Eliminates having to trip over wires
Striking aggressive design
Ingeniously designed to dissipate heat
Unflinching performance, even on battery power
Constantly need to connect a monitor, mouse, & keyboard with every startup
Can't really be used with the Oculus Rift without some major sacrifices or adjustments
Priced like a gaming laptop, but you'll need to supply the mouse, keyboard, and monitor
One of the many problems that interrupts the immersiveness of today’s VR systems and experiences is the need to be tethered closely to a PC capable of handling VR in the first place. Worst yet, the cables that snake around can sometimes get in the way – wherein we have to constantly remind ourselves to be mindful of where they’re at all times so we don’t trip. While there are already beginning to be wireless options for the HTC Vive, they aren’t perfect just yet with issues including dropped frames, occasional lag, and so forth.
Looking for a solution without all that compromise? Enter the MSI VR One, a backpack of sorts that you strap on, allowing anyone in possession to freely move around because the PC components are all fashioned into it. You could say that it’s a gaming laptop strapped to your back, which it is at its core, but as we’ve mentioned, it’s one of the few solutions that breaks the bonds by giving users a bit more flexibility in moving around.
Is it the ideal solution? Let’s find out if it’s even a practical one!
Well, it’s no surprise that the design has an aggressive tone to it – evident by its hard lines, red accents, and proton pack-esque look. Honestly, it hearkens back to those Ghostbuster movies! It actually has more in common with MSI’s line of desktop PCs, but what sets this apart from everything else is the fact that it can be strapped onto your back.
Even though it can technically act as a standalone PC when it’s not attached to the caged frame used to support it while it’s worn, we didn’t find it to be burdensome at all during prolonged usage. We suppose that the 7.5 lbs of weight is evenly distributed by the “stressless” back design helps to minimize fatigue. In addition to that, the caged frame also helps to dissipate the heat that’s generated by the MSI VR One, since the barrier between us and the unit itself helps to keep the airflow going.
There’s no denying that the aggressive design is fitting for something so powerful, as this particular model we’re checking out features the following specs below:
- Latest 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6820HK processor
- VR Ready graphics with NVIDIA GeForce® GTX1070
- 16GB DD4 RAM
- 512GB SSD (PCIE Gen3x4)
- Directional cooling to keep you gaming longer
- 360° virtual surround sound powered by Nahimic
- Thunderbolt 3 certified
Along the top side of the MSI VR One, we had an array of ports to attach other PC components, such as a mouse and keyboard, in addition to the VR headset you’ll be using with it. Finally, there are two hot swappable battery packs that allow it to operate independently for VR usage. However, battery life will obviously depend largely on the configuration and user settings.
While it’s certainly not the most discrete looking thing, the MSI VR One at least does justice in its design by feeling comfortable to use.
Before diving straight into the VR experience, there’s the matter of initially setting it up to work with a headset. First and foremost, you’re going to need to connect it to a monitor using either the HDMI port or mini DisplayPort – while also attaching a mouse and keyboard to download and install the software. The hassle introduced by the MSI VR One is the constant need to reconnect it to monitor, which is more of an inconvenience when you’re relying solely on the HDMI port for the connection. Sure, there’s the mini DisplayPort at your disposal, but finding another cable for that is a process on its own, as it doesn’t come with the setup out of the box.
Secondly, the MSI VR One isn’t designed to work with the Oculus Rift per se, seeing that the sensors used by the Rift need to be directly connected to the USB ports. In contrast, the HTC Vive doesn’t need that connection, since the sensors operate remotely with the headset for its tracking. This particular implementation means that the MSI VR One for the foreseeable future will be compatible mainly with the HTC Vive, which is more evident considering that the MSI VR One offers a dedicated power connection for the Vive.
In true fashion, the MSI VR One doesn’t disappoint with its performance – including on battery power! The NVIDIA GeForce GTX1070 doesn’t seem to work up a sweat running some of the experiences with the HTC Vive, like Arizona Sunshine, which requires a steady, consistent performance to dispose of the zombies coming after us. Impressively enough for something running off of battery power, the MSI VR One didn’t once show any sort of strain or lag during our time checking it out.
Like we mentioned earlier, too, the ventilation system works rather well here with the MSI VR One, thanks in part to the fans that blow out warm air generated by the system through its directional exhausts, which are situated on the sides of the unit. This, of course, is one of our main concerns initially going into it, since gaming laptops are notorious for generating an amount of heat buildup due to how components are closely stacked on top of one another. After a consecutive session of 60 minutes in the VR world, there’s definitely some heat being given off when it’s touched, but those fans do help in directing the flow away from our back.
Every single action and movement is executed flawlessly with the MSI VR one using the HTC Vive. Without the usual long cable snaking from the headset to the PC, we’re not as prone to stepping over it – or worst yet, tripping on it at some point! And that’s the best part about the MSI VR One, we’re not consciously trying to remember to not trip over any cables. Having them coiled up into the caged frame, we’re better able to articulate our movements in the VR world without worry.
There’s still the matter of getting into the VR world from a cold boot, which brings up the biggest issue with the MSI VR One – you still need a mouse and keyboard to navigate through Windows 10, launch SteamVR, and then finally proceed into the VR experience. Even though the Vive offers its own baked-in access to the desktop, it’s accessible only after you proceed to get launch SteamVR. It’s just annoying that with each and every restart of the MSI One VR, you’ll need to connect it to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard.
MSI VR One – Our Conclusion
The model we’re using was released back in the fall of 2016, but since then they’ve released newer models with the 7th generation Intel Core i7-7820HK and NVIDIA GTX 1070 – so you can expect slightly better performance out of it. That particular model retails for around $2,200 through channels like Amazon, which is on par to what you’ll find amongst the gaming laptop variety. Given its niche, we wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily over-priced, but still an investment you’ll want to mull over before pulling the trigger.
On one hand, it’s nice that it’s a confined system that allows for better articulation in the VR because of its cable management system – essentially eliminating being tripped up by pesky cables in the way. However, it’s also annoying how it still needs to be hooked up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, each and every time you boot it up. And also, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not really designed to work with the Oculus Rift. Taking that into consideration, it means that the MSI One VR works best with VR headsets that have tracking sensors that don’t need to be directly connected to the PC (the HTC Vive in this case).
So should you buy it? It’s a tough call, since the backpack aspect is practical in keeping the VR experience immersive – while also proving to be stellar with its performance. But then there’s the little annoyance mentioned above. Needless to say, a gaming laptop still offers more versatility than this, but if that untethered experience is what you crave, this is one of the few solutions available at the moment that’ll get the job done. Of course if you are the DIYer type, you could probably take a gaming laptop and just create a backpack system for it — though the weight balance would likely not be nearly this good.