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MSI VR One

High-end gaming in the backpack. Finally, no more cables: This is MSI's goal with the brand-new virtual reality backpack. We were one of the first editorial offices to have a closer look at the promising concept. (ad)

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Hardly any topic was hotter than virtual reality (or short VR) in the technology industry in 2016. While Sony is focusing on Playstation VR for its current console, there is a battle between the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive in the desktop segment. We already had the chance to test the latter in combination with the performance giant MSI GT83VR (see link).

All VR platforms so far – notebooks or classic tower PCs – always had problems with a lot of cables. VR contents require power supply as well as enormous amounts of data. This is hard to realize without cables, so virtual reality products and their buyers currently have to live with this limitation. This is were backpacks like the MSI VR One come into play. They reduce the distance between the HMD (head mounted display) and the computer and therefore ensure more mobility. This will then increase the feel of immersion, which is particularly important for VR.

There are also corresponding solutions from other manufacturers by now, but VR One is currently the lightest, most affordable and most compact version. Priced at 2,800 Euros, other solutions are beaten by at least 500 Euros – despite the fact that MSI includes more powerful components (more storage, faster CPU). No manufacturer includes an HMD and it has to be purchased separately. Great: The VR One provides ports for both the HTC Vive as well as the Oculus Rift and many other 3D glasses.
Top: MSI offers a special cable that supports HTC Vive and Occulus Rift at a perfectly fitting lenght of 90 cm.

MSI VR One
Processor
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop) - 8192 MB, Core: 1543 MHz, Memory: 4200 MHz, GDDR5, ForceWare 372.73
Memory
16384 MB 
, DDR4-2400, 2x 8 GB, Dual Channel, up to 32 GB
Mainboard
Intel HM170 (Skylake PCH-H)
Storage
,  GB 
, Samsung SSD SM961 MZVKW512HMJP-00000, m.2 PCIe 3.0 x4, 512 GB
Soundcard
Realtek ALC899 @ Intel Sunrise Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
4 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 USB 3.1 Gen2, 1 Thunderbolt, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, Audio Connections: Headphones, microphone, Power connection for HMD
Networking
Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1535 Wireless Network Adapter (b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.1
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 60 x 403 x 292 ( = 2.36 x 15.87 x 11.5 in)
Battery
91.66 Wh, 6365 mAh Lithium-Ion, removeable, 8 cells each, 580 grams each, hot-swap
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit
Additional features
230-Watt power adapter, backpack strap, quick-start guide, warranty information, recovery information, several manufacturer tools, 24 Months Warranty
Weight
3.6 kg ( = 126.99 oz / 7.94 pounds), Power Supply: 778 g ( = 27.44 oz / 1.72 pounds)
Price
2800 EUR
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case & Connectivity

The first thing you will notice after the unboxing is the striking design. The backpack reminds us more of a futuristic jet pack than an object to carry things around. Following its color and design language, MSI uses stylish shapes and black surfaces with red accents (more precisely red fan exhausts). Even though carrying a backpack is pretty strange at first, you will hardly notice the »companion« at all once you put up the VR headset.

The system weighs 3.6 kilograms according to the manufacturer, and it does not feel too heavy on your back. Without the strap (it can also be used stationary thanks to the solid bottom plate), we only measured 3.4 kilograms. The two 8-cell batteries alone tip the scale at 1.2 kilograms (91.66 Wh or 6365 mAh each).

They are supposed to ensure 1.5 hours of VR experience and can be easily changed during operation (hot-swap). This allows endless VR experience.

It is also possible to attach the backpack to a socket. The provided power adapter has a rated output of 230 Watts. MSI is also offering an additional set of batterys as well as an additional charger for unlimited VR experience.

Hot-Swap: Batteries can be easily changed during operation what allows endless VR experience!
Hot-Swap: Batteries can be easily changed during operation what allows endless VR experience!

Looking at the ports, we can find similarities to a conventional laptop. Four USB 3.0 ports are just as generous as three digital video outputs including HDMI 2.0, Mini-DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3, which is available via USB 3.1 Type-C Gen.2 (also supports other ports). The package is rounded off with two stereo jacks (headphones, microphone) and a power connector for head mounted displays. MSI specifies the dimensions with 403 x 292 x 54-60 millimeters. This is surprisingly thin for a backpack, and we actually expected a thicker system.

Components & Software

MSI only uses high-end components to meet the high requirements for virtual reality. The processor is the Core i7-6820HK, which is usually running with clocks between 2.7-3.6 GHz under load, but it reaches up to 3.7 GHz thanks to the default factory overclocking (more on that later).

The graphics card is also overclocked by default. Instead of 1443-1645 MHz (core) or 4000 MHz (memory), respectively, the GeForce GTX 1070 reaches 1543-1745 and 4200 MHz. Those clocks can even be further increased via Dragon Center (see screenshots below) if necessary. Speaking of Dragon Center: MSI equips the central software with an additional function called »VR Ready«, which will automatically optimize the system when you use an HMD.

