Facebook’s Portal is a video-call game-changer — and it’s on sale for over 40 percent off

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This is no ordinary video-call device. It’s more like teleporting than anything you’ve experienced so far. (Photo: Portal from Facebook/Getty)

As the past year has made abundantly clear, there’s no substitute for being in the same room with someone you love. We all spent a lot of time hunching over phones and laptops, Zooming ourselves as close as technology would allow. And even though we’re slowly gathering again in person, we’re not letting go of video chats. They’re a huge step up from a plain old phone call, and a great way to connect with friends and family far away. 

So it’s time to take them seriously and get the right device for the right job. Portal from Facebook, which you might have heard about, is a next-level experience to the one we all got used to during quarantine. Facebook uses Augmented Reality (AR) to bring digital interactions to life in a whole new way. You really feel like your friends and family are in the room with you.

Think “Beam me up, Scotty.” It’s truly like visiting with your peeps. And Facebook Portal is incredibly easy to use — it looks like your everyday 10-inch tablet. Better still, it’s on sale right now for an amazing price — $99, down from $179 — that’s $80 off Portal!

Facebook Portal has Alexa built-in, and works via messaging apps you’re already familiar with — Messenger and WhatsApp. It requires barely any time to learn; it’s the technology itself that’ll blow your mind.

Up till now, AR has been used mainly for entertainment purposes — say, within virtual reality goggles that trick your eyes and ears into thinking you’re at the circus or on a spaceship. But Portal by Facebook applies the technology for socializing. It essentially invites loved ones into your home using a smart camera to keep you in the frame as you walk around. It even widens the scope to include others when they enter the room.

The smart camera stays on you when you change positions. (Photo: Portal from Facebook)

The smart camera stays on you when you change positions. (Photo: Portal from Facebook)

Imagine being able to bake cookies with your grandchildren from afar. By placing your Portal device on a kitchen counter with a good view of the room, you can behave just as if the kids were there with you. The smart camera keeps you visible as you move around, fetching ingredients, turning on the oven, greasing the pan and more. And if the dog scoots into the room in search of crumbs, Portal from Facebook catches the action so the kids can say hi to the pup. If you need to disappear for a second, it’s all good: just disable the camera and microphone with the touch of a button.

Prefer a larger view? You can score $50 off Portal TV from Facebook (marked down from $149 to just $99), a smart camera that connects to your TV and makes the action larger than life. 

Portal TV from Facebook rests on your media console or snaps right onto your flatscreen TV. (Photo: Portal TV from Facebook)

Portal TV from Facebook rests on your media console or snaps right onto your flatscreen TV. (Photo: Portal TV from Facebook)

And no, the people on the receiving end do not have to also be using Portal to interact with you; you connect simply by calling them via Messenger or WhatsApp.

Portal from Facebook syncs up smoothly with your smart-home system, too. So even when you’re not using it to spend time with loved ones, you can take advantage of it. Stream music, listen to the news, get traffic and weather updates and more. Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, CNN and the Food Network are just some of its partner apps. You can even use it to control other smart-home devices, like front door security cameras and your Amazon Echo Dot.

And if you want something smaller or larger than the 10-inch Portal from Facebook, there’s the 8-inch Portal Mini ($129) and the 15.6-inch Portal+ ($279).

This 15.6-inch baby is the largest Portal screen. (Photo: Portal TV from Facebook)

The 15.6-inch Portal+ is the largest screen in the Portal family. (Photo: Portal TV from Facebook)

In addition to a smart camera, Portal from Facebook has smart sound, so the noise of the washing machine or a vacuum in the background won’t drown out your voice or theirs. The wide angle means you can watch kids reenact their dance recital or challenge each other to a wrestling match — Portal from Facebook shows the action like nothing else.

The Mini can set up shop just about anywhere — on a side table, the kitchen counter, your nightstand... (Photo: Portal TV from Facebook)

The Mini can set up shop just about anywhere — on a side table, the kitchen counter, your nightstand… (Photo: Portal TV from Facebook)

Portal from Facebook comes with all sorts of cool features. We especially love Story Time, an interactive tool that lets you add AR effects and masks while reading bedtime stories to someone far away. Giggles will ensue.

Mostly, we’re crazy about the fact that Portal from Facebook lets you video-chat while you’re living your life (as in, you don’t have to lock yourself into a seat and lean into a screen). You can catch up while you fold the laundry or make dinner, because the person you’re talking to is practically in the room with you.

Portal from Facebook vastly improves the experience of online socializing, whether you’re crafting together, practicing yoga together, or just chatting. It’s truly the next best thing to being there. Grab a device now while it’s on sale. You won’t believe the difference.

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