(Pocket-lint) - Video calling is one of those things that, a few years ago, might have had a little bit of debate around it - is it really the way forward? Isn't it easier to just use your voice?
Well, fast-forward to today and the debate is over. Video is the here and now, an amazing way of connecting more personally in conversation with your friends and family, or with colleagues and connections. Whether you're using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, a quick video chat goes a long way.
Some of the very best video calling experiences available today are offered, in fact, by Facebook's own hardware, in the form of the Portal line. They've been designed from the ground up to offer great, seamless systems for visual chats, and work really nicely for it. Best of all, right now Facebook's offering $50 or £50 off any purchase of two Portal devices, a significant saving.
We thought you might like to know just what you're choosing from, though, and what makes each device special.
The smallest of Facebook's Portal line is where we'll start - it's like what you dreamed of a smart picture frame being, back when they first started appearing on the market. With a classy design that doesn't look too much like tech at all, it'll blend into the background when you're not using it, displaying your favourite photos or information you want to know at a glance.
Then, when you make a video call through Facebook or WhatsApp, it becomes a superb display to show who you're talking to, with an impressive camera to transmit you to the other side. Meanwhile, a surprisingly great speaker means that it can also do a fab job playing music, and its display also makes it a really useful smart home hub, with Alexa built in.
If you're taken with the Portal Mini's design, but fancy a bit more real estate, whether to get a better look at your callers or to show off your pictures more prominently, you're in luck - the standard Portal is really similar, but bigger.
It's also a little more powerful in the display department, with a 10-inch screen compared to the Portal Mini's 8-inch version. The speaker is, again, impressive for its size, and like the Mini you can have it in portrait or landscape mode depending on your taste. As with all Portal devices, it's also got some fabulous AR tricks for your calls, letting you wear costumers and filters for maximum fun.
If you're all about the display, though, the Portal+'s 15.6-inch screen is the best of the bunch, a 1080p beauty. Plus, its camera is the widest-angle of the range (though all of them get at least 113 degrees). Its speakers are also the most powerful, though the obvious trade-off is that it won't blend into your decor quite as easily as the smaller Portals.
We're happy to label the Portal+ pretty much the ultimate device for video calling - between its camera, display and features it'll have you feeling like you're in the room with each other when you make calls. That's quite the pedigree, we think you'll agree.
When it comes to displays for video calling in your home, though, chances are you've already got one big, HD screen in your living room already - your TV. Facebook's Portal TV is a genius way of harnessing that, and turning your TV into a video calling powerhouse. Its camera unit connects to your TV to display the calls, while using smart panning and zooming to keep you in shot even if you're moving around the room.
Plus, if you want to hide the camera when you're in private, you can just slide a block in front of it easily - privacy is a built-in assumption for the Portal range.
Which is right for you?
The great thing about Facebook's multi-buy promotion is that you don't necessarily have to pick one Portal device to stick with. Instead, by getting $50 or £50 off any two devices, you can mix and match to get the right blend. Whether that means a Portal Mini for your kitchen and a Portal TV for the living room, or indeed one Portal for you and another for your parents or grandparents, it's a great way to get you started with video calling.