Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Review

This laptop is absurdly light, but it comes at a cost

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3.7

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

What We Like
  • Weighs less than 2 pounds

  • Strong CPU and GPU performance

  • Great keyboard

  • Excellent battery life

  • Loud, clear audio

  • Windows Hello support

What We Don't Like
  • Mediocre display

  • Disappointing Wi-Fi performance

  • High pricing

  • Limited connectivity

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano has great battery life, strong performance, and an extremely high price.

3.7

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

Lenovo provided us with a review unit for one of our writers to test. Read on for their full take.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano promises all the productivity of a larger, heavier laptop is one of the thinnest, lightest laptops available today. It weighs just two pounds but packs Intel’s latest Core processors with Intel Xe graphics and a 13-inch display. That’s an impressive feat at a glance. Is the X1 Nano a featherweight champ, or does it give under pressure?

Design: Classic ThinkPad

I’m surprised how effortlessly the classic ThinkPad look transitions to the ultra-modern, superlight ThinkPad X1 Nano. The laptop’s abyssal black finish, which seems to actively suck ambient light into another dimension, is unmistakable. 

The dark exterior provides a look that’s at once workmanlike and luxurious. Lenovo wisely coats the carbon fiber and magnesium chassis with a grippy, soft finish that’s graced many ThinkPads throughout the years. It tends to scratch easily, but cleans up well and keeps the laptop from sliding out of your hand or an open bag.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

The X1 Nano weighs just two pounds, and while technically 0.68 inches thick, the aggressively beveled design makes it feel thinner in hand. I was a bit shocked every time I picked it up. This is a 13-inch Windows machine, but it weighs half a pound less than my iPad Pro with keyboard attached. 

Despite this, the X1 Nano is sturdy and slate-like when handled. There’s some flex in the display lid, and the chassis can be made to groan if you pick it up with one hand while open, but that’s the worst of it. It’s far more durable than LG’s Gram laptops or Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga. 

What’s New: Compact carbon

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano is a new model. It’s similar to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon line, which is now half a decade old but is even more portable. The X1 Nano has all the ThinkPad-specific features that enthusiasts might expect including a TrackPointer, fingerprint reader, and the typical ThinkPad keyboard layout, which swaps the location of the Function and Control keys.

Display: Good, but not good enough

Lenovo offers a pair of display options for the ThinkPad X1 Nano: one is a touchscreen with a glossy coat, while the other is a non-touchscreen with a matte coat. I tested the latter.

Aside from support for touch input and the reflectiveness of the display, the two options are almost identical. Both have a 16:10 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2160 x 1350. That works out to 195 pixels per inch, which is lower than a MacBook Air but slightly sharper than the 1080p screen you’ll find on the entry-level versions of most competitors, like the Dell XPS 13.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

The matte display I tested was reliable but unexceptional. It achieved a contrast ratio of up to 1,370:1 and a respectable maximum brightness of 463 cd/m2 with good color accuracy and coverage of the full sRGB color gamut. It’s a pleasing and functional display, but not one that looks exceptionally sharp or vibrant.

This is a common theme among top-tier mobile ThinkPads. Lenovo’s problem is not a display that falls short but instead a failure to keep up with the cutting edge. The MacBook Air provides True Tone and coverage of the DCI-P3 gamut, while Dell’s XPS 13 is now available with an OLED display. The X1 Nano feels mundane by comparison.

Performance: Intel’s processors fulfill their potential

Entry-level ThinkPad X1 Nano variants have an Intel Core i5-1130G7 quad-core CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive. My upgraded review unit had an Intel Core i7-1160G7 quad-core CPU with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Further upgrades can boost the processor to a Core i7-1180G7 and expand storage to 1TB.

The X1 Nano’s performance is typical of thin, light Windows laptops. GeekBench 5 turned in a single-core score of 1,463 and a multi-core score of 5,098, while PCMark 10 hit an overall score of 4,598. These figures are on par with competitors like the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 and Razer Book 13, but behind Apple’s most recent MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

It’s great to see this much graphical power in a laptop that weighs so little.

Don’t forget the X1 Nano’s size, however. It’s smaller and lighter than any of these machines. Lenovo has also tamed the fans which, though not silent, keep calm under all but the heaviest load. The X1 Nano can easily churn through day-to-day productivity or tackle photo or video editing if you work with small file sizes.

