The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Mini (aka X1 Mini) is an ultra brown based on the new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, but with a lower screen resolution and a lesser processor. The main difference between X1 Mini and X1 Carbon is the aspect ratio. The X1 Nano is only available with a 4:3 aspect ratio screen.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is a small and compact ultrabook that combines the looks of a premium laptop with the performance of a premium tablet. The device’s design is similar to previous ThinkPads; it has a chiclet-style keyboard and a TrackPoint that can be used to navigate the interface, and a fairly thin bezel. Although it is not as powerful as some of the bigger 14-inch ultrabooks, the X1 Nano is still a capable laptop that can handle everyday tasks.
Earlier this year, Lenovo announced the first version of the ThinkPad X1 Nano, an ultra-light notebook with a 16:10 display, modern specifications, and uncompromising Thinkpad build quality and ergonomics. As a former Thinkpad fan, I’ve always wanted to spend some time with this device.
It took me some time to convince Lenovo to send us one of these devices to test, but we have a mature product in terms of hardware and software, pretty much what you’ll be able to buy in stores in the second half of 2021 and beyond.
I have to say it’s refreshing to have a regular ultrabook again after testing mostly gaming and performance laptops for the past few months. Especially when it’s as portable and light as this X1 Nano, which weighs less than a kilo and is absolutely practical to take with you on trips or to work. I also liked the ThinkPad’s large 16:10 matte screen, matte black look, and nice inputs, as well as its fast daily performance, cool and quiet operation, and acceptable battery life.
At the same time, the X1 Nano is not the most powerful or even durable ultrabook; it only uses USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports for I/O and is an expensive product. However, if you can spend $1,200 to $2,000 (or the equivalent in local currency) on an ultra-portable laptop, there are many reasons why I think it should be on your list.
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano|
|Screen||13-inch, 2160 x 1350 px, IPS, matte, non-touch, LEN4076
the panel also available with a touch
|Processor||Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-1160G7, 4C/8T|
|Video||Intel Iris Xe, 96 EU|
|Memory||16GB LPDDR4x-4266MHz (solderable)|
|Storage||512GB M.2 PCIe x4 SSD (WD PC SN530) – M.2 slot 2242|
|Link||Wireless 6 (Intel AX201), Bluetooth 5.1, optional Cat9 LTE|
|Ports||2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, audio jack|
|Battery||Charger 48Wh, 65W|
|Size||293 mm or 11.53 (W) x 208 mm or 8.19 (D) x 16 mm or 0.63 (H)|
|Weight||2.1 lbs (.94 kg)+ .7 lbs (.32 kg) Battery Charger and Cable, EU Version|
|Extras||White backlit keyboard, HD infrared camera, finger sensor, upward-facing stereo speakers.|
The X1 Nano looks like what you’d expect from a modern ThinkPad. Everything is in matte black, with very little branding, which is also muted, except for the red ThinkPad branding on the lid and armrest.
It is also made of a smooth rubbery material that is pleasant to the touch. The entire chassis doesn’t give way or scratch, which is amazing considering how light this laptop is – 0.94 kg in our configuration. Few other ultralight laptops I’ve tasted feel as good as this one in the past.
I’m now hoping that the rubber coating will age well; Lenovo has had issues with port chipping and bumps to the edges in the past, but I know they’ve largely gotten that under control in recent years. However, this design has a drawback that you have to live with: Everything can easily get greasy, and you need to wipe it down to keep it in perfect condition constantly.
The X1 Nano is not only light but also quite compact, without being ultra-compact, as you can see by the extra space above the keyboard and the significant ridges above and below the screen, even though it has a 16:10 ratio, which is superior to the typical 16:9 screens on most other laptops. I don’t mind the slightly larger size, though. The extra space provided room for cameras at the top of the screen, speakers at the top of the keyboard, and an armrest large enough for most potential buyers to use this device comfortably on their laps.
As for practicality, all edges and corners are nicely rounded and comfortable for the wrists. The screen is easy to pick up and adjust with one hand, it can easily be tilted 180 degrees, and the small rubber feet on the bottom provide a firm grip on the flat table. Lenovo has also ensured that there are no status LEDs or other light sources that interfere with the nighttime use of the device. The power button has a small status light, but it has been moved to the left edge, which is not visible.
Let’s move on to the IO, probably the most controversial part of this ThinkPad. The X1 Nano only offers two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support on the left edge and an audio jack also on the left side. There is nothing else, so you have to rely on adapters to connect devices.
