Lenovo has hit the trifecta with its featherweight ThinkPad X1 Nano: It’s fast, it’s light, and it boasts great battery life. The array of privacy-minded features, bright 2K screen, and the great keyboard are further highlights.
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The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is just the kind of powerful, light, and long-lasting laptop you’ll want to take with you on post-pandemic business trips—and it’s handy even now just because it’s so easy to take all over the house. It also performs right there in the ballpark with other 11th-gen Tiger Lake competitors, and at a hair under two pounds, it weighs less than almost all of them.
Equipped with an IR camera for facial recognition, a presence-detecting radar, a 2K display with Dolby Vision HDR, and a premium keyboard, the X1 Nano covers the most bases for corporate users, and we haven’t mentioned the superlative battery life yet. But with only two available ports (Thunderbolt 4, at least), you’ll need to invest in a USB-C hub to connect legacy accessories.
Lenovo offers nine versions of the ThinkPad X1 NanoRemove non-product link on its retail website. The least expensive model comes with a quad-core i5-1130G7 processor, 16GB of LPDDRx RAM, integrated Iris Xe graphics, and a 512GB SSD, for a web price of $2,919 that you can slash to $1,150 using a prominently listed “eCoupon.” On the upper end is a quad-core Core i7-1180G7-powered version with the same integrated Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. As with all the other Nano X1 SKUs listed on Lenovo.comRemove non-product link, the price of the higher-end model can be substantially chopped with an eCoupon—in this case, from a lofty $3,719 to a more reasonable $2,231.
The particular X1 Nano that we’re reviewing (20UN000EUS) is sold only through third-party retail channels (such as on Amazon), although an identical version with a different part number is on sale on Lenovo.com. At the time of publication, both models were selling for approximately $1,877 (after applying an eCoupon if you’re shopping on Lenovo’s site).
The X1 Nano’s quad-core CPU is the fastest of Intel’s low-power, UP4-class Tiger Lake chips, which sacrifice base clock speed (generally used for daily computing tasks, like web browsing) for the sake of greater battery life. To compensate, these chips offer boost clock speeds that offer a brief surge of power similar to what you’d get from one of Intel’s beefier UP3-class chips. If you’re going to cut corners on a CPU, dropping the base clock is a reasonable choice—there’s typically plenty of speed to spare. We’ll see how the X1 Nano’s processor fares with real-world tasks in our performance section.
The 16GB of RAM and integrated Intel Xe GPU are well suited for mobile content creators, if less so for gamers. The 512GB SSD is spacious for both apps and a modest media collection. We’re impressed that Lenovo also crammed a bright, 2K display, facial and fingerprint biometrics, Wi-Fi 6, and a mid-sized 48-Watt-hour battery into such a slender shell
The big story about Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano is something you’ll feel rather than see. At just a sliver under two pounds (Lenovo says it weights 1.99 pounds, and my own measurements confirmed it), the X1 Nano is Lenovo’s lightest ThinkPad ever. I loved toting it around from one room in my apartment to another.
As far as looks go, the ThinkPad X1 Nano follows in the footsteps of Lenovo’s other ThinkPad laptops—which is to say, it’s all business. The X1 Nano’s carbon-fiber hybrid top and magnesium-aluminum chassis are both jet-black. The lid has a slightly rubberized feel, which makes it easy to grip, but it’s also susceptible to greasy fingerprints. In a neat touch that will be familiar to ThinkPad users, the “i” in the ThinkPad logo stamped on the lid emits a pulsating glow when the laptop is in Sleep mode.
Lenovo says the X1 Nano—again, like other ThinkPads—meets MIL-STD 810G standard of toughness, making it resistant to mechanical shocks, vibrations, sand and dust, extreme temperatures, humidity, and other environmental hazards.
Rated at 450 nits and boasting a 100-percent sRGB color gamut, the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 13-inch, 2K display supports Dolby Vision HDR, which delivers eye-popping contrast levels when watching Dolby Vision-enhanced content on such apps as Netflix on the Windows Store. Viewing angles on the IPS (in-plane switching) panel are just as impressive, with the screen dimming only a tad when viewed from the sides or above.
