Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Review: A Petite Premium Powerhouse

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review HERO 2

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano: Impressive Specs In A Beautiful, Lightweight Intel Evo-Certified Laptop

Lenovo’s flagship ThinkPad X1 lineup has historically been one of our favorite business-class laptop product lines. Lenovo made a quick transition recently, and upgraded this popular laptop series with Intel’s 11th Gen Tiger Lake processors that roared onto the scene with a nice performance lift and useful platform updates late last year. Besides the platform upgrade though, Lenovo also pulled a proverbial rabbit out of its hat when it dropped Tiger Lake into the thin and light 1.99lb ThinkPad X1 Nano. The performance-per-pound ratio of this machine should prove impressive and make for a solid, highly portable combination for business professionals or casual mainstream laptop users alike.
Though what Lenovo did with Tiger Lake may not be exactly magical, it is certainly not smoke and mirrors either, with the specs and unique industrial design on offer here. As you’ll see on the pages ahead, the performance displayed during our gamut of benchmarks is nothing short of fantastic, considering how petite this machine is. However, there is more to this laptop than specs and size alone, so first let’s take a look under the hood and then we’ll take a detailed walk around this little business-class beast… 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano
Specifications & Features
ProcessorIntel Core i7-1160G7 (4 Cores, 8 Threads, 2.1GHz base, 4.4GHz max Turbo, 12MB Cache)
Display13.0″ 2K (2160 x 1350) 16:10 IPS, anti-glare with Dolby Vision™, 450 nits
GraphicsIntel Iris Xe Graphics (96 execution units, 1.1 GHz max dynamic frequency)
Storage512GB NVMe SSD PCIe SSD
Memory16 GB LPDDR4X (soldered)
Audio2x front-facing & 2x downward-firing Dolby Atmos speaker system ; Four array microphones, 360° far-field
CameraIR & 720p HD w/ Privacy Shutter
NetworkingIntel Wi-Fi 6 AX201, 802.11ax 2×2 Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 5.1
Ports: Left2x USB-C (Thunderbolt 4)
Ports: RightN/A
KeyboardBacklit, multimedia Fn keys
TouchpadUltraNav™ pointing device
Battery48Wh
Weight1.99 lb (907g)
Dimensions11.53 x 8.18 x .055-.066 inches (292.8 x 207.7 x 13.87-16.7 milllimeters)
Warranty1-year
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64-bit
PriceAs Reviewed $1,877.40

Lenovo sent us one of its mid-range Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano devices with a 4-core / 8-thread Intel Core i7-1160G7 inside, which can boost up to 4.4GHz. Lenovo also equipped our device with a snappy — but soldered down — 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM, clocking in at 4267MHz. The machine also features a 512GB NVMe SSD, which, combined with that fast memory and Tiger Lake CPU, should provide for a very responsive experience.

Besides featuring Intel’s latest processing platform, we also have the latest connectivity on board with Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 and Bluetooth 5.1. There’s no wired Ethernet port here, but that’s a feature not often found in this class of ultralight machines. It can be forgiven on such a thin and light device, and of course you could always utilize one of the two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports of the ThinkPad X1 Nano with a quality USB-C network adapter if needed. And actually, though it didn’t come in our box for some reason, Lenovo’s documentation (PDF) notes that it provides both a bundled USB-C to Ethernet adapter and a USB-C Port Replicator in some configs of the machine. 

When all is said and done, these great specifications afford this laptop Intel Evo Platform status, meaning users should have a great experience, as Intel intended for its 11th Gen Tiger Lake platform. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano’s Features & Design

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review lenovo logo

Lenovo designed the ThinkPad X1 Nano with professional users in mind, as it comes in a sleek and smooth matte-black finish, devoid of gaudy bells and whistles. If you get a touchscreen edition of the X1 Nano, though, you can opt for a carbon-fiber weave on the top cover for a bit of extra flair. The smooth shell on the ThinkPad X1 Nano is made of a “durable magnesium-aluminum” alloy, which we have seen on other ThinkPad devices. This design choice provides both a premium feel, and allowed the ultra-lightweight laptop to come in at around 2lbs. This weight makes it incredibly easy to carry around and get things done wherever you may be. Moreover, the small size helps as well, with a footprint of only 11.53 ” X 8.18″, which is not much larger than a standard sheet of paper, for reference. 

