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The Facebook Portal gets a huge price cut: $99

Just in time for Mother's Day, the controversial but widely loved video-calling smart screen is 50 percent off. Plus: Save 20 percent on Game of Thrones merch!

The Facebook Portal is a solid buy at $99, provided you're comfortable with Facebook's current privacy policies.
James Martin/CNET

There are countless ways to video call your friends and family: Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and so on. They're all free, too, provided you supply the phone, tablet or PC -- the camera and screen, basically.

Of course, there's something to be said for a dedicated video-calling device, especially one that can also serve up videos, photos, music and voice-assistant features -- hence the growing popularity of products like the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub (currently on sale for $75, by the way).

The Facebook Portal is one such device, and it just went on sale -- big-time. Amazon has the Facebook Portal smart screen for $99, shipped free with Prime. Regular price: $199. Best Buy has it for $99.99, just FYI. And if you're interested in getting both a Portal and a Portal Plus, you can save $200 if you purchase from Facebook proper.

First, let's stare down the elephant in the room: Facebook continues to make headlines (and not in a good way) over privacy issues. Indeed, that was one of Megan Wollerton's main concerns in her Facebook Portal review.

Read more: Facebook Portal: Your privacy questions answered  

Of course, Amazon has arguably committed even worse offenses when it comes to its smart devices. It was recently revealed that human employees listen to Alexa recordings, for example.

These are weird times, no question, and it's up to each individual to decide which devices are welcome in the home. I'll just say I'm fully aware that every company on the planet is already collecting and sharing data about me in order to try to sell me stuff. And for the most part I'm not bothered by it. That's just me.

Well, maybe not just me: The Portal has a 4.6-star average rating from over 400 Best Buy customers and a 4.4 average from over 300 Amazon customers. Seems as though people really like the product, Facebook issues notwithstanding.

The cake is a lie (whoops -- wrong Portal)

Speaking of the product, it's functionally very similar to the aforementioned Echo Show and Home Hub in that it responds to voice commands (in fact, it has Alexa onboard), plays music and videos from various sources and so on.

It also has a couple unique features, including a camera that follows a person as they move around the room, the better to create a "you are there" intimacy.

The big ding against it: You can make voice or video calls only with other Facebook and Facebook Messenger users. Read the aforementioned review for a deep dive into the Portal's pros and cons.

As I've said many times, it's easier to forgive a product's flaws or limitations when the price is right. At $99, I think the Portal is an excellent deal -- but you need to be comfortable with the idea of a Facebook camera in the house. If that's a dealbreaker, the aforementioned Google Home Hub (which has no camera) is a great option at $75.

Your thoughts?

Read more: 7 things you need to know about Facebook Portal

Now playing: Watch this: Facebook Portal aims to take Messenger video chat up...

Save 20% on Game of Thrones merchandise

Winter has come. (Here in Michigan, it never left. Hi-yo!) And if your life just isn't complete without, say, a replica of Arya Stark's sword Needle, here's a sale you won't want to miss.

For a limited time, ThinkGeek is taking 20% off all Game of Thrones merchandise when you apply promo code WINTERISHERE. Shipping is free with orders over $50.

That sword, for example? Normally $200, but now $160. You'll also find bags, apparel, games and more -- though some items are already sold out, so if you're feeling the urge to splurge, don't wait.

Read more: The coolest Game of Thrones products

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