal+.
The company’s Portal smart display is a 10.1-inch 720p device with a 12MP front camera. The bigger Portal+ sports a huge 15.6-inch Full HD display, which you can also rotate between portrait and landscape. Both the devices feature a 12MP camera on the front for pictures and video calls, with 4-microphone array for voice input. The larger Portal+ also includes 2 tweeters for the speaker, so the sound output will sound much better on the larger Portal+ than the regular Portal.
Hardware wise, there really isn’t a lot to see here apart from the huge 15-.6-inch display on the Portal+. But the software is quite promising. The device itself is powered by Amazon’s Alexa, and although Facebook was originally believed to be building its own personal assistant for the smart displays, using Amazon’s Echo probably seemed like a much better idea and solution. Facebook is promoting the Portal devices as a way to communicate, focusing on video calling — the device’s camera will automatically zoom into the main subject in the camera when you are in a video call thanks to the Smart Camera feature, for example. There’s a feature called Smart Sound that will focus on your voice over other background noise, too.
The device also lets you play music with Spotify, connect with your friends on Facebook, and control your smart home through Alexa. All of this is pretty basic for a smart display, and devices like Amazon’s Echo Show have been offering similar features for ages.
But of course, with Facebook, privacy is a big concern. And the company is clearly aware of that — so the device is designed to respect your privacy, at least according to Facebook. The company says you can completely disable the camera and microphone whenever you want, and it doesn’t listen to any of your video calls, either. The AI used for the Smart Camera and Smart Sound features are also all happening locally, so you don’t need to worry about your video calls being stored on Facebook servers. And best of all, there’s a camera cover provided that lets you completely block out the camera of the devices with a physical cover if you still don’t trust Facebook — and frankly, I wouldn’t blame you.
Facebook’s Portal devices are available for pre-order now, with the 10.1-inch variant going for $199, and the 15.6-inch variant going for $349. You can order one here.