Note: BuzzFeed News may collect affiliate fees from the Amazon links here. However, this is a product that we have genuinely tested and recommended several times without affiliate links in the past, and we mean it when we say: This is a good deal.
Look, we’re not proud of being Eiffel Towered by two ethically dubious tech giants as we make this recommendation, but as journalists, we’re willing to degrade ourselves to bring you the facts. The harsh truth is that the Meta Portal is a great consumer device, and right now it’s on sale for Amazon Prime Day for just $35, the lowest price ever. And you should buy one.
The $35 price is for the older model iPad-sized 10-inch Portal, marked down from $179 (although it’s had sale prices around 50% off in the past). Other models are also down for Prime Day, but not nearly as cheap. The Portal Go, which is the only model you can use not plugged into the wall, is 35% off, and the Portal TV that uses your TV as the screen is also discounted to $57. Both have their advantages, but in our opinion, go for the $35 cheapie.
If you think Meta is evil and you don’t want to give it your money, we don’t really have an answer for that. Fair enough, go with God, live your truth. However, if you are open to the idea that hey, you use Instagram enough that the advertising dollars spent on your account personally have earned Mark Zuckerberg a few bottles of reef-safe zinc sunscreen anyway, and that sometimes life under capitalism means occasionally making choices where you’re like, “Aaah, fuck it, I just want this neat thing that makes my life 5% better,” then let us convince you.
The big selling point with the Portal is its smart camera, which can follow you as you move around the room and can zoom in and out and reframe itself when more than one person is in the frame. This may sound creepy, but it’s really cool. It completely solves the problem of two people sitting side by side, trying to squish both their faces into the view of a laptop or phone camera, and it’s great for a little kid moving around. (And no, Facebook isn’t watching you through the camera.)
For a whole bunch of obvious reasons, the Portal didn’t exactly blow up as the hottest consumer gadget. (In our opinion, price was a huge factor — it was too expensive for people to pay for a dedicated video calling device! But at $35? Why not!)
In June, Meta announced it’s phasing out the Portal line marketed to consumers and refocusing on selling to businesses. The newer Portal Plus is more like a dedicated Zoom device for remote workers, not fun family chats. Presumably, the $35 deal at Amazon is Meta trying to blow out the last of its inventory.
Here at the BuzzFeed News tech desk, we’ve been testing out various Portal models. Take it from us! Katie and Pranav each love their Portals for different reasons:
Katie: I have young kids, and the Portal is so much better at video calls with grandparents than regular FaceTime. I got Portals for each set of grandparents (you don’t need the other person to have a Portal as well — you can call them on their phone or computer — but it’s a better experience if you’re Portal2Portal). For young kids who bounce around the room a lot, the smart camera tracking them around the room is perfect. There are also some fun “Storytime” books where an adult can read a book to the kid on the screen, and kids love playing around with the face filters.
Pranav: I use my Portal Go literally multiple times every single day, and I use it exclusively for making video calls on WhatsApp and telling Alexa to play music.
WhatsApp is kind of a big deal for me because I recently moved from India, where more than 500 million people use it as their default calling and texting app, to the US, where more people really should be using it, because it just works and you don’t need an iPhone and there is no blue bubble–green bubble nonsense. It’s a real democracy, folks.
Unfortunately, Meta doesn’t sell Portal devices in India. It’s honestly a fucking shame because they would sell like hotcakes, especially at these bargain-basement prices. But last Thanksgiving, I snapped up a Portal and a Portal TV in the US because Facebook was selling them for more than 50% off their actual prices. I sent the Portal TV to my parents, who have a gigantic TV in their living room, and the Portal to my in-laws, and it’s been a life-changing experience for all of us.
My parents LOVE just sitting back and talking to me and my partner directly on their TV without fiddling with their phones. “It’s like you’re sitting here with us,” my mom keeps saying. My in-laws settle themselves down in front of their Portal each time we call, and they can’t stop grinning.
Other friends who don’t have Portal devices talk to us on their phones and often exclaim in delight when my Portal Go’s camera smoothly zooms to frame me perfectly.
For $35, I’m going to buy at least a couple of these and bring them back home. It’s a no-brainer.