What Is a Bezel and What Does Bezel-Less Mean?

How a device's bezel size makes a difference to you

The easiest way to think of the bezel is as the frame around the photograph. On electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and televisions, the bezel encompasses everything on the front of the devices that isn't the screen.

The bezel adds structural integrity to a device, but it is at odds with the technological trend to create the biggest and best screen possible on those devices. Smartphones have pushed up against the maximum possible size with phablets like the iPhone Plus series, the XS Max, and the Samsung Galaxy Note models. After all, a phone must fit into the user's pocket and rest comfortably in the hand. So, to increase screen size, manufacturers must decrease the size of the bezel.

What Are the Benefits of Bezel-Less Devices?

Close up of iPhone X bezel
Apple, Inc.

Bezel-less usually refers to less bezel rather than a total lack of bezel. You still need a frame around the screen. It isn't only for structural integrity, which is important; the bezel houses electronics such as the front-facing camera on smartphones and tablets.

The obvious benefit of reducing the bezel is an increase in screen size. In terms of width, the increase is usually marginal, but when you replace the buttons on the front of the phone with more screen, you can add a fair amount of size to the screen. 

For example, the iPhone X is only slightly bigger than the iPhone 8, but it has a screen size that is larger than the iPhone 8 Plus. Reducing the size of the bezel allows manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung to pack in bigger screens and reduce the overall size of the phone, making it more comfortable to hold in your hand.

Bezel vs. Bezel-less design illustration
Lifewire / Kyle Fewel

However, more screen space doesn't always mean easier to use. Usually, when you jump up in screen size, the screen is both wider and higher, which translates to more space for your fingers to tap the on-screen buttons. The emergence of bezel-less smartphones tends to add more height but only a little width, which doesn't add quite the same ease of use.

What Are the Drawbacks to Bezel-Less Design?

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge has a screen that curves around the edge of the device.
Samsung

When it comes to tablets and televisions, a bezel-less design can be significant. These devices had huge bezels compared to what we see on our smartphones, so making the most of the space can add to the screen size while keeping the dimensions the same size or smaller.

A bezel-less design plays out differently when it comes to smartphones, especially those that have gone to almost no bezel on the sides such as the Samsung Galaxy S8+. One of the most essential accessories for smartphones is a case, and when you install a case on a phone like the Galaxy S8+, you lose part of the appeal of that wraparound edge.

The bezel-less design also leaves less room for your fingers to hold the device, which can lead to accidentally tapping a button or scrolling down a web page when you change your grip. This problem is usually overcome once you get used to the new design, but it can detract from the initial experience.

What About Bezel-Less TVs and Monitors?

The Samsung QLED line of curved HDTVs feature almost no bezel.
Samsung

In many ways, bezel-less televisions and monitors make a lot more sense than bezel-less smartphones. HDTVs and computer monitors don't have the same requirements as a smartphone display. For example, there is no need for a front-facing camera on your television, and you only use the buttons on the TV itself when you lose the remote, so manufacturers can hide those buttons on the side or bottom of the TV.

You can argue that a bezel helps a TV picture by framing it, but we've had completely bezel-less televisions for a while now; they are called projectors. Part of the reason why the absence of a bezel works well on a television is that the wall behind the television acts as a visual frame.

Outside of projectors, which are genuinely bezel-less, products aren't bezel-less. Manufacturers may advertise bezel-less displays, but they are really less-bezel displays with a thin frame around the screen.