I have been complaining about the size of laptop bezels for years. Ever since Dell closed the trend in 2015 with the redesigned XPS 13, I have been pushing for smaller and smaller bezels in laptops to match what the phone manufacturers have accomplished.
In that time period, the iPhone went from placing a home button on a large bottom chin, which was almost nonexistent. I want to take the laptop from the same state-of-the-art approach.
But then 2020 hit, and preferences and usage habits were flipped on their heads. Looking back, pushing for ultra-thin bezels can be a mistake.
Let’s start with why it started completely in the first place. Why do you want thin bezels in the first place, you ask? There seems to be a clear answer. Thin bezels just seem futuristic. They remove distractions and keep screen content at the forefront. But let’s be honest, putting thin bezels on your products is mostly about following trends. Nobody wants to look old.
But as with all things in technology and design, there is a compromise behind every small decision. And when it comes to shrinking bezels, a webcam was always going to be a sacrifice. Some laptops tried to move the camera to some bizarre location, such as under a key or in the bottom bezel.
In practice, most of us did not feel so bad. This certainly could not stop me from making the best laptop you could buy at the time. Sure, the nose camera was obnoxious. But most people use it so often, it was not a bargain. And finally, laptop manufacturers actually found ways to shrink the camera module and stuff it into the smallest top bezel.
But then, an agreement was reached. These smaller camera modules require a smaller sensor, which struggles even more with low-light scenarios. The result is a webcam that is basically for emergencies only. Not something you want to force your co-workers or family members to suffer on a daily basis.
And for many of us, this is the situation we find ourselves in today. Zoom or teams call throughout the day. Many people who never turned on their webcam found out how bad the quality really was. And when regretting the bezel size.
Laptop webcams suck
Before 2021, it was impossible to get a laptop with 1080p webcam. 720p was standard, and compared to all other devices, we were all sad. In the last few months, laptop manufacturers have started moving towards MSI and Lenovo’s new laptops such as 1080p webcams. It did not come as quickly as I expected, but I still celebrated some 1080p options.
As these companies have repeatedly stated, higher resolution would mean a larger camera module. And with that big camera came a big top bezel. Unlike phones and tablets, there is not much space in the thickness of the laptop lid behind the screen. Therefore, a large bezel is needed. It is not a flattery, but in 2021, it is a trade that most people will love. Just the opposite of what I just said a year ago.
Don’t get me wrong when I see a thin bezel on a laptop, it still gives me a pleasant feeling inside. This is especially true now in bottom or side bezels.
But these days, a thin top bezel has made me less reticent to recommend a laptop today than a thick bezel with a better webcam. The average laptop user should not need to buy a separate external webcam just to complete their basic work. Unless there is a major innovation around cameras and bezels, thick bezels may just be the future of laptop design.