Just a caveat that I'm recounting my personal experiences and your mileage may vary. I've since been able to fix most of my login issues with a multi-user PS5 by doing two factory resets on the PlayStation Portal and by toggling off (and on again) all of the Remote Play options on PS5.
Prior to the launch of the PlayStation Portal, I wrote a defence of the plucky little streaming device and why I thought it was the perfect companion for a wide range of gamers. This was during a time when many critics were putting it down as a pointless peripheral in a world that already had the Steam Deck. It's an opinion piece I largely stand by, even now.
When the PlayStation Portal is firing on all cylinders, it delivers one of the best handheld gaming experiences I've ever had (providing me with my prefered way to experience games like Baldur's Gate 3 and Final Fantasy XVI). Having spent well over 10 hours with this device, I have a lot of thoughts...and a fair few gripes. That came as a surprise to me.
Although I don't believe the PlayStation Portal was developed for any one specifc group of people, I do believe parents are one of the key demographics. Although specific, I'm sure a lot of people share my use case. The PlayStation Portal provides a way to play PS5 games in the home, or on the go, without the need to take up the main TV (which is seldom free for the singular use of many parents).
Being able to play PS5 games, with full haptics and adaptive triggers, on the sofa while my wife and I watch something else (or while commuting on public transport) is an exciting prospect. The PlayStation Portal, in theory, delivers just that. For many, it does that. For me? I've actually been left a little deflated by what it's capable of in its current state.
Before we delve into my specific issues, and why this device isn't delivering on the use case I purchased it for, a small caveat on the PS5 I'm connecting to. My primary (and only) PS5 is an original disc drive model that I managed to pick up roughly a year after launch. On it are two user profiles (because I was lucky enough to marry another gamer).
The PlayStation Portal can only be tied to a singular PSN account, contrary to what I originally thought it could do. This, for us, isn't actually a problem as my wife doesn't really have any interest in using it. However, the fact my PS5 has two user accounts on it, I believe, is the main source of my problems with the PlayStation Portal.
Once you've gone through the very intuitive set-up and pairing process, using the PS App, your PlayStation Portal will be able to wake your PS5 from sleep remotely, allowing you to stream games from it whether you're in another room or out of your home (so long as you're connected to a good enough internet connection). My Portal can wake my PS5 semi-successfully, but it's pretty spotty. It maybe works 60% of the time. I just have to keep trying.
Where I hit a wall is what happens next. Once the PS5 is awake, it asks me to press the PS button on a controller to go into the "what account do you wanna use" screen. Problem is, the PlayStation Portal cannot connect to the PS5 while it is in this pre-logged in screen because it's only tied to one account. I'm therefore stuck, unable to connect to the PS5 at all until I physically pick up a DualSense controller, click the PS button, and select my profile.
This effectively makes the PlayStation Portal impossible to use outside of my home without someone being next to my PS5 to log me in first. It also means that whenever I want to play the Portal, I have to take over the main TV briefly to log myself in to the PS5 manually...which is exactly what I'm trying not to do with this device. If my PS5 didn't have two accounts on it, I wouldn't be having this issue because this login screen doesn't exist for single users. Multi-user households are very common. This seems like a really bizarre oversight.
Once logged into your PS5, you can go to Settings > Users and Accounts > Login Settings and toggle on 'Login to PS5 Automatically.' By selecting this option, your user account is given priority over the others on the console and will log you in automaticallty whenever you turn on the PS5, bypassing the sign in screen entirely. This works well...just not when waking the PS5 with a PlayStation Portal. It still makes you login automatically with a DualSense.
The login issues are definitely hampering my enjoyment of what should be a device almost purpose-built for my needs. Sadly, it's not the only problem I'm having. The PlayStation Portal loses connection with the PS5 far too often. Without fail, it disconnects once every 20-30 minutes. My bandwidth is certainly not the issue here, with 498 Mbps download and 60.5Mbps upload speeds on average.
When it happens, the Portal's screen freezes for roughly 5-10 seconds before ultimately disconnecting. Re-connecting with the PS5 is a super quick process and I've never been out of a game for more than 20-30 seconds, however, the drop in connection has caused me on more than once occassion to miss key cutscenes and story beats (including a death in Final Fantasy XVI). Looking up what I missed on YouTube was not the experience I wanted.
If you're quick enough to realise the connection is about to drop, you can press the options button on the Portal to pause the game, as inputs to the PS5 still seem to work for a really brief window. That way, whenever you get back to your game you haven't actually missed anything. Which is all well and good, as long as the options button does actually pause the game (which it doesn't in Baldur's Gate 3, by the way).
With the issues I'm experiencing stopping me...
1. Being able to wake my PS5 from the Portal without manually logging in to the PS5 with a DualSense first
2. Playing the Portal consistently without immersion breaking connection drops every half an hour
...I'm ultimately torn on how I feel about the device. In it's current state, without further patches to improve the user experience, it's an incredibly difficult piece of tech to truly recommend without any caveats. It pains me to say it because when it works, it's the best handheld on the market. With it's current flaws, my personal experience with the PlayStation Portal, at best, has been good, not great.
With two updates already delivered to the Portal, my fingers are crossed that this opinion piece will age like spoilt milk and we'll all be enjoying this thing at its best very soon. I've got faith in PlayStation to deliver here. I'm also secretly hoping there's a reader who'll finish this article and DM me to say there's a setting I'm missing that'll fix all my woes. Fingers crossed.