HP recently announced a renewed aggression in the consumer gaming PC market with its new Omen lineup, consisting of laptops, desktops and a QHD display. However, as the company proudly showcased the Omen offerings, HP was hiding a dark (and red) secret behind its back. Err, on its back.
The HP Omen X VR PC Pack Hardware Development Kit is a concept PC that can be strapped on your back. It weighs less than 10 lbs., and although the full specifications are not yet available, we do know it sports Intel’s latest 6th generation (Skylake) quad-core i5 and i7 H-series processors.
Storage comes in the form of M.2 SSDs, up to 512 GB each (but there’s no word on how many you can fit), and the Omen X VR PC Pack can be equipped with up to 32 GB of DDR4 memory. At this time, we don’t know which GPU (or GPUs) are inside the Omen X VR PC Pack; it will be interesting to see if HP will offer a VR-ready GTX 980 MXM graphics module or more-powerful full-size desktop GPUs.
The backpack is designed to free VR users from the confines of cables tethered to a stationary PC and from getting tangled in a mess of wires, which is especially useful for high-energy and fast-paced VR games (anyone try Hover Junkers or Holopoint yet?).
The power button resides at the top of the device along with two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI output, which is the minimum connectivity required for the Oculus Rift. However, connecting the HTC Vive to any PC requires the link box, which is powered by a standard 5V adapter. The Omen X VR PC Pack features a single DC-out jack, but HP said this is just for headphone power.
If that’s the case, in order to truly roam free with an HTC Vive, you will have to find an external battery to power the link box, not to mention find a place for it on your back along with the jungle of excess cables from the HMD and the link box. All of HP’s materials on the Omen X VR PC Pack featured photos of Rift-equipped implementations (save the one photo of someone tangled in the Vive’s cables, as a testimonial). Hopefully, this isn’t indicative that HP left out the Vive and its room-scale VR. Perhaps HTC or HP will make an external power source for the Vive to bypass the link box as VR implementations like this become more common (cough, get on it guys, cough).
One of the drawbacks to the increased immersion from the lack of a tether is the lack of time you can spend in it – the battery lasts only up to one hour. The run time may seem like a downer, but there’s a good reason the attached external battery drains that quickly. In most consumer gaming laptops, the CPU and GPU have to throttle because of limited wattage output from the battery. HP’s Omen X VR PC Pack features high-output batteries that deliver the full wattage to the components, providing full, unrestricted performance.
Nobody likes gaming on a timer, so in order to reduce the downtime that an hour of power could facilitate, the HP Omen X VR PC Pack can carry up to two more hot-swappable (that’s right, mid-game) batteries. This is achieved with a small internal battery, which will keep the system running while you swap power sources.
Although the Omen X VR PC Pack is designed to be worn on the back, HP made the case that it can double as an ultra-portable and powerful desktop. Peripherals can be attached wirelessly for typing and navigation (mouse), in addition to wireless display connectivity, which can be used while it’s still strapped to your back in order to access Windows functions without removing equipment. (We were wondering how it could navigate Windows with just an HMD – it seems that it can’t.)
The HP Omen X VR PC Pack will be available for developers in 30 days, but currently there’s no word on what the backpack VR gaming rig will cost.