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Facebook's Alexa-powered smart display is called Portal, and it's enormous

The Facebook Portal smart display comes in two sizes: pretty big and really big.

Published onOctober 8, 2018

A publicity image of the Facebook Portal smart display in a kitchen.
  • The Facebook Portal is an Alexa-powered smart display with a focus on video chat functions.
  • Facebook Portal comes in two display sizes: Portal, which is 10 inches, and Portal Plus, which is a whopping 15 inches.
  • Portal will cost $199 while Portal Plus will cost $349. Both are available to pre-order now.

We’ve heard rumors about Facebook releasing either a smart speaker or smart display at some point in the future, and now we finally have official confirmation of the device. The Facebook Portal is an Alexa-powered smart display which has a focus on video chats. It is available for pre-order now.

There are two versions of Facebook’s new smart display. The first is simply called Portal and features a 10-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800. It looks a lot like the original Amazon Echo Show, and even comes in an optional black color scheme.

However, the second version of Portal — called Portal Plus — is a whole different beast. It features a pivoting 15-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Because the screen pivots, you can have chats in both landscape and portrait mode, unlike the vanilla Facebook Portal which is designed to sit in landscape mode only.

A publicity image of Facebook Portal and Portal Plus on a white background.

It does seem theoretically possible to turn the smaller Portal on its side to achieve a portrait mode view, but until we get some hands-on time with the device we don’t know if that’s an available option.

Facebook is emphasizing using Portal and Portal Plus for video calls. While it appears the two devices have all the usual Alexa-powered smart speaker services built in, what Facebook really wants you to do with Portal is call your friends and family through Facebook Messenger (video calls placed on Portal do not need to be with other Portal owners).

How to update your Facebook privacy settings
Facebook app on phone 3

With that in mind, the cameras built into Portal are designed to intelligently track you as you make your calls. As an example, if you have a Portal set up in your kitchen and are chatting with someone while you make dinner, the camera will follow you around the room as best it can so you are always viewable by whomever you’re chatting with. If there are a bunch of people chatting, the camera will zoom out in an attempt to get everyone into the shot at the same time.

The microphone and speakers also use AI functions to drown out background noise and enhance voice sounds during a chat.

Since this is Facebook we’re talking about, many folks are likely concerned about the question of privacy when it comes to Facebook Portal. The company understands these concerns and listed out some of the features that will (hopefully) assuage their fears:

  • It only takes a single tap to disable both the microphone and camera.
  • The device comes with a lens cover which you can put over the camera. This does not disable calls, notifications, or smart speaker functions.
  • Portal can be passcode protected.
  • Facebook does not record or listen to calls, and your chats are encrypted (Facebook doesn’t say whether or not this is end-to-end encryption).
  • The AI functions discussed earlier run locally on Portal, not remotely on Facebook servers.
  • Facebook servers are only contacted when you say “Hey Portal.” All other functions are local (aside from certain Alexa functions when you say “Hey Alexa”).

Facebook is hoping Portal and Portal Plus will be on people’s holiday gift-giving lists. The devices are available for pre-order now for November shipping (no exact date was given) via Facebook and will be available soon at Amazon and Best Buy. Portal will set you back $199 while Portal Plus will cost $349. If you buy two devices — either two Portals, two Portal Pluses, or one of each — you can save $100 on your purchase via Facebook. This means two vanilla Portal devices will cost you $298.

Click below to pre-order your Facebook Portal or Facebook Portal Plus today!

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