A 2021 MacBook Pro with a notch.
Apple

Apple’s decision to add a notch to the new MacBook Pro has set keyboards on fire all around the world. But is the outrage warranted? We don’t think so. Here’s why the notch makes sense.

More Screen, Less Bezel

The 2021 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro refresh features the thinnest bezels on any MacBook Pro to date. The bezels are so thin that Apple decided that squeezing a 1080p FaceTime camera into the dead space wasn’t an option, and so instead the MacBook Pro notch was born.

This decision is best exemplified by contrasting 2020’s 13″ M1 MacBook Pro with the 2021 revision. In the older model, the laptop has a much thicker bezel at the top of the screen where the webcam is housed. It’s around double the width of the bezels at the left and right edge of the screen.

M1 MacBook Pro 13" compared with M1 Pro/M1 Max MacBook Pro 14"
Apple

Rather than treating the notch as an imposition on available screen real estate, consider that the display has been extended well into bezel territory. Apple is delivering more screen space at the cost of the bezel, rather than a notch at the cost of screen space.

Compared to the alternative of a webcam at keyboard height (unflattering), a thicker top bezel, or no webcam at all; the notch comes off as a good compromise. It’s also a minor sticking point in what will probably go down as the best MacBook Pro revision for the best part of a decade.

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The decision not to include Face ID is a disappointment for sure, but the notch likely paves the way for this to be added in a future revision. Don’t forget that Touch ID is present and does a great job— and, if you have an Apple Watch, you can unlock your Mac simply by sitting down in front of it anyway.

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App Developers Must Opt-In

Perhaps the most valid criticism of the notch is that it eats into menu bar space, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact this will have on real-world usage.

Apple has already confirmed that app developers will have to opt-in if they want the notch incorporated into their full-screen apps. That means that applications will not be impacted at all by the notch in full-screen mode without developer intervention.

Instead, a black bar will be displayed on either side of the notch, mimicking the effect of a much thicker top bezel.

Full screen apps on 2021 MacBook Pro 14" and 16"
Apple

Not All MacBooks Have Notches

Apple’s fascination with the notch on both iPhone and now the MacBook Pro continues to divide opinion, but the fact of the matter is that alternatives exist if you can get away with a less powerful MacBook.

The M1 Macbook Air and 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro haven’t yet received the notch treatment, and given Apple’s somewhat predictable update cycle are likely to remain this way for a while yet.

For some, the notch may be a drawback, but it’s easily outshone by the power and performance-to-watt ratio of the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, the 120Hz ProMotion display, and Apple’s decision to finally add some useful ports to its Pro laptop after years of dongles and adapters.

Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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