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review display
ThinkPad X1 Nano 2K 16:10 13-Inch IPS Display

As you may have guessed by its overall physical dimensions, the ThinkPad X1 Nano comes with a 13″ display that is impressive, to say the least. All configurations come with a 2160×1350 16:10 High-DPI IPS display boasting 450 nits of brightness, 100% sRGB coverage, and Dolby Vision support. The display itself has a matte finish with an anti-glare coating as well, which is great for working in brightly-lit or mixed lighting areas. Ultimately, both indoors and out, this display seemed to get the job done no matter what we threw at it and it’s relatively bright overall versus similar machines in the X1 Nano’s class.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano’s Peripherals

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review left

Taking a tour around the device, you’ll find there is not much going on. On the left side of the ThinkPad X1 Nano, there are two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports and a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack. On the right, there is a row of vent holes and a simple backlit power button that is fairly easy to find once you get used to its position.

With only a pair of USB-C ports, you might find yourself looking for more expansion options, though at least the full bandwidth of Thunderbolt 4 is enabled here. There’s also no microSD card reader on board, unfortunately, and it would have been nice to have one of those USB-C data/charge ports on the other side of the machine, for more flexible left or right-sided charging and potentially easier cable routing as a result. Dell’s XPS 13 line-up does it this way and it’s a simple thoughtful design choice that we prefer.

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review thinkpad camera

Opening up the laptop, you’ll notice four small holes at the top the display, which are for the quad, integrated 360-degree far-field microphones. These are just above the camera bar, which features a 720p webcam and IR camera (for Windows Hello capability) alongside Lenovo’s Privacy Shutter. There is also an optional human presence detection sensor that will automatically lock the computer if you step away. Though adequate, it would have been nice to see a 1080p webcam considering the work-from-home trend and the desire for increased video capture quality, but this webcam and microphone array gets the job done.

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review thinkpad logo

Dropping down to the typing deck, we find a backlit six-row keyboard with multimedia function keys. As always with Lenovo, this keyboard provides a satisfying and comfortable typing experience once you get used to the layout. There is also a centrally located TrackPoint nub of course, which will work for a quick movement across the screen, though it’s not as accurate as using the trackpad. Speaking of which, the multi-touch enabled trackpad has a glass surface, with three buttons for left, right, and middle mouse clicks. It feels incredibly smooth to the touch, and it’s very accurate and responsive for scrolling long pages, intricate movements and multi-touch gestures.Alongside that trackpad is a fingerprint reader that allows users to sign with the tap of a finger. If you do not want to store your fingerprint, though, you can use the Windows Hello functionality or type in a pin or password as usual. Either way you go, you will be back to work quickly, as the login times with this machine (a required Intel EVO experience metric) are quick as a bunny.  

Overall, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano looks and feels good, but does it perform well for its size? It is time to see if this Tiger Lake laptop purrs in our set of benchmarks…Page 2 of 3

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review evo

With Intel 11th Gen Tiger Lake brawn under the hood of this thin and light, we are interested to see how the ThinkPad X1 Nano performs. Performance metrics are met or exceeded through more than just CPU performance though, so lets take and see what we found…

ThinkPad X1 Nano Storage Test: ATTO

First on the docket of tests is the ATTO disk benchmark, which is a fairly straight-forward and easy test that measures read and write operations per second at differing file transfer sizes. On board our machine from Lenovo is a 512GB WD PC SN530 SDBPMPZ-512G-1001 NVMe SSD that performed decently enough.

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review atto

Read speeds ended up topping out around 2.3GB/s while writes peaked somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.56GB/s which is fairly close to the drive’s advertised speeds. Compared to some of the other drives we have seen, however, this is not the greatest, but it will certainly get the job done.

