Portable power: Venom Blackbook 13 Zero review
This stylish, powerful, no-frills laptop has got it where it counts.
- Very fast
- Very solid
- Good value
- Great hard disk configuration
- No 3D performance
- No touchscreen
- Fingerprint magnet
The fastest ultraportable laptop we've tested. Great for anyone wanting portable power without all the bells and whistles.
Price$ 1,799.00 (AUD)
Venom is a Melbourne based laptop company that’s making waves around the world. Unlike other local systems integrators, venom sells the same-specified laptops internationally so you can buy them anywhere knowing you’re getting the same device. The Blackbook 13 Zero is a straight laptop - there’s no fancy touch-screen or tablet mode (or myriad other things that can go wrong). It’s just a laptop. But there’s more to it than that.
Currently, even the major brands change specs according to what regional product managers think the local markets would prefer and even then, what’s inside can vary according to what deal got struck by the manufacturers. RAM, for instance, could be one cheap brand in one batch and another brand in another. Venom, on the other hand, makes an effort to stick with quality components and detailing exactly what’s inside each laptop when you buy it, so you’re far more likely to get high quality. Venom says they do this because using quality components dramatically cuts down on high support costs. They’ve got a point.
There are some thoughtful component choices. The Blackbook, has two hard disks - a blistering fast Samsung 256GB NVMe SSD for speed and a 2.5-inch mechanical 500GB unit for storage, this keeps the cost down while keeping the speed and capacity up. Other components are high-end too. The Skylake processor is a 2.3GHz i5-6200U and this is flanked by single stick of 8GB DDR3L (low voltage) RAM. However, there’s no discrete Graphics chip - this isn’t a gaming laptop, it’s designed to be a very fast, ultraportable, traditional laptop. The benchmarks bear this out.
The components combined to reach a PC Mark 8 score of 3,074. This makes it one of the fastest laptops we’ve tested (certainly among ultraportables) – better than an i7 Skylake refresh of Dell’s XPS 13 (2,720), Microsoft SurfaceBook (2,744) and HP Spectre x2 (2,385). Much of this is down to the high-quality Samsung MZVPV256 NVMe hard disk. We ran CrystalBench on the system and got these blistering results:
Basically, if you’re wanting a very-portable, high-performance laptop for non-3D applications, this fits the bill.
We ran 3D Mark anyway but the rather tragic score of 628 in Fire Strike, courtesy of the Intel HD Graphics 520 chip, demonstrates that you won’t be doing much beyond casual gaming on this notebook.
The 13.3-inch IPS, (non-reflective) matte, screen has the Full HD resolution of 1920x1080. It gets bright and yet colours remain vibrant (the screen is quoted as supporting a higher-than-usual-for-laptops 72% of the NTSC colour gamut). Viewing angles are all very good, especially vertically where there was very little image degradation.
The stereo speakers are a bit weak though. Sound comes out of two slots on the base - right where many people would rest it on their thighs. This means that the not-very-loud speakers can easily get even more muffled. There’s very little bass to speak of.
The keyboard is a back-lit Scrabble-tile affair and it’s very solid and comfortable to type on. The Page Up/Down keys are half size (as is common these days) but the other major keys are all a good size and comfortable to use.
The touchpad is responsive and compatible with two-finger gestures (not the full gamut of Windows 10, multi-touch gestures).
Connectivity and other features
On the left-hand side, at the rear, is a USB 2 port and an audio jack. On the right is a standard USB 3, a full-sized HDMI port, a USB 3 Type-C port plus a full-sized SD card slot.
Wireless connectivity includes Bluetooth 4, 802.11ac dual-band WiFi and WiDi wireless display.
Venom also includes a USB stick which can provide a factory default reset in just 10 minutes.
Build quality and portability
The metal chassis is very solid – the bulk of it is a unibody. There are screws in the bottom so you can access the innards but there’s no obvious flex or weakness. There’s very little flex in the screen too. At 1.3KG it feels light considering how solid it is. The lid is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, though.
It’s stated as having a full day (eight-hour) battery life but our tests didn’t quite bear this out. Just leaving it on with a low-brightness display saw the battery drain in seven hours flat. It played a Full HD video constantly for five hours and 50 minutes. It ran the intensive PC Mark Battery test for two hours and 50 minutes, so you’ll likely need to keep the power supply with you - but that’s the cost of having power on the move and we’ve certainly seen much worse performers out there.
You can play around with the specifications when ordering a Blackbook but only to a limited degree. Our spec (code: A32903) costs $1799 but if you adjust the CPU, RAM and hard disk configurations you can vary the cost from $1499 all the way to $3999 (Core i7, 2TB, 16GB). It's refreshing to see that the international prices match the Australian prices. Lately we've some some horrific mark-ups including this 241% example from Dell and with this Thinkcentre AIO from Lenovo.
