Zotac’s VR Go Backpack PC promises a tether-free VR experience, and we had a chance to give it a whirl for a weekend and run a few performance benchmarks.
To be clear, we’re not talking about just a VR-ready PC here; this backpack is designed as, essentially, a VR only PC insofar as it’s, you know, in backpack form and built specifically to solve some of the mobility issues in VR. Unfortunately, due to Oculus’s hardware design, the VR Go backpack is compatible only with the HTC Vive. You could use the VR Go Backpack PC as a desktop PC if you wanted to, but you’d be paying a significant premium (more than the cost of a Vive) just for the mobility factor. Zotac offers Zbox machines with similar specifications for half the price of the VR Go.
One of the most glaring issues that holds virtual reality back from reaching mass market adoption is the bulky cable that tethers the headset to your computer or game console. And for a good reason; the tether cable is the most hazardous part of using a VR headset. Tripping over the cable while you spin around playing a game can lead to significant injury and damage to your gear.
The data tether of a VR HMD is also the biggest limiting factor that restricts the maximum theoretical play space. If you need a larger range than the cable provides, there are three ways to do it: You can extend the tether cable to increase your maximum distance, you can switch to a wireless data transmission solution, or you can carry the computer with you. Zotac, being a company that makes compact PCs, focused on that last method with the VR Go Backpack PC.
In an industry that’s clearly heading towards wearable VR, Zotac is just a little bit ahead of the curve. A handful of standalone HMDs with the computing power built into the headset should hit the market later this year. (Some are already here.) But those are mobile HMDs mostly built on Google’s Daydream platform and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 VR dev kit. It will take a few years before mobile HMDs can dream of supplanting the premium experience of PC-connected VR systems such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Zotac’s solution puts a powerful PC on your back so you can experience premium untethered VR today.
It’s something of a “tweener” solution, but, well…here we are, in between.