Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

MSI VR ONE - Wireless VR Backpack Review

The MSI VR ONE is quite simply a full PC that comes in the form of a backpack that allows you to connect your HTC Vive for a "wireless" VR experience. This VR ONE unit packs a GTX 1070 laptop GPU to hopefully supply us with the needed 90 frames per second performance required for a perfect Virtual Reality experience.

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MSI VR ONE Wireless Gameplay Summary

Remote Desktop

First and foremost, we found a big issue with most of these games that needs to be addressed. Keep in mind that since the MSI VR ONE does not have a keyboard or display, you are required to use Remote Desktop on a client machine to go in and control your inputs on the MSI VR ONE. In that, once you power up the VR ONE (which takes about 13 seconds on our review unit with M.2 attached SSDs) you are required to use Remote Desktop on a client machine to launch Steam and subsequently Steam VR. (We only used the HTC Vive for our testing.) Once you have Steam VR running, you actually do not need to leave the Remote Desktop application running.

However, if you do leave Remote Desktop open, the VR ONE is going to project a mirrored gameplay window/screen to your client machine. I found this to be detrimental to in-game performance in all games here. I am not sure if this choppy and unacceptable gameplay was due to the resources needed to mirror this, or the bandwidth required to move this back to the Remote Desktop client machine. There are three ways to solve this issue. 1. Turn off Remote Desktop once you have Steam VR running, and this is likely the best solution. 2. Minimize the mirrored gameplay window to be the smallest you possibly can. The easiest way to do this is to simply Alt-Enter, or Alt-Tab, or a combination of both, and use your cursor to squeeze the gameplay window down to "thumbnail" size. 3. Some games have the option to turn off mirroring in the options. Raw Data is an example of this, however it is the exception rather than the norm. Turning off mirroring instantly "fixed" any choppy gameplay issues. All said and done, turn Remote Desktop off for the easiest and best VR ONE experience once you have your game or game launcher running.

VR ONE GPU Power

To be totally candid, my expectations of the MSI VR ONE were not very high. As we have told you for almost a year now, if you are buying new hardware to get into VR gaming, I suggest you aim for a GPU that is no lower in the hierarchy than the GTX 1070. While the HardOCP VR Leaderboard below is not up-to-date in terms of the new GTX 1080 Ti, it would reside above the TITAN X, with the TITAN Xp being at the top.

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Given that we have suggested that the desktop GTX 1070 is our "baseline" suggestion for VR gaming, I was thinking that it was highly unlikely that the mobile version of the GTX 1070 in the VR ONE was going to give me a VR experience I was happy with. I however was wrong. This is not to say that it was as good as our desktop GTX 1070, but the VR ONE and the GTX 1070 did have the resources needed to give me a compelling graphical experience with the HTC Vive. You will have to turn down some of IQ knobs and sliders in your games, but not to the point where it makes those games unplayable in any way.

Wireless VR Gameplay

The "wireless" part of this entire equation is what makes the VR ONE attractive. Of course, the HMD is still wired to the computer, but instead of leaving the computer stationary, you are just bringing it along with you while gaming.

I have had "wired" VR gaming experiences for almost a year now, and yes, being wired to the computer sucks. It is not so bad as to keep you from wanting to use your VR HMD, but certainly there are times when the wiring breaks the immersion of the VR gaming experience. The MSI VR ONE exists solely to combat this one downfall of current VR gaming hardware. Until we see see true wireless VR gaming hardware (which is being worked on) the MSI VR ONE is...well...the one.

The VR games I picked to test here today are very much room-scale games in no way designed to be played seated. These games require you to be up on your feet, moving around, pivoting, turning, leaning, dodging, ducking, just to keep that diesel truckin'! You will find yourself dripping sweat very quickly playing these games, with Pavlov VR being the highlight of this. The fact that you are now fully unencumbered by wires wrapping around your feet or pulling on your head when things get heated is so freeing! The MSI VR ONE is literally a game-changer. It changed my VR gaming experience and very much for the better. That said, you do actually develop skills while VR gaming to deal with the wires. You learn how to move your feet, work the wires with your hands, etc., but not having to do that at all is a much better experience.

The VR ONE was a lot cooler to wear than I thought it would be. The lattice on the back allowed airflow to keep my back relatively cool at all times. If anything, I got hotter under the backpack straps than anything else. The fact of the matter is that sweat under my HMD bothered me more than anything after crazy-intense gameplay. The VR ONE itself never offered me any distractions and kept my head in the game.

The "shorty" wire that is supplied with the system is a bit too short for my liking as it makes getting the VR ONE on and off easily a bit awkward. I did finally drop my headset while unsuiting, however the shorty cable was short enough to keep the HMD from hitting the ground, and it did not break any of the connectors on the IO panel, thankfully.

VR ONE Battery Duration and Charging

MSI states the unit is good for 1.5 hours of gameplay. I took on two nonstop VR gaming stints and timed those as I went. During these runthroughs, I played multiple VR games, but I never took the HMD off, except to wipe the sweat off my brow. The first time I did this, I started with the batteries being at 92% on the VR ONE. I was able to squeeze out a total of 1 hour and 37 minutes of VR gameplay. The second runthrough I started out with the batteries at 96% and was able to get 1 hour and 41 minutes of gameplay. MSI is very much correct in its evaluation of gameplay duration, maybe even a bit conservative. Certainly MSI is not leading us on here. I like it when we see truthful marketing.

I did these two full duration VR gaming stints back to back. I did not give the unit any time to cool down. It took me right at 2 hours of charging to get the batteries back to over 95% charge using the included power brick which plugs into the bottom of the VR ONE.

MSI does offer a charging dock and extra batteries for the VR ONE that will charge four batteries at a time. I have not been able to find the batteries for sale though.

The VR ONE uses two batteries, so this allows you to have hot-swappable capability. Given that it takes 2 hours to charge the batteries, the longest uninterrupted gaming session you are going to be able to pack in is a bit over 3 hours.

The Bottom Line

The MSI VR ONE is absolutely the best "wireless" VR systems on the market. Of course it is nearly alone in this segment currently. It is also extremely expensive. The VR ONE is into that "If you have to ask, "How much?" then you can't afford it," territory. The VR ONE ranges from $1700 to $2300 on Amazon. The "6RE" model we used here today is listed on Amazon but the specs are not the same as that one has a GTX 1060 GPU. There is a "7RE" model on Amazon for $2100 that has a bit faster RAM than ours and a single 512GB M.2 SSD. If you are going to buy one of these, this would be the one I would suggest. Newegg lists these too, but at a bit steeper price point for the 7RE.

The VR ONE is obviously a "halo" type product that is not meant for a mass market. When MSI first showed the VR ONE off, I expected that it would be nothing more than a proof of concept, but MSI has pulled through and brought this to market. We are going to award the VR ONE our Gold Editor's Choice Award. Do be advised that this has nothing to do with "value," as it often the case with halo products that we review. These types of products help push the industry forward and show what can be designed and manufactured when companies want to go out on a limb. Kudos to MSI for doing so. And while the VR ONE is very much produced to be a VR gaming computer, it could also double as an extremely portable LAN gaming machine.

If nothing else, MSI has achieved one thing with the VR ONE, and that is truly showing us the overall value of wireless VR gaming and just how much of an even more amazing and even more immersive experience it is going to be.

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MSI VR ONE Wireless VR Gaming Computer

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