Venom Blackbook Zero 14 laptop review
An ultraportable that competes with the big boys by focusing on what’s important to a notebook
The Blackbook Zero 14 played our 1080p video for 6hrs 38mins before shutting down so we'd expect it to last a full working day when performing less-constant, less-power-hungry office tasks. It also ran the intensive PC Mark battery test for an impressive 5hrs 2mins. So you'll be able to use this remotely and unplugged for serious processing for a good few hours.
Venom also makes the decision to include a second power supply. Apparently it's a frequently-requested accessory and so Venom provides a power cord that could be built-into a home/office environment plus a second to reside in a laptop bag without being forgotten. Sensible.
Warranty and other features
In the box is a one-year, one-PC subscription to Norton Internet Security – that's the one we use and so we approve. There's also a full-restore USB key for if everything goes wrong and requires the whole computer to be reset.
At the top is an HD webcam with dual digital microphones. There are two "Boom Box" speakers in the base. We don't know much about their specs but know that there's very little bass response, treble gets tinny quickly and there's no mid-range – it's a far cry from HP's Bang & Olufsen-tuned units. Once again, this is no multimedia machine.
The Warranty is stated as being One Year "Face 2 Face" (which means you can take it to an authorised retailer) with 120-days technical support. Otherwise it's a standard Pick Up & Return affair. The company is counting on building quality PCs that won’t require much support in the first place (a significant hit to their bottom line) so, as a smaller player, it's particularly in their interest not ship out fault-prone equipment. You can extend this warranty to three years (two years technical support) for a not-insubstantial $399.
There are far more bells and whistles on competitors' laptops (and even Venom's own, non-Zero range) – not least glossy touchscreens, faster processors, more RAM, 3D cameras, better speakers but what Venom is offering is different. It performs 2D computing tasks fast and reliably and with decent battery life. While we've also seen 13-inch laptops outperform it for performance and battery they tend to come at a significant premium.
This SKU comes in at $1,699 (or US$1,099) though the range stretches from $1,499 (US$999) to $2,549 (US$1,549) depending on what size hard drive you want married to what speed of processor. That's reasonable for a 14-inch machine. Most competition will be coming from 13-inch models from the likes of Dell, HP and Acer, all of which cost hundreds of dollars more, albeit with more features and better performance. But on the flip-side, there’s less to go wrong, here and it's got it where it matters.
We called this a BMW M Division-like product earlier but it's probably more of a Lotus – hand built locally, taking on the mass-produced, bells-and-whistles big boys by concentrating on a few primary principles and then selling at a lower price. If that sounds attractive to you then Venom will likely prove to be a rewarding brand to buy in to.
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