MSI VR ONE - Wireless VR Backpack Review

Author:Kyle Bennett

Date: Thursday , June 15, 2017

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.

HardOCP VR Performance Testing

As you might know, we spent a lot of time last year looking at VR gaming performance when it comes to video cards. Since last year there has been very little movement in terms of VR and GPU performance. However we did have the introduction of the AMD Radeon RX 580, which had a bit better showing in terms of VR performance. We also spent some time in March of this year looking at VR performance in the CPU realm as well while reviewing the Ryzen 7 CPU.

But while figuring out the VR performance hierarchy has cooled down somewhat, niche products like the MSI VR One surely interest us. We have been asking for a VR ONE since September of 2016, and we finally got our hands on one, and of course wondering what kind of VR gaming performance it supplies.

What is the MSI VR ONE?

If you head over the MSI VR ONE 6RE page on MSI's site, you might not be sure of what you are looking at. However, a little more poking around at MSI's pages will finally net you a bit of verbiage as to what MSI thinks the VR ONE is.

MSI VR One is the world’s lightest and thinnest backpack PC system with high performance ( which beats other competitors ) . We have made many game publishers impressed since this product’s debut from September 2016, re-defining a whole new era of VR history.

The gist of this niche product is that instead of hooking your HTC Vive VR system into a stationary desktop or laptop computer, you plug your HMD into the MSI VR ONE and then strap the VR ONE onto your back. This forgoes you having any wires tethering you to that stationary computer. This greatly frees up your movement and also leaves you without any wires to step or trip on. For all intents and purposes, the MSI VR ONE is a laptop without a screen or keyboard, but that is oversimplifying it quite a bit.

I refer to this as a "niche product" mainly due to the cost associated with it. There are several different models, ranging from $1700 to $2300 in cost. The barrier to entry on price alone is the reason I refer to this product as serving a niche market. While you could jump through some hoops and use it for things other than VR, it is truly a standalone "wireless" VR device, however it certainly could double as a very portable LAN gaming computer.

MSI VR ONE pricing is based on different hardware specifications, with the biggest differentiators being, GPU, CPU, and Storage options. The unit VR ONE that we are using here for testing today is the high end $2300 Model 6RE. It has a Kaby Lake Core i7-7820HK Intel processor (3.9GHz Turbo) with 16GB of 2166MHz DDR4, dual M.2 storage drives in it, and it also has the latest GTX 1070 mobile processor in it. Our VR ONE is an engineering sample so it has a 7th gen processor in it instead of the spec 6th gen shown on retail units.

Our MSI VR ONE showed up in shipped in retail packaging. This is a review unit so it has been passed around a little but everything was still in very good shape and well packed. The box is usual fare for MSI packaging and the back is full of marketing points as you might expect on a system like this.

That said, the box was not for the VR ONE model that we received, in fact it was for the "GT83VR" which is actually an MSI laptop. So I guess what I am saying is that I have no idea what your would show up looking like if you bought one! In fact I did not even realize this till I was writing up the review.

The first thing I noticed taking the unit out of the box was just how light it is. This of course is a good thing, then I realized it did not have the batteries installed. The two big cut-outs you see on the side of the unit are where the twin batteries slide in and lock into place firmly. From there you get the harness, which are simply backpack straps. These seem to be very well made and sturdy. What is left in the box is the charger for the unit and the batteries.

Above you see the VR ONE with the batteries installed. The second picture above shows the structure of the unit that fits against your back while you are wearing it. The lattice keeps the unit component casing from ever actually touching you and it provides a layer of air circulation between your back and the VR ONE. From this point, you simply need to install the backpack straps which is very simply just buckling those into place.

In the pictures above, you can see the areas of the unit that are a red metal mesh materiel. This is of course to allow airflow. Since the VR ONE is not just a laptop with straps, MSI got to design much more cooling into the unit. Being that I know MSI wants this unit back in one piece, I did not take it apart, but I did take this screen grab from its site to give you an idea of how the cooling works. We have two blower type fans that intake cool air at the top of the back, and then exhaust "sideways" through a set of finned heatsinks that use a heatpipe system. One side of the cooling system is for GPU while the other side is for CPU. The two cooling systems are independent.