(Pocket-lint) - Portal from Facebook may look like just another one of the rising number of “smart speakers with screens,” but there’s so much more going on. Facebook has taken the time to truly consider how it will be used and here’s our pick of the best features. 

Easy calling

With a plethora of video calling apps, each with their own logins, we love that Portal from Facebook makes calls with family and friends more enjoyable. All you need is your Facebook account and a web connection. Calls are made over Messenger, or WhatsApp, and your family and friends don’t need a Portal device to receive these calls; any device that can run Messenger or WhatsApp can be connected and doesn’t require the other user toe have a Facebook account.

Seamless setup

Being able to call using just a Facebook or WhatsApp login and web connection helps makes all of the Portal devices incredibly easy to set up. Plug it in, enter your credentials and you’re ready to go!  Even connecting supported apps such as Spotify and Amazon Alexa can be done using authentication codes rather than inputting lengthy usernames and passwords. This makes it perfect for family members, regardless of their tech skills.

Perfectly timed calls

A small, yet significant feature that enhances the calling experience using Portal devices is the use of notifications to let you know when friends and family are online. Once you’ve added contacts to a list of favourites, you can choose to be notified each time they come online making it much easier to time your calls.

Always in shot

A seemingly simple premise, but one that sits on a significant amount of highly-advanced technology, is the Portal from Facebook’s Smart Camera. As you move around the room, the Smart Camera will either zoom in or out or pan to keep you in shot. This takes the guesswork and hassle out of video calling and means you can multi-task – whether that’s chatting to a loved one as you make dinner, or when trying to keep the kids entertained. Smart Sound technology then minimises background noise to enhance the voice of whomever is talking. Beyond how easy this makes video calling, it helps friends and family seem like they’re in the room with you, making you feel closer even when you’re far away.

Shared experiences

Video calling already helps people avoid missing out on all of life’s moments, whether that’s virtually attending a graduation, reading their children a bedtime story or helping prepare a favorite meal. Portal from Facebook takes this a step further allowing you to share experiences and activities, almost as if you were physically there, via a range of apps including its AR-powered Story Time, Watch Together, and through many other partnerships.

Voice control

The beauty of having both Facebook’s “Hey Portal” means you get responsiveness and support for Amazon Alexa built-in means you can use your voice to control a huge range of features and tasks on any of Portal devices. Simply say “Hey Portal” to make a call, answer a call, adjust the volume, check the weather and more. Plus you can listen to the news, turn on your smart lights and carry out any of the vast number of activities offered by Amazon Alexa features although it does not support all of Alexa’s skills, it’s super helpful. This makes everyday tasks easier and saves you time to concentrate on the more important things.

More than a communication tool

Beyond the many ways Portal from Facebook helps you communicate with your friends and family, it’s also a great smart speaker, digital photo frame, and streaming device in its own right. On Portal and Portal Mini the speakers used to make sure you can clearly hear your calls are the same speakers that let you blast out your favourite music. With Portal TV you can use your TV screen to see your loved ones as well as stream shows from Amazon Prime, SHOWTIME and other content  Portal from Facebook was built with communication at its heart, but it offers many of the features found in other devices, in a simple, easy-to-use way.

Variety is the spice of life

Portal from Facebook stands out is its range of sizes and options, designed for different people with different needs, and different budgets. Communication is key for all Portal models. Portal devices have the added value of content watching and co-watching. You can select from various devices, and  depending on when all of your loved ones are online, you’ll get notifications when they’re active thanks to Facebook’s iconic green dot, meaning you can time your calls more effectively; this is particularly useful if a loved one is in a different time zone. An added benefit of having your Facebook account synced with your Portal device is that you’ll get birthday alerts, too, helping to ensure you’ll never forget to call friends and family and send best wishes.