Lenovo X1 Nano: a fantastic featherweight experience

If money is no object, this is the lightweight, workhorse you'd want to have.

by Justin Choo

The Lenovo X1 Nano was a pleasant surprise: simply put, it’s the most enjoyable lightweight laptop that we’ve come across in recent times.

It’s not often that we kick things off with a glowing endorsement but it’s not every day you find a product that gets so many things right. The X1 Nano has pretty much nails the balance between a powerful workhorse and the key mobility aspects of an ultrabook. Of course, it’s only fair that I should toss out that one major caveat early as well: the eye-watering asking price.

But let’s get to brass tacks. Despite the svelte frame, the laptop feels surprisingly durable – the magnesium alloy and carbon fibre combination displaying just the right amount of rigidity and flex without alarming you with fears about its durability. Even when you flap it around a little bit while fully open – it even opens 180 degrees – you won’t get the sense that something is going to break. More importantly, you never feel like you have to baby it and that’s quite liberating, especially when using it on the move. Don’t forget, this is a laptop that weighs less than a kilogram. The signature matte finish feels really good in the hand, although I get a tad worried as skin oils tend to stand out on the matte surface. But I suppose the Thinkpad patina is a signature look as well.

Being a slim laptop, it stands to reason that you aren’t going to get the vaunted ThinkPad keyboard experience; that said, if you’re an old-timer you’d probably only acknowledge the IBM-era ThinkPad anyway. That said, the slim profile keyboard isn’t too bad despite the obvious compromises – definitely not worse than the competition. The keys exhibit a nice bounce and the travel distance is adequate. Not exactly a fast typist’s keyboard but it’s quite pleasant for long hours of typing.

The trackpad comes with three physical buttons, which is a nice touch, but in all honesty as someone who’s used Thinkpads throughout the years, the ThinkPad Trackpoint (red pointer button) is still the best way to navigate. Go ahead, change my mind. The fingerprint sensor is located on the side of the trackpad, which looks a little odd, but it’s not getting in anyone’s way either.

What sells the X1 Nano is the day-to-day experience. The ergonomics, as we mentioned, is excellent, and the performance is no slouch either. It’s a little more straightforward in this department, thanks to the rather beefy Intel Core i7-1160G7 processor, which is essentially a slightly more power-efficient version of the more conventional 1165G7 (trade-off a little power for efficiency), paired with 16GB of RAM in our configuration. With adequate vents on the bottom and the side, the X1 Nano rarely gets uncomfortably hot. Because of the vents at the bottom, the X1 Nano might not be as comfortable on laps, but that’s a minor inconvenience.

This laptop also carries the Intel Evo certification, which means it fulfils set criteria where the laptop is expected to be zippy and lasts long enough without a power supply for all-day computing; e.g. resume operation instantly from standby. With the IR camera, you can enable facial recognition login, which speeds up the process considerably. Lenovo has thoughtfully added a physical shutter to prevent unfortunate accidents as well, which makes it all the more surprising that the camera is rather anaemic compared to the rest of the ensemble. It’s weird because zoom calls are so prevalent that we’ve started using zoom as a common noun, but cameras are still stuck in 2018? But to be fair, it’s the same for most laptops today.

Fortunately, the display and the speakers more than compensate for this misstep. The display and the speakers on the X1 Nano match the package and reinforce the premium experience of this laptop. The display panel sports a 16:10 screen ratio and 2,160 x 1,350 resolution, which is perfect for a high-resolution look and feel on this 13-inch screen – it’s sharp looking. The IPS panel (100 per cent sRGB coverage) isn’t mind-blowingly good, but the colours are certainly a notch above typical displays and the experience is convincing as premium laptops go.

Is there a case for 13 inches being a little too small for work? This is purely a personal preference, but I think that the size is perfect for handling and I’m really on the fence about making a call on this one. A slightly bigger screen would have been nice, but I think if you are on the move a lot, I’m certain you’ll appreciate this form factor more than a slightly larger display.

Audio is often an afterthought in laptops but in the case of the X1 Nano, Lenovo certainly went to great lengths to make sure the curtains match the drapes – not exactly the most appropriate metaphor, yet somehow fitting. It begs the question, why would you need good speakers – intended only for the user, and not the best for presentations – on a work laptop? I guess it comes down again to that cliche – the overall experience. Lenovo placed two up-firing speakers and two down-firing woofers into the X1 Nano and the result is an audio experience that is surprisingly polished. The bass is well-defined and has plenty of presence (for laptop speakers), while the top end is clear and you can turn it up without worrying about distortion; it’s minimal.

The Intel i7 processor ensures that your daily workflows never slow to a crawl and it’s almost an afterthought by this point – the X1 Nano won’t be fazed except for the most punishing renders. Of course, it’s not a gaming machine and performance is pretty in line with other laptops with similar setups – stuff like Modern Warfare at low and medium settings are fine. It will get warm when you’re pushing the laptop to the limit it never gets too uncomfortable so, so that’s a great thing. I wouldn’t place the X1 on my lap, however, as I risk blocking the vents. The battery life is pretty good as well, and I averaged about 11 to 12 hours on average with general use.

So what are the downsides? Well, ports and connectivity options, for one. It’s the unspoken trade-off that slim laptops have to deal with but this is on the level that you have to be Apple to get away with it. And like Apple’s Macbooks, the X1 Nano has been given two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports treatment. There’s a headphone jack and a microSIM slot and that’s it. So, it’s the Macbook school of USB management, where you need to get a USB hub to connect all of your devices at your workstation. But I suppose this is less of a problem given the price and its market, and if you’re constantly unplugging your laptop from your devices then a hub makes more sense anyway.

The X1 Nano is an odd one to review. You might argue that the price is excessive considering that it’s possible to buy a laptop with similar performance for even half the price if you can do a bit of savvy bargain hunting. You have no arguments from me there – no one in their right mind would think this is affordable or bang-for-your-buck.

But the point is that not all money-is-no-object offerings are made equal, and the X1 Nano is of a rare breed that will charm your socks off from the get-go. If paying a premium is what gets you that intrinsic experience, then I guess you do get your money’s worth in that respect.


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Features – 7/10
Value Proposition – 6/10
Performance – 9/10
Design & Build Quality – 9/10

Do you have money to burn? Then this is a good spot to do it. One of the best ultrabook experiences money can buy.