We’ve all been there: We’re in VR but we’re stuck in our living room and unable to take our metaverse experience to the local coffee shop. (Have we all been here? And are we certain we want to go? -Ed)
Zotac’s VR GO 4.0 backpack PC is hoping to change that. It’s a full-blown workstation-slash-mobile gaming PC in a backpack form factor. As its name implies, it’s the fourth generation of Zotac’s wearable PCs. It’s essentially a slim PC with a desktop GPU that you can strap to your back. It can sit on your desk like a regular computer, then be unplugged for on-the-go VR gaming. It even includes hot-swappable batteries and an RTX GPU to boot. The VR Headset is sold separately, of course.
What Zotac has done here is build a small form factor (SFF) PC, then attached it to a wearable harness. It’s also added the ability unplug it so it runs on battery power, though you won’t be spending hours in the metaverse. The 6000mAh battery is only rated for 50 minutes of playtime. Thankfully it comes with a second hot-swappable battery, but carrying around extra batteries is probably not enjoyable. You can buy as many extra batteries as you like though, but it’s unclear how much they cost. A similar battery for the 2.0 version costs $149.
Despite its form factor it seems like a pretty decent gaming PC, albeit with some unexpected components. For example it has an 11th Gen Tiger Lake Core i7-11800H CPU, which is a 45W mobile part. Why Zotac didn’t go for an Alder Lake part is a mystery. The GPU is weird though; it’s an Nvidia RTX a4500 “professional” Ampere card with 16GB of VRAM. We reached out to Zotac about why it chose this particular GPU, but didn’t hear back. Suffice to say it’s a very strange inclusion in a product marketed towards gamers. This is the kind of GPU you use to run professional compute applications, not Beat Saber. The company is also offering the same solution in a new SFF workstation. This may be a configuration the company settled on for several projects — the workstation has the same specs as the VR GO, but isn’t mounted in a harness.
Other specs include 16GB of DDR4 SO-DIMM memory, a 512GB M.2 SSD, Wi-Fi 6e and all the usual connectivity options. It allows expansion via USB and has HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.4 for desktop duty. Naturally, it also has RGB lights because you need that on a PC you wear on your back. It’s great for battery life, after all.
Overall, this is a weird product from Zotac. The marketing copy it included with it is PR word salad about breaking boundaries and envisioning new experiences. In other words, the same old metaverse bollocks we’ve heard before. It even includes bizarre mentions of “boosting data science model training” and running engineering simulations. We’re kind of baffled by it, to be honest. It’s also hard for us to envision a scenario where we’d want to use a VR headset in an environment other than a spacious living room. Oh, and did we mention it weighs 11lbs? Due to its size Zotac includes a metal support frame and a support strap that goes around your waist. Suffice to say, you will know you are wearing this thing despite its reported “all day comfort.” Perhaps it’s a good thing the battery only lasts 50 minutes.