At Computex, we saw an early prototype of Colorful’s VR Backpack. At the time, the system’s batteries were dead, and it was impossible to test it out. In the few short months since Computex, however, Colorful has finished the work on its VR Backpack and launched it in China. While in Shenzhen, I was able to visit Colorful and test out the finished model.
Colorful’s VR Backpack uses a socketed Intel 6th Gen (Skylake) Core i7-6700 on a customized motherboard. Instead of a traditional desktop graphics card, there is an Nvidia GTX 970 GPU soldered onto the motherboard; it has 4GB of GDDR5 memory. Colorful sells the system as a finished product with a 240GB SSD and an unspecified amount of system RAM.
The finished version of the VR Backpack looks nearly identical to the prototype we saw at Computex. The biggest difference on the outside is a sticker with Colorful’s logo. I was unable to get a look inside the case to learn more about its internal hardware.
A Critical Battery Revision
One peculiar feature of Colorful’s VR Backpack is that the company stores the system’s batteries in a zipped-up leather pouch that hangs below the PC. The prototype we saw at Computex contained several lithium-ion batteries with wires soldered between them and a few cooling components sitting loose in the bag. I assumed this was a feature of the prototype that would be removed in the finished model in favor of batteries placed directly inside of the PC, but Colorful kept the bag full of batteries mounted below the PC just like on the prototype instead of moving the batteries elsewhere.
The battery design was updated, however, and the lithium-ion cells are now securely placed in a plastic case. Colorful said the battery should last for 90 minutes on average. The system can support two batteries simultaneously for a maximum battery life of three hours. A single battery is included with the system, but additional batteries can be purchased separately.
The revised battery design is likely the most critical change made to Colorful’s VR Backpack since the Computex prototype. The reason we could not test the system at Computex is because the batteries used in the prototype were not removable and could not be easily replaced, which meant that after the batteries were drained, it would take hours for them to re-charge again. Had this design flaw persisted in the finished product, it would have been disastrous; dedicated gamers wouldn’t want to wait multiple hours between gaming sessions for the batteries to charge.
The VR Backpack comes with support for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. I tested the system with an HTC Vive by playing Fruit Ninja for roughly fifteen minutes. I wasn’t able to benchmark the system’s performance to know how fast the game was refreshing, but I didn’t notice any graphical issues, and I experienced no disorientation nor dizziness during or after the test. Admittedly, we'll have to get this into the lab for more serious and dedicated testing.
I expected that the dangling battery compartment to be problematic during gameplay; they’re not exactly light, and I assumed they would swing around and perhaps even throw me off balance. My fears turned out to be unfounded, and I never had any balance or bumping issues while I was turning and slashing at fruit. Although this concept of placing the batteries in a bag below the system looks a bit unusual, it is nonetheless functional.
We still don’t know the system’s precise weight or size, but the VR Backpack didn’t feel particularly heavy to me. And the system didn’t get especially warm against my back, at least in the 15 minutes of gameplay.
One aspect of Colorful’s VR Backpack that I found problematic was the amount of noise the system generated. The system didn’t seem overly loud for a PC in general, and I doubt it would be much more than a whisper if it was sitting on a table a few feet away, but you can’t help but hear it when it is strapped onto your back. The system has vents placed all around its sides, but the primary fan and cooler are located at the top of the system close to your head. I wouldn’t want to use this without a decent headset.
Colorful plans to sell its VR Backpack exclusively in China for now. The company mentioned that it is currently experiencing supply issues, which has limited its ability to sell the VR Backpack in the company’s home market, let alone anywhere else. However, Colorful hasn’t completely ruled out the possibility of a North American release if it sees strong interest.