High-end build quality
Mediocre battery life
Peripherals suffer for size
About the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano
The ThinkPad X1 Nano comes in a number of configurations, from a model with Intel’s latest i5 processor that starts around a grand up to more expensive i7-equipped models that offer touch screens and wireless service.
The model we tested contains the following specs:
Processor: Intel Core i7-1160G7 (2.10GHz 4-core with up to 4.40 GHz Turbo Boost, and 12MB Cache)
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Memory: 16GB DDR4 4267MHz RAM
Display: 13-inch 2K (2160x1350) IPS anti-glare screen with Dolby Vision HDR
- Battery: 48Wh battery with 65 W fast-charge adapter
Ports: 2 x USB 4 Type-C with DisplayPort and Power Delivery 1 x 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack
Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6 (2x2) & Bluetooth 5.1
- Weight: 1.99 pounds
Dimensions: 11.53 x 8.18 x 0.55 inches
For these specs, you can expect to pay around the $2,000 mark, with top-end models going for a few hundred more.
What we like
Every inch of the build feels high-end
The ThinkPad line has been around for decades, and if you ask any of its diehard supporters why they remain loyal, you're guaranteed to hear about durability and build quality. While the X1 Nano isn't exactly built like a tank when compared to larger enterprise models, it still feels decidedly premium. It offers a wonderful feeling soft-touch finish, a springy backlit keyboard, and a trackpad that your finger just glides over effortlessly—with a click that's so quiet you could use it next to a napping baby.
I do sometimes worry about the finish scratching since it's so soft and its weight and size make it feel a bit less durable than the aforementioned tanks. But with a magnesium and carbon fiber chassis and spill-resistant keyboard, this should still be able to handle your day-to-day beatings.
Not only that, but just like Lenovo's other machines, you get a host of useful extras like a fingerprint scanner for quick logins, a privacy slider on the webcam, and the classic TrackPoint nub for the old-school among us who prefer it to modern touchpads.
Performance is snappy, especially for a tiny laptop
The X1 Nano sports an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor using Intel's new Evo design initiative. Evo laptops are required to meet a number of real-world benefits, like more than nine hours of battery life, less than one second to wake from sleep, fast charging, and the newest connection standards like Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 4.
In practice, much of this works well—the processor's performance is quite snappy, hitting GeekBench scores that bested most of the similarly-sized laptops we tested last year, including its closest competitor, the Dell XPS 13. It doesn't quite stand up to the snappiness of Apple's latest M1 MacBooks, though few machines do. As such, if you aren't married to Windows, the MacBook Air is still the best laptop you can buy.
Waking the X1 Nano from sleep is indeed instantaneous when you open the lid. Its battery life, though, didn't live up to its promise (more on that in a moment), and it gets hot just like other modern Intel-based laptops in its class, thermal throttling on all four cores during those benchmarks. Still, for its intended purpose—working on the go—the internal hardware will undoubtedly serve most users well.
It's insanely portable and lightweight
Ever since Apple broke the mold with the MacBook Air, PC manufacturers have pushed boundaries to make laptops smaller and thinner than ever. In recent years, mainstays like the Dell XPS 13 have shrunken bezels and use space as efficiently as possible to pack a 13-inch laptop into a tiny chassis.
The ThinkPad X1 Nano continues to push the boundaries of this super-small form factor, with a thin chassis that will fit into just about any bag you have and an impossibly light weight of 1.99 pounds (nearly a pound lighter than the Macbook Air). Picking this up almost feels like I picked up a store demo unit without internal hardware. It may not be revolutionary if you're used to ultraportables like the XPS 13, but it's still worth commending for matching the Dell's form factor, and besting both Dell and Apple in terms of weight.
What we don’t like
Battery life is mediocre
While the Intel Evo lineup claims 9 hours of battery life, the X1 Nano fell well short of that in our tests. The discrepancy isn't shocking, since companies can measure battery life in a number of different ways—and to be fair, some reviewers posted better battery life than our testing revealed—but others had results more in line with what we experienced. Here at Reviewed, we use a consistent battery test designed to be as analogous to a user's typical workday as possible: we rotate through a number of websites in Google Chrome on a regular interval, at 200 nits of brightness, until the laptop shuts down. (We don't test other browsers, like Microsoft Edge, and it's possible they might perform better.)
Under this test, the X1 Nano only lasted a maximum of 6 hours—which isn't terrible, but is below average among the similar laptops we've tested over the past year. It gets creamed by Apple’s new Air and Pro, and sits well below the 8 hours we'd like to see for getting through a typical workday. If you have regular access to power outlets, this may not phase you, but given its form factor was designed for working away from home, the battery life doesn't quite measure up to its intended use case.
Size compromises whittle away at ThinkPad benefits
An ultraportable laptop like the X1 Nano always comes with compromises. You may have to deal with a smaller screen in order to comfortably fit it in a backpack or shorter battery life due to restricted space in the chassis. And rarely are you able to upgrade the RAM. But despite the stellar build quality and portability, some of the X1 Nano's compromises seem at odds with its identity as a ThinkPad.
For example, the trackpad glides smoothly and points your cursor accurately, but it's just a tad on the small side thanks to the limited space (exacerbated by the physical buttons required for TrackPoint nub users).
The X1 Nano is also limited to two measly USB-C ports, one of which you'll need for charging—a far cry from the bevy of connection options most work-centered ThinkPads offer, though it’s the same story with plenty of similarly sized laptops. While the X1 Nano’s keyboard layout doesn't feel cramped like some smaller laptops, the key travel is noticeably shallower than even the X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga, which were already making compromises themselves.
These are common sacrifices for ultraportable laptops, and to be fair, I have the same complaints about the XPS 13. The X1 Nano's keyboard is still a bit deeper than Dell's latest offering, but these compromises affect the things that define ThinkPads, which make the gap between the two competitors a bit smaller and more vague.
Should you buy it?
Maybe ... if you can find it for the right price
In a vacuum, the X1 Nano is a great laptop. Its small size and crazy-lightweight form factor are the ultimate in portability, without sacrificing performance (battery life aside). And while it does feel a tad less robust than its larger brethren, it's undeniably well-built with a premium-feeling finish and a keyboard and trackpad that respond beautifully.
Outside of that vacuum, the X1 Nano's sacrifices start to show through when compared to other options. Like other ThinkPads, it's on the expensive side, costing more than a comparable Dell XPS 13 (which has an even shallower keyboard, but noticeably better battery life). And when matched against the latest MacBook Air, the X1 Nano gets absolutely stomped in terms of performance and the Macbook's battery life is around twice as long.
With other ThinkPads, I find the deeper keyboard and larger port selection worth the price premium over other laptops. But with so much sacrificed for size, the X1 Nano feels overpriced compared to the competition, with less to show for it. There are still some features here that are uniquely ThinkPad—like the red TrackPoint nub—and brand-loyal diehards will undoubtedly find it worth the money. But many of them would probably prefer the X1 Carbon or X1 Yoga instead.
The X1 Nano is still a great laptop, just not a slam dunk. The MacBook Air is the overall better machine if you aren't a Windows loyalist. And if you require Windows for work, the Dell XPS 13 is currently a better value, especially for those who aren't bothered by slim keyboards. If you see the X1 Nano for a similar price, you should definitely consider it—you'll just have to decide whether the superior keyboard and lighter weight are worth the tradeoff in battery life. Even for a ThinkPad fanboy like me, that's a tough call.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Whitson Gordon is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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