The cheaper Portal has a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 display that's fixed in landscape mode, while the Portal+ has a 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 screen that can pivot between portrait and landscape modes.
It also has privacy features-you can disable the camera and microphone with a tap, just like Amazon's Echo devices let you-and it comes with an integrated camera cover, which is something we actually recommend.
The Portal is available for pre-order in the U.S. now.
In addition to their price and size differences, the Portal+ has a more powerful speaker that includes two tweeters with high-range frequency and a single, four-inch bass speaker for richer sound. 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). The Portal's smart camera detects a users face and frames them within the shot throughout the video call.
Portal represents Facebook's entry into that fray. Its primary objective is to make video calls - the thing any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do - but Amazon Alexa is built-in so it can be your assistant, too. Facebook also says that cameras in the Portal and Portal+ come with a cover that should give an assurance to people that Facebook is not watching their moves. "You can't watch YouTube; there's no web browser; WhatsApp and Instagram are nowhere to be found; and you can't send or receive normal Facebook messages, even if they're video recordings". The larger Portal+ has an HD 15.6-inch screen that can swivel between vertical and horizontal views. Portal itself will be fitted out to use augmented reality effects that have become popular on Facebook Messenger.
Do you trust Facebook to put a camera and microphone in your living room?
That said, Facebook says Portal does not collect any information about people's home, listening only for voice commands. Both are Amazon Alexa-enabled video calling devices. However, Amazon's and Google's smart displays do much more than make video calls-namely, they integrate with other services, many of which are unique to their parent companies.
However, the second version of Portal - called Portal Plus - is a whole different beast.
Video calls are encrypted and Facebook was keen to explain that the AI technology runs natively on the devices, not on Facebook's servers. The processing of users' voice commands happens on the device, not in a Facebook data centre.
Facebook Portal is a video communication device from Facebook. Users can say "Hey Portal" and note who they'd like to call, signalling Facebook may have aspirations for Portal to become a larger AI brand.
The Portal Plus device can also swivel into vertical orientation, similar to how people are used to viewing and video-calling through their phones.