For the X1 Nano’s display, Lenovo went back to a more traditional 16:10 aspect ratio rather than 16:9, making for a slightly taller screen that’s better suited for word processing and spreadsheet work. The display is bordered by thin bezels on three sides—only the bottom bezel is a tad chunky. Two cameras are embedded in the top bezel: an IR camera for facial recognition, and a 720p webcam with a physical camera shutter. (We’ll discuss the X1 Nano’s biometric and video chat performance in a bit.)
One feature you won’t find on the display of this particular X1 Nano is touch capability. Two mid-range SKUs (with Core i5-1130G7 processors) and a top-of-the-line model (powered by a Core i7-1180G7 chip) do have touchscreens.
Keyboard, touchpad, speakers, and webcam
Some laptops this thin and light are saddled with a shallow keyboard, but not the ThinkPad X1 Nano. As with other, larger ThinkPads I’ve tested, this comes with a solid, premium-feeling keyboard with a luxurious amount of travel.
In the middle of the keyboard is the telltale TrackPoint, the ThinkPad pointing stick that’s remained virtually unchanged after almost 30 years. Nudging the little red nub makes the cursor float around the screen, with an impressively smooth, controlled motion. There’s also a standard, three-button touchpad, which proved itself nearly impervious to false inputs even when I mashed my palms against it.
With top-firing drivers designed in consultation with Dolby, the X1 Nano’s stereo speakers deliver an impressive amount of detail and spaciousness for a laptop, even if the bass response is somewhat wanting. The Dolby Access app includes audio presets for Game, Movie, Music, and Voice modes, while a Dynamic mode is designed to adjust the sound automatically depending on the content. That said, music and movie lovers will still be better served by external speakers or a headset.
The X1 Nano’s 720p webcam delivers relatively clean, sharp images and realistic colors while cutting noise and blotchiness to a minimum. That’s fine for Skype and Zoom calls, but you’ll get better results from an external 1080p webcam.
Biometrics and security
The ThinkPad X1 Nano offers a couple of biometric options. The match-on-chip fingerprint reader boosts security by performing all fingerprint enrollment, storage, and analysis on the chip itself, while Synaptics’ PurePrint technology uses AI to detect fake fingerprints. The sensor uses hardware acceleration to speed up fingerprint matching. The X1 Nano reliably unlocked itself mere moments after I put my finger on the reader.
A second option is IR facial recognition coupled with presence detection. Using a combination of an ultra-wideband radar sensor and the IR camera embedded in the top display bezel, the X1 Nano can automatically log you into Windows when you approach the laptop. When you leave, the X1 Nano will lock Windows and put the system into a standby state. The Lenovo Commercial Vantage app lets you adjust the sensitivity of both features.
The X1 Nano’s user presence detection worked nearly perfectly during my testing, quickly locking the system as I walked away from my desk and obediently logging me in when I returned, all without my having to touch the keyboard.
Well, this is easy. The ThinkPad X1 Nano has exactly two (2) data interfaces, and they’re both Thunderbolt 4 ports.
A newer version of the Thunderbolt 3 standard, Thunderbolt 4 comes with the same transfer speeds but adds new, stricter standards, including guaranteed support for two 4K monitors or a single 8K display at 60Hz, as well as docks with up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports. Thunderbolt 4 can also handle longer cable runs, including upcoming 50-meter optical cables.
Besides the twin Thunderbolt 4 ports, the X1 Nano has a combo audio jack. That’s it.
Now, if you’re only going to have two data ports on a modern, business-oriented laptop like the X1 Nano, we’ll take Thunderbolt 4. Just know, however, that you won’t really appreciate USB Type-A ports until they’re gone. During my testing, I frequently found myself turning to my Aukey USB-C hubRemove non-product link to connect devices such as wired mice, optical drives, and other accessories with legacy USB connectors.
As we mentioned before, the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s UP4-class Tiger Lake CPU shaves some speed off its base clock to gain battery efficiency. Was the tradeoff worth it? Read on for the long answer, but the short answer is simple: yes, most certainly.
PCMark 10 Overall
Our first benchmark measures performance on everyday computing duties like web browsing, word processing, spreadsheet work, and video chat. We recently switched from the aging PCMark 8 to PCMark 10, which means we have only a handful of laptops available for comparison. Still, our chart should give you a good idea of how the ThinkPad X1 Nano stacks up compared to similar laptops with 11th-gen Intel processors. As far as scores go, anything in the 4,000 range is pretty good, while north of 5,000 is exceptional.
