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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano review: This 2-pound ThinkPad is a winner

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

ThinkPad X1 Nano

“The ThinkPad X1 Nano is an exceptional addition to the small laptop field.”
  • Solid productivity performance
  • Extremely light
  • Good keyboard and touchpad
  • Excellent battery life
  • Very nice 16:10 display
  • Bezels are a bit large
MSRP $1,847.00

Lenovo has been tinkering with its iconic ThinkPad line for a couple of years now, breaking away from the tried and true. It went big and powerful with the excellent ThinkPad X1 Extreme, as well as a 2-in-1 tablet form factor with the ThinkPad X12 Detachable. Don’t get me started on the craziness that is the ThinkPad X1 Fold.

Now, Lenovo has made the ThinkPad X1 Nano, the smallest and lightest ThinkPad ever. Don’t think that means it’s cheaper, though, as the ThinkPad X1 Nano review unit configuration Lenovo sent me comes in at a cool $1,847. That nets you an Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake Core i7-1060G7, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and a 13.0-inch 2K (2,160 x 1,350) IPS display in the increasingly popular 16:10 aspect ratio.

The ThinkPad X1 Nano has jumped into a very competitive space (hello, Dell XPS 13). Does the ThinkPad X1 Nano live up to the potential?

Design

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lenovo might have made the ThinkPad X1 Nano tinier than any other ThinkPad, but it didn’t mess with the aesthetic. The ThinkPad X1 Nano is just as completely black as the majority of ThinkPads — no visible carbon fiber anywhere to be found, like on the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, nor a titanium lid like the one built into the new ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga.

You’ll find the same subtle red hints, like the LED “i” on the ThinkPad Yoga and the red TrackPoint nubbin and red button accents. It’s a super conservative look that’s unique to the ThinkPad. Its simple design is nothing like the sleek lines on the Dell XPS 13, nor the gem-cut elegance of the HP Spectre x360 13.

The X1 Nano is also built like other ThinkPads, with a mix of materials resulting in a sturdy chassis. In this case, it’s a carbon-fiber hybrid material making up the lid with magnesium-aluminum alloy in the chassis bottom. Those materials contribute to the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s light weight of just 1.99 pounds — compared to the XPS 13 and Spectre x360 13, both at 2.8 pounds. And the ThinkPad X1 Nano feels just as sturdy as those two, which are among the sturdiest we’ve tested.

For a device of its class, the X1 Nano is the lightest laptop you can buy.

Note that 1.99 pounds is really, really light. For a laptop of its kind, the X1 Nano is the lightest laptop you can buy — even lighter than the LG Gram 13 whose entire purpose is to be as light as possible. It’s almost as light as the Acer Swift 7 (1.96 pounds) and lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook (2.3 pounds), neither of which pack in this class of CPU.

Is such a light laptop such a big deal? Well, it’s a pleasure to use and carry around, certainly. Add in the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s materials that make it cool to the touch and you get a supremely attractive and comfortable laptop.

If it felt flimsy — as some light laptops do — then that would mitigate the advantage of being so light. But the ThinkPad X1 Nano feels just as solid as any ThinkPad. There’s no bending, twisting, or flexing in the lid, keyboard deck, or chassis. The XPS 13 has the ThinkPad X1 Nano beat when it comes to the hinge, though — the latter’s is quite a bit stiffer and requires both hands to open.

The ThinkPad X1 Nano isn’t quite as thin as it is light, coming in at a tapered 0.55 to 0.66 inches. The XPS 13 is just 0.58 inches, while the Spectre x360 13 is a little thicker at 0.67 inches. Because the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s top and bottom bezels are a little larger than the XPS 13’s, it’s a bit deeper even with the smaller display (13 inches versus 13.4 inches), but not by much.

Thanks to the taller 16:10 display (just like the XPS 13), the ThinkPad X1 Nano enjoys more palm rest space than the Spectre x360 13, which is still at 16:9.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Connectivity is one area where the ThinkPad X1 Nano is affected by its size. There are just two USB-C with Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left-hand side, to go with a 3.5mm audio jack. The Spectre x360 13 manages to pack in both a USB-A port and a microSD card reader, both of which the ThinkPad X1 Nano lacks.

The Lenovo is up to speed on wireless connectivity, though, with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, and either 4G or 5G WWAN support is optional via a SIM slot along the back.

Security

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

I’m adding a special section to this review to account for some pretty cool technology that Lenovo has included with the ThinkPad X1 Nano. None of it is new, but the software, in particular, has been perfected — at least, compared to the last time I tried it.

The ThinkPad X1 Nano has the usual ThinkShutter physical slider that covers the webcam, so that’s nothing special when it comes to ThinkPads. But what is special is the human presence detection (HPD) technology and software that uses radar to sense when a user is in front of the laptop and when that user walks away. As long as the user remains in front of the ThinkPad X1 Nano, it stays awake and works normally.

Move outside of a 60-degree arc, though, and the laptop turns off the display, locks, and goes into Modern Standby to preserve battery life. Once the user returns to within that 60-degree arc, the ThinkPad X1 Nano wakes up and, if Windows Hello is set up for facial recognition, automatically logs back in.

