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Venom BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom review

Aussie maker's large screen laptop bridges the desktop gap.

Venom BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom laptop on a teal background
Last updated: 02 September 2022

CHOICE verdict

There's a lot to be said for a large screen laptop that can free you from the tyranny of being tethered to a desktop PC while still being portable enough to travel. Venom's BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom is of this 'bigger is better' school of thought, with its 17-inch Full-HD screen, full-size keyboard with numeric keypad and extra large trackpad. We tested the mid-range Delta Edition model, courtesy of Aussie maker Venom Computers. This is one of seven 17-inch editions ranging in price from $2399 to $4799. It comes with a 2.8Ghz 11th-generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor and Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, plus the latest Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 wireless networking. There are plenty of plug-in connectivity options (USB 2.0 and 3.0, standard USB-C and Thunderbolt 4, Gigabit ethernet, HDMI, microSD card and more) plus Venom's usual but very handy extras of two power adapters (one for work, one for home) and a quick-setup troubleshooting USB key. It also provides internal upgradeability for memory and storage to help keep it usable for longer. If you're looking to bridge the gap between desktop PC functionality and laptop portability, this could be exactly what you need.

Price: $2999

Venom BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom laptop open, facing left

The ninth-generation 17-inch BlackBook Zero Phantom has a lot in common with its smaller siblings we've reviewed – and that's a good thing. Along with this new model, the BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom and BlackBook Zero 14 Phantom have been built with the long-term user in mind, with all three offering internal upgradeability (a rare thing in laptops these days). 

There's also the extra value of an additional power adapter and a troubleshooting USB key, plus Venom's buy-back offer that extends for seven years. Each size BlackBook Zero Phantom has multiple variations offering different specifications.

How does the BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom perform?

This particular edition of the BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom has an 11th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, so it's no slouch in performance. But despite the allure of a large screen, the lack of discrete graphics processing means it's not a laptop designed for dedicated gamers. If you're after more impressive graphics performance you should look to the BlackBook Pro 17. 

Meanwhile, the Delta Edition offers graphics performance that should be fine for most general laptop users. The integrated Intel graphics processor is fine for simpler-style games, though it might be able to acceptably run marquee titles only at low detail levels. 

Fast memory and storage gives a snappy feel in use, and you can also upgrade both later if required

For the most part, this laptop is designed more for everyday home and business use, running office and general productivity software, online streaming and video communications, and even image and video editing (excluding advanced functions that require hardware acceleration). 

It comes with Windows 10 Pro, which can be upgraded to Windows 11 if desired. If you do plan to use this laptop for a lot of entertainment and video calls, you should consider plugging in a good pair of speakers or headphones, and a better webcam – the installed components didn't produce great quality in our tests. 

The 16GB of RAM is fast (DDR4 3200MHz) and general performance is aided by two fast 512GB sold-state drives (SSDs), which is important to having a snappy feel, and programs can be installed and run off the secondary drive, too.

If you find down the track that you need more, you can upgrade the Delta Edition to 64GB of RAM, and include two fast 4TB SSDs rated at 7000MBps.

Body and screen

Of course, the standout feature of this laptop is that 17-inch screen, which largely determines the overall size of the laptop. We measured it at 395mm wide with a weight of 2.3kg. 

Venom BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom laptop open, facing right

The Full HD (1080p) screen offers wide viewing angles and gives very good quality images, with deep blacks and an anti-glare matte finish to minimise reflections.

Most people would probably think of a laptop that size as relocatable rather than portable, but you can close it up and move it around the home or office fairly easily or even take it with you. However, it's obviously not the sort of notebook you'd use on your lap on a crowded train.

At least if you do need to take it to the office, for example, you can leave a power adapter there, because Venom supplies two of them. This is also handy if you need to use the laptop in a couple of different locations in the home.

That said, its battery lasted for six hours in our heavy-use rundown test, in which we loop a Full HD video while the screen brightness is set to 100% (which we measured at a respectable 360nits). All-day battery life should be no problem with normal usage, but the provision of a second power adapter means you should never run out of juice.

