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MSI Unchains You With A VR PC Backpack

MSI unveiled a new type of gaming PC that's designed to be worn like a backpack. This PC is targeted at the VR community to give users a gaming experience without being tied down by a power cable.

The backpack PC merges the gap between gaming notebooks and full desktop systems. It uses an MSI Z170 motherboard paired with an Intel 6th Gen (Skylake) Core i7 and a desktop Nvidia GTX 980 graphics card, but it also has a battery. MSI said that in this configuration, the PC is capable of running VR games for 60-90 minutes on a single charge.

The internal hardware is upgradeable, and the battery is removable, so it's possible to extend the battery life and improve gaming performance by switching the graphics card for a new Nvidia GTX 1080 card. It isn’t exactly clear how this will work, because there is just one HDMI port on the exterior of the PC, so the GPU wouldn’t match up perfectly with the I/O panel. MSI might have some sort of extension cable inside to overcome this issue, but in any case, this still limits you to HDMI.

Along with the HDMI port on the top of the case, you will also find two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports. This meets the minimum requirements for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but it would have been helpful to have additional USB 3.0 ports for other high-end peripherals.

With such a large battery and the high-end desktop hardware, you probably expect the PC to be rather heavy, but MSI claimed it actually weighs under 5 Kg in total. This is considerably heavier than a typical laptop, but with backpack-type straps, it shouldn’t feel overly heavy for short gaming sessions.

To help dissipate heat from the system in general, there are large vents on the sides of the rig. Addressing the obvious concerns about the heat from the PC pressing on your back, MSI said it used a mixture of cloth materials as a barrier. The presenters didn’t have any exact temperature readings on hand, so we can’t be sure if this will be problematic or not. We don't see any obvious benefit to the cloth barrier, and as this system is made to be used while you are up and moving around, getting hot will likely be a serious issue for gamers. (Try to avoid sweating onto the I/O ports, for example.)

Another potential issue, which we brought up in our coverage of HP's own VR backpack PC concept, is the need to power the HTC Vive's link box. Note that none of our photos show the demonstrator actually wearing a VR HMD, let alone using one, with the MSI backpack.

MSI didn’t say how much the backpack would cost, nor when it would be available.

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Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.