Web Based Benchmarks: Speedometer

BrowserBench.org’s Speedometer is a real-world test for the performance people would find while using a browser. The test automatically runs several sample web apps using a number of popular web development frameworks such as JavaScript, React, and others. Besides just seeing numbers associated with speeds, this test is a good way to equate to a consumer’s web browsing experience on a device.

speedometer thinkpad x1 nano

In our case, the Lenovo X1 Nano did pretty well compared to other Tiger Lake devices we have seen. It lands right about where we would expect it, below the higher end i7-1165G7 and above old generation Intel CPUs as well as newer AMD Ryzen CPUs.

3D Rendering Performance: Cinebench R20

Cinebench R20 is a long sustained-load rendering test that gives a good idea of single and multithreaded performance. Moreover, it gives a rough idea of how a laptop may or may not struggle in the cooling department, though thermal saturation is not something we noticed specifically in testing this ThinkPad machine. 

c20 thinkpad x1 nano

Interestingly, the X1 Nano beat out some slightly more performant CPUs, such as the Intel Core i7-1165G7, but it fell to the Core i7-1185G7 as with the Speedometer test. Perhaps this speaks to the cooling solution Lenovo employed, which allows the X1 Nano to keep a solid pace. Either way, the Lenovo X1 Nano gets a round of applause here for its efforts here.

Synthetic CPU Throughput Test: GeekBench 5

GeekBench 5 is something of a benchmark Swiss-Army knife as a “cross-platform benchmark that measures your system’s performance with the press of a button.” In this instance, we ran both the single- and multi-core tests to get an idea of how the ThinkPad X1 Nano performs versus its peers. 

geekbench thinkpad x1 nano

Again, we have another slight upset as the X1 Nano knocked the Intel Core i7-1185G7 down a rung as far as multithreaded workloads go. On the other hand, single-thread workloads reign supreme on the leaderboard for Tiger Lake-based machines. All things considered, the ThinkPad X1 Nano sits right where we would expect it for the most part. 

Trace-Based Productivity Application Testing: PCMark 10

Futuremark tests are something of a staple when it comes to benchmarking systems around here, and for good reason. We put our X1 Nano through the PCMark 10 gamut, which gives us an idea of how the device would perform in real world day-to-day tasks, unlike GeekBench 5’s synthetic workloads. 

thinkpad x1 nano pcmark 10 score

The results from this test are interesting, to say the least, as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano with its Core i7-1160G7 excelled overall but fell short in some areas like the Essentials and Productivity tests. Perhaps this is related to the machines somewhat more pedestrian SSD storage throughput. Regardless, this test shows that the ThinkPad X1 Nano is perfectly capable, especially considering its size, and it lead the pack in the Digital Content Creation test.

ThinkPad X1 Nano Gaming Tests: 3DMark Night Raid

With all the productivity and average task tests out of the way, we can move on to testing the gaming-capable aspects of this laptop. As this laptop is thin and light with gaming much less of a focus, we only ran 3DMark’s Night Raid benchmark as a quick sanity check. 

night raid thinkpad x1 nano

The Lenovo X1 Nano does impressively well here, considering its petite chassis. It toppled our baseline score for the Intel Core i7-1185G7 but could not quite catch the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 with a Ryzen 94900HS.

Middle Earth: Shadow Of War Performance / Gears Tactics

With the synthetics behind us, we can now move on to proper games, though perhaps this is not a strong suit for the X1 Nano. First up, we have Middle Earth: Shadow of War, a fairly challenging game to play with any laptop specs. 

sow thinkpad x1 nano

The Middle Earth test lets the ThinkPad X1 Nano just barely outpace the Asus Zenbook Flip with two more frames at low settings, but the lead is lost when switching to high settings. As we said, though, playing this game at 1080p is rough in most cases, so perhaps it is not advisable unless you want to drop down to a lower resolution. Still, our tests give you a relative feel on peer group performance overall.  

gears tactics thinkpad x1 nano

However, kicking over to Gears Tactics tells a differing story, as the X1 Nano holds a decent position on the charts. It still falls behind higher-end Tiger Lake CPUs as well as devices with dedicated graphics, but overall, it did well with approximately 70FPS at low settings. At medium settings, we find a happy middle ground that delivers solid visuals at playable frame rates. 

