Forget the PlayStation Portal, this Backbone One controller deal is better
Can't find the PlayStation Portal in stock? You're probably better off getting the Backbone One controller anyway
The PlayStation Portal is proving to be incredibly popular over Black Friday, selling out almost everywhere as soon as it appears in stock. Check out our PlayStation Portal restock guide if you’re frantically searching for Sony’s new handheld.
However, if you’re not sold on the PlayStation Portal but like the idea of playing the best PS5 games away from your TV, there is a viable alternative to the new PSP – and it’s currently on sale during Black Friday.
The Backbone One controller is just $69 at Best Buy and Amazon instead of its usual $99 price tag – and it’s a deal that I couldn’t pass up. While it may be missing some of the PlayStation Portal’s unique features, I think it’s a superior device in almost every single way – for my use case, at least. It’s also $120 cheaper.
After all, Sony’s PS5 handheld is extremely limited in what it can do. Your experience will vary greatly depending on your WiFi speeds and the strength of your network. Some players report almost imperceptible lag and pristine image quality; some say it’s good most of the time; while others are left with a $199 handheld that simply doesn’t work.
The PlayStation Portal isn’t exactly portable, either, a criticism that you could admittedly throw at the majority of handhelds on the market these days. With its 8-inch LCD screen and DualSense hybrid design, it’s rather unwieldy and not something I’d be comfortable using outside the home. Sony hasn’t even released a case for its new system.
What’s more, because the PS Portal doesn’t have a browser, you’ll need to use your phone’s hotspot if a location requires you to log in via a webpage – something that’s quite common.
Crucially, though, it’s important to reiterate that the PlayStation Portal can only play PS5 games via Remote Play – there’s no cloud gaming support as of yet – and it doesn’t even have Bluetooth support. You’ll need to pick up the PlayStation Earbuds or PS5 Pulse Elite headset if you want wireless audio, a move that I can only describe as anti-consumer.
There are a lot of caveats to the PlayStation Portal, then, but what makes the Backbone One controller so appealing is how it can transform my iPhone into a more viable gaming device and I’m not just limited to Remote Play. I can also use other services like Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia GeForce NOW, and play console-quality games like Resident Evil Village and the best Apple Arcade games natively.
Throw in the fact that the iPhone has a better display, albeit smaller, and the only feature that I’m missing out on is the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. That isn’t a deal breaker for me as the Backbone One feels great in the hands.
Why is the PlayStation Portal so popular?
I suspect there’s a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) going on here. It’s not unusual for a product to appear more appealing when everyone appears to be buying it – it’s a rather smart marketing ploy when done correctly, not that I’m suggesting Sony has deliberately shipped fewer units than it needed to.
I’m not dismissing the PlayStation Portal’s attraction, either. If you’re constantly vying for the TV or want a way to play PS5 games in a different room, the Portal is arguably the best way of doing so. However, there’s no denying that $199 for a Remote Play-only device is a little steep considering its restrictions.
If Sony can bring PS5 cloud gaming to the device and maybe even find it in their hearts to unlock Bluetooth support, I’d be far more enthusiastic about the PlayStation Portal. But $69 for arguably the best mobile controller on the market that supports everything is something that can’t be beaten.