Why You Might Not Want Thin Bezels On Your Notebook

My time reviewing the current crop of ultraportable notebooks has led to a surprising discovery.

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There’s a current obsession with bezel-less displays and screen-to-body ratios. This is true for phones and notebooks. The general thinking now is that the thinner the bezel and the higher the screen-to-body ratio, the better. This is true for smartphones, but less so with notebooks. Having studied ultraportable notebooks intensively over the past few months, I realized that thin bezels might not be entirely a good thing.

I’ll admit, thin bezels do have their merits. It makes the display look more dramatic, and it also reduces the overall footprint of the notebook. But it’s important to keep in mind that a smaller top cover panel has an effect on other parts of the notebook, such as the keyboard and trackpad. In a notebook with thin bezels, something has to give to accommodate the smaller footprint of the top cover panel. You either get a cramped keyboard with keys missing or a narrow trackpad. Often times, it’s the latter and it can be a real pain to use - especially if you like to use a low pointer sensitivity.

Let’s use the Dell XPS 13 as an example. The bezel above the display is an incredible 5mm thick. It’s the slimmest in the business. It has a regularly sized keyboard but its trackpad is just 10.5cm wide and only 6cm from top to bottom. Guess what, that’s one of the smallest trackpads you’ll find on a 13-inch notebook.

There needs to be a balance and one brand that does this well is Apple. The display on Mac notebooks never had the thinnest bezels. Even the newest MacBook Air has fairly thick bezels in comparison to other notebooks. The upside, however, is that their trackpads are also one of the largest and therefore one of the most pleasant to use. The MacBook Air’s trackpad is a whopping 12cm by 8.1cm, making it one of the largest trackpads in any 13-inch notebook. If you compare their surface area, it is actually 54% larger than the XPS 13. The downside, of course, is that the MacBook Air is quite a lot larger than the XPS 13. As is the case for notebooks and so many other er is that their largest things in life: you cannot have your cake and still eat it.

So the next time you are shopping for a notebook, think twice about that bezel. As important as a great-looking display is, are thinner bezels really worth the trouble? If you rely on the trackpad often, or if the position of the web camera is important to you, or perhaps even the long term comfort from having to type on a compressed keyboard, the answer might be no.

"In a notebook with thin bezels, something has to give to accommodate the smaller footprint of the top cover panel."

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