Meta tries to resurrect Portal devices as secondary monitors

In a nutshell: Meta’s Portal displays weren’t successful as standalone video calling devices, but the company isn’t wholly killing them off. Some models can now work as secondary screens for PCs. Their future may depend on their advantages over tablets and traditional PC monitors.

On Wednesday, Meta announced that two of its Portal video calling devices now support an app that can wirelessly connect them to PCs. The new feature may save them from total cancellation as the company attempts to pivot the products from consumers to workplaces.

The ultraportable Portal Go and the premium Portal Plus now support Duet Display, an app for wirelessly connecting tablets to PCs as additional displays. Users can drag windows back and forth between a computer screen and the Portal after downloading the Duet app on both devices. However, the function requires a one-time $15 purchase, a premium monthly $2 subscription, or an enterprise subscription.

Though not particularly cheap compared to a decent PC monitor, a Portal might be more convenient in certain situations. Both models are relatively small, and the Duet connection is wireless, which might make for an easy dual-screen setup on a table or countertop.

However, prospective customers should consider the pros and cons of using a portal for this functionality versus a standard tablet, as Duet Display already works on other similar devices. Furthermore, those with an iPad and a Mac can use Apple’s Sidecar, which offers similar functionality for free.

Furthermore, at $350, the Portal Pro costs about the same as a standard 9th generation iPad. Both devices feature a 12MP front-facing camera and similar screen resolutions, although the Portal Pro’s screen is 14 inches to the iPad’s 10.2 inches. Meta’s device comes with a robust speaker setup but only a handful of apps versus Apple’s iPadOS. The comparison highlights one of the reasons for the Portal’s initial failure as a video-calling assistant — they seem unnecessary in homes already full of tablets.

In June, reports indicated that Meta planned to stop selling portals after mediocre sales and reviews while maintaining support for existing users. However, the devices saw an uptick in use during the pandemic, as their functionality proved a good fit for remote work.

Meta’s announcement also mentioned a Mac companion app for all touchscreen Portal models. It lets users control video calls on a Portal with a Mac, share screens between the two devices, and send links between them.

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