HP made an even more powerful VR backpack — but it’s not for gaming, by Jacob Kastrenakes

Image: HP

Two months after introducing a backpack PC for virtual reality, HP is introducing another one. But this time, it isn’t meant for gamers.

HP’s new Z VR Backpack is being marketed as a workstation PC for all kinds of businesses — theme parks, automative showrooms, real estate agencies, and anything else that might have a use for virtual reality. It’s designed to give them high-end performance so that, when customers are shown virtual reality demoes of a car or a house they might be interested in, they don’t get distracted by bad graphics and stuttering frame rates.

That means the Z VR Backpack is even more powerful than HP’s gaming backpack, the Omen X Compact Desktop. While both use Intel’s Core i7 processors (both Kaby Lake), the Z VR Backpack has an Nvidia Quadro P5200 GPU, instead of the GTX 1080 in the Omen. HP says the Quadro card it’s offering includes twice the frame buffer of the 1080. The backpack will also be configurable with up to 32GB of RAM.

The Z VR Backpack looks pretty much the same as the Omen, except that it’s solid black — ditching the red highlights and goofy logo that makes the other look gamery. Naturally, it’ll be expensive: the starting price is $3,299. It’ll also ship with a dock that lets the backpack turn into something vaguely resembling a desktop PC. It’s supposed to begin shipping in September.

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What It’s Like to Try a Virtual Reality “Backpack”

Playing games or watching films in virtual reality can be surreal, but the high-end experiences like those offered by the Oculus Riftand HTC Vive have some restrictions. Namely: Both headsets need to be tethered to a PC, limiting how far you can move from your computer while wearing them. And the cables themselves can quickly become a nuisance while you’re moving about in the physical world as you simultaneously navigate the digital one.

PC makers have been busy thinking up novel solutions to this problem. One idea: HP, Alienware, and MSI have unveiled concepts for virtual reality “backpacks,” super-slim computers meant to be worn on the user’s back with a special vest. I recently had the chance to try HP’s version. While the company isn’t selling the computer yet, it is shipping units to partners so they can learn more about the new form factor.

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