In my last post, I wrote up a hugely detailed, massively excited post about how I had meticulously analyzed and chosen a new laptop for all of my on-the-go virtual reality needs: the MSI 14″ Phantom seemed like a perfect choice for my requirements, and I was happily awaiting a 2-day delivery from Amazon. Wednesday rolled around – no laptop.
The following day was Thanksgiving, so I ate some turkey and sent off a question to customer service about the laptop status. I’m not proud of how obsessive I was over tracking, or how annoying I was to the customer service team, but the TL;DR of the story is that the laptop went missing on the first day of shipment, and it took Amazon two weeks to refund me. At the 10 day mark, I ordered a replacement Phantom from Newegg with 2-day shipping from ShopRunner.
After an additional one-day delay, my Phantom arrived this Saturday. After the initial disappointment in how long it took to get my hands on it, I felt a little less than thrilled with the laptop, and wrestled with the decision whether to keep it or not.
I’m going to admit that, in retrospect, I’ve made the mistake of buying a laptop that I didn’t try before: in 2012, I bought a Sony VAIO computer that I wasn’t a fan of, but was then given a Samsung Ultrabook as an intern gift at Microsoft and passed on the VAIO to my mom. The next laptop that I purchased was my MBP in 2014, and I’ve gotten used to that solid, nearly-indestructible feel that a well-engineered computer tends to have.
I spent a little bit of time getting the Phantom closer to how I wanted it personalized, but hit a number of small roadblocks. The whole computer, despite it’s size, felt kind of flimsy and had a lot of flexibility in the keyboard, which I didn’t like given my tendency to type like I’m using mechanical switches regardless of the actual KB type. The keyboard was lit with single-color LEDs, something that I would have been okay with had I read the full specifications and looked at it ahead of time, but hadn’t been expecting. It felt heavier than I had wanted, given the size, and the screen size didn’t cut it for me: at 14″, it was larger than I was expecting, and I had this feeling that it wasn’t exactly the type of hardware I wanted.
Trying to set up my Rift last night was what decided it for me: there were only 2 USB ports on the Phantom, which meant that it if I wanted to take my Rift & Touch controllers somewhere, I’d have to bring a USB hub with me. That was kind of the straw that decided it for me – kind of a “death by a million paper cuts” type deal – and I swung by Best Buy this morning to try out the MSI Stealth Pro.
At 15.6″, the Stealth Pro was larger than I thought I’d end up with, but added less than a quarter of a pound to the total weight, with a slimmer profile and more solid-feeling build than the Phantom. The increased screen size had a nicer bevel around it, making it feel sleeker overall. There are 4 USB ports, which means that adding in Touch support to a travel setup will be a breeze, and I won’t have to carry around additional hubs.
The keyboard and mouse are still just a little “soft” for my liking, but to get the keyboard feel that I look for, I don’t think there’s any replacement for my blue switches and it’s still a trade-off for portability. Both laptops have the same storage space and RAM, but I’ve noticed that the Stealth Pro feels just a bit smoother than the Phantom, after reformatting and installing Win 10 Enterprise. Plus, the keys change color!
I think that it will honestly be a couple of years before my “dream VR laptop” comes to market, but I’m really pleased with the decision to go with the MSI Stealth Pro over the Phantom for the phase of my development process. I can’t wait to take it through the full setup process and start developing on it – it’s been quite an adventure to get here, but I’m absolutely psyched to start bringing desktop VR on the go!