Physical webcam covers not included on big spend for a new MacBook Pro or Dell XPS

It is the year 2021. After approaching two years of endless video conferencing, two of the biggest laptop makers will still make you put tape on a high-end laptop.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Nice notch, now hold still while a Post-It note is put over the camera

Image: Apple

As the second year of the COVID times come to an end, and hopefully much of the pandemic-style world along with it, there is one thing that will stick with us: Endless Zoom meetings.

With most companies landing somewhere in the field of hybrid work, that means some people will be doing meetings the old way in a meeting room, but they will likely have to include those clients or coworkers who are not in the same place.

Whether its Zoom, Teams, Webex, whatever Google's option is called this month, or the next hyped solution, the video conference as a normal part of work life will remain.

It's curious then that Apple's new MacBook Pro, which can cost upwards of $6,000, has neglected the physical ability for users to ensure they cannot be viewed.

For a company that wraps itself in privacy statements, and ease of use, it does seem like a glaring omission.

Not to be left out, if you want to spend a lot of money on a new non-Apple but still want the experience of not having a webcam cover, then the new Dell XPS line has you covered.

The review: Dell XPS 15 9510: It's good to be king

Dell told ZDNet it was more interested in using space in the upper bezels for improved camera quality.

"Physical shutters required adding Z thickness to the hinge-up as well as Y-dimension -- which in turn adds weight and compromises our optimisation in terms of X*Y footprint," the company said. 

"We are focused on delivering the most size optimised designs in the industry for maximum portability. In lieu of a physical shutter we are scoping a camera 'kill switch' on the Fn-keys for easy electrical kill on/off for the camera with an LED indicator on status."

As I wrote about the XPS 15 9510, in the age of endless video conferences, not having physical assurance that no one can see you is anxiety-inducing. The end result is that no matter how pretty these laptops look, it's likely to have a $5 third-party stick-on webcam cover attached to it, a piece of tape, or a sticky note.

To spend all that money on a machine, have an ultra-thin bezel, wonderful display, but to then have a garish attachment adhered to the front because the laptop maker was obsessed by display thinness, it feels like a slap in the face.

It isn't so much about the long-heralded hackers being able to capture footage from your machine, it's the 100% guarantee that even if it is hacked, no one can see you.

Last week, an Australian local government member was caught out for conducting his work in the absence of clothing.

A physical webcam cover could have saved his blushes.

Apple also has a warning that camera covers could damage laptop displays.

"If you close your Mac notebook with a camera cover installed, you might damage your display because the clearance between the display and keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances," the tech giant states.

"Covering the built-in camera might also interfere with the ambient light sensor and prevent features such as automatic brightness and True Tone from working."

If you must have a cover, Apple says it should be thicker than a piece of paper, does not leave adhesive residue behind, or if it is bigger than one millimetre thick, it should be removable.

Sounds like the perfect job for a $19 polishing cloth.


The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. A member writes it of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. 


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