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The MacBook Pro's notch is fine for macOS but would be terrible on Windows

2021 MacBok Pro 16
2021 MacBok Pro 16 (Image credit: Apple)

Apple Macbook Pro

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

Apple announced the new MacBook Pro yesterday. Inside, the laptop will run powerful processors that some Windows users are envious of, but on the outside, the MacBook Pro has a notch that's drawn criticism and jokes. While I agree that at first glance the notch on the MacBook Pro looks silly, it doesn't really eat up space that you'd otherwise have. In fact, it actually gives you more screen real estate in some cases.

Windows 11 and macOS are also different enough that a notch can work better on one than the other. While I hope that Windows laptops remain notchless, I think the notch works fine on macOS.

Comparing apples to apples

Macbook Pro 16 Notch

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

Many of the best Windows laptops manage to have thin bezels and cameras without requiring a notch. Our Richard Devine highlights that many laptops running Windows fit cameras that support facial recognition into bezels that are skinny. That is true, but some of those bezels are thicker than what's seen on the new MacBook Pro.

I'll have to break out a caliper to measure notches, but the Dell XPS 13 and Razer Book 13 have incredibly thin bezels that house cameras.

In contrast, the Surface Laptop 4, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano, and Surface Pro X have slightly thicker top bezels. If they ran macOS, some of these laptops would gain a bit in the display department.

2020 MacBook Pro 16

2020 MacBook Pro 16 (Image credit: Apple)

2021 MacBook Pro 16 vs. 2020 MacBook Pro 16

More importantly for people who buy MacBooks, the new MacBook Pro has a thinner top bezel than the model from 2020. Sure, you could criticize the 2020 MacBook Pro for having a chunky top bezel, but Apple addressed that with the 2021 MacBook Pro. Some people just don't like how Apple fixed it.

Windows vs. macOS

Dell XPS 13 9300

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Of course, the best Windows laptops don't run macOS (duh). That's a key distinction, as macOS handles the top of its display differently. When navigating around the desktop on macOS or using apps that aren't in fullscreen mode, the operating system has a menu bar at the top of the screen. Unless you have a ton of menu bar icons, the notch isn't going to get in the way.

As pointed out by our sister site iMore, Apple's new MacBook Pro can use the full screen around its notch. The menu bar will wrap around the notch and bump up everything else a few millimeters. It's a bit like if a camera notch sat in an unused part of the Windows Taskbar. Microsoft won't let us move the Taskbar to the top of Windows 11, so maybe that point is moot.

I still think the notch looks ridiculous, but there's an argument to be made that getting more space on your screen is worth it. Moving the menu bar up means you have more room for your apps.

Missing FaceID

Iphone 12 Pro Ios 15 Work Focus

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

There are arguments to defend the notch, but its lack of FaceID is indefensible. The camera is just so ... prominent. It's just odd that a piece of hardware that stares at you in the face can't look at you with an IR camera to unlock the MacBook Pro. Not having Center Stage is also a frustrating omission. If Apple is repurposing R&D efforts from its other devices to make the MacBook Pro camera better, why aren't the best features from other Apple cameras in the laptop?

Apple moves at its own pace. It doesn't roll out tech until the company feels it's ready, but I think people would swallow the notch more if it added functionality.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

