In Arcadia, 25 miles east of Los Angeles at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains in California, the sun beats down at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, even in winter. But in the middle of a strip mall surrounded by cash-only ramen restaurants, inside the Dreamlab Technologies(Opens in a new window) LAN center, it remains cool and dark.
I’m at Dreamlab to test a pre-release ORB X(Opens in a new window), a $15,000 semi-enclosed gamer pod/workstation from Cooler Master. The unit is 6 by 6 feet, made of vacuum forming thermoplastic polymer and surrounded by an Addressable RGB (ARGB) LED strip that glows in heliotrope neon, like something out of a sci-fi series. It presents a unique take on the gaming chair, and could also appeal to traditional offices, if you can justify the cost. Here’s what to expect.
From Inside the ORB X
I get distinct Mork and Mindy vibes from the egg-like structure, but a quick glance around the LAN center and I am pretty sure a “Mork Calling Orson” reference wouldn’t fly there.
Once inside the ORB X cockpit, I flip manually through the various headrest and lumbar settings, using the remote controller to bring up the footrest on the ergonomic leather gaming chair. Meanwhile, the fully automated shuttle dome moves down toward me, shunting the 34-inch monitor into position in front of my face.
You can switch out the large screen for three 27-inch monitors, if you prefer, and the ORB X comes with HDMI cables that can support 4K resolution. By pressing down on the larger of the console buttons for 5 seconds, you can also save personal settings, so everything—including the monitor height—will be at your chosen specifications on subsequent sessions.
A mid-gameplay session of Apex Legends is paused on the monitor for me. I start hitting the W, S, A and D keys to hunt down villains on the horizon and get a feel for the ORB X as a gaming environment, which is encompassing yet not entirely isolating. The custom-built, 2.1 spatial audio system includes two full-range speakers and a subwoofer, so the immersive backdrop of surround sound is complete.
The Orb X Origin Story
Lucy Hung, Senior Marketing Manager at Cooler Master, flew in from the company’s Taipei HQ and joined me at Dreamlab Technologies to walk me through the inspiration and production process behind the ORB X.
I (reluctantly) exit the unit to let Ben, one of the company’s gaming specialists, take over on Apex Legends; see him in action in the video below.
“The Cooler Master ORB X was developed by the CMIMX team in Taiwan,” Hung explains. “This is a newly developed team at Cooler Master Technology with a mission to perfect and enhance the immersive experience for users through community-driven innovation and collaboration. By integrating hardware and software as well as incorporating next-gen technologies such as VR, AR, and haptics, we aim to take the overall user experience to the next level.”
The only thing I think is missing from the ORB X is advanced haptics, similar to the 4DX cinema experience. While actively gaming, or watching immersive entertainment, the ability to add to sensations through motion effects, like pitch and roll, would be welcome.
Hung says it’s on the Cooler Master production schedule. “We’re targeting 2023 for upgrades, including focusing on the haptic function of the recliner.”
While many manufacturers hire third-party design agencies to bring them the cool factor, Hung says this device was designed and developed solely in-house. It also appears to be part of a larger vision to get Cooler Master from a PC DIY company into more of the tech lifestyle category.
Specs, Price, and Customization
If your tech lifestyle can run to $15,499, you can pre-order the ORB X this month. But that’s the price for the station only. If you want customization, or added complexity in the setup, the price will go up.
Current customization focuses on the shell color (Universe Black or Arctic White) and gaming chair (brown or black), with lead times depending on the level of complexity. The ARGB also has eight mode effects.
(Credit: Cooler Master)
Unsurprisingly, the ORB X weighs 757.3 pounds (532 kg) so make sure your floors can take it. And as anyone who has sat with their laptop on their legs for too long, overheating is always a concern when it comes to electronics. As befits the company name, this is something Cooler Master feels qualified to solve.
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“As a master in cooling solutions, we also applied cooling in the hidden compartment to avoid overheating issues [and] ensure the optimal performance of the system placed inside the compartment,” Hung says. “The ORB X has a two-year warranty, which covers all electrical parts, except for the consumables such as MR16 immersive lights. Repairs will be done by a third party while repair parts will be provided by Cooler Master.”
Unlike closed pod workstation designs, which often have a lack of ventilation, the ORB X feels expansive and airy inside, and yet protected from the outside quotidian world while one is engaged in pursuing alternate realities. Hung says Cooler Master conducts multiple focus groups of experienced gamers in its product process to achieve something the pros want to use.
Pods in Basements…and Future Workplaces?
Starting at $15,000, it’s likely that ORB X will mostly be installed inside particularly fortunate, pro-level gamer lairs, though I could see it having potential in offices or as an in-home working pod.
I can picture myself writing assignments inside the ORB X, doing video interviews and chatting with friends, then reclining back and perhaps watching a movie after clocking out for the day. During the demo, Ben admits that he can spend all day playing games inside the ORB X and “never wants to leave.” I can see why.
Ben tries out the ORB X (Credit: S.C. Stuart)
The ORB X would look terrifically futuristic in an open plan office. After all, since COVID, many companies have reconfigured their workspaces to provide physical distancing options for employees. Gensler, which designs high-end spaces for clients including Boston Consulting and Verizon, recently cited(Opens in a new window) psychological safety as a factor in the future of workspaces.
Pod-like structures may be able(Opens in a new window) to provide this. When people feel enclosed and safe, the fight or flight fear response is deactivated in the brain, noradrenaline is not released, and we operate at a higher state of efficiency, according to Japanese researchers(Opens in a new window).
Though the ORB X has open sides, the curved monitor, overhead dome, and semi-enclosed outer casing provide an illusion of privacy and safety. Whether that’s worth $15,000 remains to be seen, but it may be one way for businesses to get their employees back into the office. If you’re buying this on your own, though, you’ll need money to spare and some strong floorboards.
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The post Inside Cooler Master’s $15K ORB X Pod for Gamers (and Open Office Haters) first appeared on www.pcmag.com