While most are familiar with Amazon's and Google's smart displays, Facebook's Portal devices are alternatives that can be more convenient for those that use the social media platform regularly to stay in touch with friends and family. The biggest of Facebook's gadgets, the Portal+, has a massive, rotating 15.6-inch touchscreen and typically costs $280. However, QVC has a deal on the Portal+ right now that knocks it down to $200, which is the best price we've seen it. You'll pay roughly $10 for shipping, but that's a small price to pay considering the 29 percent discount on the device itself.
We're used to seeing 15-inch displays on laptops, but they're rare on smart displays. The Portal+ is basically the size of a tiny TV with a base that has a speaker inside. Setting up the device is as easy as connecting it with your Facebook account via the mobile app, and then you can use Messenger and WhatsApp on the display to video chat with any of your contacts.
The Portal+ has a 12MP camera with a 140-degree field of view, with the latter coming in handy if you have a group of people you need to squeeze into frame. The large display can rotate from horizontal to vertical orientation and the camera uses AI and algorithms to track your motion, keeping you in frame at all times. This is a slightly less creepy version of Amazon's new Echo Show 10, which physically rotates to keep you in view of its camera. But if Facebook's application of such technology still unsettles you, there's a Fixed Camera mode you can turn on to prevent its watchful gaze from following you. There's also a button to disable the mic and camera whenever you want more privacy, or you can use the physical lens cover included in the box.
On top of being a big video-chat machine, the Portal+ is similar to other smart displays in that it runs apps like Facebook Watch, Zoom, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube, allowing you to use it almost like a large tablet. You can also use a mix of Portal and Amazon's Alexa voice commands to control the device. Just be sure to know which voice assistant can do what — that's one of the things we found most confusing about using the Portal+. While you can ask Portal to start a video chat and control the device itself, Alexa handles most other queries including weather reports, app functions, timers and more. Aside from that and the stiff competition from other smart displays, you also have to consider Facebook's poor track record on privacy before you decide if the Portal+ is right for you.
Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.