As you can see, the ThinkPad X1 Nano lands just a few steps behind the HP Spectre x360 14 in default “Smart Sense” power management mode. It’s worth noting that the Spectre’s i7-1165G7 processor is a powerful UP3-class chip with a faster base clock speed than the Nano’s efficiency-minded UP4-class Core i7-1160G7. The Spectre x360 14’s three-pound girth gives it more thermal headroom, too. Given the X1 Nano’s liabilities, its close call with the Spectre x360 14 is even more impressive.
Our tougher CPU test involves using the free HandBrake utility to encode a 30KB MKV video file to a format suitable for Android tablets. This test is lengthy and favors more cores, pushing laptops and their cooling systems to the limit.
The ThinkPad X1 Nano holds up well considering the thermal limitations of its thin chassis. It notches a perfectly respectable score in the mid-3,000s, nestled with a few other Tiger Lake-powered systems.
Near the top of the chart is the Porsche Design Acer Book RS, a 2.6-pound laptop that benefits from an elaborate cooling system. The heavier Acer Swift 3X with its powerful i7-1165G7 chip unsurprisingly takes the cake with a scorching 2,561 result (smaller numbers are better). We should also note that while the X1 Nano outperforms the Spectre x360 14 in its “Smart Sense” mode, the Spectre’s full-speed “performance” mode would vault it into second place.
Our next test is just as intense as HandBrake but quite a bit shorter. Measuring how long it takes to render a 3D image in real time, Cinebench tells us how a given laptop handles short bursts of speed, giving an advantage to CPUs with faster boost clocks.
As we mentioned earlier, the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s UP4-class processor has a boost clock that approaches the speeds of more powerful UP3-class Tiger Lake chips. No surprise, then, that the X1 Nano cranks out some solid Cinebench results, nipping at the heels of the top three—not bad for a laptop this light. The X1 Nano even manages to dust the Spectre x360 in “performance” mode.
Before we move on, take a look at the X1 Nano’s equally impressive single-threaded Cinebench performance, which sneaks the laptop into third place and speaks to its single-core efficiency.
3DMark Time Spy 1.2
As with PCMark 10, our 3DMark Time Spy graphics performance comparisons are limited because we just switched over from the older Sky Diver benchmarks. Back in the day (as in, barely a year ago), laptops with discrete GPUs always had a leg up over those with integrated graphics. Intel’s new Iris Xe graphics cores are changing the game, delivering performance that rivals Nvidia’s entry-level MX350 graphics cards.
Looking at our chart, the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s Time Spy performance sits right where we expected it would, practically identical to the competing Surface Pro 7+ and Spectre x360 laptops with the same Iris Xe graphics. Outperforming the others is the Acer Swift 3X and its Iris Xe Max discrete graphics core.
Just to be clear, Intel’s Iris Xe and Xe Max GPUs are designed more for video encoding and editing rather than games, so don’t expect silky smooth gaming performance. As such, these graphics cores are better suited for mobile content creators rather than gamers.
We test laptop battery life by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows Movies & TV app, with screen brightness set to about 250 nits and the volume dialed to 50 percent, with headphones plugged in. Looking at the chart, the ThinkPad X1 Nano wrings an impressive amount of battery life out of its modest 48-watt-hour battery.
By way of comparison, the HP Spectre x360 14 lasted less than a half-hour longer with a much larger 66-watt-hour battery. Our chart-topper, the dual-core Lenovo Yoga C640, beat all comers with its 60-watt-hour battery. The only other laptops with the same size or smaller batteries—the Surface Pro 7+ (48Whr) and the Dynabook Portege X360-L (40Whr)—trailed far behind.
The X1 Nano won’t get the same 14 hours of battery life from our test as it will when it’s running a CPU-intensive app like HandBrake. However, I was regularly able to finish an on-battery workday with the Nano without reaching for its AC adapter. Looks like the modest performance cuts that come with the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s battery-optimized UP4-class CPU paid off handsomely.
Lenovo has hit the trifecta with its featherweight ThinkPad X1 Nano: It’s fast, it’s light, and it boasts great battery life. The classic tough, utilitarian ThinkPad shell will blend in, and the laptop’s outfitted with an array of privacy-minded features, a bright 2K screen, and a great keyboard. We’re sold.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices.