Living with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Living with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

The X1 Nano is a solid business laptop that’s incredibly light, with a number of high-end features for the road warrior.
The basic design is standard for ThinkPads, with a plain matte black finish with red accents, and a keyboard with a TrackPoint pointing stick in the middle. Measuring 0.66 by 11.5 by 8.2 inches (HWD), it’s not the smallest 13-inch laptop I’ve ever seen, but it’s close, and incredibly light. It has a carbon fiber hybrid upper, and a magnesium-aluminum chassis, with a bit of flex. Feels very sturdy for a machine of this weight.

With the Latest Gadget X1 Nano, Lenovo has moved to a 13-inch display with a resolution of 2160 by 1,350 in an aspect ratio of 16:10. Of course, I remember when the aspect ratio was standard, but in recent years 16:9 has replaced it; now that the bezels around the screen can be shrunk, 16:10 is back. This gives you more vertical space, and as a result, is better for things like web pages and word processing documents. Dell seems to have started this trend, and it’s nice to see it continue.

The screen is good, rated at 450 nits, and supports Dolby Vision for better pictures on streaming services that support it. I’m not sure how important that will be to business users, but the screen has great colors and viewing angles.

As expected, the keyboard is above average, feels pretty standard for a ThinkPad, with good travel and a pleasant feel.

Something new in this model is the Dolby Atmos speaker system, with four woofers, which is expected for immersive sound when doing things like streaming movies. I tried things like noise cancellation and default audio optimization for voice-over-IP (VoIP) calls. I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes, but overall the microphone works well.

The 720p web camera looks really good — the field of view is narrow, so it’s suitable for most video calls, and the clarity and colors are better than on the company’s other laptops. Like most ThinkPad lines, it has a physical “ThinkShutter” switch for camera privacy.

The camera module is equipped with an IR camera with human presence detection, allowing the machine to lock and turn off the screen when you move away from it and unlock when you sit in front of it, using face unlock with Windows Hello. I’ve visible this on some different high-quit laptops and assume it is a completely handy feature. It works great on Nano, logs in really fast. Lenovo calls this “touchless login” and the Nano gives you more options to control this than I’ve seen on any other computer, via the Commercial Vantage app.

There are a number of other new security features, including a new fingerprint sensor that stores fingerprint data within the sensor itself, isolating it from computer data.
The model I’m using has an Intel Corei7-1160G7 (Tiger Lake-U) processor, the first commercial Tiger Lake-U system I tested, along with 16GB of memory. It is a four-core, eight-thread processor with a base speed of 1.20 GHz and a turbo speed of 4.40 GHz, with Iris Xe graphics, manufactured on the 10nm Intel SuperFin process.

In my tests, it performed well on a variety of common benchmarks, slightly above most Comet Lake systems and comparable to AMD Ryzen-based machines. In my more specific testing, the results were excellent, running a complex MatLab portfolio simulation in less than 48 minutes, compared to 63 minutes on the Comet Lake-based 8th Generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon. (The fastest time I’ve seen was under 37 minutes on the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, but it’s a much larger system with a more power-hungry H-series processor.) It completed the massive Excel model in 43 minutes, compared to 54. on the X1 Carbon and 44 on the X1 Extreme. Overall I’m very impressed with its performance, especially considering the very slim design.

Battery life is also quite good. I got nearly 12 hours on the PCMark 10 Modern Office test, though I always take those numbers with a grain of salt.

My only complaint in a work-from-home situation is the lack of a port. The X1 Nano has two USB Type-C / Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left side and an audio jack; and that’s it. It’s not uncommon on very small laptops these days, but a more traditional USB-A port would be nice. I use a variety of docks, including the Lenovo ThinkPad Thunderbolt 3 Dock Gen 2 to connect a wireless keyboard and HDMI monitor and DisplayPort monitor; and it worked fine after some initial setup issues. (I’ll talk more about that later).

Starting at $1,499 (the model I tested retails for almost $1,900 on today’s website), the X1 Nano is an expensive choice, but so are the machines I’d consider its closest competitor: the HP Elite Dragonfly, another well-built executive notebook, although its slightly heavier and 2-in-1.

If you’re looking for a high-end but lightweight laptop that’s perfect for road warriors, the X1 Nano is hard to beat. It’s well built, has a great display and keyboard, delivers impressive performance, and is incredibly lightweight.

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