Virtual reality is one of the most exciting and possibility-filled aspects of science and technology right now. I know, a broad statement- but for anyone who has dabbled with the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, or even Google’s insane Tilt Brush, you can attest to the level of addictive amazement it now offers. One of the only downfalls to current VR technology is that while it offers limitless virtual experiences, users remain tethered in place by the machines or consoles that power them.
While companies like Apple continue their plight to perfect existing devices such as phones and laptops, several companies are literally creating new worlds for us to play in and explore. But those new worlds need new and evolving devices to power their evolving alternate realities. One such device that will be key going forward is the backpack PC, which allows Virtual Reality to shine in the untethered, limitless realm of possibility for which it was designed. And it’s looking like the first viable option to hit the market is MSI’s VR One.
Not only is the VR One the first official VR-ready backpack PC of the first of its kind, but so far it is the world’s lightest VR backpack PC - including prototypes - weighing in at just 3.6kg (a little under eight pounds). It’s surprisingly thin for the amount of power packed inside, too. An Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card ensure that this bag can handle virtually anything you throw at it. It will literally be able to handle any of your VR needs - as the website boldly states, it is “able to run all VR applications”. It does seem to have been designed primarily with the HTC Vive in mind, as the backpack includes a direct DC12V port to power the Vive. However, there should be nothing in the realm of virtual reality that the VR One won’t let you strap on and play.
One of the most exciting features of the VR One is the inclusion of two hot-swappable batteries. This eliminates the need to stay near a power source, and ensures that dying batteries can be switched out without ever turning off your headset or interrupting gameplay. MSI states that even while running full-tilt with an overclocked CPU, the PC pack should last around 1.5 hours. As you might imagine, that much power packed into such a small space can generate quite a bit of heat. To combat overheating, a custom cooling system consisting of fans, heat pipes, and vents has been installed in the PC to keep it running at under 85 degrees. And surprisingly, despite all that, MSI claims the VR One still runs at a relatively quiet 45dBA at full speed.
As I mentioned earlier, the pack is fairly optimized for the HTC Vive; however, it offers plenty of connectivity for any VR needs you may have. There is a mini DisplayPort out, HDMI out, USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3, four USB 3.0 ports, and of course a headphone and microphone jack. As you probably could have also guessed, it looks like it will come with a pretty hefty price tag, too. At a press conference at PAX Australia last week, MSI announced that the VR One is now finally available, with a starting price of $3,599.
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