Hands on: XMG Walker review

The first VR backpack PC to market may be the best yet

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

XMG is the first VR backpack PC you can actually buy, and it's already looking to be better than all the rest.

For

  • Lightweight
  • Keeps cool during play
  • Hot-swappable batteries
  • Ready for larger scale VR

Against

  • Mighty pricey
  • Only available in Europe

Virtual reality (VR) has inspired a ton of exciting, new PC designs, but the coolest development has to be the backpack PC. We've tried out several already from likes of HP, MSI and even Zotac, but none of them are available yet or have a release date in sight.

Now, the big leaguers have some catching up to do. XMG, a German custom PC builder (owned by Schenker) similar to Origin in the US and Overclockers in the UK, has made the first VR backpack PC available right now, dubbed the XMG Walker, and it's looking to be the best of the lot yet.

That's why it pains us greatly to report that it's only available in Europe for the foreseeable future, not to mention it asks for a lofty €4,799 (about $5,371, £4,040, AU$7,115). But, for the cash-flush European or importer out there, it might be worth the premium.

XMG walker

A lightweight (and cool) design

When we tried on the HP Omen VR Backpack PC a little while back, we commended it for its lightweight feel. That was before we tried on the XMG Walker.

The Walker weighs less than 3kg (6.6 pounds). That's almost half the weight of HP's 10-pound solution, and it's all thanks to a couple factors.

First, XMG opted to mill the Walker out of just one sheet of metal, which is what separates the internals from the detachable padding that holds the straps. The rest of the device is framed in a lightweight plastic.

XMG Walker

Second, the Walker likely doesn't last as long as its competitors. Whereas the HP Omen can last up to an hour on a charge, the Walker taps out in just 45 minutes on average.

However, the Walker can house not one, but two 99.36 Watt-hour lithium-ion batteries at once, allowing players to hot swap indefinitely with a third or fourth battery. (The unit comes with two batteries in the box, plus the charging cradle, and you can buy more separately for an undisclosed price.)

The way XMG sees it, we're told, is who is going to game in mobile VR – HTC Vive only, natch – for longer than an hour or so? For those that will, they have the option to hot swap to their heart's content, as the batteries charge in less than 90 minutes.

XMG Walker

While playing a game of HoloPoint using the XMG Walker, it felt even lighter than the bag we're lugging around the IFA 2016 show floor. But, better yet, it felt much cooler to the touch than, say, HP Omen device that nearly singed us recently. (Oh, and the GTX 1070 inside worked beautifully, unsurprisingly.)

That might have to do with the Walker's capacious output vents on both of its sides.

What's inside of it?

XMG equipped the Walker with an Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics chip and an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, paired with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 250GB SSD. If you want more memory or storage than that, the Walker can support up to twice as much RAM and up to 4TB of SSD storage via two DIMMS and two M.2 slots, respectively.

XMG Walker

On the connectivity front, the Walker houses three USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB-C port, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.3, a Gigabit Ethernet port. Meanwhile, wireless connectivity includes 802.11ac and a Bluetooth 4.2 radio.

And, just like HP's own VR backpack PC, the Walker can be removed from its straps and used like any other PC with high-end gaming laptop-grade power.

Early verdict

XMG may have beaten several of its rivals not only to the punch with the Walker, but also in terms of design. The lighter and cooler the better is the name of this little game in the VR space, and the Walker has got plenty of it.

XMG Walker

However, it's mighty expensive, so much so that, while XMG is offering the Walker to anyone willing to shell out for it, the company has VR game developers squarely in mind with this product. If this is indicative of what its rivals might charge for their backpack PCs, mobile high-end VR will be the most enthusiast piece of gaming hardware you can find.

Still, the Walker's lightweight design and smart strategy surrounding battery life has us chomping at the bit to test it out fully.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.