Brydge+ iPad Keyboard
It’s always nice to get new kit and even better when it does what you hoped it would but boy does it sting when your hopes and money are wasted on a gadget which fails to come up trumps. I have been testing out the Brydge+ wireless iPad keyboard over the least couple of weeks and can honestly say that my conclusion is a positive one and that the Brydge+ has performed as hoped.
What is it?
The Brydge+ is a keyboard / case which connects wirelessly to a 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation iPad (via Bluetooth) combining many of the functions of an Apple keyboard with a protective clamshell iPad case. The model I’ve been using includes a central speaker which also connects to the iPad via Bluetooth.
What’s it like?
The first word that came to mind when I saw the Brydge+ was “neat”, swiftly followed by “tidy”. I neither want nor need bling on something like a keyboard, rarely do I feel the need for my gadgets to glow blue or to buzz some melody when I turn them on and the thought of colour pulsing buttons does not entice me to make a purchase. The Brydge+ has been designed without these unnecessary additions and it's a better product for it.
The aluminium case looks very much like an Apple Bluetooth keyboard or Apple Magic Trackpad in that it has the same just-off-shiny, slightly roughened look to it. The keys are solid enough and responsive when pressed so it has much the same feel as a desktop keyboard. The keys are about a third smaller than Apple keyboard keys and overall, it's a couple of centimetres narrower than a standard keyboard. This doesn't cause me any difficulties when typing and I certainly I haven't noticed any need to change my typing style / speed from how I use a desktop keyboard. This is particularly helpful as I have a job whereby I switch from desktop to mobile devices regularly and having directly transferable skills is always of benefit.
There are 4 rubber feet on the underside and 2 rubber bumpers topside (to protect the iPad screen). The hinge mechanism works really well, allowing the iPad to be held firmly in any position from almost 180 degrees in relation to the keyboard, to fully closed. There’s a switch on the side for turning the keyboard on (within a couple of seconds of doing so, the iPad software keyboard disappears, leaving you with the entire screen and a fully functioning keyboard).
The speakers require a little more work in that once they have been paired with the iPad (the process is separate to but the same as pairing the keyboard) you need to hold down a couple of keys on the keyboard unit you hear a beep indicating that the connection has been made. This is a minor inconvenience (it would be nice if there were another switch on the side for this) but since I don’t require the speakers that often, it wasn’t a problem for me. The speakers are more than adequate for my needs and I love the fact that I can get the sound directly in front rather than off to one side which is what you get when typing directly onto an iPad. The base quality is rather limited but then that's what I'd expect with a device so light and slim so I'm not going to complain about that at all. I really like the thoughtful placement of the volume control and music track keys - they make changing the volume / song a breeze.
Connecting the Brydge+
First off, you need to pair the Brydge+ to the iPad via Bluetooth. First time pairing is simple enough and doesn't require any technical know-how as the instructions are clear enough. After this initial Bluetooth setup, subsequent pairings shouldn’t be required - all you need to do is flick the switch at the side of the Brydge+ and the two devices communicate as expected (this connection takes a couple of seconds and has never failed me).
Fixing the iPad onto the Brydge+ is also straightforward - you just slide the iPad into the two hinge brackets. These brackets have a removable rubber shim on them which are device specific (you get shims for the 2nd generation iPad and shims for the 3rd / 4th generation iPad). The shims are securely attached to the Brydge+ via sticky pads and have yet to show any sign of losing adhesion. Once physically connected, the iPad / keyboard combo is very secure and almost creates a single unit which looks rather like a MacBook Air. This effect is so pervasive that anyone who’s managed to get the Brydge+ off me has automatically tried to use the area below the spacebar as a traditional trackpad. The security of this physical connection is so good that you can hold the Brydge+ / iPad combo from any corner, from any direction, without them coming apart.
What do you get in the box?
Brydge+ Bluetooth Keyboard
USB Charging Cable
Quick Start Guide
Rubber Shims (these allow the keyboard to hold 2nd generation iPads or the 3rd / 4th generation iPads)
Stickers to cover the hinge brackets
I've been using the Brydge+ Keyboard quite a lot over the last 2 weeks and in a number of situations; at home, at work, in a car (as a passenger of course) and on a train. I wouldn't say that this could be described as extensive (though letting my kids use it could certainly equate to near destruction testing) but I have put it through its paces. There are no obvious marks, dings or scratches on either the keyboard or my iPad. There are no indications that the letters are wearing off the keys or that the rubber feet won't last. In short, this testing period certainly hasn't given me any cause for concern - quite the opposite.
Sensibly, Byrdge offer a first aid kit for their keyboards which provide new rubber shims and feet which are about the only thing that may wear out through normal use. I very much like this level of consideration and wish that other manufacturers followed suit more often.
Why get a Brydge+
The software keyboard which Apple provide as part of the iPad OS has its place and it works as well as you can expect but using it to type out a letter or a lengthy email or even a review (such as this one) is laborious. First off there’s no tactile feedback, secondly you lose a chunk of the screen, thirdly, either the typing or viewing angle is wrong. I won’t continue with the ordinal numbers but will just mention; the finger smudges on the screen, the lack of control keys like cut and paste, no music controls and on and on. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, I mean how often do you need to write an essay on an iPad? Well truth be known, for some of us (myself included) the answer would be “every week”. Yes there are always notebooks but a lot of the time, a notebook can be overkill or perhaps too bulky or too heavy or simply too…much. If you’re lucky enough to have plenty of kit choices and you have a job or pursuits which warrant it, a wireless iPad keyboard can be a real, rather than an imagined, benefit.
With the Brydge+ you get an almost full-size keyboard with decent, tactile buttons. You also get a very long life battery (we’re talking a few months of daily use as long as the speaker isn’t used much) and you get direct access to useful functions like brightness, volume, iPad searching, the home screen and so on. All useful stuff - maybe not essential but certainly useful and of course, the keyboard masquerades as a decent case which clips over the iPad screen, protecting it from life’s daily bumps.
I’ve used other iPad keyboards before (and we’ve even reviewed a couple) and as you would expect, they offer similar functionality. The Brydge+ is very neat in that it creates that protective clamshell which is so useful when transporting the iPad. This is the kind of real, durable protection which I value. Then there’s the fact that once it’s open, it retains that feeling of durability - you can pick it up from any corner, you can move it around and yes, you can easily type on it on your lap. All of this makes for a hardy piece of kit which works well in most conditions.
Brydge were a kickstarter project (www.kickstarter.com) which were successful in securing the necessary funds to develop a range of iPad keyboards. There are currently 3 variants of the Brydge keyboard:
A black polycarbonate model without a speaker
An aluminium model without a speaker
An aluminium with a speakers
When the Brydge first became available, a number of people complained about problems with support and the durability of the keyboard. Since these early days, there have been a number of positive changes to both the keyboard and also to customer service. I had no frame of reference for this but what I will say is that I tested the customer support out by issuing a request for product information and, via a separate online form, asked for technical help. In both cases the response was both rapid and helpful so no complaints there.
At the time of writing, the Brydge+ prices are at an all time low making it a very attractive purchase for those people who need the real world functionality of a clamshell iPad keyboard. And you can count me among such people - I’m hooked!
You can purchase the Brydge+ from the Brydge homepage : Brydge Homepage
Disclaimer: igeek were sent this keyboard by Brydge to evaluate. Our policy is to always give our honest, objective review regardless of how we received the product.