So you’ve bought or are considering buying a powerful new M1 Pro or M1 Max MacBook Pro with a 14- or 16-inch display. There’s just one thing that’s bothering you: the notch. But with the right outlook and a few tweaks, you can comfortably enjoy your new Apple-branded slab of aluminum. Here’s how.
Extending the Display Into the Bezel
First, a thought exercise. Rather than thinking of the notch as an imposition on your screen real estate, consider that the display is instead an imposition on the bezel. Instead of a thicker band of dead space along the top of your MacBook, as is the case with the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro, the bezel has been cannibalized to add more display.
This means that Apple’s longstanding menu bar at the top of the screen no longer takes up precious screen real-estate. If you previously hid the menu bar under System Preferences > Dock & Menu Bar, consider that you no longer need to do that to maintain a full 16:10 aspect ratio.
If you change how you think about the notch, you may come around to consider it less of an issue. In time, you probably won’t even notice it.
Full-Screen Apps Ignore the Notch
Any apps that you use in full-screen mode (or apps that use full-screen mode by default, like games) will automatically hide the notch. Content is displayed below the menu bar and a black border will appear at the top of the screen. When you move your cursor to the top of the screen to access a menu bar item, these controls will fade in.
The one exception to this is if an app developer takes steps to account for the notch in the app’s design. In that case, nothing will be hidden from view by the notch since the developer will have made sure content isn’t displayed here. This is an opt-in process and even Apple’s built-in apps like Safari currently only scale below the notch.
You Can Scale Busy Menu Bars If Necessary
Some apps have busy menu bars with more than the usual File, Edit, and View options running along the top of the screen. Many will receive updates to account for the new notch, but some older apps may not. In this instance, you can enable scaling below the notch on a per-app basis.
You can do this by finding the app in the Applications folder and using the Get Info right-click option to access the scaling toggle.
Movies and Widescreen Videos Fit Comfortably Below
Apple’s displays hit a 16:10 aspect ratio in terms of usable space below the notch. This means that widescreen content (whether it’s 16:9 or a cinematic aspect ratio like 1.85:1 or 2.39:1) will ignore the notch completely. This is good news if you plan on using your MacBook Pro to watch movies or TV content.
As is the case with full-screen apps, a black bar will instead be shown effectively extending the bezel down to your content.
Use Apps to Hide the Notch Completely
If you find the notch distracting, you can effectively hide it using a selection of apps. Just like full-screen mode, works using a black background to your wallpaper. Thanks to Apple’s excellent mini LED screen, the notch is basically invisible in most conditions owing to its impressive 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.
TopNotch is a free app that modifies your wallpaper, with a toggle for adding rounded corners to the “usable” space on the screen. This hides the notch completely, with menu bar items displayed in white.
Forehead works in largely the same way, with more options for customizing the rounded corners (and the ability to simulate the notch on older Macs). Developer Jordi Bruin allows users to name their price (starting at €0).
De-Notch-ifier is a paid $9.95 app with a 14-day trial that allows for greater customization compared with TopNotch and Forehead. You can pick specific menu bar colors, use different settings for light and dark macOS themes, and the app has full support for dynamic wallpapers.
We recommend TopNotch as a good starting point since it’s free and works like a charm. Whichever you choose, these apps do such a good job of hiding the notch that you might wonder why Apple didn’t employ this technique to begin with.
Can’t Live With It? Consider a Different MacBook
If you can’t do it and decide that a notch just isn’t for you, Apple still currently makes notebooks that don’t include a notch. The M1 MacBook Pro is arguably the next best thing, with its active cooling solution allowing it to run under sustained load for longer than passively-cooled models.
13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)
If you just can't get used to the notch, the 2020 MacBook Pro still packs a punch with its powerful M1 chip.
The M1 MacBook Air is one such fanless design, with a smaller wedge-shaped chassis that’s lighter and takes up less space. Both use the M1 chip with 7 and 8 core GPU options, but both are limited to 8GB of RAM due to Apple’s reliance on unified memory.
If you’re a professional who really does need the power and additional RAM configurations only available in the M1 Pro and M1 Max models, you’re going to have to settle for the notch.
An External Monitor May Help
If you’re mostly going to be using your MacBook Pro on a desk at work or in a home office, consider investing in an external monitor. Not only does this rid you of the notch, but it also provides a lot more screen real estate. To maintain a similarly high pixel density to MacBook with Retina display, aim for something like a 27-inch 4K display.
You may also be interested in an ultra-wide or super ultra-wide monitor if you have the desk space. While these may offer a lower pixel density, you’ll gain tons of space on which to work and eliminate the gap that accompanies multi-monitor setups.
Check out our top external monitor recommendations, as well as how using multiple monitors can make you more productive.
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