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Facebook is out with its first hardware products: the Portal and Portal+ - Smart Displays meant to live in your living room or kitchen which are primarily meant for doing video calls.

While Portal will be seen by many as a direct competitor to other smart assistant devices, particularly Amazon's screen-equipped Echo Show, Facebook is pitching the device as mainly a way to stay connected with friends and family.

The Portal and Portal Plus are available for preorder today, and will ship in November. If you pre-order both, you will receive a $100 discount. The device, which will be available for pre-order in the United States, is created to allow users to make video calls at home without having to stand immediately in front of the screen or hold a phone at arm's length.

Facebook won't make a profit from selling Portal or Portal+ at their current price points, according to a person familiar with the business.

Facebook's Andrew Bosworth spoke to the BBC, and admitted that there will be concerns from would-be users about the devices: "We understand that inviting a camera and microphone into your home is the kind of thing that will give a consumer pause, especially for a new category of products around video calling that haven't been really common for consumers to have access to". The screen can be locked behind a passcode, and you'll need to log into your own Facebook account if you want to change it.

Both versions of Facebook Portal support Alexa and voice commands in general. They also come with a camera cover so that one can easily cover the camera when not in use.

Facebook describes these machines as ideal for video chatting on Facebook Messenger.

The larger Portal+ has a 15.6-inch, 1920x1080 display that can be oriented vertically or horizontally.

When you're not using the Portal, a feature called Superframe will let you display your favorite photos and videos or important notifications such as birthday reminders.

The Portal devices feature Amazon Alexa inside, allowing users to ask for weather, news, sports scores, and more.

What do you think of Facebook hardware launch?

Facebook's release of Portal comes at a time when the social network is under intense scrutiny around the world.

The Portal comes in two configurations: A $US200 ($283) model with a 10.1-inch 720p display, and the pricier $US350 ($496) Portal+, which features a larger 15.6-inch 1080p display that can rotate between portrait and landscape view.

Earlier in the year, it was forced to admit the personal data of tens of millions of users had been hijacked by Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British firm working for Donald Trump in 2016.

To start the call, all it takes is: "Hey Portal". All of this is pretty basic for a smart display, and devices like Amazon's Echo Show have been offering similar features for ages. Facebook claims that the audio is rich and should comfortably fill an average room. For example, Facebook includes Smart Camera that automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in the shot. Facebook partnered with Spotify Premium, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Food Network, and Newsy - and it promised to add more soon.

Facebook says it doesn't listen to, view or keep contents of your Portal video calls, and the calls are encrypted - it's unclear if that's end-to-end encryption.