The screen provides Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) and demonstrated very good quality in our tests. It has wide viewing angles, gives minimal reflections due to a matte anti-glare finish, and has excellent brightness and contrast, with a 100% sRGB colour gamut, which gives an overall vibrant picture.

There's also support for Dual 4K external monitors. Having a Full-HD screen built-in rather than 4K saves on battery life and the panel, co-developed with Intel, puts the emphasis on deep blacks, which enhances image quality.

Keyboard and touchpad

The bonus of having such a large laptop is that you're not short of room for the keyboard, trackpad and ports. The trackpad is very large, which makes onscreen navigation easy, and the full-size keyboard can be backlit to a colour of your choice using the pre-installed utility. 

We found the keyboard to be excellent due to the generous travel and tactile response of the keys, which feel soft and comfortable to hit. The key markings provide good contrast when typing during the day, and the backlighting is good for typing in dark environments. 

You probably wouldn't need an external keyboard if using this laptop for long periods of typing. There's even room to include a proper numeric keypad with a traditional layout.

Venom BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom laptop keyboard and trackpad

The full-size keyboard and numeric pad are excellent and the touchpad is very generously sized.

Solid build quality

The build quality feels solid overall (especially the lid) thanks to use of 6000 series aluminium composite metal (so-called aerospace grade, as it's used in aircraft due to being light yet strong). This allows screen real estate to be maximised by using only a thin bezel around the perimeter without excessive flexing. The power button sits on the right side and is almost flush with the chassis, which isn't easy to feel for without looking. 

Cooling is achieved by a single cooling fan to extract air through the rear of the laptop, and it can get loud if the CPU load is high. You can control the fan speed via the included software utility which gives you the option of four pre-set modes. This can be useful at times when you don't want the fan to make too much noise, but it can affect the performance depending on the task. 

There's a port type for just about any type of external device you'd need to plug in

A good array of ports sits along the sides of the laptop, but check carefully before you plug in. For example, there are two USB-C and USB-A ports, but they all have different characteristics. One USB-C port is Thunderbolt 4, one is not; one USB-A port is USB 3.0, one is not. Selecting the right port can be important when plugging in devices that rely on high data transfer, such as external storage. 

A full-size HDMI port makes adding a second screen easy, and the microSD card slot makes it easy to transfer files from a camera or smartphone. There's also a Gigabit Ethernet port, if needed, but the included Wi-Fi 6 performed well enough in our tests that it should be good enough for most networking scenarios.

Side views of the ports on the Venom BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom laptop

The variety of hardware connectivity means there's a port for almost everything you'd want to plug in, from USB 2.0 and 3.0 to USB-C, Thunderbolt 4, ethernet, HDMI and microSD card.

Internal upgrades

Being able to upgrade memory, storage and Wi-Fi easily is a key feature of Venom laptops. The bottom panel of the laptop can be taken off relatively easily and you can swap them out for better ones down the track. 

This can add substantially to the useful life of the computer, not to mention being a very sensible alternative to the non-replaceable glued-and-soldered approach that most laptop makers take.

Internal upgradeability is exceptional, with memory, storage and Wi-Fi all easily replaceable

The battery can be replaced, the Wi-Fi module can be replaced, and the RAM can be upgraded or replaced (two slots with one free). There are also two M.2 2280 SSD slots, both of which are occupied, but it's possible to remove the secondary drive to add a bigger capacity in the future without touching the system drive. 

Overall, the Venom BlackBook Zero 17 Phantom is a solid laptop that's a good desktop replacement for anyone who wants the benefits of a relatively large screen, without the drawbacks of being chained to a desk via a modular tower PC.

Long life cycle

As we've noted with previous Venom laptop reviews, this Aussie company's approach to sustainability is refreshing, and a call-to-action for other laptop makers. Having the ability to upgrade key components rather than replacing the whole computer every few years is a win for consumers and the environment, with a longer usable computer life and less tech wastage. 

Venom also offers a buy-back plan good for up to seven years, which also helps reduce e-waste and provides a better value proposition for prospective buyers.

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.