Okay, finally bought myself a fanless (100% silent) laptop 4 work. Venom BlackBook Zero 14 (review)
Thread poster: Michael Beijer

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
May 31

Okay, so I finally bought myself a fanless (100% silent) laptop for work. In the end, I didn't buy a Surface Pro, or an ASUS ZenBook, or a Dell Latitude 12 7000, or an Eve 'V' – which all have fanless models – but a Venom BlackBook Zero 14, from an Australian PC manufacturer: https://www.shopvenom.com/globalstore/blackbook-zero-14/

I paid £1,498.13 for it (= £1,234.10 + £264.03 taxes paid to UPS).

I have been happily working with it now for four weeks, and will try to say a bit about it, particularly for those who are also looking to go the fanless/silent route. I will also be updating my post, or writing new ones in the future as I learn more about it over the next year or so.

I have wanted a fanless/silent laptop now for years, and so have been googling this topic for literally years. The review that probably contributed most to convincing me to give it a try is this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0siMCwXf6-E … where several things caught my attention.

First of all, it has an excellent keyboard, which is extremely important to me as I am very picky when it comes to keyboards. I have lost track of the number of keyboards I have bought and tested and used over the years. I can't stand certain things (like the Fn key in the bottom left corner on ThinkPads), and the BlackBook does almost everything right. Key travel is excellent, all the keys are in the right place, it has proper arrow keys and dedicated function buttons.

Trackpad. This is one thing I am not entirely convinced about. I'm hoping that I will get used to it, but so far I am not particularly impressed with the trackpad. It doesn't have dedicated buttons, which I hate. No matter how much the industry wants to convince us that we don't need them any more, I don't agree. I don't give a damn what my trackpad looks like, and I want my dedicated buttons back. The surface of the trackpad could also be a little smoother. However, I also remember hating the trackpad on my old Precision M6800 for quite a while, but now love it, so I'm hoping the same will happen to me with the BlackBook. I'll report back on this after a couple of months.

Second of all, after a lot umming and ahhing, I finally decided not to go with a convertible device. That is, one that is both a tablet and a laptop. I decided against this because I couldn't be certain that I would be able to happily use it on my lap. I'm very happy that I decided to get a real laptop as this one is extremely comfortable to use on my lap.

One thing I had been worrying about was heat. I was wondering how hot it would get under heavy use. I can happily say that the BlackBook doesn't get hot at all, ever. This is mainly because of the type of CPU that is used. It's basically one of the low powered ('Core') mobile versions of the i7. It runs at 1.3Ghz (I know, sounds pretty ridiculous doesn't it? for a work computer), but can Turbo boost up to 3.60GHz for short bursts. Found the specs: Intel Core i7 @ 1.30GHz, Kaby Lake-U/Y 14nm Technology.

By comparison, my monstrously powerful Dell Precision M6800 workstation, which uses a 'proper' CPU, gets a hell of a lot hotter, and consequently has to resort to quite loud fans quite often. I got four good years of use out of my Precision M6800, and still have it hooked up on my home network (via remote Desktop) for if I want to do something that requires extra processing power, but over the years I got more and more annoyed at how loud it could get, especially when translating late into the evening or at night. Which takes us to an important aspect of a fanless/silent device:

Noise. It is difficult to stress just how amazing it is to work with a completely silent computer, having never used one before. It makes exactly as much noise as my iPhone (i.e. none), but is a full powered computer capable of doing everything I need for work. I'm actually dictating this post using Dragon Professional Individual 15, which works just as fast as it does on my superpowerful laptop. I can also easily run SDL Studio, Chrome with tons of tabs, and pretty much anything else I need for work. On to the next topic:

Performance. As I said above, I can use pretty much same programs as I used to use on my powerful laptop. Of course, I would be lying if I said that everything worked at the same speed. It doesn't, and I occasionally have to wait a tiny bit for something to open or happen. However, this is totally okay with me as it makes zero noise while doing so.