28 Comments
  • If existsed a Windows laptop with CPU, GPU, battery life and screen comparable to the new MacBook Pro I would buy it immediately, with or without notch.
  • Suddenly, the CPU, GPU and battery life became a buying decision for Macs. What happened prior to late 2020 and TSMC 5nm? Wasn't anyone buying Macs? This has zero effect on buying decisions in the PC space. It's never been about the performance of the internals, which today is adequate across the board from AMD, Intel, ARM. It's always been about the OS and connected with that the software.
    Same goes with Android vs iOS. Flagship modern phones all perform adequately well. What decides for users is the OS and software.
    Outside of specific synthetic benchmarks, you cannot notice the difference in daily use of modern top of the line processors.
  • It is just that Windows dominates the low price side of the market that Apple does not cover. Of course I am talking of consumers 'market not the business one. In high end market, >1000USD or Euros, Apple is leader and it is going to reinforce its position.
  • I love my 2020 Macbook Pro and, in many tasks, is up to par with a high end Ryzen in my desktop. And the battery life is absolutely insane on it. The laptop I had before, an i9 with 32GB of a memory and a 1TB SSD, was marginally faster in some things but would get slow or crank up the fans for no real reason. The Macbook is incredibly consistent in performance. Keep in mind though, virtualization is a no go. So even simple things like running a few containers, you can't do. Also I'm annoyed at the loss of the touchbar.
  • MacBook Pro or MacBook Air? 2020 MacBook Pro used Intel CPU's, absolutely has a touchbar, and can virtualize Intel-based OS's. 2020 MacBook Air? Not so much (but it can virtualize ARM-based OS's).
  • You would notice if you had superior performance with significantly better battery life though. Microsoft has nothing that is in the same league as these new Macs.
  • Yep. For me, the only negative thing about Macs is that they run MacOS (duh) and that they are Macs (also duh). If the new MBP had a Windows version, it would be my dream computer. Yes, not dream notebook, dream computer.
  • Regardless of how great everything else is about hardware I would never and I mean NEVER buy a computer with a notch like Apples on the screen. As a developer I need, want, use every inch of my screen and that notch is a NO GO.
  • If you need more inches, wouldn't that be an argument for the notch, not against it? The new MacBook Pro has more screen real estate than its predecessor, it just looks silly.
  • There was no need for the notch, even for increased screen real estate. How exactly are the Windows OEMs achieving thin bezels without the silly notch? And with Windows hello to boot? (see any recent Dell XPS ultrabook). This does not even have Face ID which could have been an acceptable reason. Without Face ID, It's not necessary.
  • If the bezel is thick enough for a camera, it isn’t as thin as it could be.
  • I just had a look at the images of the new Macbook Pro on their website and the space they black out at the top when running applications is huge, significantly larger than the bezel on any Ultrabook on the market. It's all well and good to have a large STB ratio on paper, but if they're not using it, it's a waste. Which is a shame because literally no one would have cared about a slightly larger top bezel than the bottom and sides.
  • PC OEM's mostly use an off-the-shelf 720p camera package that is small enough to fit in the small bezel space (my HP x360 has one). there wasn't a quality 1080p of that size at the time mine was manufactured 2 years ago. there might be now. I have the new 14" MBP and the notch is stupid IMO. the "black void" is there in any menu bar that stretches past the middle of the screen. it's distracting and I don't like it. but the battery life and performance are amazing. :)
  • I think it's actually fine for a Mac, because of the fixed menu bar at the top of the screen -- Apple can make the OS work around the notch so that it literally has zero effect on usability. Arguably, because of this control unique to Mac OS, the notch is smart on a Mac, because otherwise that bezel space to the left and right of the camera is wasted on a Mac. This is very different for Windows. Microsoft would need to move the Taskbar or some other constant UI element that it controls (maybe system tray and notification area?) to the top of the screen so that the effective "top" from an application's perspective, would be the space starting below the notch. Otherwise, the notch would clobber unpredictable parts of apps, which is obviously a non-starter in Windows. Overall, I don't have a preference between these, but the decision drivers are quite different between Mac OS and Windows on what makes sense. I like that Apple has enough control over hardware and software to make something like this work. I also respect that Microsoft has a freer more user- or OEM-customizable platform, even if it removes some options like this.
  • yep, me too, I still haven't gotten over that notch, even if Apple have a consistent design element (menu bar) at the top... Apple seem to make bad design decisions all the time... ironically they brought back a few ports finally
  • No notch on my Razer Blade Stealth... :-)
  • But it does have large bezels that make it look dated.
  • So, does it matter? I don't understand these problems with bezels. Sure you don't want one that is an inch wide, sorry metric people, but I think sometimes it is going a bit far. My older monitor has bezels that are just over half an inch, the monitor still does the job, the newer monitor has very thin bezels apart from, the bottom. But I did not buy it because of that. My phone has small bezels, but in my opinion it is more of a pain.
  • Look at the pictures on the Apple website, the artificial bezel on the new Macbook Pro makes it look dated.
  • I tried to switch to Mac when i couldn't find a laptop I liked (pre 11th gen CPUs), and I really wanted to like the OS being an Apple everything else user. But no context menu key, no single key for Print Screen and inability to have desktop synced to OneDrive were factors I just couldnt look past. Now if Windows 11 can catch up to Windows 10 with O365 integration, I'll be a very happy bunny, meanwhile Windows 10 rulez!
  • Wait, what do you mean about Win 11 needing to catch up to Win 10 for O365? What does Win 10 have with O365 that you lose in Win 11? (Serious question, because I'm still on Win 10 who uses O365, but thinking about starting to upgrade some of my systems to Win 11.) In the criticisms I've heard about Windows 11 so far, compatibility or integration problems with O365 was not one of them.
  • You get used to things at the end of the day, I changed from an Amiga to a Windows machine, now that took some doing. What do you mean, no desktop synced to one drive? I don't use one drive and can not see the point in synchronising the desktop to one drive? Files yes, desktop no.
    How many people use the print screen key these days? That is from years ago, a relic, granted I do use it myself for doing screen grabs as the software I use it. Even the snipping tool don't use it, which is a bit strange. There are context menus on macOS, you can even use a right mouse button these days, but I think you have to enable it. I have used Macs in the past, not often, but now and again, and I must admit I do get confused using them, sadly i have not used them for a few months as the person have moved away. I am thinking of getting a Mac mini next year
  • The notch is aweful, always has been. It's one of the main reasons I use an Android for my main phone.
  • I just don't see why do it in the first place, a reverse notch would be much better. It's kind of a shame you can't install the ARM version of windows on it, the M1 Pro and M1 Max are the first truly great SoCs from Apple, the M1 was great but the 5800U was more efficient in multi-core tasks and had a better performance, and while the M1 Pro and Max will easily lose to Alder Lake Intel CPUs in every way, the fact that it has a great a GPU and that both (CPU and GPU) together don't consume alot of energy makes the new M1P/M amazing SoCs, I don't believe the benchmarks they showed, like yeah I'm not believing that their 60W GPU closely matches a 160W 3080 laptop GPU, expect more of a 3060 level of performance, but that's still amazing for 60W. And this will force AMD and Intel to move their buts and create a great APU that alot of people have been asking for ever.
  • Unfortunately, there is nothing on the market that can compete with this. Many people that prefer windows will end up getting this because the pros far outweigh the cons.
  • It's fine for nobody and it's a defeat in design. Let's cut down on the copium, as the centennials call it.
  • I think there is nothing a notch looks good on.
  • They will dole out those features for the notch over the next couple versions. Each will be a true innovation