PlayStation Portal vs Backbone One controller: is Sony's PS5 handheld worth it?
We've compared the PlayStation Portal and Backbone One controller to see which PS5 Remote Play solution is right for you
Now that the PlayStation Portal is available – if you can find one, that is – many are wondering how it compares to the Backbone One. We’re here to help you make the right decision when it comes to the PlayStation Portal vs Backbone One controller, as even though both devices can accomplish the same goal, they go about it very differently.
The PlayStation Portal's sole focus is PS5 Remote Play, while the Backbone One can stream PlayStation 5 games but also offers more flexibility. They’re both fantastic options if you want to play your favorite games away from the TV, but there are some important differences between the two devices that you need to be aware of before you buy.
Here’s how the PlayStation Portal vs Backbone One controller stacks up in a head-to-head comparison.
PlayStation Portal vs Backbone One controller: price 💰
The PlayStation Portal and Backbone One controller differ when it comes to price, especially during sale events. The PlayStation Portal costs $199.99 while the Backbone One is $99.99. The Backbone One controller fell to $69.99 during Black Friday 2023, making the price gap even more stark.
Right now, finding a PlayStation Portal restock is a challenging affair. The PS5 handheld has sold out at every retailer, which has come as a surprise to many as it’s undoubtedly a niche device. Meanwhile, the Backbone One controller is readily available, which makes it a great option if you don’t want to wait for the Portal.
PlayStation Portal vs Backbone One controller: specs 👓
When it comes to specs, the PlayStation Portal and Backbone One aren’t really comparable. One is a telescopic controller that attaches to your mobile phone, while the other is a pseudo handheld console with its own dedicated screen. Here’s how the two devices compare.
PlayStation Portal specs ⚙️
Display: 8-inch LCD screen (full HD)
Connectivity: USB-C (charging), PlayStation Link, 3.5mm headphone jack, Wi-Fi 5
Dimensions: L 14 x W 3.88 x H 6 inches
Battery life: 4-6 hours
Backbone One controller specs ⚙️
Display: Depends on your phone (works on iPhone and Android devices)
Connectivity: USB-C or Lightning, 3.5mm headphone jack
Weight: 0.31lbs when not attached to a phone
Dimensions: L 14 x W 3.88 x H 6 inches
Battery life: No battery
PlayStation Portal vs Backbone One controller: features 🆚
This is where the PlayStation Portal vs Backbone One differ the most, as both devices have strengths and weaknesses. However, when it comes to flexibility, there’s only one winner: the Backbone One controller.
PlayStation Portal features 👍
The PlayStation Portal has a lot of caveats that you need to keep in mind. It’s a device strictly made for PS5 Remote Play. It doesn’t support other services like Xbox Cloud Gaming or Nvidia GeForce Now, you can’t use it to play games natively, and it also doesn’t have Bluetooth support. You’ll need to purchase the PlayStation Earbuds or PS5 Pulse Elite Headset to enjoy wireless audio.
Furthermore, even though you can use the PlayStation Portal outside of your home, it doesn’t have a web browser, so many WiFi hotspots won’t work as you often need to sign in. You’ll need to use your phone as a mobile hotspot or passthrough.
What you do get with the PlayStation Portal, though, is the benefits of the DualSense controller’s features and a vibrant 8-inch screen. Haptic feedback and adaptive trigger support mean the battery life isn’t the best at around four to six hours depending on the game you’re playing, but having console-style controls is a big selling point for many.
Backbone One features 👍
The Backbone One delivers the same outcome as the PlayStation Portal but takes an entirely different approach. The controller uses a telescopic slider to connect to a variety of mobile devices, with support for USB-C or the older iPhone Lightning port. Just slip your phone in, and suddenly you’ve got a handheld gaming device ready to go.
Unlike the PlayStation Portal, you can enjoy PS5 Remote Play, Xbox Cloud Gaming, the best Apple Arcade games, and more. There are no restrictions here. What you do lose compared to the Portal, though, is you’re often at the mercy of a smaller display and you miss out on the DualSense’s features.
Cleverly, the Backbone one also has its own software suite and features. You can take screenshots, and record gameplay, and it never needs to be charged as it’s powered by your mobile device. There’s also a charging passthrough and a 3.5mm headphone jack. What’s more, you can connect your Bluetooth headphones because your phone is doing all of the heavy lifting.
WiFi hotspots won’t cause an issue, either, as obviously your phone has a browser, which means you won’t have to tether yourself to another device.
PlayStation Portal vs Backbone One controller: which should you buy? 🤔
It’s clear that the Backbone One controller offers significantly more value on paper, but the drawback is that most mobile devices have smaller, albeit better quality, displays than the PlayStation Portal. You’re also missing out on the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, which can have a transformative effect in several of the best PS5 games.
Still, the Backbone One controller works on everything, doesn’t have a frustrating caveat like a lack of Bluetooth support, and is noticeably cheaper. Unless you really love the DualSense and are happy to pay a premium, it’s hard to recommend the PlayStation Portal over the Backbone One, especially as the PlayStation Edition of the mobile controller matches Sony’s white PS5 aesthetic.
It’s worth noting that the PlayStation Portal doesn’t offer any advantage in terms of the quality of the Remote Play experience, either. You’ll be able to stream at the same resolution and framerate on different devices, and the latency will be dependent on your home network. That alone is a disappointment, as you’d think Sony would have tried to make the Portal the defacto way to play Remote Play. Sadly, that’s not the case.
That hasn’t stopped the PlayStation Portal being immensely popular, however. It’s clear Sony has found an audience with its PS5 handheld, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Crucially, your enjoyment will vary greatly depending on your connection strength, so it’s worth testing Remote Play out before you purchase a Portal or Backbone One controller.