Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 2 Review
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 2 is a follow-up of the original X1 Nano [Gen 1], which was a breakthrough in the ultralight laptop world. The Nano series is designed to take the portability of the ThinkPad X1 series to the extreme, and it has proven widely successful.
This second generation pushes the concept to the next level, thanks to system performance and other hardware updates from careful user feedback analysis. The second-generation ThinkPad X1 Nano builds upon the same sub-two pounds ultra mobility concept originally introduced but uses the most modern hardware when launched.
“~22% LIGHTER THAN THE MACBOOK AIR”
As such, Lenovo is targeting a particular audience that cares first and foremost about ultra mobility. That is quite different from almost any other thin & light, such as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre X360, and of course, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. All are built as all-rounded, thin & light.
However, the MacBook Air weighs 1270g vs. the X1 Nano Gen 2’s 995g, a very noticeable difference from a user experience point of view.
The chassis can also accomodate an optional 4G or 5G modem for those who want to maximize their productivity. While WIFI can be widely available, it cannot compare with the immediate and ubiquitous coverage of 4G/5G (for a price).
Our review unit ($2150 as tested) came equipped with the Intel Core i7-1280P (28W TDP), 32GB RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage, which is excellent for a laptop of this size and weight. Lenovo has many more processor options, depending on your desired computing speed and budget.
|Core i5-1240P||12 (4 P-core + 8 Ecore)||12MB||Intel Iris® Xe|
|Core i5-1250P||12 (4 P-core + 8 Ecore)||12MB||Intel Iris Xe|
|Core i7-1260P||12 (4 P-core + 8 Ecore)||18MB||Intel Iris Xe|
|Core i7-1270P||12 (4 P-core + 8 Ecore)||18MB||Intel Iris Xe|
|Core i7-1280P||14 (6 P-core + 8||24MB||Intel Iris Xe|
The soldered RAM can be selected as 16GB or 32GB of memory without any upgrade options, so choose carefully. 32GB of RAM on an ultramobile is a formidable memory option if you can afford it, but note that it won’t affect the benchmark results.
“FORMIDABLE MEMORY OPTION”
The SSD options are 256/512/1024GB of storage, which should be sufficient for the intended office-productivity audience Lenovo is catering to.
Overall, the X1 Nano Gen2 design is very similar to the previous generation, so everything related to design, ergonomics, and ultra mobility is pretty much the same, and it’s fair to consider this version a performance update primarily.
If you’re new to the ThinkPad X1 Nano series and never had one in your hands, you might be surprised at how light it feels. Many people think I’m handing them an empty laptop shell when they hold it for the first time. This laptop is ~22% lighter than the MacBook Air.
The chassis is painted with the iconic “ThinkPad Black” soft paint, but if you’re getting the more expensive touch-display option, you’ll get a luxurious carbon weave display cover. It’s not present on this specific unit, unfortunately.
Unlike many other ultra mobile laptops, this X1 Nano Gen2 is designed to be opened and maintained by the user (or the IT department). It’s possible to remove the bottom cover to access the user-replaceable SSD. Unfortunately, the RAM is soldered (very common for ultra-compact laptops).
Keyboard and Trackpad
Because it is so thin, the spill-resistant keyboard has a shorter key travel than your standard-size ThinkPad laptop. However, the travel remains significantly deeper than the newer MacBook Pro keyboard, which is extremely shallow.
The tactile feedback is sharper than other ThinkPads, and I like it. If you’re a ThinkPad fan, you might want to test it before buying to gauge how much it fits your taste, but I find it very comfortable and highly recommend it.
For reference, I use an IBM Model M as my desktop keyboard and a Logitech Mechanical MX Mini when I travel. I also own a Keychron V1 (Khail white switches) and Keychron K1 (Gateron blue switches).
The trackpad feels super-smooth and works great. It’s not the biggest you could get on a laptop this size, but I like having the physical trackpad buttons because they are more accurate. I don’t use the Trackpoint, but it remains a highly sought-after feature for many ThinkPad users.
For extra security, there’s a fingerprint reader to the right of the trackpad, and I highly recommend using it in addition to the IR webcam logging. Both are very secure and more convenient than typing a long password.
The laptop is so thin that Lenovo didn’t include any USB-A or other large ports. That’s normal for ultramobile laptops. However, two Thunderbolt 4 ports could be extended using a TB/USB dock (from Anker or Sabrent) at home or the office.
I’m curious to see if Lenovo could modify the rear of the chassis to fit full-size ports. I don’t think that would ultimately kill the silhouette of the laptop while giving users a couple of full-size ports. Having one USB-A and one HDMI connector would be amazing but it’s understandably very challenging to implement.
The X1 Nano Gen 1 features great sound quality similar to the original model. The sound coming from the quad-speaker setup (2W x2 woofers and 1W x2 tweeters) is powerful and overall impressive for this size. However, there’s a bit of distortion at maximum volume, and the bass could be higher.
That said, the sound is loud enough that I can’t imagine using a 100% volume in a hotel room, airport, or even during a group call at the office, so I don’t think this will be a problem.