This is mainly because the right edge is for the heat sink of the thermal module and the air outlet. I appreciate that it doesn’t blow hot air onto the screen like most modern ultrabooks do, but I’m also not sure that the ThinkPad is portless.
Overall, the ThinkPad X1 Nano is definitely one of my favorite ultrabooks of all time regarding the everyday look and feel. Its lightness is its main advantage, as are its robust build quality and almost uncompromising ergonomics. However, you also have to make do with tiny Thunderbolt-only IOs, which is unpleasant on the ThinkPad. What’s your opinion?
I’ve never been a big fan of Lenovo’s keyboards in their ThinkPads in recent years. Still, I’ve dealt with this implementation in the X1 Nano better than I thought I would.
It’s a flatter type with limited travel (only 1.35mm), as you’d expect with thin ultrabooks like this, but I found the feedback and accurate key response to my liking, especially after a few hours of use. I haven’t tested many 2021 ultrabooks lately, but based on my experience with the best ultrabooks in recent years, I think this laptop is pretty good for typing if you’re used to such a flat keyboard.
The keyboard layout is essentially standard for ThinkPad, with wide, rounded keys at the bottom and a series of smaller keys in the function row and around the arrows.
People with large hands may have problems with this, but a 13-inch laptop may not be for you if that’s the case. Worth noting is that the main and function keys on this device are smaller than on 14-inch ThinkPad models like the X1 Carbon (15×15 mm for the main keys, versus 16×16 mm on the Carbon, and 8×13 mm for the top keys, versus 10×13 mm on the Carbon). Again, the stroke is flatter than that of the X1 Carbon (1.5mm on the 2021 model and 1.8mm in the past).
The keys are illuminated with white LEDs, with two levels of brightness to choose from, and the Caps Lock key has a physical indicator. My only complaint is that I couldn’t find a way to turn off the backlight and had to turn it off manually by pressing Fn + spacebar when needed.
The touchpad is quite small but makes the best use of the available space on the armrest, and the glass is very pleasant to touch. It works very well with taps, gestures, swipes, etc., and has excellent built-in physical tapping.
This ThinkPad also lacks the red TrackPoint protrusion and the corresponding buttons on the top edge of the ClickPad.
Finally, this laptop is equipped with an infrared camera and a finger sensor. So there’s nothing wrong with biometrics.
Lenovo has equipped the X1 Nano series with a 13-inch panel in 16:10 format, which is available in a matte non-touch variant or a touch variant with an anti-reflective coating. Both devices use the same IPS panel. We got the matte version in our device because it’s an upgrade and is only available in a few regions.
This Lenovo proprietary panel is ideal for everyday use with over 450 nits of brightness, dark blacks, and excellent contrast levels. However, the colors are only good quality – 100% sRGB and ~70% DCI-P3, and we also noticed some color imbalance on the left side of the panel, but that shouldn’t matter much in a purchase decision since I don’t expect you’ll be using this laptop for precise color reproduction work.
These are the results of our tests with the X-Rite i1 Display Pro Sensor:
- The material designation of the panel: Lenovo LEN4076 (MND007ZA1-2);
- Coverage: 99.5% sRGB, 70.6% AdobeRGB, 73.1% DCI-P3 ;
- Measured Gamma: 2.19 ;
- Maximum luminance at the center of the screen: 455.90 cd/m2 when turned on;
- Minimum brightness in the center of the screen: 22.57 cd/m2 at startup;
- Contrast at maximum brightness : 1662:1 ;
- Period: 6400 K ;
- Maximum black luminance: 0.27 cd/m2 ;
- PWM: No.
The screen is already well-calibrated, and we hardly noticed any blur at the edges of our sample.
Our test model is the top-of-the-line configuration of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano with an Intel Core i7-1160G7 processor, 16GB LPDDR4x-4266 RAM, 512GB NVMe fast storage, and an Intel Iris Xe graphics card integrated with the processor.
Before we go any further, we should note that our review unit is a retail model with software dated mid-July 2021 (BIOS N2TET64W 1.42, Lenovo Vantage 220.127.116.11). Since we are doing the review later, we are dealing with more refined software, and our experience should be consistent with whatever you get with this device if you decide to buy it.
In terms of specifications, the ThinkPad X1 Nano series is based on the more powerful UP4 versions of Intel’s Tiger Lake hardware platform, with i5 and i7 4C/8T processor variants combined with integrated Iris Xe graphics. Our configuration is equipped with the i7-1160G7 processor, which at 7-15W has a lower TDP than the i7-1165G7 found in most current Ultrabooks.
