Venom BlackBook 17 (2015) review

Any way you measure it, Venom Computers’ 17-inch BlackBook is a bit of a monster. If you want a no-compromise, high-performance laptop that will chew up anything you throw at it, this one should be high on your list. Just don’t plan on taking it too many places; at 3.36kg for the laptop and another 850g for the charger, this is one that will send you hobbling straight to the chiro if you try commuting with it every day.

Now, while this is undeniably a huge laptop, it still manages to chuck some style into the mix, and with some of its 17-inch competitors bordering on 4kg, it’s perhaps not quite the behemoth it could have been. The dark-black, brushed-metal finish on the lid and the angled edges do have a slightly slimming effect and this is, overall, a rather discrete machine, but one that hides a lot of power. That means a quad-core Core i7 processor combined with a GeForce GTX 980M graphics chip, plus a blazing-fast Samsung XP941 M.2 PCIe solid-state drive and 16GB of low-latency DDR3-1833 memory. There’s a secondary 1TB Hitachi hard drive for more general storage, and outside is a basically full-sized keyboard (including a numpad on the side) with a big friendly trackpad containing a fingerprint reader.

Having a good screen is important for any laptop, but that’s especially the case with a screen this big. Although it’s only 1080p resolution (as no manufacturer’s are making high-res displays at this size), that still provides plenty of detail at 17-inchs and, what’s more, it doesn’t throw up any of the Windows interface scaling problems that higher-res displays can cause. Better yet, its got deep natural colours and excellent contrast, so even in moody dark movies and games you can still see a pleasing amount of detail.

venom blackbook 17 4 webWhat you won’t find are the questionable ‘frills’ included with some other gaming laptops: the keyboard backlight only comes in white, there’s no Killer networking card and it doesn’t have flames painted up the sides. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter much where it really counts: in performance and overall user experience. And the BlackBook 17 really nails it on both fronts. What’s great about this machine isn’t just limited to the hardware under the hood: Venom’s helpfully preinstalled actually useful applications in Windows — like Firefox, Chrome and a handful of benchmarks — and included a full year’s subscription to Norton Internet Security. It’s not just games that run well on this hardware either: the OS as a whole is fantastically zippy, even when you’re just doing mundane tasks on the desktop.

It’s also worth pointing out that, while this BlackBook may not be as sleek as the Gigabyte opposite, it arguably has a more responsible design. Its CPU and GPU top out at much healthier temps and it doesn’t sound like a leaf-blower when doing so. Like any gaming laptop, there is fan noise, but it’s not too high-pitched and doesn’t rev up and down all them time. Ultimately, that should result in not just longer life for the CPU and GPU, but all the surrounding components (which will suffer under prolonged exposure to high temperatures) as well.

The trade off for all the power under the BlackBook’s hood is that battery life is very ordinary: in our tests, it lasted around 2 hours for web surfing and just 1.5 hours for more-demanding, mixed-use multitasking. Top-shelf tech doesn’t come cheap either, so if you want this kind of performance in a portable package, you’ll need to accept the fact that it comes with a fairly monstrous — if largely justifiable — price tag.

Verdict: Yes, the price is eye-watering, but the BlackBook 17 packs the specs, performance and premium build-quality to back it up.

Price: $3,899
From: Venom Computers

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

  • Venom Computers’ 17-inch BlackBook is a bit of a monster. If you want a no-compromise, high-performance laptop