Lenovo Thinkbook 13s Vs. Thinkpad X1 Carbon: Which Business Notebook Suits You? – The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano and Extreme are great portable workhorses. The ThinkPad X1 Nano is great for working on the go, while the Extreme offers more power in a small, portable package.
When I was a kid, my dad had one of those old ThinkPad laptops. I’ve always thought it strange, the red ball – or the ‘sharp stick,’ as it’s actually called – was an unusual way to use a computer. It still is, even with Lenovo’s latest ThinkPad laptops. Despite this, the new ‘X1’ series of ThinkPad laptops offer many design improvements over previous ThinkPads.
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Lenovo has sent out some new ThinkPad X1 devices, including the upcoming X1 Fold that I reviewed earlier this year (you can read all about it here). The fold is unique, but also beautiful on the outside – I can’t imagine anyone doing a lot of work on it. Unlike the X1 Fold, Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano and X1 Extreme (Gen 3) are traditional clamshell laptops and complete performance beasts.
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I never thought I’d want to use a ThinkPad, but you and especially the Nano changed my mind about that. Yes, both are still work laptops designed and built for business use, but honestly, they would also make great choices for casual users.
Having been using both ThinkPads indoors and outdoors for the past few weeks, I would recommend them to anyone who finds themselves working remotely and needing a better laptop to do those things.
Perhaps the most important difference between the X1 Nano and the X1 Extreme is indicated by the name. The Nano is incredibly sweet, while being, well, fierce for its power and size. Granted, Lenovo’s X1 Extreme isn’t the same as many gaming laptops, but it comes close. The upside is the size allows Lenovo to squeeze in a more powerful CPU – the Extreme can offer up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i9 H-chip (my review unit had an i7-10850H). Meanwhile, the Nano uses the newer, more powerful 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1160G7 CPU.
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Depending on what you want from your laptop, these differences are likely to inform a significant part of your purchasing decision. X1 Nano and Extreme are not the same family of laptops, but they have a lot in common. Despite the difference in size and CPU, the two X1 computers offer a similar design, with different configuration options to suit different needs.
Those who want a light and thin laptop that can handle most workloads but prioritize portability should choose the X1 Nano. Coming in at 907g (1.99lbs), it’s lighter than the smaller Microsoft Surface Laptop Go and about the same, give or take a few millimeters.
The X1 Extreme, however, offers stronger specs with more RAM, a powerful CPU and a 4K display. It’s also bigger than the Nano, which is great if that’s what you need. I’ve always been partial to smaller laptops, but I appreciated the extra power of the Extreme when it came to heavy photo editing work.
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I want to focus on the X1 Nano first, partly because I find it to be the more impressive of the two laptops (although both are excellent). However, much of what applies to the Nano also applies to the Extreme. I’ll discuss some of the differences between the two when I get down to the nitty-gritty.
What sold me on the Nano was the size. Last year, the Surface Laptop Go was one of my favorite laptops, even though I felt it didn’t offer enough internals to justify the price.
The ThinkPad X1 Nano is the closest I’ve come to a laptop, but it offers a more powerful interior. In addition, the Nano only costs a few hundred dollars more, depending on the model you want. (For more info on pricing, read on – Lenovo does weird things on its website, the price of the X1 Nano has changed several times while writing this review).
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As the first 11th Gen Intel laptop I had the chance to test, the X1 Nano has excellent performance. In my time with it, the laptop easily handled everything I threw at it.
As with most laptop reviews, I started with my usual daily routine – open a number of tabs from several browser windows, Slack, email and Photoshop. The X1 Nano never broke a sweat. Performance was fast even with more than 20 tabs open and Photoshop full. Although the fans rarely killed them, they were remarkably quiet when they did. In addition, the Nano typically stayed cool even under heavy use, suggesting the heat and performance of Intel’s 11th Gen chips may be better.
Although I didn’t put much stock in benchmarks, I tested Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23 for basic comparisons – you can see the scores below:
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In both Geekbench and Cinebench, the Extreme scored better in the multi-core test (5493 and 6162 respectively compared to the Nano’s 5107 and 4670). Interestingly, the Nano is better than the single-core. However, depending on which Extreme or Nano configuration you get, these results can change dramatically – keep in mind that the Extreme can load up to a Core i9 processor. After benchmarking the two laptops starting at 100 percent battery, the Nano finished the test at 54 percent while the Extreme dropped to 52 percent. Both laptops are set to 50 percent brightness.
In comparison, the Laptop Go scored 3,552 in Geekbench multi-core, 1,150 in single-core and 1,402 in Cinebench R20. Unfortunately, comparing the different Cinebench scores doesn’t show much as only the R20 difference is listed instead of the multi-core and single-core scores. Another interesting comparison is the new Mac-powered Apple M1. The Air scored 7,148 multi-core and 1,671 single-core Geekbench (other models scored similarly but slightly higher).
It’s also worth noting that Extreme includes Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q graphics. This can help anyone who wants to play some light games on the side, but considering the extreme need to push the 4K display, don’t expect good performance in most titles.
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Intel’s 11th Gen processors also seem to lighten battery life. I’ve found that I can usually get through a normal work day (for me, that’s the nine to five) without needing the wind. When you have to charge the Nano, Lenovo’s Fast Charge system can get it from 0 to 80 percent in one hour. However, I often find myself charging with the same USB-C cable and brick that I usually use for my smartphone. Sure, it wasn’t fast, but it was nice to be able to toss the Nano at the end of the day without running multiple cables around my already cluttered desk.
The standby time was also excellent, although I attribute this to the Lenovo tuning rather than the 11th Gen CPU as the X1 Extreme also had an impressive standby time. I left both laptops unlocked with the lids closed for over a week and had plenty of money left when I opened them again. It’s a huge improvement over my previous favorite Lenovo laptop, the ThinkBook 13s, which could last two days on standby before the battery died.
Another neat feature with the X1 Nano is its tuning capabilities. If I left the laptop to get water or a snack in the kitchen, it would automatically turn off the display and turn off. When he sensed my return, the laptop woke up and asked me to come back. This feeling of power is not new – Intel has made it part of its Evo platform, which specifies laptops that meet specific performance, battery and feature requirements. However, the Nano was my first chance to try it, and it really is something.
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I also think Lenovo screwed up the Nano display. It’s balanced, with pops of color but not too saturated. The anti-glare coating is a treat, giving the entire screen that matte look I love. It also has, in my opinion, the most suitable laptop resolution of 2K (2160 x 1350 pixels specifically).
Some people may complain about the lack of 4K, but honestly, there is no need. At the 13-inch screen size we’re working with here, most people should have a hard time seeing the difference between 2K and 4K. Even if 4K looks a little sharper, you can get more battery life from 2K because there are fewer pixels.
For a panel as large as you get with the Extreme at 15.6-inches, 4K makes a lot of sense. There’s extra room in the chassis for a bigger battery to compensate and the bigger display makes good use of all those extra pixels. I’d still be fine with the 2K side of the range to minimize the hit to battery life, but 4K looks sharper. In addition, the Extreme offers an OLED panel, which makes blacks better and deeper than the Nano.
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As for the keyboard, both the Nano and the Extreme offer excellent typing. I prefer the Nano keyboard, which is deeper
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