Facebook's latest hardware bet offers great video chat but the rest of it is unfinished


Facebook hasn’t found its place in hardware, but it’s getting closer.

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Unlike Apple, Amazon or even Google, Facebook has struggled to find a hardware product with mass appeal. It has a niche virtual reality business with Oculus VR. And, it partnered with HTC in 2013 to launch a phone that ultimately flopped.

Now, Facebook is trying hardware again with two new devices, the Portal and Portal+ smart screens, which are the company’s version of devices like the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub, and available beginning Thursday.

There are two models, the $199 Portal with a 10.1-inch screen and the $349 Portal+ with a larger 15.6-inch screen that rotates. They’re meant to be smart displays, but with a focus on video chat through Facebook’s Messenger service.

The video chat experience is fantastic, with excellent video quality, top-notch microphones and great speakers. But compared with products by Amazon and Google, the Portal and Portal+ need to do more. Plus, a lot of people are seriously concerned about Facebook’s record when it comes to data privacy.

Here’s what you need to know about Facebook’s biggest hardware attempt ever.

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