Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite Overview

JT JT 16 May 2020
Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite Overview

How well does VR perform on different laptops, and what do you need to get set up? I’ve got the VIVE Cosmos Elite from HTC and we’ll go through what’s needed to play VR on a laptop and also see how games perform with different laptop specs.

First let’s get an idea of what the Cosmos Elite comes with, as this will be useful in understanding what your laptop requires. There’s a lot inside the box, including the headset, two base stations, two controllers, five power adapters, and the cables to connect to your PC.Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite Overview Two of the power adapters are used to charge the controllers over micro USB, so there’s one for each. Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite OverviewThe other three power adapters are for the headset and two base stations.Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite Overview The base stations get set up diagonally over the play area, and they have threaded mounts on them which attach to standard mounting solutions like tripods, I’ve got mine attached to some light stands. Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite OverviewThere are wall mounts included if you want to permanently mount the base stations to the wall though.

The headset has a single cable coming out of it, and this connects into the included adapter. Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite OverviewThe adapter has a full size DisplayPort and USB 3 Type-A cable which you connect to your PC, or in this case, our laptop. Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite OverviewThe adapter also connects to one of the power adapters, which is how the headset gets powered through the single cable.

Full size DisplayPort on laptops is much more rare compared to desktop graphics cards though, however there’s a DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort adapter included in the box, which works well for laptops as mini DisplayPort is far more common.Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite Overview Lately, DisplayPort over Type-C seems to be becoming much more common with the majority of laptops these days, unfortunately there was no type-c adapter included in the box, however I bought a cheap Type-C to mini DisplayPort adapter from the Internet. Unfortunately it didn’t work with the MSI P65, as its Type-C port isn’t wired directly to the Nvidia graphics, so I get an error saying to connect the headset to a port that connects to the Nvidia GPU, and this is why I’ve started noting this in my laptop reviews.

You can check this in the Nvidia control panel, where we can see the Type-C connection goes to the Intel graphics.Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite Overview I did the majority of my testing using the MSI P65, as it’s got a mini DisplayPort and fair specs, but we’ll test some lower powered laptops too.Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite Overview Once it’s all plugged in the setup process was quite easy, the Vive software walks you through the basics very well. I played some half life alyx for my first VR experience, and apart from the fact that VR takes gaming to a whole new level, the RTX 2070 Max-Q in the P65 had zero issues running the game at maximum settings.

This isn’t really going to be a review of the VIVE cosmos elite given it’s my first VR experience at home, so I’ve got nothing to compare it with, but yeah I will say once it was all set up it was definitely fun getting into the available VR games.

At the moment when you buy the Cosmos slite it comes with a 6-month subscription to VIVEPORT, which has about 900 available VR games for you to play.

Anyway let’s get into some benchmarks, I’ve only been able to test the laptops that I’ve currently got on hand at the moment, but let me know in the comments if you want to see VR testing added into future laptop reviews, and if so, what tests or games as I’m still learning the ways of VR.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the Cosmos Elite headset has a total resolution of 2880 by 1700 pixels with a 90Hz refresh rate, so other options with smaller resolutions may be easier to maintain higher FPS with lower tier hardware. In terms of the minimum required specs, this is what we’re looking at. I’d expect most modern laptop processors to be ok based on this, but we’ll test some different options soon. The GPU will likely matter more given our high resolution.

It’s worth noting that these are desktop graphics cards listed hereLaptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite OverviewThe laptop counterparts are notably behind in power limits and thereby performance. Given the 1660 Ti in a laptop is around a 1660 desktop, I’d think a 1660 Ti laptop should be ok for VR.

We’ll start off by looking at the OpenVR benchmark results. I’m still learning VR testing, but it seems like a tool such as this is going to be the best way to compare data fairly. Unlike a traditional game, VR introduces more variance between test runs. When you’re trying to collect data and perform the same test pass, things like where you’re standing in the world, how you move and even subtle head movements are all picked up and affect results. Even if I’m able to get the same test run locked in run to run, it’s not really something someone else can compare against, so I haven’t measured frame rate in games.

With that said, I did have some inconsistencies when running the OpenVR benchmark test multiple times, so I’m not sure how accurate it will be for comparison, but these are the numbers I got with three different laptops and results are averaged over three runs. Laptop VR Testing + VIVE Cosmos Elite OverviewNow the way this benchmark outputs FPS does not represent what FPS you actually get playing games, basically ignore the numbers in terms of being anything useful and only use them for comparison instead, just consider them as benchmark scores rather than frame rates.

For some more real world anecdotal experience, I had no issues playing half life alyx at max settings on the P65 or the Y530 with GTX 1060, however the 5500M in the Alpha 15 didn’t go well for me. Even if I used minimum settings it would lag, sometimes it was fine and playable, the lag would come and go, but overall it wasn’t offering a good experience, and the OpenVR benchmark did put it in last place out of these machines.

Games could also be hard to test because they might cap out at 90 FPS, matching the 90Hz refresh rate of the headset. I’d love it if you guys could let me know how you want to see VR tested in future laptop reviews, please let me know.

I like that OpenVR benchmark actually requires a headset to run unlike other tools, it’s not perfect, but testing actual games seems to have it’s own challenges too. I can of course play them and tell you how I thought it ran, but I’d prefer to get hard numbers, but as mentioned that’s going to be hard to do accurately.

The Vive cosmos elite with it’s higher headset resolution should also make it good for testing with. Again I haven’t tested other headsets, but in Half life alyx I thought it looked great.

In terms of price though, it’s on the higher end of the spectrum at $900 USD for my friends overseas, or $1700 AUD here in Australia. Given I haven’t had a chance to test lower end options out, it’s really difficult for me to say how well the Cosmos elite stacks up, but again this is not a review, just a first look at VR and how I might be able to incorporate testing into future reviews.

Anyway let me know in the comments if you want to see VR testing added to future laptop reviews, and if so let me know any suggestions you’ve got for VR testing so that I can improve this.

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