However, the i7-1160G7 and i7-1165G7 are very similar in performance and feature the same Iris Xe graphics card with 96 execution units. Lenovo chose the 1160G7 over the 65G7 because of its lower continuous power limit at high load. I found articles claiming that the i7-1160G7 in this laptop should have 40W PL1 and 19W PL2, but our tests instead showed a continuous power of 11-13W PL2 under continuous load, as you will see below.
The RAM is soldered to the motherboard, and the SSD slot is there and can be upgraded.
Our device comes with 16GB of RAM, the maximum available for the X1 Nano, and a WD SN530 512GB SSD that is fast enough and can be replaced at any time. However, this X1 Nano uses the smaller M.2 2242 drives, which may be harder to find for upgrades, and there is a warranty sticker on the back of the laptop, at least in Europe, stating that the warranty is voided when opened.
Lenovo should stop doing that altogether with its ThinkPad, especially if the back panel is designed to be easily removed since it’s only held in place by five self-tapping screws.
As for the software, everything can be controlled through the Lenovo Vantage app, which provides access to system updates, battery settings, etc. It’s one of the best management apps in the segment, but I find it odd that, for some reason, Lenovo decided not to include power profiles in Vantage anymore. Instead, you can switch between the default Windows profiles (Better Battery, Better Performance, Best Performance) to juggle power and fan settings. I don’t understand why they are doing this instead of keeping the profile in Vantage as they have done for countless years.
Still, this laptop runs quietly and smoothly on any profile. I left the device in Better Battery mode for everyday use and switched to Best Performance mode only for benchmarks and games. The indoor fan runs very quietly in daily use, but it never runs at full idle so that you can hear it even in a quiet room. But in a normal environment, you won’t hear it.
You can expect this in terms of performance and internal temperature when surfing the web, processing text, or streaming video.
That being said, the next part of this article will focus on the performance of this laptop in demanding workloads and some benchmarks and games.
First, we test CPU performance on heavy tasks by running the Cinebench R15 benchmark over 15 times in a loop, with a 2-3 second delay between each execution.
In the optimal power mode, the i7-1160G7 in our device stabilizes around 2.5 GHz and 13+W of power while keeping the temperature at 70+ degrees Celsius. The system runs the processor at elevated power for about a minute, with the temperature reaching 90+C, then gradually drops and stabilizes at about 13W. Short-term high loads benefit from the processor’s higher performance and clock speeds, but longer loads limit performance due to the 13W continuous power.
The fans run at about 40 dB in this mode, and the laptop produces a 600+ score.
Switching to Best Performance mode seemed not to affect the TDP or performance of our device. Unplugging the laptop doesn’t help either; it stabilizes at the same frequencies and 13 watts of constant power when unplugged.
Other reviews report that the X1 Nano comes out at 18-19W in this cyclic Cinebench test, with higher steady-state performance. Unfortunately, our device did not show similar results. I can’t tell if this is an issue with our specific device or if Lenovo decided to limit the TDP with the latest BIOS updates released between the time other tests were released and the time our device was tested.
Other AMD and Intel ultrabooks fared in the same test to put these results in perspective.
Our ThinkPad X1 Nano is at the bottom of the list of ultraportables we tested, which is not surprising given the lower TDP supported. Also, the Intel Tiger Lake UP4 i7-1160G7 processor can’t compete with the Ryzen 6C/8C processors found in many other ultrabooks today, and if that kind of performance is important to you, it’s best to go for one of those models.
We then tested our results with the more demanding Cinebench R23 test and the dreaded Prime 95. In both cases, CPU consumption stabilizes at 11 W, which is even lower than in the cyclic Cinebench R15 test.
We also ran combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this laptop with the same best performance profile. 3DMark Stress runs the same test 20 times per cycle, looking at variations and performance degradation over time. Unfortunately, this device failed the test by a wide margin, meaning that overall performance declines significantly as heat increases, and the system’s TDP drops to the lower 11-13W level.
The following are some of the results of the comparative analysis. We ran all test series and benchmarks with the Best Performance profile. Here’s what we got.
