It is large. It is loopy. It is costly. It is painfully difficult. However, if you happen to make investments the effort and time, it is also terribly enjoyable.

I am speaking concerning the HP Omen X Compact Desktop, which I am utilizing to drastically improve my virtual reality expertise, by bodily attaching this full gaming PC to my again, plugging in a headset, and diving into the universe of fantastic worlds obtainable in VR.

The massive distinction is that I am untethered from a desk-bound laptop computer or desktop, and free to wander so far as the floorspace of my check space permits. This is not the primary or solely approach to lower the cables on PC-based digital actuality, however it’s definitely essentially the most full-featured and versatile resolution I’ve tried thus far.

The Omen X works as a PC desktop when docked. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

This complete rig, which incorporates the pc, a desktop dock, and a backpack rig with batteries, is $2,999 — an enormous quantity, however anybody on the lookout for a price range VR expertise might be going to go for a PlayStation VR ($246.02 at Amazon.com) or Google Daydream anyway. It breaks right down to $2,499 for the PC itself, which has an Intel Core i7-7820HK CPU, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card, plus its desktop dock; and $499 for the backpack, which incorporates the backpack body and straps, 4 rechargeable batteries and a battery charging dock. Within the UK, the bundle is £2,999 and in Australia, the system will not be but obtainable, however you’ll be able to signal as much as “register curiosity” in future updates. 

The Omen X desktop itself lives as much as its “Compact Desktop” title — it is lower than three inches thick and weighs round 5.5 kilos. It will remind you of a slim front room recreation console, just like the Xbox One S.

And sure, you continue to have so as to add your personal VR headset. The HTC Vive and Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality headsets ($289.99 at Amazon Marketplace) are formally supported (HP’s model is $449 for the headset plus two hand controllers). Utilizing an Oculus Rift could be robust, because it requires the bottom stations to be tethered to the PC by way of USB cables.

HP Omen X Compact DesktopHP Omen X Compact Desktop

There is a small battery inside to maintain the system operating whilst you connect it into the backpack straps and exterior battery packs. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

This is not the primary or solely approach to lower the VR cable. We have beforehand examined the MSI VR One backpack, which is conceptually related, however not as superior, and several other wireless transmitter solutions, such as the TPCast, are slowly coming to market.

Extra flooring, extra enjoyable

When you’ve got the floorspace to make the most of it, it is a very totally different expertise than conventional PC VR, the place you are all the time shifting round gingerly, afraid of getting twisted up within the cables, and even pulling the desktop or laptop computer off the desk.

05-hp-omen-x-compact-desktop05-hp-omen-x-compact-desktop

Getting the backpack on, together with the headset and a pair of headphones, is simpler with a good friend to assist.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Sure, you are lugging about 10 kilos of substances round (that is the mixed weight of the PC itself, the backpack and two batteries), and the batteries solely final an hour or so. However the padded straps assist it from feeling too heavy, and there is an additional set of batteries that you would be able to carry on the charging dock and hot-swap as wanted.

It is uncommon that I’ve so many volunteers to assist check out some new expertise, however there was a gradual stream of individuals lined as much as give untethered VR a attempt. Everybody was impressed, together with VR veterans, who’re often fairly jaded about issues like this. Most stated they thought that sporting the backpack did not really feel overly cumbersome, but in addition that there was nonetheless an comprehensible pure inclination to maneuver slowly and punctiliously, to keep away from crashing into partitions and furnishings. You’ll be able to see extra of their feedback in our video. 

16-hp-omen-x-compact-desktop16-hp-omen-x-compact-desktop

Swapping in a brand new belt-mounted battery on the fly. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

I used the Omen X in exploration video games, just like the puzzle-solving The Talos Precept, in addition to motion video games like Gorn, a gladiator fight simulator. We used HP’s own Windows Mixed Reality headset for these assessments, however the system additionally works with the HTC Vive. The software program obtainable within the Home windows Blended Actuality platform is proscribed, to say the least, however features a few fashionable VR video games like Area Pirate Coach and Type.

There is a new workaround to play Steam VR video games on the HP headset, though it isn’t 100% dependable but. It entails launching a helper app within Steam to permit HP’s blended actuality headset entry to the a lot bigger Steam VR recreation library. When it really works, it is very helpful, and albeit the one manner the Home windows Blended Actuality platform makes any sense proper now.

12-hp-omen-x-compact-desktop12-hp-omen-x-compact-desktop

It is untethered from a desk, however sure, there are nonetheless cables. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Untethered, however not untroubled

The largest situation we bumped into is that all the setup is simply so complicated and early in its lifecycle that I spent as a lot time troubleshooting as I did enjoying.

Simply going from desktop to backpack is complicated, and entails swapping out the longer cable connecting your VR headset and the PC for an (included) shorter one, popping the Omen X out of its dock, sliding it onto the backpack body and connecting the 2 wearable batteries by way of a pair of screw-in cables. If utilizing a Home windows Blended Actuality headset, you additionally need to plug a mini-DVI connector of some type into the Omen X, so the system accurately sees the VR headset as a secondary show. HP included a mini-DVI dummy dongle for my evaluate unit, however you may have to seek out your personal.

screen-shot-2017-12-04-at-5-08-35-pmscreen-shot-2017-12-04-at-5-08-35-pm

This SteamVR app drastically expands the software program library for Home windows Blended Actuality headsets. 


Valve

Getting the backpack on, together with the headset and a pair of headphones, is simpler with a good friend to assist. Solo, the method will get cumbersome.

And keep in mind, when you disconnect the Omen X from the dock, you additionally lose the view out of your desktop monitor, so any additional troubleshooting might require you to reverse the method and put the desktop again in its dock. That is not an idle warning, it occurred to me a number of instances.

A part of the problem is that the Home windows Blended Actuality software program platform is new and never totally baked but, and the much-needed crossover with Steam is extraordinarily buggy at this stage. And that is on high of typical VR woes like shifting boundary maps and controllers that sometimes lose sync and float away from you.

On the intense facet, that is why you should not fear about digital actuality being an isolating pastime. You are just about going to wish a troubleshooting good friend to hang around and act as your VR caddy anyway. And doubtless as a result of I used to be the one performing because the troubleshooting VR helper, none of this appeared to hassle my colleagues, who nonetheless lined up for an opportunity to do this this untethered VR expertise. 

We’re persevering with to check the HP Omen X Compact Desktop and can replace with efficiency scores later this week. 

Shop Amazon