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MacBook Pro 2021 notch rumors surface ahead of Apple Event — what we know

MacBook Pro 2021 notch render
(Image credit: MacRumors)

The new MacBook Pro 2021 could sport a display notch allowing for expansive screens without the need to give up the webcam. The rumor comes just before the Apple event, where Apple is expected to unveil two new models in the lineup. 

That's going by a blurry photo posted to Weibo, which shows what could be a MacBook Pro display with an iPhone 13-like notch. This rumor-meets-leak was given some more credence from an Apple USPTO patent that contains sketches and notes demonstrating how a notch could be implemented into an Apple laptop. 

The patent notes that the display on the MacBook-like device could include an "inactive area without pixels" and that area could be "a protruding portion or island-shaped portion of the inactive region" that holds a camera of other electrical components. 

Cross-referencing this to the patent sketches and we get the impression the patent is talking about a display notch. 

a drawing from the Apple MacBook Pro/laptop notch patent

(Image credit: Apple/USPTO)

All these tidbits of information come mere hours before the Apple Unleashed event where we expect to see the much-rumored MacBook Pro 2021 14-inch and a new 16-inch MacBook Pro, with longstanding rumors pointing to a flatter look, the death of the Touch Bar and the return of MagSafe charging.

This, of course, is accompanied by a whole host of welcome internal upgrades that promise to make both the large 16-inch model and the smaller 14-inch MacBook Pro the best laptops you can buy. Assuming the price isn’t too outlandish.

Make sure to follow our Apple Unleashed event live blog to get the news as it happens. And read on for our breakdown of how much a display notch is likely in the upcoming new MacBook Pros.

MacBook Pro notch: The case for 

There’s (blurry) photographic evidence

As mentioned earlier there's a photo of the claimed MacBook Pro display notch; photos add a lot more weight to claimed leaks and rumors, so it feels like there's some fire behind this some of a rumor. 

The rumored MacBook Pro notch

(Image credit: AnyTurtle99 / Weibo)

Yes, it’s blurry and it’s hard to tell whether it’s authentic, but if it is, it shows the FaceTime camera, a microphone and an ambient light sensor allowing TrueTone. 

The resolutions seem to match up

Another hint that the notch rumor might be accurate comes from the macOS Monterey beta, where MacRumors spotted resolutions of 3,024 x 1,964 for the upcoming 14-inch MacBook Pro and 3,456 x 2,234 for the 16-inch model.

So what? Well, if you subtract 74 pixels from the height of each, you end up with the same 16:10 aspect ratio that’s present on all of Apple’s other current MacBooks. That means that the extra 74 pixels could account for the new notch.

It wouldn’t be as obvious as on the iPhone

People object to the notch on the iPhone because it obviously eats into the screen, but that probably wouldn’t be the case with macOS. That’s because the operating system has a black bar along the top of the screen, which could easily disguise the camera segment. 

It may not even be present when watching movies or playing games, either: the new MacBooks’ rumored mini-LED screens could simply tint the whole area black so it looks like part of the bezel.

 MacBook Pro notch: The case against 

The late timing of the rumor is suspicious

The main reason for skepticism comes down to the timing. This rumor has emerged at the very last minute and hasn’t come up in any previous analysis from the usual Apple leaking suspects: not a peep from Ming-Chi Kuo, Jon Prosser or Mark Gurman. 

That's not conclusive in itself, as even the most established leakers miss things or get bits wrong (see the rumoured square Apple Watch 7), but a reason for caution all the same.

Without Face ID, why bother?  

The reason that all flagship Apple handsets since the iPhone X have had a notch is to house the complex tech required for the company’s Face ID authentication tech. 

Nobody — not even the proponents of the notch rumor — is suggesting the new MacBook Pros will have Face ID, so why wouldn’t something smaller suffice?

Other laptops have managed to house a 1080p camera without a notch

The rumor is that Apple will be upgrading the webcam on the MacBook Pro, which certainly makes sense now that we’re all working from home more. Some of the best laptops you can buy have 1080p cameras, yet they all manage to house them in the (admittedly thicker) bezels. Surely, there must be another way?

So will Apple be explaining a MacBook Pro notch when it launches, or is this just a hoax? We don’t have long to find out. You can tune in to the Apple event on Monday at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT to find out for yourself and keep it locked to Tom's Guide, where we’ll be on hand with all the news and analysis.  

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.