Here's why Facebook Portal is the best Zoom camera
On more video calls more these days? You might enjoy a camera made for video calling.
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Zoom calls have become a part of everyday life for many of us. Whether it's for school, a business meeting, or a virtual cocktail hour, we're adapting quickly to the technology that can keep us together even when we're apart. We know how to get the most flattering shot with a ring light, where to sit to avoid getting our clutter in the frame, and how to make sure that we are indeed on mute. But, especially when it comes to social video calls, the camera you use can make a big difference in the quality of your interactions, too.
Now that Facebook's Portal is compatible with Zoom, alongside WhatsApp, GoToMeeting, BlueJeans, Webex, and of course Facebook Messenger, I tried it to see if it transformed my video chatting experience.
The Portal is a breeze to use with Zoom
A recent update on Portal, Portal Mini, and Portal+ adds a new app just for Zoom. I tapped on the Zoom icon, logged into my Zoom account, and bam. On the screen were my upcoming meetings and buttons for scheduling, joining, and starting meetings. When the time came for my next meeting, a screen popped up to remind me that it was time, and a tap of a large button dropped me right into the meeting. It really couldn't be easier.
The camera follows you if you move out of frame
The Portal's claim to fame is its cinematic way of tracking you around the room if you're not sitting still. The camera itself doesn't move, but the software leverages the wide-angle lens to keep you in focus. It's really hard to describe without just showing you, so… let me show you:
This feature isn't life altering if you only do video calls for work, but if your kids want to do cartwheels for Grandma, it can't be beat.
Kids love the fun features
I've had the Portal in my home since it first came out in 2018 and, aside from my smart bed and Nest thermostat, it might be the most used smart device in my house. The Portal Plus is in our living room, and we use it every single day. The built-in Alexa assistant of course is summoned to turn our smart lights on and off and give us the forecast, but we also use it to stream Prime Video, Disney+, and soon, Netflix on its generous 15.6-inch rotating display.
Beyond the video streaming options, the augmented reality games, filters, and stories keep my kids entertained for hours. They record silly little videos and play them over and over, and they love using Portal to call their grandparents to chat. Anyone with a Portal can read stories to the kids, and as they read, augmented reality brings the story to life by making Grandma look like the big bad wolf or by responding to specific phrases in the story. It's extremely cool.
Is Facebook Portal safe?
Facebook has been under fire for quite some time for its questionable privacy practices, and for good reason. It's understandable that people would be hesitant to allow a Facebook–connected, always-listening smart speaker into their homes.
To quell any fears, Facebook designed the Portal with a button that electronically disconnects the microphone (the microphone cannot be turned back on remotely, only by pressing the button) and a slider that physically covers the camera. A pulsing blue light bar also pops up across the bottom of the screen when Alexa is listening, so you can tell at a glance when your conversation might not be private.
Portal has its own smart assistant as well, which you can summoned by saying "Hey, Portal." The built-in voice assistant can do many things that Alexa can, like tell you the weather, set reminders, and adjust the volume. In addition, you can use "Hey Portal" to make calls, switch between augmented reality masks, and take videos with the built-in camera.
What does this have to do with privacy? In the settings, Alexa can actually be deactivated. That may give some people peace of mind, knowing that both Amazon and Facebook won't have access to their voice activity. The Portal doesn't lose much functionality with Alexa turned off. And it's very easy to opt out of storing your "Hey Portal" voice files. A simple toggle switch in the privacy settings ensures that your interactions with the speaker will not be stored or reviewed by Facebook employees.
There is always some risk to bringing a smart product of any kind into your home, as it is another access point a hacker could theoretically take advantage of. But, you can minimize your risk with this product by just a little fiddling with the settings.
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