Ultimately, whether you are getting work done or playing some light-duty games, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano should handle mostly whatever you’ll throw at it. Our benchmarks have shown that the ThinkPad X1 Nano is a formidable opponent both in and out of the office. Now it is time to move on to battery life, acoustics, and our final thoughts of this new ThinkPad.Page 3 of 3Our battery life testing is done using a custom scripted 1080p HD video loop developed in-house at HotHardware. We first configure Windows 10’s Quiet Hours and Focus Assist features to reduce screen interference and we also calibrate the screen brightness to as close to 115 lux as possible. Brightness calibration is an integral part of this process, as it ensures a level playing field across a range of devices and displays. In the case of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano, getting to 115lux required setting the display brightness to around 75%.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Battery Life Testing

thinkpad x1 nano battery life test

After the testing was complete and we took a look at the logs, we were pleasantly surprised to find the 48Wh batter inside the ThinkPad X1 Nano lasted 448 minutes, which is a fantastic result for a system with such a small form factor and a higher resolution 2K display (2160X1350). Day after day, while using this machine for typical computing tasks, battery life was never a concern. Ultimately, if remaining untethered to an electrical outlet is important to you, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is a solid option. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Cooling and Acoustics

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review furmark prime95

After running our suite of benchmarks, we also fired up FurMark, while simultaneously running Prime95, to stress both the CPU and iGPU in the Intel Tiger Lake-based Core i7-1160G7 powering the ThinkPad X1 Nano. The laptop never really got louder than a whisper throughout our 10 minute stress test, as we recorded a negligible change over the ambient noise floor from 1 foot away. When it came to measuring thermals, however, the laptop seemed to get quite toasty across the keyboard area.  

Around the six minute mark of the test, we noticed the “4” key was getting warm at around 110°F, while the coolest part of the keyboard was around the spacebar at approximately 97°F. At this point in the test, the CPU package temperature was a very warm 98°C. Ultimately, however, during real-world use you’re not likely to see sustained temperatures this high, and though the skin temps in some areas were noticeably warm to the touch, it wasn’t a major concern.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Conclusion

lenovo thinkpad x1 nano review thinkpad 2lenovo provided

Lenovo has an attractive, rock-solid option in its ultra-portable business-class laptop lineup with the new ThinkPad X1 Nano. Performance with our Intel Core i7-1160G7-powered model was also very good. In some tests, like Cinebench or GeekBench 5, for example, the ThinkPad X1 Nano compared favorably to systems with higher-end CPUs. In other instances, we saw performance that was more in-line with expectations, but overall the numbers look good, especially considering this machine’s tiny form factor.

In addition to its strong performance, the ThinkPad X1 Nano has style and class, making it well suited for virtually any professional environment, whether it be in an office or on the go. The sleek black carbon fiber and magnesium chassis is understated and looks great in our opinion — the here pictures don’t do the machine justice. Moreover, this machine’s high-DPI 13” 2160×1350 display was stunning and rendered vibrant images both indoors and out. 
Find The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano @ AmazonThe ThinkPad X1 Nano also has a number of useful features, such as a fingerprint sensor, human presence detection sensor, and Windows Hello capability. It would have been nice to see a higher-quality 1080p camera on this device, with so many working virtually now (along with a microSD card slot), but neither are deal-breakers. The X1 Nano’s integrated 720p webcam should do just fine for teleconferences and the like.

All of the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s style, performance and features do come at a cost, though. As configured, our device lists upwards of $1,877.40; however, that is not quite the high end. Going all out with a ThinkPad X1 Nano can push the price as high as $2,231.40, but with that you get an Intel Core i7-1180G7 and a 1TB SSD. Though that price may seem high to some of you, its starting price is $1289 and this is not your typical consumer-class notebook — the ThinkPad X1 Nano is premium, through and through. The typing experience on its keyboard is fantastic as usual (for ThinkPads), and the laptop feels sturdy, which can’t be said about some other machines that are this thin and light. 

Overall, we quite liked the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano. Its battery life was excellent, its performance was excellent, the build quality and feature set are top-notch, and the machine looks great. If you’re in the market for a powerful, thin and light notebook, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is worth a look.   

All Rights Reserved for Nathan Ord

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