HP’s New Virtual Reality Backpack PC

Mobilizing the home virtual-reality station for portable immersion.

Untethered virtual-reality (VR) experiences are generally limited to outdated computer-assisted virtual environment experiences or underwhelming mobile VR like Google Cardboard. Fans of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive know that in order to run these popular headsets, you need cables. And those cables need to be plugged in to a graphics processing unit–enhanced workstation. Lo and behold, Hewlett-Packard recently teased that they are working on a portable VR backpack called the Omen X that will allow VR users to pack up their headsets and hit the road. If you’re not familiar with HP’s Omen series, it was first launched in 2014. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. HP isn’t exactly known for producing great gaming consoles. 

Recently, Hewlett-Packard updated the Omen series of laptop and desktop computers that are prebuilt for the company’s ideal version of consumer gaming experiences. They include a desktop version (price not yet released), two laptop versions ($949 for the 15.6-in model and $1,030 dollars for the 17.3-in model) and a monitor that is due out in August (price not yet released). However, the two 15.6-in notebooks will be made available through HP and Best Buy on July 10 with a starting price of $900, which isn’t too bad given what’s packed inside. The 17.3-in model will be made available from HP on July 10 as well, with a starting price of $1,030, or a starting price of $980 at Best Buy.

Wireless VR experiences high levels of latency, unlike the mysterious Omen X VR PC workstations from HP. (Image courtesy of HP.)

Wireless VR experiences high levels of latency, unlike the mysterious Omen X VR PC workstations from HP. (Image courtesy of HP.)

The Omen X at a Glance

The information that HP released about the Omen X is that it will come with an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, 32 GB of RAM and a graphics card of unknown origin or specification. HP has crammed this hardware into a backpack that the company says weighs under 10 pounds, which is close in weight to some VR-ready laptops already out on the market. 

Built into the backpack are two fans to pump out the heat, and there are two batteries packed into the belt that power both the CPU and graphics card individually. The graphics card, though unknown, should definitely be at least as powerful as the NVIDIA GeForce GTX960M, which powers the HP Omen laptops.

But if HP wants to outperform MSI, whose VR-ready backpack PC includes the Intel Core i7 and NVIDIA GTX980, it may have some trouble.

With a PC strapped to your back, serious VR users can now walk around a giant room untethered to the classic PC workstation, allowing for more immersive experiences. Oculus users will still have to worry about smacking into walls for now (the HTC Vive warns you like a parking sensor for your car would).

Though the details are still spotty in terms of price and total spec lists, we will surely learn more from both companies about this intriguing development in computing during this week’s Computex, which is running from May 31 through June 4 in Taipei, Taiwan.