We've come to expect more from every single piece of electronics that we own, from our smartphones and tablets, to laptops, watches and TVs. As with our phones, we want our laptops slimmed down, but somehow more screen-dominant at the same time, which has led to a bezel-free screen design arms race among laptop manufacturers. Webcams, generally housed at the top of the screen, usually render quite a large amount of the display area unusable. So in spite of how small it is, the laptop camera is quite a lot of trouble.
Some engineers finally decided to keep it "out of sight" — in HONOR MagicBook Series, the camera is hidden within the keyboard, disguised as a key, and pops up only when given a press.
Thanks to this "hidden camera" design, the HONOR MagicBook 14, for instance, really does manage a nearly genuine edge-to-edge screen, with bezels narrowed down to 4.8mm. The laptop itself is just 15.9 mm thick (or should I say "thin"!), and weighs just 1.38 kg.
That's why the recessed camera has drawn so much attention. Its presence enlarges the laptop's display area, which in turn offers more immersive visuals, and a lighter, more portable device.
Another major benefit of recessed camera design lies in privacy security.
Referring to our smart devices as "doubled edged swords" may sound a bit clichéd, but it's undeniably true that increased convenience comes with increased risk — the potential risk of personal information leakage, or threats posed by malicious programs exploiting the vulnerability of built-in cameras, mics, etc. on connected devices.
Some people resort to covering the webcam with whatever they can get ahold of, while others find convoluted methods for shutting it down. It's even natural to question the need for having a camera on a laptop — it's used irregularly and for very specific purposes, and might be unnecessary for some people.
But the arrival of the pandemic and need for social distancing have somewhat quashed this view. For some of us, the webcam is our main connection to the outside world.
That's why the recessed camera design allows us to have our cake and eat it too! It's out of the way when it's not needed, relieving any potential privacy-related concern, but remains instantly available when it has its use.
I'd thought moving the camera would be a fairly straightforward task, and wondered why someone hadn't thought of doing so earlier. But after researching this issue, I've learned that the engineering challenge is formidable — moving the camera to the keyboard requires a complex manufacturing process, as well as numerous rounds of testing to ensure that the camera key's press function works as intended, and remains durable over the long haul, which is an expensive proposition. It's a rather simple trade-off between a cheaper conventional approach, and a more costly but more secure alternative. Hardly a shock that most manufacturers would choose less demanding option.
On HONOR's MagicBook 14, I also noticed a tiny opening underneath the camera, and have confirmed that its purpose is to expel any water that may be spilled on the camera, yet another safeguard against a common hazard.
When it comes to electronics, the devil is in the details, and that's exactly why HONOR MagicBook Series has won me over. When you consider how well it's sold so far, I'm hardly alone in feeling that way!