External screens and monitor. I usually work with my BlackBook connected to 2 very large external monitors, which it can easily power from its mini HDMI output. Here are their specs: BenQ GW2765 (2560x1440@60Hz) and Samsung SMS24A850 (1920x1200@60Hz).

When not working at my desk, I am very happy with its 14" screen, which is bright enough and thankfully matte, rather than glossy. Pretty much all of the other fanless devices I was looking at had 12" screens. I really tried to convince myself that I wouldn't mind working on a 12" screen, but having used my wife's 12" MacBook occasionally (the new one with the strangely shallow keyboard!), in the end I decided against anything smaller than 14".

Ports. Unlike the crazy laptops being produced by Apple, the BlackBook still has all kinds of ports. To wit:

1 x USB Type C Port (supports external video & USB 3.0/2.0 charging)
1 x USB 3.0 Port,
2 x USB 2.0 Ports,
1 x micro HDMI output port (with HDCP),
1 x Headphone jack, 1 x DC-in jack

I like ports and am very happy to have all of them.

Battery. It's much too early to say much about the battery, but so far it seems to last for a very long time, which is probably due to the low powered CPU and lack of moving parts. It's also kind of cool that they threw in a second power adapter. One for home and one for work. But that applies to me, but it's a nice touch.

It came with Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, with zero extra garbage installed on it.

I have 32GB on my Dell monster laptop, but the BlackBook doesn't come with more than 16GB. I can't remember whether the RAM is soldered on or whether you can add any more than 16 GB. However, so far I haven't needed any more at all. Specs: High Speed 16GB (Mobile LPDDR3) Ultra Low Voltage Thermal Efficient RAM.

I bought the model with the 1TB SSD drive.

The laptop is extremely thin and light, and the case is made of metal. Specs: 'Aluminium metal composite casing wrapped in stealth metallic black.'

I will try to add to this review over the next few months.

Michael

~

Some pictures:

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[This post was dictated using Dragon Professional Individual 15. Please excuse any typos!]


[Edited at 2018-06-01 14:13 GMT]


 

Hans Lenting  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Member (2006)
German to Dutch
If Apple made Windows laptops ... Jun 1

... it would probably look and feel like your Venom.

But perhaps it is better to call it the Schindelhauer of Windows laptops: https://www.google.nl/amp/s/www.stuff.tv/news/if-apple-made-bikes-schindelhauer-ludwig-xviii?_format=amp

It’ll be hard for you, not to work all time:

I can't wait to tell everyone about my new bike's internal gearbox… …and watch their eyes glaze over. Mind you, while the general public might not get it, fellow enthusiasts have nothing but praise for the XVIII; we spoke to one owner who described riding it as a special event. Although it’s a very technical product it’s fine to use everyday and owning one apparently makes you want to ride it all the time.


Congratulations on your new Venom, Michael!


 

Rolf Keller
Germany
Local time: 17:32
English to German
Virtually silent fans Jun 1

Michael Beijer wrote:

It is difficult to stress just how amazing it is to work with a completely silent computer, having never used one before.

A computer can be virtually silent although it has a fan. My Midi Tower has even two fans, but is inaudible. Just ask my wife, she is able to hear any mechanical sound source, even the ticktack of a clock in the house next door.

Fans should be large and run slowly, just like the ceiling fans in Rick's bar in Casablanca.icon_smile.gif

Of course large&slow fans don't fit into a laptop. But for any powerful computer (laptop or desktop) a rule applies: If there is no fan, the internal chips become rather warm. So (1) their working life is shortened and (2) often the cpu's thermal protection steps in and reduces the advertized speed. Of course the vendors never mention that.


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 18:32
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Congratulation Jun 1

I would not want to spend so much on a laptop, but my needs are different. I found that 256 Gb SSD is enough for me, every year I move stuff to an external drive. 8 Gb RAM has never been too small, even when I keep running lots of applications.

 

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
CPU heat & thermal protection Jun 1

Rolf Keller wrote:

Michael Beijer wrote:

It is difficult to stress just how amazing it is to work with a completely silent computer, having never used one before.