An alternative choice is Dell’s similarly-specified refreshed XPS 13. It costs $200 more at $1,999 and comes with Dell’s excellent on-site warranty – although these days you have to pay more for that to last more than just one year. Venom offers a face-to-face (you travel) warranty with (120-days phone support).
We really like the Venom. While some of the top-end major manufacturers have been impressing the heck out of us with their ultraportables lately (think HP’s Elite series) these are much more expensive and nowhere near as powerful. Venom is more than just a minor manufacturer in a sea of mass-market competitors, it’s offering something that bit different, and as a result we’d happily recommend this laptop to anyone wanting portable power without all the bells and whistles.
- Alcatel Idol 4S review: King of the mid-range?
- Early Android app support rolls out to two more Chromebooks
- Dell retires Alienware's X51, the desktop that kicked off the tiny gaming PC revolution
- LED Lenser P7R Professional Torch review
- Review: Want a tiny gaming PC? Check out the Alienware Alpha R2
- Razer Blade (2016) review: Incremental upgrades make it a good laptop for the moment
- Razer Blade Stealth review: This is a feisty ultrabook at an incredibly low price
- Asus ZenPad Z8 review: A capable tablet not worth signing a contract for
- Incase City Backpack
Join the newsletter!
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-55EZ950U
SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™
Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44
Dyson Supersonic™ Hair Dryer Fuchsia/Iron
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-77EZ1000U
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision 14
WD MY PASSPORT™ X Gaming Storage
Nespresso Creatista Coffee Machine
Apple iPhone X
WD MY PASSPORT™ Gaming Storage
Toys for Boys
UBTech First Order Stormtrooper Robot
Google Daydream View VR Headset
LaCie Rugged USB-C Portable Hard Drive
Bose SoundLink Micro
Ubiquiti Network’s Front Row Camera
Leica M10 Digital Rangefinder Camera
Propel Star Wars T-65 X-Wing Drone
Onyx Smart Walkie Talkie
Lego Mindstorms EV3
Toffee Bags Commuter Satchel
PETKIG Go Smart Dog Leash
Xbox One X
Nest Protect Smart Smoke Alarm
Dearear Endear In-ear Wireless Earphones
Panasonic Hi-Fi - SC-UA7GS-K
WD MY CLOUD™ HOME Personal Cloud Storage
Belkin Pocket Power 10,000mAh
iRobot Roomba 980 Vaccum Cleaning Robot
Amazon Echo Bluetooth Speaker
Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K
Urbanworx Full HD Action Camera
Fallout Geeki Tikis
Logitech Doodle Collection Wireless Mouse
3SIXT 3-in-1 Smartphone Lens Kit
Lexon Flip Alarm Clock
Panasonic Portable Splashproof Fun - RF-D20U
Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker
Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse
Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
Kogan Bluetooth Soundbar
Ikea NORDMÄRKE Wireless Charging Pad
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Hisense takes the fight to home entertainment heavyweights with flagship Series 8 and 9 ULED TVs
- 2 Sony's latest Ultra HD OLED debuts in Australia
- 3 Panasonic Ultra HD OLED TV Review
- 4 D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD DSH-C310 review
- 5 Oppo A77 smartphone: Full in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Microsoft takes $550 off the Alienware 15 gaming laptop as time runs out on PC deals
- How to automatically mute a website within Google Chrome, forever
- Amazon's Echo Show has dropped in price by $80
- FCC votes to kill net neutrality in an unsurprising move. What happens now?
- Microsoft knocks $550 off the fantastic Dell XPS 13 as last-minute PC deals get crazier
PCW Evaluation Team
I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.
It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic
- LG V30+ review: The videographer's smartphone arrives
- Fitbit Ionic review: Impressive but not quite iconic
- Xbox One X review: Brave new world
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTDigital BAOther
- FTDigital Marketing Business AnalystOther
- FTTechnical Quality Analyst (Payments, data, application integration)VIC
- FTPortfolio & Governance Senior AnalystVIC
- FTLead Change ManagerOther
- FTTelecommunications RiggerOther
- TPIT OfficerVIC
- FTSenior Consultant - .NET DeveloperQLD
- FTSystems SpecialistSA
- FTSenior PM - Skype for BusinessOther
- FTData Architect / Business Intelligence ArchitectOther
- FTInfrastructure Designer - Citrix/AWSOther
- CCHP Service Management Engineer/adminVIC
- CCBusiness Integration ManagerNSW
- CCSenior Business AnalystNSW
- FTUI/UX DesignerOther
- FTSAP SD ConsultantNSW
- FTField ConsultantOther
- CCThe job "Automation Test Analyst Guidewire " is now ExpiredQLD
- CCProgram ManagerNSW
- FTEnterprise Architect - ApplicationsOther
- FTData Centre Support Engineer -| 6mth ContractOther
- FTPublishing Specialist / Business Specialist - TelecommunicationOther
- TPPrincipal Project Manager | ApplicationsQLD
- CCUnix System AdministratorNSW