It works extremely well, and is a real convenience — if you’re not running a task, that is. I found out that my longer benchmarks were being interrupted when the software put the ThinkPad X1 Nano to sleep, so the utility needs to be turned off if you need the machine to keep running. I couldn’t find a setting to turn off the step of switching to Modern Standby, which is a bit of a bummer.

Overall, though, I found Lenovo’s solution faster and more reliable than the similar utility on Dell’s Latitude 7400 2-in-1.

Performance

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

The ThinkPad X1 Nano uses a so-far unusual version of Intel’s latest 11th-gen Tiger Lake CPU, the Core i7-1160G7. Unlike the more popular Core i7-1165G7 that runs at up to 4.7GHz and has a thermal design power (TDP) range of 12 to 28 watts, the Core i7-1160G7 maxes out at 4.4GHz and has a lower TDP range of seven to 15 watts. That makes it less power-hungry and cooler — a good fit for the diminutive X1 Nano.

Even though the CPU is theoretically slower, it didn’t show up in a huge way in our benchmark testing. The ThinkPad X1 Nano didn’t show off in Geekbench 5, where it could only manage 5,139 in multi-core mode and 1,466 in single-core mode. Other Tiger Lake laptops tend to exceed 5,400 and 1,500. In Handbrake, though, where we encode a 420MB video as H.265, the ThinkPad X1 Nano did surprisingly well, finishing in exactly three minutes. That beats out a few laptops with faster Tiger Lake chips, like the Dell XPS 13 with a Core i7-1185G7 that required about 20 seconds more. The HP Spectre x360 14 with a Core i7-1165G7 took 10 seconds longer.

The ThinkPad X1 Nano also did relatively well in Cinebench R23, where it scored 4,550 in multi-core mode and 1,377 in single-core mode. That again beat out the XPS 13 (4,267 and 1,449) but fell behind the Spectre x360 14 in its performance mode (4,847 and 1,404).  The ThinkPad X1 Nano isn’t the fastest Tiger Lake laptop in this test, but it’s not as far behind as the CPU specifications might indicate.

Finally, I ran the PCMark 10 Complete test, where the ThinkPad X1 Nano managed a total score of 4,684, and then 9,295 in the Essentials, 6,413 in the Productivity, and 4,678 in the Creation subtests. These scores are a bit further behind the faster CPUs, where the Spectre x360 14 scored 4,796, 9,760, 6,340, and 4,837 across the different tests. This is the one test where the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s lower-specced CPU couldn’t quite keep up.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Generally speaking, though, the ThinkPad X1 Nano was plenty quick for productivity tasks. I never found myself noticing any slowdowns, and I used it just as hard as any other laptop I’ve reviewed. Lenovo did a great job of packing just the right amount of power into the small and light chassis.

In terms of gaming, the ThinkPad X1 Nano equipped with the usual Intel Iris Xe you’ll find in Tiger Lake machines was also in line with its competition. It scored 1,549 in the 3DMark Time Spy test, which is in the middle of the pack. The XPS 13 managed 1,589 while the MSI Prestige 14 Evo (a very fast laptop otherwise) could only muster 1,465. The Spectre x360 14 hit a blazing 1,709 in performance mode.

I also ran Fortnite, which on the ThinkPad X1 Nano ran at 1,920 x 1,200, and I saw 31 frames per second (fps) in 1200p and high graphics and 23 fps in epic graphics. That compares to the XPS 13 at 29 fps and 22 fps, and the Spectre x360 14 at 36 fps and 23 fps, both running at 1080p. Some Tiger Lake laptops are faster, and some are slower, but generally speaking, you’re getting close to discrete Nvidia MX350 performance out of a very small and light laptop.

Display

The ThinkPad X1 Nano has a brand-new display that’s 13.0 inches in the taller 16:10 aspect ratio. It enjoys a 2K (2,160 x 1,350) resolution that’s plenty sharp, although I did notice the color temperature was a little on the warm (yellower) side.

According to my colorimeter, this is a good display for a premium laptop, but not a great one. The color gamut was of average width, at 74% of AdobeRGB and 98% of sRGB, and color accuracy was good at DeltaE 1.31 where 1.0 or less is considered excellent. The XPS 13 Full HD+ display was similar at 75% AdobeRGB and 98% sRGB and a color accuracy of 1.36. The Spectre x369 13 I reviewed used an OLED display that had much wider and more accurate colors, so it’s not the best comparison.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

The ThinkPad X1 Nano’s display was very bright at 414 nits, which was nice to see (no pun intended). That made it bright enough to overpower a lot of ambient lighting. Contrast came in at 980:1, just under our preferred threshold of 1000:1 for premium laptops. The XPS 13 was brighter at 458 nits and had much better contrast at 1350:1. Again, the Spectre x360 13’s OLED panel was superior in its virtually infinite contrast, although it wasn’t as bright at 405 nits.

