Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom review

Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom review

We’re big fans of Venom computers for an unusual reason. The company guarantees a $500 trade-in payment after seven-years of use! That’s a great way of dealing with e-waste. But you shouldn’t be buying this laptop with a view of what you’ll do with it when it reaches its end-of-life, you should be buying it knowing it’s an incredibly solid, reliable laptop that does what it’s supposed to do for the entire time you own it. While we can’t measure seven years into the future, Venom has essentially done that for us with its guarantee. When it comes to seeing whether the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom can do what it’s supposed to do – i.e. be an ultimate, prosumer business tool that enables office work and complex computational tasks without distraction or bottleneck – let’s see how it fares… 

Key specs of the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom 

15.6-inch, matte, 1920 x 1080 LCD display; 2.8-4.7 GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU; 32GB RAM; 2TB NVMe HDD; Intel Iris Xe graphics; 73Wh battery; 1.7KG. SKU: Dark Shadow Edition, Full specs here

Design and Handling 

We’re fans of monolithic black laptops and that’s Venom’s modus operandi. The matte black finish is cool and sophisticated and the Venom logo would only raise eyebrows in the stuffiest of conservative boardrooms. The RGB keyboard allows you to choose your favourite contrasting colour accent – we settled on hot pink but your choice will vary. Either way, the illuminated lettering and key sides add a nice design element and a useful antidote to working in the dark. There’s also a number pad and full-sized arrow keys (yay!). The keys require a little more pressure than some rivals but they’re very accurate and comfortable to type upon for extended periods.  

Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom front
The Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom’s Control Center 3.0 software allows modification of power, fan and RGB colours.

The matte, Full HD screen is bright and well-lit and surrounded by a thin bezel. Its 60Hz refresh rate means it’s not the fastest and if you view a lot of fast-and-frantic media (including playing basic shooter games) you will be disappointed by the motion blur. Also, colours are a little washed out compared to the best Creator (designer-oriented) laptops and there’s noticeable banding in colourful and monochromatic gradients. However, it’s worth labouring that this is neither a gaming nor a Creator laptop – it’s a prosumer business tool. The screen makes use of Intel’s Low Powered Display Technology (LPDT) which saves significant power to enhance battery life. Despite this, the contrast range is good with detail remaining present in bright and dark areas and 100 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut is supported. It’s great for office work and fine for casual multimedia.

Above the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom’s screen is a Windows Hello-compatible, HD (plus infra-red) webcam which works in conjunction with array microphones for high-quality conferencing. The large trackpad is smooth and affords accurate, well-weighted clicks. It also has an integrated fingerprint reader that’s connected to a TPM 2.0 module for top-tier security (and Windows Hello log-in). The dual 1W speakers don’t get very loud and there’s no bass to speak of, but they’re functional. 

Performance 

The Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom’s Hyperthreaded, quad-core, 2.8-4.7GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor isn’t supposed to be high powered – it’s more suited to a beefy ultraportable. More interestingly, our model sported a generous 32GB of PC3200-DDR4 RAM while SKUs are available with up to 64GB – rare for any consumer laptop. The Zero 15 also makes use of 2TB of the latest, PCIe 4.0, NVMe storage technology which allows for a sustained transfer speed of up to (a whopping) 7000Mb/s. You can even choose variants that are available with an enormous 4TB capacity (spread across two drives) which is also somewhat unique in this market. Some users will be salivating over the potential of these specs alone as they have the potential to eliminate bottlenecks from particular workflows. Nonetheless, we ran our usual benchmarks to see how it performed.

In PCMark 10, the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom scored 5293. While this might seem low compared to one of the latest and greatest overclocked monster gaming machines, it’s worth noting that it’s punching (very) well above its weight. This score is faster than Acer’s last-generation, flagship Predator Helios 300 and even the latest Razer Blade 14. It’s also essentially the same score as Pioneer’s massive, 17-inch DreamBook and only slightly behind the amazing MSI Tiamat Dragon! This goes to show what a very-well-thought-out and well-put-together machine the Zero 15 is: there’s no thermal throttling or bottlenecks on show – a rare trait for many recent high performance laptops!

It’s naturally more-than-fine for general office tasks. However, this agile race car was never going to compete in the drag-race-like Cinebench rendering tests which focus on processing grunt above all else. Scores of 1043 in r15 and 5470 in the longer R23 test show that it’s less suited to hardcore rendering tasks. Check out Venom’s Pro range if performance in this area is important to you.  

There are no discreet graphics but the Intel Irise Xe GPU still managed to score 15,604 in 3DMark’s light-weight Night Raid test, which is an average of 86fps. It also scored 3026 in the harder Wild Life Extreme test (average 18.12fps). Ultimately, it will still play casual games but the screen isn’t suited to anything that’s fast paced. 

Connectivity of the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom 

On the left is a USB 2.0 port, HDMI 2.0 port and two USB-C 3.2 Gen.2 ports (one supports Thunderbolt 4). 
On the right is a USB-A 3.2 Gen.1 port, miniSD card reader, power button, 3.5mm audio jack and Gigabit Ethernet. 

Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6 and BlueTooth 5.2 

Portability 

At 1.7KG the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom is light for a 15.6-inch laptop. We love that two power supplies are included – one for the desk and one for the road. These weigh just 350g each. The chassis is very sturdy and the lid only flexes a modest amount when a twisting force is applied so it will happily endure life on the road. There’s also that seven-year guarantee for peace of mind. The 73Whr battery ran PCMark 10’s Modern Office test for an impressive 11hrs 22mins which is more than a full day away from the mains. It looks like the power-saving screen really makes a difference. UPDATE: We ran the battery test again (this is a very new laptop after all) and it lasted for 14hrs 26mins!

The Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom comes with two PSUs and a velvet-like pouch. It can be a bit of a fingerprint magnet, though.

Should I buy the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom? 

Venom is all about supplying well-built, high-quality, reliable, good-looking prosumer computers with judiciously chosen components that do what they’re supposed to for many years – in the latter regard they’re unique. It’s not the most ultra-portable ultraportable in that there’s some decent oomph under the hood instead of an ultra-low powered processor that can run Word day and night. Our SKU comes in at a hefty $3549 but that’s arguably decent value for the build-quality you’re getting. You can create your own bespoke specification from $2299 all the way to $4699 (and buy in your own local currency if international). And, of course, there’s that $500 trade-in offer. ‘

Rivals are few and far between: its 14-inch sibling is one option while, if you want to focus on extreme battery life and a gravity-defying weight, at the expense of power, then Asus’ ExpertBook is worth looking at. At the end of the day, if you want a computer that feels like it’s been engineered by someone who cares and which sports components that work in harmony together to produce something that’s more than the sum of its parts (and you aren’t fussed by gaming) the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom could be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Rating

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