A computer can be virtually silent although it has a fan. My Midi Tower has even two fans, but is inaudible. Just ask my wife, she is able to hear any mechanical sound source, even the ticktack of a clock in the house next door.

Fans should be large and run slowly, just like the ceiling fans in Rick's bar in Casablanca.icon_smile.gif

Of course large&slow fans don't fit into a laptop. But for any powerful computer (laptop or desktop) a rule applies: If there is no fan, the internal chips become rather warm. So (1) their working life is shortened and (2) often the cpu's thermal protection steps in and reduces the advertized speed. Of course the vendors never mention that.



Hi Rolf,

Yeah, I was wondering about heat too, but the CPU in this laptop, an Intel Core i7 @ 1.30GHz Kaby Lake-U/Y 14nm, never seems to go above 60°C. I've been monitoring it with Speccy for days now, and it's always around 50-55°C.

Regarding thermal protection, I'm sure it is kicking in now and then, but as I said above, I don't mind waiting a millisecond more here and there for a completely silent, slim laptop with a 14" screen. The absolute silence is really helping me concentrate better. However, I should note that I am one of those people who hears clocks ticking in the next room.

Michael


 

Kevin Clayton, PhD
Spain
Local time: 17:32
Member (2012)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Interesting Jun 2

I don’t think people realize the effect of the fan noise. When I first starting using this desktop for translation work, it was extremely noisy (audible from down the hall). Adjusting the fan settings helped somewhat, but the fans still kicked in quite readily and were probably on all the time.

Then, a couple of years ago, I bought a new graphics card (Nvidia GTX 1070) and new CPU (i7 6700K) - both much more than I need for translation - and the difference is unbelievable. Work is so much more relaxing now and the graphics card is probably the best single work-related purchase I’ve ever made. I've adjusted the settings so that the CPU fan speed is relatively low and so that the graphics card fans only kick in when the card reaches ~35°C, which means that, under regular load, the computer is virtually silent (yes, not 100% silent). I can only hear the CPU fan if I put my head under the desk. And the CPU temperature is currently only a few degrees above room temperature with multiple programs open (28–29°C vs 24°C).

You have two monitors connected and I only have one (an ultrawide) and I doubt that the GPU could handle the two without the fan but I’d recommend that others try to silence their fans if they can. Even just by adjusting the BIOS settings.


Michael Beijer
 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Put some music on... Jun 2

problem solved... icon_biggrin.gif

 

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
so true: work = so much more relaxing now Jul 16

Kevin Clayton wrote:

I don’t think people realize the effect of the fan noise. When I first starting using this desktop for translation work, it was extremely noisy (audible from down the hall). Adjusting the fan settings helped somewhat, but the fans still kicked in quite readily and were probably on all the time.

Then, a couple of years ago, I bought a new graphics card (Nvidia GTX 1070) and new CPU (i7 6700K) - both much more than I need for translation - and the difference is unbelievable. Work is so much more relaxing now and the graphics card is probably the best single work-related purchase I’ve ever made. I've adjusted the settings so that the CPU fan speed is relatively low and so that the graphics card fans only kick in when the card reaches ~35°C, which means that, under regular load, the computer is virtually silent (yes, not 100% silent). I can only hear the CPU fan if I put my head under the desk. And the CPU temperature is currently only a few degrees above room temperature with multiple programs open (28–29°C vs 24°C).

You have two monitors connected and I only have one (an ultrawide) and I doubt that the GPU could handle the two without the fan but I’d recommend that others try to silence their fans if they can. Even just by adjusting the BIOS settings.


I agree with something I read somewhere about fanless computers: Once you try one out, you can't go back. I'm just so happy with it, the next one I get (if and when this dies) will definitely be fanless too.

Michael


Hans Lenting
Barbara Cerar
 


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Okay, finally bought myself a fanless (100% silent) laptop 4 work. Venom BlackBook Zero 14 (review)

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