I enjoyed the display, especially the 16:10 aspect ratio. Once I got used to the color temp being a little warm, I settled in and enjoyed the panel for all of the work I threw at it. Creative types who demand wide color gamuts will want to look elsewhere, but for most people, this is a very good display.

Audio was very good, with tons of volume for such a small laptop and no distortion. That’s thanks to quad speakers, two downward-firing woofers, and two upward-firing tweeters. You get great highs and mids and just a smidgen of bass. It’s plenty for Netflix and the occasional tune, although it can’t hold a candle to the best laptop speakers on the market, those on the MacBook Pro. I also find the speakers to be a little less enjoyable than the quad speakers on the HP Spectre x360 14, which provide just a little more oomph.

Keyboard and touchpad

According to Lenovo, the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s keyboard is the same as on other ThinkPads, with “similar” travel. That certainly seems to be the case — they’re the same sculpted keys with plenty of spacing, and the mechanism is almost identical to other ThinkPads. I do think the travel is somewhat less, which to my mind is a good thing — I find the “normal” ThinkPad keyboard to require a little too much effort.

I like the lighter keyboards on the Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre line, and Apple’s Magic Keyboard on the latest MacBooks. So, in the end, unless it’s my imagination, the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s keyboard feel is the best I’ve experienced on a ThinkPad.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

The touchpad is a Microsoft Precision version, making for a precise tracking experience and functional multitouch gestures in Windows 10. You lose some space to the buttons for the TrackPoint nubbin in the middle of the keyboard, something that’s always bugged me about ThinkPads. Really, the touchpad ends up being too small, where the extra space thanks to the taller display could make for a larger swiping surface.

Speaking of the display, it doesn’t support touch, which is also a negative. I find non-touch laptops to be a bother, after getting so used to using my thumb to scroll long web pages and my finger to tap quick on-screen buttons.

Finally, Windows 10 Hello support is provided by both a fingerprint reader immediately to the right of the touchpad and an infrared camera up top for facial recognition. With the human presence detection feature, the facial recognition method makes extra sense and works perfectly.

Battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

When I saw that the ThinkPad X1 Nano had just 48 watt-hours of battery, I was expecting it to toe the line with other ThinkPads in suffering from mediocre battery life. I suppose the smaller display and lower-power CPU made a real difference, though, because the ThinkPad X1 Nano definitely bucks the ThinkPad trend.

First, I ran our web browsing test, which provides a passable indication of productivity battery life. Here, the ThinkPad X1 Nano managed 10.25 hours, which is a very good score that likely means the laptop meets or exceeds Intel’s Evo certification of nine hours of typical use.

It also beat the XPS 13 Full HD+ and the 4K OLED-equipped Spectre x360 13 (with 60 watt-hours of battery) by almost two hours. In our video test that loops through a Full HD Avengers trailer, the ThinkPad X1 Nano lasted for 18 hours — an exceptional result. That’s six hours longer than the XPS 13 and eight hours longer than the Spectre x360 13.

I also ran the PCMark 10 Gaming battery test that stresses the CPU, and the ThinkPad X1 Nano lasted for almost four hours. That’s the second-longest score we’ve seen, just one second behind the XPS 13 Full HD+. I tried running the PCMark 10 Application battery test, which is the best indicator of productivity longevity, but unfortunately, the test failed multiple times. I imagine, though, that the ThinkPad X1 Nano would have done well on the test, and overall it should provide the typical productivity user more than a full day’s battery life.

Our take

The ThinkPad X1 Nano is a highly competent entrant into the tiny laptop market. It provides solid productivity performance, great battery life, and a solid build with a good keyboard and usable human presence detecting technology. And it’s up-to-date with the move to a taller display thanks to its 16:10 panel.

There’s not a lot to dislike about the ThinkPad X1 Nano. It doesn’t have quite the polish of the XPS 13 and it doesn’t have the standout good looks or flexibility of the Spectre x360 13, but as 13-inch laptops go, this is a good one.

Are there any alternatives?

The HP Spectre x360 14 is a solid alternative, offering its own taller display with a 13.5-inch 3:2 OLED panel that’s miles ahead of the ThinkPad’s display. It’s priced about the same as the ThinkPad X1 Nano depending on the configuration, but its 2-in-1 flexibility sets it apart.

The Dell XPS 13 9310 is perhaps the most logical competitor, though, with a slightly larger 16:10 display and a more streamlined design. Performance is similar between the two, but the ThinkPad has better battery life. The XPS 13 is just as well-built, has a superior display, and can handle more storage and RAM than Lenovo’s offering.

Finally, if you’re willing to switch operating systems, then Apple’s MacBook Pro 13 M1 is another great option. It’s extremely fast, perhaps better built, has a better display, and enjoys the best keyboard and audio on any laptop. It’s also several hundred dollars less expensive than the ThinkPad X1 Nano.

How long will it last?

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is well-built and should last for years of useful productivity, and its components are state-of-the-art. It’s covered by the industry standard —  and too short — one-year warranty.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The ThinkPad X1 Nano is a very well-built, very light, and very long-lasting laptop with some extra security features and a modern display.

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