- 3DMark 13 – Firestrike: 3482 (Graphics – 4066, Physics – 8897, Combined – 1165);
- 3DMark 13 – Night Raid: 12532 (Graphics – 16720, CPU – 5180);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy : 1474 (Graphics – 1323, CPU – 4188);
- Uniengine Overlay – Medium 1080p : 2488 ;
- Handbrake 1.3.3 (encoding 4K to 1080p): 21.75 frames per second on average;
- PassMark10: Rating: 3589 (CPU rating: 11236, 3D graphics rating: 2913, disk rating: 16762);
- PCMark 10 : 4712 (Fundamentals – 9323 , Productivity – 6433 , Digital content creation – 4733) ;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit : Mononuclear: 1448, multi-core: 4969 ;
- CineBench R15 (best execution): CPU 857 cb, Single Core CPU 206 cb ;
- CineBench R20 (best execution): CPU 2050 cb, Single Core CPU 526 cb ;
- CineBench R23 (best execution): CPU 5154 cb, Single Core CPU 1392 cb ;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 78.42 sec.
These are not bad results, especially in 3DMark and shorter workloads where the system is running at higher performance settings. However, Cinebench R23, Handbrake, or x264 benchmarks show performance drops again for tests longer than a minute, as performance is limited.
Ultimately, based on my experience with this Thinkpad X1 Nano, I would not use this laptop for heavy workloads. The system is fine for everyday use and multitasking, but it’s not designed for anything else. I have no problem with that, and I should also add that it runs very well on battery in best performance mode. Of course, the battery will not last as long in this case, but at least you will be able to multitask without turning off the device when needed.
Consider also that some other tests I’ve read and seen suggest better-combined performance than we got with this device, so my conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, we do not have another sample to test, so we cannot say if our results are accurate or if we received a somewhat limited sample. If you own one of these devices, I would love to hear your thoughts on our findings. Please put it in the comments section at the end of the article.
We then ran several DX11, DX12, and Vulkan games with the performance profile, FHD resolution, and Low/Low graphics settings. Here’s what we got:
|Core i7-1160G7 + Iris Xe||ThinkPad X1 Nano
Core i7-1160G7 11W, standard resolution
|IdeaPad Flex 5,
Ryzen 7 5500U 24W
Ryzen 5 5500U 15W
Core i7-1165G7 19W
|Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, low preset)||55 frames per second (28 frames per second, 1% less)||75 frames per second (56 frames per second, 1% less)||70 frames per second (52 frames per second – 1% low)||70 frames per second (40 frames per second is 1% too low)|
|Dota 2 (DX 11, best display by default)||44 fps (36 fps – 1% low)||53 fps (41 fps – 1% low)||49 frames per second (33 frames per second – 1% low)||56 frames per second (44 frames per second, 1% lower)|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, low preset, no AA)||16 frames per second (9 frames per second, 1% less)||24 fps (21 fps – 1% low)||23 fps (18 fps – 1% low)||26 frames per second (18 frames per second, 1% less)|
|NFS: Most Wanted (DX 11, lowest preset)||43 fps (30 fps – 1% low)||60 frames per second (52 frames per second – 1% low)||60 frames per second (49 frames per second – 1% low)||60 frames per second (46 frames per second – 1% low)|
|Strange Brigade (Volcano, preselection bass)||33 fps (27 fps – 1% low)||36 frames per second (31 frames per second – 1% low)||36 frames per second (31 frames per second – 1% low)||44 fps (28 fps – 1% low)|
- Dota 2, NFS – recorded with MSI Afterburner in game mode;
- Bioshock, Far Cry 5, Strange Brigade – registered with the included benchmark programs.
Again, the system flattens out in games at about 11-13W after running at 40-25W for the first minute, then gradually drops over the next 15-30 minutes, as the logs show.
Add to that the fact that the screen resolution is 2160 x 1350 px, which is 40% more pixels than the standard 1920 x 1080 px screen, and the X1 Nano won’t appeal to ultrabook fans much. Lightweight and older games run well at 30-60 fps on low settings, but don’t expect more or even this model to match the performance of many other Intel or AMD ultrabooks of this generation.
Lenovo opted for a simple thermal design with a single fan and heat pipe. The design is superior to that of most Ultrabooks: a longer heat pipe, a larger fan with an unobstructed air intake grille on the bottom, and a radiator on the right edge that draws hot air away from the user and not toward the screen like many other thin and light models.
What I find strange is that the heat pipe runs very close to the battery. I really hope the battery is properly insulated and that such a design is safe for long-term use.
