Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon vs ThinkPad X1 Nano: How thin and light can you go?
Weighing in at under two and a half pounds for years now, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has long been the ultra-light ThinkPad. And indeed, it never made compromises to get there. But there’s a new champ in town, the ThinkPad X1 Nano, which weighs in at under two pounds. If you’re looking for a thin and light ThinkPad, you probably have some questions. Why isn’t the ThinkPad X1 Nano just the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon? What am I giving up if I go with the smaller and lighter X1 Nano?
We’re here to answer all of those questions. A great place to start is specs.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and ThinkPad X1 Nano: Specifications
|ThinkPad X1 Carbon||ThinkPad X1 Nano|
|CPU||Up to 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1185G7 Processor with vPro (3.00 GHz, up to 4.80 GHz with Turbo Boost, 4 Cores, 8 Threads, 12 MB Cache)||Up to 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1180G7 Processor with vPro (2.20 GHz, up to 4.60 GHz with Turbo Boost, 4 Cores, 8 Threads, 12 MB Cache)|
|Graphics||Iris Xe||Iris Xe|
|Storage||Up to 1TB PCIe SSD||Up to 1TB PCIe SSD|
|RAM||Up to 32GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz (Soldered)||Up to 16GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz (Soldered)|
|Camera||Hybrid infrared (IR) / 720p HD with webcam privacy cover|
Design: The ThinkPad X1 Nano is smaller, thinner, and lighter
At first, the ThinkPad X1 Nano sounds like a smaller and lighter, version of the X1 Carbon. That’s not quite what it is. The Nano weighs between 1.99 and 2.21 pounds, depending on the model that you get. The carbon is 2.49 pounds, which is still extraordinarily light for a laptop.
Let’s be clear. With either one of these, it’s light enough that when it’s in your bag, you’ll forget it’s there. Frankly, I was a bit surprised that when Lenovo already had the super-light ThinkPad X1 Carbon, it still decided to take things up a notch.
One key difference between the two is the ports. With the ThinkPad X1 Nano, you just get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, just the same as other top Thunderbolt 4 laptops. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is better for legacy users with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB Type-A, HDMI 2.0, and more.
While the ports are just one difference between the two PCs, they’re representative of it. The ThinkPad X1 Nano is more modern, as it’s thin and light using only modern ports. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is for those that need those legacy ports like USB Type-A and HDMI. This is a key reason that the X1 Nano doesn’t take the place of the X1 Carbon. Business users need those legacy ports, but that doesn’t stop Lenovo from making something that’s new.
Display: The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a bigger screen
One key new feature of the ThinkPad X1 Nano when it was announced is that it has a 16:10 display. It’s taller and bigger than the 16:9 displays we’ve been using, which is awesome, but then the rest of the ThinkPad X1 lineup got 16:10 screens in January, including the Carbon.
The difference in size is that the X1 Nano has a 13-inch screen and the X1 Carbon is still 14 inches. So yes, you definitely get a bit more space with the Carbon.
The options are different though. With the ThinkPad X1 Nano, the resolution is 2160 x 1350, and that’s all you can get. It’s 450 nits, and it comes in touch and non-touch flavors.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon gets you wider options. Keep in mind that the ThinkPad X1 Nano is a new product while the X1 Carbon is a popular product that has lived through nine generations. It’s natural for a business laptop like this to be serving a broad array of customers.
Out of the four options, three of them are FHD+, meaning 1920 x 1200. Out of them, two of them are low-power 400-nit panels, one of which is touch and one of which is non-touch. There’s also a 500-nit touchscreen with PrivacyGuard. Finally, there’s a 500-nit non-touch panel that comes in at 3840 x 2400.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the only one that comes with the PrivacyGuard display if that’s what you opt for. On the other hand, the Nano has a custom display resolution that makes it better than FHD, but not so high-resolution that it’s hard on battery life.
Keyboard: The ThinkPad X1 Nano has shallower keys
Lenovo’s ThinkPads are renowned for having some of the best keyboards around. One thing I’ve found in recent years is that the key-press increasingly feels too deep. Other companies are continuing to make shallower keyboards, so ThinkPads are starting to feel different.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has 1.5mm keys, which is the standard for ThinkPads. In fact, that was the industry standard for a long time. The ThinkPad X1 Nano, as we also saw from the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, has 1.35mm keys.
Personally, I think the ThinkPad X1 Nano has the superior keyboard and Lenovo should bring this to the rest of the lineup. The company was clear to me that it moves slowly on these things, which is no surprise. The 1.35mm keys feel more modern, but without sacrificing the quality that Lenovo is known for.
In other words, it doesn’t feel like a different keyboard, since it’s designed the same way. It just feels like a better keyboard.
The touchpad is bigger on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon though. That’s something that got changed this year. It’s wider than it was before. It’s not actually taller, because Lenovo has those massive physical buttons that exist to complement the TrackPoint.
Performance: The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a better processor
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor, while the X1 Nano has up to a Core i7-1180G7 processor. It’s OK if you don’t know what this means. Intel has really pulled out the stops on confusing product names.
The CPU in the X1 Carbon is from the Tiger Lake UP3 family, while the one in the X1 Nano is from the UP4 family. These are new terms for Intel’s 11th-generation processors. UP3 is the successor to the U-series, the 15W chips that have historically been found in ultrabooks and most laptops.
UP4 is the successor to the Y-series, previously known as Core M. Y-series was made for fanless laptops, and over the years, the TDP was increased from 4.5W to 5W, and then to 7W.
Y-series was always known as something to stay away from, but it’s gotten good with this generation. It’s gotten really good. It’s not better than UP3, because that wouldn’t make any sense, but it’s something that you can use for a broad array of tasks without regretting your purchasing decision. The chips are quad-core now, they have a higher TDP (7W – 15W), and they come with Iris Xe graphics.
While both are great productivity machines and the processor inside of the X1 Nano is great, the X1 Carbon’s processor is simply better. In fact, out of all of the Tiger Lake UP3 units that I’ve tested (which is a lot), the X1 Carbon benchmarked the best.
|ThinkPad X1 Carbon|
|ThinkPad X1 Nano|
|PCMark 8: Home||4,532||3,919|
|PCMark 8: Creative||4,910||4,419|
|PCMark 8: Work||4,144||3,864|
|Geekbench 5||1,489 / 5,280||1,346 / 4,891|
|Cinebench||1,303 / 4,224||1,296 / 4,052|
Also regarding internals, both of these PCs are available with 4G LTE or 5G, so they definitely top our list of best cellular laptops.
Conclusion: Which ThinkPad should you buy?
Both the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and ThinkPad X1 Nano are phenomenal laptops. I can easily recommend either one of them. What this comes down to are preferences and your needs.
The ThinkPad X1 Nano is the ultra-portable PC, weighing in at under two pounds. It only has two Thunderbolt 4 ports though, so you might need a dongle from time to time. While the quantity of ports is low, the quality isn’t though. You can still use a single port to connect two 4K displays, as the Iris Xe graphics can handle it. And if you need more, one of those ports can connect to an external GPU.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, on the other hand, is what I’d call the safe bet. It’s been around for nine generations now, it’s it’s a fan favorite. And calling it the safe bet isn’t knocking it or calling it boring. It’s still an incredible laptop. It weighs in at under two and a half pounds, has a more powerful processor, has a bigger screen, and it has the legacy ports that you might need.