MacBook Pro 2021 notch fail could finally be getting fixed

The MacBook Pro 2021 (14-inch)
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The MacBook Pro 2021 stumbled at launch when users found that Apple hadn't figured out a consistent way to display menu items around the new camera notch. But that may be about to change.

A release candidate for the next macOS Monterey 12.1 update claims in its patch notes (seen by MacRumors (opens in new tab)) to have fixed this issue for "menu bar extras", a.k.a. the shortcut icons found on the right side of your macOS menu bar. Several other bugs are also squashed in this update, including those related to the desktop and trackpad, and also recently reported issues with MagSafe chargers and external displays are supposedly fixed by this update.

This specific update, as a release candidate, isn't available to all users by default, just developers who have specifically registered for it. Fortunately, it shouldn't be too long before a stable update for all users is available, which will allow anyone lucky enough to have got their hands on a new MacBook Pro to update their OS and hopefully solve the notch issue for good.

If you weren't already familiar with the problem, here's the gist. Shortly after users got their hands on Apple's new super-powered laptops, it was found that because the camera notch overlaps part of the menu bar, it can cover up menu options if you have enough options and icons to extend to the center of the display. It's not a problem that will affect every user, but it seemed like a big oversight from Apple that it hadn't thought through the consequences of cutting into the menu bar like this.

Some apps came with workarounds, but it wasn't consistent at launch. There was also the option to downscale the MacBook's display, adding black bars around the screen but keeping the active part of the display away from the notch. That does eliminate the problem, but then you are deliberately not using your laptop's full display, which is an expensive waste.

App menus, the ones you find written out on the left side of the display, have already been fixed, with developers having the ability to update their apps to work properly with notched MacBooks. Hopefully the apps that you're using have already made this alteration.

It's a great shame to see such an irritating problem on the MacBook Pro, since we really like both the 14-inch model and the larger 16-inch MacBook Pro. The 120Hz displays provide excellent visuals; the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips give you more performance than you'll know what to do with, and you get lots of battery life along with an HDMI port and SD card slot. At the very least, if the notch is an annoyance, there are three rumored external displays rumored to come out in 2022, one of which might have custom silicon.

If you think spending $1,999 and up for a MacBook Pro is overkill, there's more good news. Apple reportedly plans an entry-level MacBook Pro 2022 for sometime next year that we hope will be much closer in price to the current $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro M1. 

Richard Priday
Staff Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.