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But back to the hardware. CPU and GPU are accompanied by 16 GB DDR4-RAM (2400 MHz) via two 8 GB modules in a dual-channel configuration. Storage is provided by a 512 GB m.2-SSD from Samsung (SM961) attached via the extremely fast PCIe interface. Network connections can be established wirelessly. The Killer module 1535 supports all common WLAN standards (including ac) as well as Bluetooth 4.1 and was specifically developed for gamers. MSI does not make any compromises in terms of operating system, either: The system is shipped with Windows 10 Pro.

Performance

Before we get to the performance, we start with a quick look at the clock behavior. Even though the two fans stay pretty quiet in common 3D scenarios (medium CPU load, high GPU load), the components run at full speed. This is guaranteed by MSI's "Cooler Boost Titan" cooling solution that includes a total of 9 heatpipes and two fans.

The Core i7-6820HK always maintains its predefined Turbo of 3.7 GHz, even when you stress all cores simultaneously. The GeForce GTX 1070 also reaches pretty high clocks. We saw up to 2000 MHz (core) in the GPU-Z Render Test, so the GPU Boost is fully utilized. The Pascal chip leveled off at around 1650 MHz in the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark, which is still a good result.

Maximum performance...
Maximum performance...
...at low GPU...
...at low GPU...
...and CPU temperatures.
...and CPU temperatures.

The Core i7-6820HK is performing on a desktop level thanks to the overclocking. Example Cinebench R15: 158 points Single-Core rendering and 793 points Multi-Core rendering, which is similar to the Core i7-6700. Standard notebooks with the Core i7-6700HQ are clearly beaten.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit
Schenker XMG U727
Intel Core i7-6700
166 Points ∼100% +5%
MSI VR One
Intel Core i7-6820HK
158 Points ∼95%
MSI GS63VR-6RF16H22 Stealth Pro
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
139 Points ∼84% -12%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Schenker XMG U727
Intel Core i7-6700
817 Points ∼100% +3%
MSI VR One
Intel Core i7-6820HK
793 Points ∼97%
MSI GS63VR-6RF16H22 Stealth Pro
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
667 Points ∼82% -16%
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
158 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
793 Points
Help

The storage device manages excellent performance results as well. As expected for a PCIe-SSD, we can see sequential transfer rates of more than 1000 MB/s or even 2000 MB/s. The 512 GB version of the Samsung SM961 is also pretty fast with small files, so loading times are short and applications or the system, respectively, will launch very quickly.

Sequential Read: 2196 MB/s
Sequential Write: 1609 MB/s
512K Read: 419.4 MB/s
512K Write: 1475 MB/s
4K Read: 54.78 MB/s
4K Write: 162.3 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 637.3 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 523.1 MB/s

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1070 with 8 GB GDDR5-VRAM is not only very future-proof, but also offers plenty of performance. 17126 points in 3DMark 11 and 13696 points in the 3DMark Fire Strike test could also be the result of a gaming PC or comparable high-end notebook (like the MSI GT62VR, for instance, which is very far at the top of our Gaming Ranking). Systems with the much less expensive GTX 1060 are also VR-ready on paper, but passionate gamers should at least get the GTX 1070.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance
MSI VR One
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
17126 Points ∼100%
MSI GT62VR-6RE16H21
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
15492 Points ∼90% -10%
MSI GS63VR-6RF16H22 Stealth Pro
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop)
12411 Points ∼72% -28%
3DMark - 1920x1080 Fire Strike Score
MSI VR One
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
13696 Points ∼100%
MSI GT62VR-6RE16H21
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
12317 Points ∼90% -10%
MSI GS63VR-6RF16H22 Stealth Pro
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop)
9704 Points ∼71% -29%
3DMark 11 Performance
17126 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
13696 points
Help

Practical Impressions

Similar to the VR article of the MSI GT83VR, we performed our practical tests with the HTC Vive, which retails for about 900 Euros. The biggest advantage of the Oculus Rift competitor is the practical and comfortable controller, which ensures better interactivity compared to common gamepads. That the VR One can definitely justify its existence is apparent after the initial attempts. While the connection cables from notebooks or desktop start to be very annoying after a couple of minutes (cables get tangled, you trip or pull out the cables by accident), the backpack ensures that you can move around more freely.

All tested scenarios – starting with videos and games all the way up to other virtual reality experiments – always ran smoothly thanks to the powerful components. Our subjective impression is supported by the SteamVR Performance Test, which shows a very good result for the backpack. If you like fresh experiences, virtual reality will be the right thing for you. It does not matter if you play entertaining (mini) games like »The Lab«, »Waltz of the Wizard«, »Trials on Tatooine«, »Surgeon Simulator VR«, and »Accounting« or watch emotional short movies like »Allumette« or use education applications »The Body VR« or »VR Museum of Fine Art«: The range of possibilities and different scenarios (entertainment, medicine, education, …) seems limitless. MSI actually takes a leading role in this respect.

Verdict

MSI VR One
MSI VR One

MSI's VR One is a convincing product and a successful backpack debut. The system is neither particularly thick nor heavy, despite the excellent performance. Other manufacturers that want to offer a similar concept in the future will definitely be challenged by the VR One, which also works as a desktop platform where you can attach your display, keyboard and mouse. The VR One is also surprisingly quiet for a high-end gaming system, so you can fully focus on the gaming experience. Virtual reality fans that do not want to be limited to the desk or cables, respectively, can therefore have a look at the backpack computer.

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