Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 2 (2022) – Review 2022 – PCMag UK

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 2 (2022) – Review 2022 – PCMag UK

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 2 (2022) – Review 2022 – PCMag UK 0 0 Alan Dickson

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There are a number of great laptops that meet PCMag’s definition of an ultraportable at under three pounds, but notebooks under two pounds are as scarce as hen’s teeth. That’s why we were delighted by the February 2021 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano, a 13-inch productivity partner that limbo’d under the line at 1.99 pounds. The new X1 Nano Gen 2 (starts at $1,511; $2,147 as tested) narrowly misses that cut, but is still ultralight at 2.13 pounds (2.19 pounds, if you get it with a touch screen). It’s a worthy rival to the Apple MacBook Air M2 and the Dell XPS 13 Plus, but it falls a bit short of our favorite, slightly pricier ultraportables, the 13.5-inch HP Elite Dragonfly G3 and Lenovo’s own 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10.
Like a growing number of laptops, the ThinkPad X1 Nano trades the familiar 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio for a slightly taller 16:10—in this case, a 2,160-by-1,350-pixel IPS panel rated at 450 nits of brightness. The $1,511 base model sports a 12th Generation Intel Core i5-1240P processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB NVMe solid-state drive. Our $2,147 test unit steps up to a Core i7-1280P (six Performance cores, eight Efficient cores, 20 threads), 32GB of memory, and a 1TB drive.
Clad in the familiar matte black magnesium and aluminum of other ThinkPads with a carbon fiber hybrid lid, the Nano Gen 2 is a trim 0.57 by 11.5 by 8.2 inches, even more compact than the 2.7-pound MacBook Air (0.44 by 12 by 8.5 inches). The system has passed MIL-STD 810H torture tests for road hazards like vibration, shock, and temperature extremes; there’s almost no flex if you grasp the screen corners or press the keyboard deck. 
The screen bezels aren’t ultra-thin, but the top bezel makes room for a face recognition webcam with sliding privacy shutter. A fingerprint reader next to the touchpad gives you a second way to skip typing passwords with Windows Hello. As with larger ThinkPads, the touchpad is joined by Lenovo’s TrackPoint mini joystick embedded in the keyboard, with three buttons below the space bar. Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth are standard, with 4G or 5G mobile broadband optional.
Like the Dell and Apple ultraportables, the Lenovo is short on ports, with only two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports joined by an audio jack on its left edge. There’s nothing on the right side except cooling vents and the power button. We’re all for skinny laptops, but we hate having to carry adapters to plug in an external monitor or USB Type-A storage device, so we prefer lightweights like the Carbon and Dragonfly that provide HDMI and USB-A as well as Thunderbolt connectors.
ThinkPads are famous for having first-class keyboards, and the Nano is no exception—the backlit keyboard offers a wonderfully snappy typing feel and a fine layout including real Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys instead of double-duty cursor arrows. (The Fn and Control keys are in each other’s place at bottom left, but you can swap their functions with the provided Lenovo Vantage utility.) 
Top-row shortcuts include keys to place and end video calls, as well as the usual brightness and volume controls. The touchpad is smallish due to the system’s size, but it glides and taps smoothly and clicks quietly.
The face recognition webcam offers 1080p instead of the lowest-common-denominator 720p resolution. It captures well-lit and colorful images with good detail and no static. A User Presence Sensing feature uses face recognition to offer Zero Touch Login and Lock as you approach or walk away, and it can save battery power by dimming the display when you look away. Weirdly, the feature kept working even when I turned it off in Lenovo Vantage; I thought I wouldn’t be able to run our battery-life test until I discovered it can be disabled in BIOS setup. (Our battery test relies on the screen brightness being at a constant level throughout.)
Besides the above-mentioned features, Lenovo Vantage offers AI-based Wi-Fi security, audio optimization for VoIP calls, and dynamic, music, movie, game, and voice presets for Dolby Audio. Two upward- and two downward-firing speakers pump out reasonably loud, somewhat hollow sound. Bass is absent, but there’s no distortion at high volume, and you can make out overlapping tracks.
The Nano’s unusual 2,160-by-1,350-pixel resolution is a good fit for its 13-inch screen, providing sharp detail without making things squinty-small. The IPS panel offers wide viewing angles and high contrast. Brightness is ample, and colors are rich and well saturated, though they don’t pop like poster paints. White backgrounds look clean instead of dingy, helped by a screen hinge that goes all the way back.
For our benchmark charts, we compared the ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 2 to its above-mentioned rivals: the Dell XPS 13 Plus, the M2 version of the Apple MacBook Air, and the HP Elite Dragonfly G3. That left one spot which we filled with a budget-priced ultraportable, the 2.48-pound Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2. You can see their basic specs in the table below.
The main benchmark of UL’s PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10’s Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop’s storage. 
Following those, three further benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses that company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better). 
Our final productivity test is Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe’s famous image editor to rate a PC’s performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It’s an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.
The X1 Nano Gen 2 easily cleared the 4,000 points in PCMark 10 that show excellent productivity for Microsoft Office or Google Workspace, and it performed well in Photoshop. But its CPU scores were lower than we expected considering its 28-watt Intel P-series rather than 15-watt U-series processor. The cheaper, Core i5-based Surface Laptop predictably brought up the rear. 
We test Windows PCs’ graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). 
We also run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which stresses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests, rendered offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, exercise graphics and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.
We’ve tested scores of laptops with Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics and never found one suitable for gaming or graphically demanding apps. This group continues the streak—they’re fine for casual gaming or streaming video, but not intended for first-person shooters or workstation-class CGI. 
We test laptops’ battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of SteelTears of Steel) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off. 
We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure a laptop screen’s color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).
The MacBook Air and the OLED-screened XPS 13 Plus have the most dazzling, colorful displays here, though the Lenovo’s is nice and bright. The Nano managed to outlast the Dell in our battery rundown, but its stamina is far short of the Apple and HP ultraportables’.
If you can live without luxuries like an OLED screen, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 2 is a fairly priced, highly capable ultraportable. It misses Editors’ Choice honors because of its scanty array of ports and decent but not notable battery life, but wins points for its high-quality keyboard and screen, and available LTE. As for weighing 2.13 instead of last year’s 1.99 pounds, well, we’re a bit over our target weight ourselves.
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