This thermal module is well suited for this power-limited implementation of the Tiger Lake UP4 platform. The processor operates below 50 degrees Celsius under daily use and around 70 degrees Celsius under heavy load after power stabilization. The fan is also quite – less than 40 dB at head height in the loudest profile and is barely audible in daily use.
The laptop is also comfortable. The temperature of the keyboard varies between 30 degrees for daily use and 40 degrees for more intensive use. Overall, the X1 Nano is cooler and quieter than most other ultrabooks.
*Daily use – stream Netflix on EDGE for 30 minutes, best battery mode, fan set to 0-32dB
*Gaming – best performance mode – play Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fan set to 39-40dB
In terms of connectivity, the laptop comes with WiFi 6 2×2 and the latest generation Bluetooth 5.1 via Intel AX201 module and optional LTE connectivity. The sample performed well in our setup, with signal and power remaining high up to a distance of 30 meters and with obstacles in between.
Sound is provided by a set of four speakers, two of which come out of the grille above the keyboard, and two others are located on the lower front panel. ThinkPad speakers have been famous for years, but the X1 Nano’s speakers have a solid impact, almost 85 dB at the head, and are of pretty good quality for an ultra-thin laptop speaker. I don’t expect much bass, but the mids and highs are decent. So watching a movie or listening to regular music on this nano will be a great experience.
The HD camera at the top of the screen is just as bad as before. The quality is muddy and washed out. On the other hand, a physical shutter button can lock the camera and an infrared receiver with Hello support.
The ThinkPad X1 Nano has a 48 Wh battery, which is less than most other current Ultrabooks. Efficient hardware helps, though, and while the 16:10 screen has its minor drawbacks, this laptop offers good battery life on a single charge.
This is what we got on our test device when the screen brightness was set to around 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 7W (~7-8 hours of use) – text editing on Google Drive, enhanced battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi capability ;
- 5.2W (~8-9 hours of use) – Fullscreen 1080p video on Youtube in Edge mode, better battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi enabled ;
- 4W (~11-12 hours of use) – Full-screen Netflix in Edge, Enhanced battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi enabled ;
- 8W (~5-6 hours of use) – Edge screen, best battery mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi enabled.
Our model comes with a compact 65W charger that connects via USB-C. It consists of two parts – a compact brick and a long cable, and it takes about 2 hours to charge the battery fully. However, 80% of the battery is full in about an hour and 50% in less than 40 minutes.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is available in various versions worldwide, both at local Lenovo outlets and other well-known locations.
This tested configuration with an Intel Core i7-1160G7 processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and a matte display costs (so far) around US$1,700 in the US, £1,900 in the UK, and €1,900 in Germany. It was expensive!
Optional features include a touchscreen (available in some regions), an LTE module, vPRo compatible processor options, or additional memory.
However, there are also cheaper models available. A Core i5-1130G7 processor with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD is a better option, given the consistently low power consumption of this system. The i5 models start at around £1200/GBP with less RAM and hard drive space, and that’s without taking into account the coupons Lenovo offers from time to time.
After working with it every day for the past two weeks, I think the ThinkPad X1 Nano is one of the best ultralight ultrabooks out there. It’s nice enough to take to work or school, and it doesn’t significantly affect the ThinkPad’s design, construction, or ergonomics because it’s so light.
Apart from the size, the 16:10 matte screen with an expressive panel, the inputs, speakers, and the overall balance of performance, temperature, noise level, and battery life in daily use also make a solid impression.
At the same time, it’s not as powerful as some other ThinkPad models like the X13, T14, or X1 Carbon has a smaller, cramped keyboard and relies solely on USB-C ports for long workloads. It’s also more expensive than the other options when you specify it.
Moreover, other alternatives are not from Lenovo. In the ultra-light, high-end laptop segment, the HP Elite Dragonfly or the Asus ExpertBook B9 are serious contenders. If you don’t mind slightly heavier products, the Dell XPS 13 or the Apple MacBook Air are also hard to beat in their niches and price segments.
That said, the X1 Nano isn’t for everyone and compared to the competition, it’s inferior in some ways, but if you’re willing to pay Lenovo’s asking price and are willing to prioritize a lightweight design over high performance or better IO, then I think this laptop should be on your list.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does ThinkPad X1 Nano have a touch screen?
A: Yes, the ThinkPad X1 Nano has a touch screen.
Which ThinkPad has the best screen?
A: The ThinkPad T460s has the best screen.
How long should a Lenovo X1 Carbon last?
A: The average lifespan of a Lenovo X1 Carbon is 3 years.
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