A backpack with a full desktop computer in it might sound like a slightly silly idea, but as we’ve written before, it’s actually an incredibly useful invention for VR. Alienware, Zotac, and MSI have all shown off self-contained backpacks that can be used with the HTC Vive, and companies like The Void have created their own “backtops” for location-based entertainment. Of all these, though, none is as distinctive-looking as HP’s Omen backpack — part of its new Omen X high-end gaming line, and shown off for one of the first times at an event this week.
HP is still describing the backpack as a prototype instead of a product, and it won’t divulge the full specs for its portable computer. I was told that the PC runs on a quad-core i7 Intel processor, and an undisclosed graphics card that scored 10.8 of a possible 11 on Steam’s VR performance test. Based on Tom’s Hardware tests, that would put it on the scale of Zotac’s GTX 980 Ti Amp Extreme card. As HP said when it announced the computer, it’s around 10 pounds, enough to be noticeable but also not overly distracting. (On a big enough person, it looks frankly adorable.) The whole system is slightly modular: you can slide the computer off its straps and use it as a desktop, and the two sizable batteries are on little pouches on each side, with thick cables that are plugged into the bottom of the backpack.
Unfortunately, my time with the backpack was very short. I got a hands-on with the archery section of Valve’s Lab demo, where the game seemed smooth and responsive — although admittedly, it’s a small cartoon world full of virtual paper cutouts. HP seems to be aiming the backpack at companies, not individual consumers. Although it hasn’t given any names, this could mean either Void-like entertainment shops or businesses that use room-scale VR for things like architecture or design. I’ll continue to put out my call for more colors than angry black and red. But at the very least, it’s a promising piece of design, and I hope HP offers a consumer version sooner rather than later.