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In brief: Most people have likely forgotten about PC makers' attempts to deliver high-end mobile VR in backpacks, but Zotac never gave up on the idea. The recent launch of the fourth-generation VR Go system suggests the product has at least found a viable niche.
Zotac's VR Go 4.0 backpack PC, which the company initially revealed at Computex last year, is now available in some markets. Although pricing and availability details haven't appeared in the US yet, UK sellers currently offer (link possibly blocked for non-EU IP addresses) one of two SKUs for £3,699, equivalent to about $4,688, headset not included.
The only difference between the new models is the GPU. The prior VR Go 3.0 used an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070, but both VR Go 4.0 SKUs switched to professional Ampere cards – the A2000 and A4500 – signifying a pivot from gamers toward developers and other enterprise customers.
Additionally, the CPU, storage, and connectivity received significant upgrades compared to the last generation. Zotac's new product comes with Windows 11 Pro, runs on an Intel Core i7-11800H, includes a 512GB NVMe SSD (the company doesn't say which PCIe generation), and features additional USB 3.0 ports. Users can add extra SATA-based storage and expand the DDR4 memory from the default 16GB to 32GB.
The hardware is fairly high-end by most standards, especially for a mobile system, so users shouldn't expect extremely long battery life. Unsurprisingly, the two included batteries only provide about 50 minutes of gameplay, but they are hot-swappable and upgradeable. Furthermore, like other backpack PCs, the device can be detached from the straps and used on a desk like a conventional micro desktop tower.
Zotac, along with other companies like HP and MSI, started launching backpack PCs for mobile VR gaming in the mid-2010s during the initial boom in interest for VR and AR. Their high prices on top of the centerpiece headsets kept them from mass adoption, but Zotac's VR Go series may have found a sustainable professional user base.
Moreover, the fundamental idea isn't too dissimilar from the experience Apple is trying to provide with its upcoming Vision Pro. The Cupertino Giant's so-called "Spatial Computer," however, will be more compact hardware emphasizing AR over VR. That said, it will still cost thousands of dollars and require an external battery strapped to the user, possibly presenting the same obstacles the earlier backpack PCs faced unless Apple's brand name and software ecosystem make the difference.