Wireless virtual reality (VR) may no longer be a far off fantasy, with the likes of TPCast and DisplayLink both creating viable solutions. PC manufacturers are going down a different road however, building mobile ‘backpack’ rigs that can still offer user freedom from annoying cables, and without the need for transmitting masses of data through the air. Back in June, during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), HP announced its latest iteration, the OMEN X Compact Desktop, which VRFocus has now got its hands-on.
This backpack PC first came to light last year as a concept, aiming to bring consumer grade components to a fledgling market. So it’s packing an Intel Core i7-7820HK processor, 16GB DDR4-RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 – this is in comparison to the HP Z VR Backpack unveiled earlier this month aimed towards enterprise, packing an NVIDIA Quadro P5200.
Trying out the PC at Gamescom this week, HP has made it as user friendly as possible. After donning the backpack harness, the person demonstrating the rig simply popped it out of its docking station – with the attached monitor showing a desktop image and Steam running – locked it into position on the harness and handed over a HTC Vive. The cable was a shortened down version, providing ample head movement without being long that it would get in the way.
Straight away, it was noticeable how light the entire assembly was. If you’ve ever had a high-end gaming laptop – VR-Ready or not – you’ll know how bulky and heavy they are, especially when carried about in a suitable bag. The HP OMEN X is certainly around the same size, but when wearing it, it almost felt like it wasn’t there.
On demonstration was nDreams’ newly announced Shooty Fruity, a title about scanning shopping items and gunning down rogue fruit. While the VR backpack handled the videogame with ease, never dropping a frame or stuttering, it was a bit of a shame that something more demanding wasn’t used, Lone Echo for its amazing vistas and grabbing mechanics, or Raw Data for its high octane gun battles.
Even though the OMEN X is designed as a consumer PC, it’ll most likely find its way to VR arcades, which are growing in popularity and might not want to send loads of VR signals wirelessly when groups are playing. The demo didn’t really showcase how well the backpack PC would hold up to lots of jarring movements, which will happen in first-person shooters (FPS) when surrounded.
The actual build quality of the OMEN X seemed fairly robust – whether it would take an impact from a player falling over on it is another matter – so heavy usage doesn’t look to be an issue. Another good feature are the two hot-swappable batteries which plug into the bottom of the unit, allowing one to run the PC as the other is changed out for a fresh power pack.
Generally first impressions are really good, why wouldn’t you want a VR-Ready backpack PC to enjoy VR gaming completely untethered. Well the cost of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive maybe dropping, as well as suitable PC’s to run them. Backpack PC’s on the other hand aren’t cheap or going to be cheap anytime soon, with the OMEN X having a suggested retail price of $2,499 (USD), a significant investment for the at home user. That’s why these type of PC’s will likely see more use as enterprise solutions for the time being. Give it 12 to 18 months and they might become a more viable solution for the average consumer.