Does a laptop make your VR rig portable?

The first VR-Ready laptops barely deserved to be named as such. The hulking desktop replacements were difficult to take with you anywhere and didn't really have the battery life necessary to enjoy the experience. Times have changed, and now several manufacturers have thin, light laptops that can easily travel with you and handle VR with no problem.

This leaves a lot of people planning their VR playspaces with a fun new question — how easy is it to pack up and take your VR setup somewhere new? Can a VR setup become the center of a party when it's not at your house?

So many wires

Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

While it's easy to look at the PC as the most difficult part of moving a VR rig, that's usually not the case. We've seen portable VR PCs before, but a smaller laptop is clearly more convenient. With new thin options from Razer, Alienware, Dell, and others you get a single cable for power and everything you need to run an Oculus Rift on HTC Vive.

While neither solution is exactly plug and play, Rift is clearly the easier set up.

For an Oculus Rift, the biggest challenge is either making sure you have enough USB ports on your laptop or making sure you have a USB hub capable of handling the data from everything. While just an Oculus Rift will take up two USB ports and an HDMI port, adding Oculus Touch requires a third or a fourth USB port. The Oculus setup also places immediate focus on the laptop itself, unless you have USB extension cables so the laptop can be further away. There's a lot of flexibility in how you set a Rift up, but the more complex you get the more added wires and USB ports you have to think about in planning your play space.

Setting up an HTC Vive is more complex than a Rift out of the box, and requires separate power outlets for the individual lighthouses and the Sync box. This means wherever you decide to take your Vive needs to have a minimum of four available outlets so you can set everything up. Since nothing but the headset needs to be connected to the PC, the laptop can be considerably father from the play space without a lot of extra set up.

While neither solution is exactly plug and play, Rift is clearly the easier setup to pick and take somewhere quickly. If you've planned your setup at all, though, Vive will be easier to adjust to suit the needs of the space you are in.

The rules of portable VR

Vive Tracker

When most people think portable VR they think Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR, but with a backpack and a laptop you can take these more complex VR solutions just about anywhere. That doesn't mean you can use them anywhere, though. In fact, Vive and Rift both have some fairly rigid rules for use in various scenarios.

Don't try to set up outside — Both the Oculus Constellation system and the Vive Lighthouse system rely heavily on infrared light. This means playing outside during the day is next to impossible without a walled canopy to block out the light. Using either of these VR kits outside at night is also not advised, since IR interference can come from just about anywhere and ruin the experience.

It is technically possible to play outside at night, but you shouldn't count on it working every time.

Batteries are not your friend — No laptop battery is going to power through a VR experience. As a general rule, you're going to want to be near a reliable power source. Laptops are designed to throttle performance some when running on battery power even if configured to deliver optimal performance, and the amount of power consumed by running a VR app in a Rift or Vive is significant.

Your laptop battery will do just fine for most things, but do not rely on it for VR.

Rebuild your playspace every time — It doesn't matter if you're using Rift or Vive, every time you move your VR rig from one place to another your first step should be rebuilding the virtual boundaries in the playspace. Oculus calls this Guardian, Vive calls this Chaperone, and both keep you from accidentally punching walls and people.

Even if you usually play at home with the glowing grid turned off, step one outside of the home should always be to set up the playspace again.