While the processor performed as expected, the Intel Xe integrated graphics delivered a surprise. It hit a score of 4,258 in 3D Mark Fire Strike and scored 76.6 frames per second in the GFXBench Car Chase test. 

These strong scores beat entry-level discrete graphics options like Nvidia’s MX350. This incarnation of Intel Xe also beats Radeon RX Vega graphics found alongside AMD processors. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

It’s great to see this graphical power in a laptop that weighs so little. Demanding games like Watch Dogs Legion or Assassins Creed Valhalla remain out of reach without serious compromises to image quality, but popular games like Minecraft, Path of Exile, and even Grand Theft Auto V are playable at medium to high detail at 30 to 60 frames per second. 

Your experience may vary,  as the entry-level X1 Nano ships with an Intel Xe graphics implementation that has 80 execution units (EUs), 16 less than the 96 found in my review unit. I’ve tested other laptops with the slimmer, 80 EU variant, and found it’s about 15 to 20 percent slower in real-world gaming. That’s still enough for many older 3D games, however. 

I came away extremely pleased by the X1 Nano’s performance. No, it can’t beat the MacBook Air or Pro. But it’s extremely quick for a compact Windows laptop. 

Productivity: TrackPoint for the win

Though light and slim, the X1 Nano’s footprint is hardly different from competing 13-inch laptops. That leaves enough room for a sizable, comfortable keyboard and a palm rest large enough to keep the hands of most (though certainly not all) owners off the table. 

It’s a great keyboard. Key travel is short, but the crisp, linear key action makes this easy to overlook, and the spacious lay will keep hunting and pecking at a minimum. A simple white keyboard backlight is standard, though it offers only two levels of brightness. Lenovo also says the keyboard is spill-resistant. I decided not to put that feature to the test. 

The TrackPoint, a small red nub that can be used for mouse input, dots the middle of the keyboard. Fans of this unusual input (like myself) will take to it instantly. The TrackPoint is useful because it lets you control the mouse without moving your hands away from a comfortable typing position.

Key travel is short, but the crisp, linear key action makes this easy to overlook.

The TrackPoint does compromise the touchpad. It's large enough at about 4 inches wide and 2 and a half inches deep, but integrated buttons are found only at the top of the touchpad. This is the perfect position for use with the TrackPoint but looks odd if you prefer the touchpad. However, you can still tap the touchpad to activate the right or left mouse button.

The X1 Nano is available with a touchscreen, but my model didn't have this feature. It’s important to note the Nano is a laptop, not a 2-in-1, so the touchscreen will be less useful than on Lenovo’s ThinkPad X12 Detachable or Microsoft’s Surface Pro line. The touchscreen adds about four ounces to the laptop’s weight.

Audio: Big Sound in a small package

The ThinkPad X1 Nano is the latest in a series of Dolby Atmos-certified laptops I’ve tested. It packs a pair of woofers and tweeters with a combined output of six watts. The result is a powerful, meaty sound that’s pleasing in most situations. It’s loud enough to fill a small room with sound and delivers crisp audio. Movies and music are enjoyable, too, though the speakers can become muddled or confused at higher volumes. 

Network: Stay close to a router

Although fast in most tests, the ThinkPad X1 Nano stumbles in network performance. It can hit maximum download speeds of over 800Mbps on Wi-Fi 6 when used in the same room as my router. This is true of nearly every laptop I test. However, it hit speeds no higher than 30Mbps in my detached office. That’s not great. Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 hit up to 103Mbps in the same area. 

The X1 Nano has optional 4G and 5G connectivity. You pay a premium for it, however: variants with 5G are sold for over $3,000. My review unit didn’t have mobile data, so I wasn’t able to test cellular reception. 

Camera: Mediocre webcam, but Windows Hello is great

All ThinkPad X1 Nano models ship with a 720p webcam. It looks okay in a well-lit room but struggles with even moderate lighting. You’ll look grainy and blurry unless you’re augmenting your home office lighting with a ring light. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

The laptop has an IR camera that is compatible with Windows Hello for login via facial recognition. This feature is fast and flawless even in a dark room. The IR camera also enables a feature Lenovo calls Human Presence Detection. This automatically turns off the display when you move away from the laptop, then turns it back on when you come back. 

A privacy shutter is included to physically block the webcam. Activating it also turns the webcam off.

Battery: Long day? No problem

A 48 watt-hour battery is stuffed in the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s slim, light chassis, and surely makes the bulk of its weight. The efficient 11th-gen Intel Core processor puts it to good use.

