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Notch or botch? Alternative ways laptop makers are giving users more space for content without giving screens a notch

By AYIE LICSI Published Oct 25, 2021 4:55 pm

Most smartphone makers are kissing the notch in their displays goodbye, replacing them with smaller cutouts for front cameras instead. But it looks like Apple isn't done with it yet as it gave the newest MacBook Pro a notch. Is the tech giant looking to set a trend with this?

The 'smart way'

In an interview on the Same Brain podcast, hosted by YouTuber iJustine, Apple said that the notch was introduced to offer a "smart way" of giving users more room for their content.

"What we've done is we've actually made the display taller. explained Shruti Haldea, Apple Product Line Manager for Mac.

"Like on the 16-inch notebook, you still have a 16.0 active area on the diagonal in that 16:10-inch window, and we just grew the display up from there and put the menu bar up there. We just kind of moved it up and out of the way," she said.

With the notch, now the Menu Bar goes in the unused space alongside the webcam.

"It's a really smart way to give you more space for your content, and when you're in full-screen mode, you have that 16:10 window, and it looks great. It's seamless."

The notch was met with mixed reactions with many online users making fun of its inclusion with memes. Many are joking that the new MacBook Pro might be getting next-gen features, but it's taking a step back with the notch.

Through the years, other laptop makers have tried their hand at giving users more screen real estate without messing with the display shape. Usually, thinner bezels come with a trade-off: lower camera quality. Other tech companies are getting creative with their form factor to achieve both bigger space for content and good webcam picture. Here are some noteworthy innovative methods.

In-keyboard webcam - Huawei MateBook series

To achieve a 91% screen-to-body ratio for its 2018 MateBook X Pro, Huawei stuck its webcam inside a pop-up key between the function keys. This novel approach guarantees privacy, too, as the webcam can be hidden inside the keyboard when not in use.

The caveat is the camera angle. Since it's located by the keys, you're getting an unflattering angle focused on your neck rather than your face.

Reverse notch - ASUS ZenBook S13

Another approach ASUS took was to introduce a reverse notch in its ZenBook S13 laptop. This resulted in a laptop having a small bump on its lid, which isn't really bothersome.

The design is really practical, too, as the lift on the lid allows users to easily open their laptop one-handed.

Hidden in the bottom bezel - Dell XPS 13

In 2018, Dell maximized the XPS 13's screen-to-body ratio by placing the webcam at the bottom of the display. Like Huawei's approach, this resulted in unflattering angles and caused people in the tech world to call its webcam a "nose-cam."

Under-display webcam - Samsung

Earlier in January, Samsung teased an under-display camera for laptops, which renders show, will completely give the laptop a bezel-less display. We've seen this kind of tech in smartphones before like in the ZTE Axon 20 5G and maybe we'll see it in laptops soon, too.