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Huawei ran out of bezel space on its new laptop, so it put a camera in its keyboard


dscf43292 - Huawei ran out of bezel space on its new laptop, so it put a camera in its keyboard

There’s a fine line between innovation and letting people see up your nose during conference calls. This week at Mobile World Congress, Huawei pushed through that line with reckless abandon on the MateBook X Pro. It’s one decided downside of this bezel-free future we’re all hurdling toward: the camera is an afterthought.

For the iPhone Xs of the world, that means compromise in the form of a blacked out screen notch. For Huawei, it’s a kind of trap door hidden amongst the function keys along the top row of the keyboard. The company is clearly and understandably proud of its push toward a 91-percent screen to body ratio, and when it unveiled its latest MacBook competitor at a briefing this week in Barcelona, a rep asked playfully where we thought it had hidden the webcam.

“Behind the screen?” one journalist volunteered, only to be met with boisterous laughter from the Huawei rep, with echoes of De Niro in Cape Fear. The real answer, of course, is something far more sinister. He pressed down on a key along the top of the keyboard, and the tiny camera popped up. They called Edison “mad,” too, I suppose.

dscf43322 - Huawei ran out of bezel space on its new laptop, so it put a camera in its keyboard

So far as I can tell, there are two decided benefits to this placement:

  • Smaller bezels
  • Added privacy, since the camera can be recessed — something Huawei has likely been thinking a lot about lately

The downsides, on the other hand, are all about perspective. The two things such placement provides to viewer are:

  • The user’s hands when typing
  • The underside of said user’s nose

dscf43272 - Huawei ran out of bezel space on its new laptop, so it put a camera in its keyboard

It’s not flattering angle, exactly, taking the bottom bezel camera introduced by companies like Dell to its logical conclusion. If the one film class I took in college taught me anything, however, it’s that such angles project a kind of position of power. And boogers. It’s power and boogers, all the way down.

I suppose there’s one other advantage here, as well. It gives Huawei another point of distinction from the MacBook, to which it looks otherwise almost entirely identical. This time out, the company added another color to the mix: the familiar Space Grey. Heck, even the product’s name sounds the same if you say it fast enough.

There are some other key differentiators. The MateBook is a bit thinner — 14.6 mm to the MacBook’s 14.9. Of course, there’s Windows 10 on here and a touchscreen display. Huawei’s also reintroduced a USB Type-A back in the mix, in addition to the standard two Type-C ports, so that’s definitely a plus for most users.

Fortune, they say, favors the bold — and the Huawei MateBook Pro is certainly that, staring fate down unblinkingly, and looking directly up its nose.

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Updated: February 25, 2018 — 1:33 pm

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