I saw about eight to nine hours of battery life in day-to-day productivity including web browsing, document editing, and light photo editing. My automated testing benchmark (which simulates web browsing and browser-based productivity) reported nine and a half hours of battery life. Demanding workloads, like gaming or video editing, will drain the battery more quickly, but most people will find the X1 Nano’s battery capable of handling a long workday with few breaks. 

I saw about eight to nine hours of battery life in day-to-day productivity including web browsing, document editing, and light photo editing.

This is a great result. The X1 Nano can’t match Apple’s MacBook Air or Pro, but it slightly beats Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 and is on par with Razer’s Book 13. You’ll also notice the X1 Nano, unlike the Laptop 4, does not aggressively cap maximum display brightness when used on battery. The X1 Nano is more enjoyable to use in bright rooms or outdoors.

Software: Windows 10 Pro without surprises 

Every ThinkPad X1 Nano runs Windows 10 Pro. It’s a vanilla installation almost entirely lacking third-party software. The few apps installed are used to control hardware features like the Dolby Atmos speakers. There’s no pre-installed antivirus aside from Windows Defender, which is included in all Windows installations.

The laptop ships with Lenovo’s Commercial Vantage software, a functional and intuitive control panel that can be used to update drivers, change camera settings, or alter the power plan. It’s mostly redundant with Windows’ own built-in features, but collecting these settings in one place is better for owners intimidated by Windows’ Settings menu. If you don’t like it, no problem; you can simply ignore it and use Windows’ own menus.

Price: It’s just too expensive 

Pricing technically starts at an MSRP of $2,499 but, as with all Lenovo laptops, the real retail price is always much lower. The entry-level X1 Nano retails for about $1,450. My review unit, equipped with a Core i7-1160G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive, retails for about $1,825. 

It has advantages, like its feathery weight and IR camera, but it also has disadvantages, like a mediocre display and low Wi-Fi speeds.

This becomes the X1 Nano’s biggest flaw. A similarly equipped Dell XPS 13 has an MSRP of $1,499 and is often on sale for about $1,375. Apple’s MacBook Air starts at $999, which rises to $1,449 when equipped with the same amount of RAM and storage. 

It’s hard to justify the X1 Nano’s premium. It has advantages, like its feathery weight and IR camera, but it also has disadvantages, like a mediocre display and low Wi-Fi speeds. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano vs. Dell XPS 13 

The X1 Nano and XPS 13 look almost identical if you glance at their specifications. They offer the same line of Intel Core processors, have similar quoted battery life, and go toe-to-toe in size and thickness. However, some key differences tilt the scales in Dell’s favor.

Display quality is a big win for Dell. The base XPS 13 has a 1080p display that’s inferior to the X1 Nano, but Dell offers two upgrades: an OLED display with class-leading image quality or a bright, sharp 4K screen. The X1 Nano can’t compete with either. 

Dell’s XPS 13 is available with Intel Core 11th-gen processors up to the Core i7-1185G7, while the X1 Nano tops out at the Core i7-1180G7. You can snag an XPS 13 with the Core i7 processor at a much lower price than the Lenovo.

The X1 Nano is more portable. It’s over half a pound lighter, and you can truly feel the difference in-hand. I also think the X1 Nano is more durable, which is saying a lot: the XPS 13 is a finely honed machine. 

In the end, price easily tilts the verdict in Dell’s favor. The XPS 13 can be configured with better hardware at any price point, squeezing more value from every dollar you spend. That’s worth putting up with the extra weight.

Final Verdict

A powerhouse for portable productivity. 

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano is the last word in portable productivity, packing a great keyboard, strong performance, and long battery life in a light yet rugged chassis. It’s a shame the X1 Nano’s price puts it out of contention for buyers who don’t need the thinnest, lightest laptop possible.

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Specs

  • Product Name ThinkPad X1 Nano
  • Product Brand Lenovo
  • MPN 20UNS02400
  • Price $3129
  • Release Date February 2021
  • Weight 1.99 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions 11.53 x 0.66 x 8.18 in.
  • Color Black
  • Warranty 1-year limited warranty
  • Platform Windows 10
  • Processor Intel Core i7-1160G7
  • RAM 16GB
  • Storage 512GB
  • Camera 720p
  • Battery Capacity 48 watt-hour
  • Ports 2x USB-C 4 / Thunderbolt 4 with Power Delivery and DisplayPort Mode, 1x 3.5mm audio jack
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