Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano review: light it up

If you’ve used a ThinkPad before, you probably know 90% of what you can expect from a ThinkPad X1 Nano. All staples are here. It has a black carbon fiber chassis, individual buttons on the top of the touchpad, a mechanical privacy shutter, a ThinkPad logo on the palm rest, and (of course) a red pointer handle in the center of the keyboard.

But one unique thing about the X1 Nano is that it’s the lightest ThinkPad ever made by Lenovo. Starting at £1.99, the Nano isn’t technically the lightest laptop on the market. But it’s still one of the best combinations of portability, build quality, and performance you can buy.

Lenovo has made a few other useful tweaks, but that’s not necessarily something you’ll notice when looking at the machine. You don’t have to think any more. It’s a smaller and lighter ThinkPad. Lenovo hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but with updates it has succeeded in keeping the Nano up to date among its fast-innovating colleagues.

The keyboard nub of the ThinkPad X1 Nano.

The keyboard is “nearly full size”.

In addition to the lightweight build, Nano’s new features include: It has a 16:10 screen, which is the first feature that ThinkPad adopted this year. It has a new 11th-generation Intel processor and is certified through Intel’s Evo program (the chipmaker’s way to make sure your laptop includes the latest features like Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6, Instant Wake and Fast Charging). And there are several enhanced security features, including a match-on-chip fingerprint reader and dTPM 2.0 chip, which will most likely be noticed by business users.

Of course, it is the Nano’s price that comes to the verdict. Technically it starts at $2,499 and is up to $3,719. The good news is that Lenovo’s products are being discounted very often, and the current selling price at the time of posting is from $1,149 to $2,231.

Nano is highly customizable. It comes with Core i5-1130G7, Core i5-1140G7, Core i7-1160G7 or Core i7-1180G7, all of which support Intel’s vPro. You can also choose 8 GB or 16 GB RAM, 256 GB to 1 TB SSD storage, touch screen or non-touch screen (both with 2160 x 1350 resolution). There is also a Linux option. My review model (running Windows 10 Pro) is in the middle with a quad-core Core i7-1160G7, 16GB of memory, 512GB of storage and a non-touch display. Those interested in touchscreens should note that the model is heavier (2.14 lbs) and slightly thicker.

You’re paying a premium for the Nano’s weight and additional business features. For example, the Dell XPS 13, which rivals my test model, costs $1,599.99 and £2.64 (more than 0.5 pounds heavier than this unit).

That said, the weight of the Nano is amazing. It seems that you are not holding anything while holding it with even one hand. I can easily put it in my wallet or backpack and forgot that it is there. In a few comparisons, it’s half a pound lighter than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9. It’s a pound lighter than the ThinkPad X13 and the latest MacBook Air. These are already laptops known for their portability, and the Nano Noticeably Thinner.

Laptops achieve this without sacrificing durability, which is often problematic in ultra-light devices. The chassis feels sturdy. The keyboard and screen have a bit of bend, so it’s very comfortable to put in your briefcase. Lenovo says the Nano has been “tested against 12 military-grade certification methods.” So there is it too.

The port on the left side of the ThinkPad X1 Nano.

On the left is an audio jack and two Thunderbolt 4 (Type-C).

The power button on the ThinkPad X1 Nano.

Power button on the right. There is no port.

I’m also very happy with the 16:10 display, which is roughly the same height as a typical 14 inch 16:9 screen. In addition to providing extra vertical space, it also offers sharper and nicer pictures than a 1080p display.

There is also a Dolby Atmos speaker system that includes two upward firing and two downward woofers. The laptop comes preloaded with Dolby Access, one of my favorite audio apps. You can switch between presets for movies, music and other scenarios (including custom profiles) and the sound will vary depending on the settings. You can also personalize the array of four microphones for a variety of uses, including conference calls and voice recognition.

One question of mine about the chassis is the keyboard. It’s an advanced keyboard and has a small red knob if you want to use it. However, the Fn and Ctrl keys change where you can find them on other laptop keyboards. Each time you press the Ctrl key, press the Fn key. I haven’t adjusted it yet even after a week of use.

Now I want to know very clearly. We know that’s exactly how the ThinkPad keyboard has been laid out since the dawn of the times. I also know that you can swap the two keys in the BIOS. Still, if you’re not a current ThinkPad user, you’ll need some time to get used to this keyboard layout, or you’ll end up with mislabeled keys.

ThinkPad X1 Nano webcam with closed privacy shutter.

The webcam is visible with the shutter closed.

The ThinkPad X1 logo on the lid of the ThinkPad X1 Nano.

If you forgot, it’s a ThinkPad.

Port selection is also limited, but it is not unique among thin devices. There are two USB-C ports and an audio jack, both on the left.

In terms of performance, the X1 Nano did a great job. It’s not something you’d like to buy for heavy gaming or tricky tasks like video editing, but it keeps catching up with Chrome tabs, spreadsheets and streaming apps seamlessly. I didn’t hear any sound from the machine, and even when running under a fairly burdensome load, I felt a noticeable heat.

The ThinkPad X1 Nano sits open on the sofa and tilts slightly to the right.  The Verge homepage is displayed on the screen.

The “anti-splash circuit” ensures that the USB-C charger transmits the correct voltage.

As mentioned earlier, the Nano has a number of new security features across the line that will be coming to ThinkPads in 2021. What I found most useful is the presence detection tool, which automatically locks when not in front of the device and unlocks when it comes back. The ThinkPad isn’t the only business laptop to adopt this technology, but it’s convenient and worked well in my tests. If it creeps you, you can even turn it off. Elsewhere, there is a fingerprint sensor that matches the sensor next to the touchpad (qualifier means fingerprint enrollment, pattern storage and biometric matching all happen directly within the sensor). The sensor also uses AI to differentiate between real and fake fingers.

The ThinkPad X1 Nano seen above is closed.

The Nano’s top is a carbon fiber hybrid material and the bottom is magnesium-aluminum.

Lenovo logo on the cover of the ThinkPad X1 Nano.

Human Presence Detection puts the laptop “on standby” when in AFK.

One of the not-so-great features here is battery life. Charges an average of 6 hours and 38 minutes using everyday workflows (about 12 Chrome tabs with office tools like Email, Slack, Google Docs and Sheets, occasional Spotify and YouTube streaming, about 200 nits of brightness) I did. Fine. This is not unexpected as the Nano only has a 48Whr battery, but I often can’t use the machine for more than 7 hours at this price. That said, if your workload is similar to me, you can’t handle it with a full day charge. The 65W charger took 43 minutes to charge the device up to 60%.

Lenovo has its strength in the ThinkPad X1 Nano. It features a comfortable keyboard and touchpad, a red nub, and a competent processor in a durable, rugged system. Nano brings new elements to the table. The chassis is less than 2 pounds. The target audience here is clear. I’m a business user who likes the traditional ThinkPad look and feel and is willing to pay more for an ultra-light machine.

The main compromises you make are battery life and port selection. Neither of these is an absolute disaster for the Nano, but it does mean that many users may find competing business laptops to be more practical. There are a number of ultra-portable business laptops with great battery life, more useful ports, and similar weights (such as Asus’ ExpertBook B9450 and HP’s Elite Dragonfly). That said, for those who are obsessed with the ThinkPad brand and want the lightest light, the X1 Nano will deliver.


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