This week we spent some time testing Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Nano — the company's thinnest and lightest ThinkPad at under two pounds. As usual, slimming things down comes with some trade offs, and Cherlynn Low tells us where the X1 Nano might leave you hanging. We also played around with the Poly Effects Beebo, an ambitious virtual modular synth in guitar-pedal form that Terrence O’Brien says is no more difficult to use than a smartphone. And Nicole Lee let the Amazon Echo Show 10’s rotating display follow her around her kitchen to find out if that new (and somewhat creepy) feature is worth paying $250 for.
The Thinkpad X1 Nano is impressively slim, but doesn't last long
Lenovo’s Thinkpad line is known for reliable performance, excellent keyboards and long-lasting batteries. The company’s new X1 Nano, which has a refreshed design and improved display, is noteworthy for weighing less than two pounds and for being one of the first laptops to meet Intel’s Evo certification. Cherlynn Low found a lot to like about the $1,399 laptop, namely its 11th-generation, 2.1GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, physical webcam shutter and 16:10 display
The X1 Nano is nearly identical to the X1 Carbon, and like all Thinkpad laptops, it meets military spec standards (MIL-STD-810H), making it quite durable. The display is a 2K panel that supports Dolby Vision and tops out at 450 nits of brightness, but doesn’t have touchscreen capabilities. It also has Dolby Atmos speakers, which Cherlynn found surprisingly loud, and four, 360-degree microphones that are intended to improve audio quality during video conferences. However in this case, the trade-off for getting a light and thin laptop is battery life: Cherlynn was able to eek just about 9 hours out of this machine.
The Poly Effects Beebo is an ambitious virtual modular synth
Poly Effects actually released the Beebo earlier this year, but the company recently merged the firmware with its other modular pedal, the Digit. This, according to Terrence O’Brien, has created one super pedal that’s basically a virtual modular synthesizer in a guitar-pedal format. The Beebo has a 5-inch touchscreen, which puts it on the smaller side, and Terrence said if you can use a smartphone, you'll likely be able to figure out this device.
In testing, Terrence said it was a versatile and complex touchscreen guitar pedal that’s easy to navigate with a bright interface and small, attractive icons. However, he found that some of the modules were a bit inconsistent and he ended up using the amp sim, cab sim and convolution reverb modules the most. The one glaring hole in the lineup is the lack of a looper. That being said, he found joy in experimenting with the Beebo and, despite its bugs, found it a wholly unique and powerful piece of gear.
Amazon’s 3rd-gen Echo Show 10 moves with you
Nicole Lee admits she was skeptical about the new Amazon Echo Show 10. The device looks different from previous models in that it has a display stuck onto a swiveling base, which enables it to turn and follow users so its screen is always in view. It’s also expensive at $250, making it more of an investment than the $130 Echo Show 8. However, after testing it in her kitchen, Nicole says she found the swiveling feature more useful than she thought it would be (albeit a bit creepy at first).
The Echo Show 10 has a 6.7-inch base and a 9.9-inch display, which means it takes up a fair amount of space — plus, it needs room to swivel around. Nicole said she found it best for watching videos since you’ll never miss an important moment with the screen always in view. She used it a lot to follow recipe instructions since she could keep track of things while moving around the kitchen to grab ingredients or wash her hands. The Echo Show 10 was smart enough to keep her and her husband in the frame, and to refocus on her when he left the frame. But in practice, the panning and zooming features were sometimes inconsistent and, as an Amazon device, it lacks functionality with some Google apps like YouTube and Nest cameras.
MSI’s GS66 Stealth is a solid step towards 1440p gaming on laptops
On the outside, the MSI GS66 Stealth doesn’t look that much different from last year’s model. It still has the same slim and sturdy aluminum frame, 4.6-pound weight, solid selection of ports, LED back-lit keyboard and large trackpad. However, it now includes NVIDIA’s new RTX 30-series GPUs and a 2K screen, making it one of the first gaming notebooks with such a panel. This middle ground between a 1080p and a 4K display provides a sharp picture and the upgraded GPU provides a fast refresh rate that makes for smoother gameplay.
Devindra Hardawar took the new model for a spin and was pleased by the results of his battery testing, an area in which many gaming laptops falter. The GS66 Stealth lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes during our benchmark test, which is an hour more than last year’s model. However, it’s not necessarily every gamer’s dream machine: he found the keyboard to be a bit mushy when typing, and the 1440p resolution isn’t the most ideal for streaming video. Also, like most gaming laptops, the GS66 Stealth gets pretty warm on the underside. But the biggest drawback by far are the fans, which were loud enough for Devindra to recommend using a headset while pushing the machine to its limits.