Like previously, Lenovo has two 13” display options: touch and non-touch. Both use a low-power 60Hz IPS LCD panel with 450 NITs brightness, 100% sRGB coverage, 85-degree view angle, and a 1000:1 contrast ratio.
The screen’s frame is surprisingly rigid for such a thin display and only bends slightly if you actively try to deform it. There’s almost no flex when opening the laptop with one hand…
“FOR PROFESSIONAL LIGHT CREATIVE WORK”
That’s an outstanding brightness and color gamut, which allows for professional light creative work such as design, photography, and web development. You’ll probably use a monitor or a much bigger and expensive mobile workstation if you need something higher-end.
The (2160×1350) 2K resolution remains an excellent choice because it is significantly sharper than 1080p while not undermining the battery life as a 4K display would.
The 1080p webcam is a notable improvement from the previous 720p one. Since people are much more on video calls, it’s not a negligible improvement. It could even become a sway factor in the ~2 Lbs category because all components must be as small as possible, which may affect the image quality.
The quality is very reasonable and higher-than-average in low light for its price category. There’s some noise (grain), but the framerate remains high, and the quality is good enough to have a productive video call without the video stream quality becoming a distraction.
Lenovo promotes that the lens has an f/2,0 aperture (and a quad-microphone array), which indicates that OEMs might soon start competing over camera specs, as they do on smartphones.
Our ThinkPad X1 Nano has an Intel Core i7-1280P CPU, even faster than the 1260P in the X1 Carbon Gen 10 we reviewed earlier. As such, the laptop scores higher in CPU benchmarks like Geekbench (~2X faster than the previous generation) and productivity benchmarks such as PCMark 10.
This is the most noticeable and valuable improvement for those hesitating to get an X1 Nano Gen 1 because of potential performance tradeoffs.
The same is true for GPU-heavy tests such as 3DMark TimeSpy. While this is not a gaming device, both CPU and GPU tests show you don’t leave any performance on the table by going from the X1 Carbon Gen10 to the X1 Nano Gen 2. For a productivity laptop, it packs serious computing power.
“THE MOST NOTICEABLE AND VALUABLE IMPROVEMENT”
Remember that the X1 Nano series is not designed to be a high-performance workstation. There’s a single cooling fan set to keep noise levels relatively low, so its cooling power isn’t maximized.
Because of that, running the CPU at 100% for extended periods will eventually build up heat and cause some thermal throttling. That said, your typical office apps should not cause any of that.
The SSD performance is lower than the X1 Carbon storage, but this did not negatively affect the benchmark outcomes, even in those PCMark 10 tests with some disk activity involved.
The X1 Nano SSD we tested is a “KBG5AZNT1T02 LA KIOXIA” 1TB, while the one in the X1 Carbon Gen10 is a Samsung MZVL2512HCJQ-00BL7 512GB.
When a laptop is so light, it’s crucial to look at the performance/weight ratio; few people analyze that. The data shows the X1 Nano Gen 2’s incredible performance/weight ratio in all benchmarks, which is extraordinary for the ultramobile category.
This ratio should be THE performance metric to watch for because no one buys this kind of computer to achieve “absolute performance,” which we already established as excellent in this category.
The PCMark 10 Modern Office battery life yielded 8hrs 8mn for this laptop and its 49.6 WH battery capacity. That’s significantly less than what we got with the first generation X1 Nano Gen 1, but this can be very easily explained by the much higher performance of the X1 Nano Gen 2.
The X1 Nano Gen 2 has a much more powerful and power-hungry processor, and we’re testing the absolute fastest version of this laptop. If you would rather have a longer battery life and absolute speed is not critical, you could opt for the Core i5-1240P version, which does not feature as many “Performance” (high-power) CPU cores.
Using a Lenovo 65W charger, we noticed that while the battery could still claim to be “fast-charge” enabled, it was not charging as fast as the X1 Nano Gen1 or the latest X1 Carbon Gen 10.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 2 (official page) is an excellent thin & light (~2Lbs) laptop. All data points show it. However, in the ultramobile category, it stands unchallenged.
That is “why” people want to buy this computer, which is supported by the market data we studied. People compare it to the iPad, which indicates they want something much lighter than a thin & light laptop. But if you want a Windows computer that runs all the [Windows] apps you already use, the iPad won’t cut it.
“IN THE ULTRAMOBILE CATEGORY, IT STANDS UNCHALLENGED”
Next, data shows people comparing it with thin & light, such as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10, XPS 13, MacBook Air (M1, M2), ThinkPad Z13, and ThinkPad T14. However, these are significantly heavier than the X1 Nano Gen 2, so I consider them in another category and feel entirely different when you carry them.
If you want 0.3” to 1” more in display diagonal and don’t mind the extra weight, that might be a good reason to get one. However, if you’re after the lightest 13” computer without compromising on performance, the X1 ThinkPad Nano Gen 2 is the only game in town. It is simply the best ~2Lbs laptop on the market right now.
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