TURN YOUR IPAD INTO A MACBOOK
Brydge+ iPad Bluetooth keyboard
The Brydge+ iPad Bluetooth keyboard is compatible with 2nd to 4th generation Apple iPads and offers a similar look and feel to Apple’s own products. In fact, if you have a black iPad, attaching it to a Brydge+ will make it look just like a mini MacBook Pro. An iPad Air version is currently in development and will be available later this year. Machined out of a single block of aerospace grade aluminum, the keyboard feels overbuilt and is quite heavy, weighing 525g, which is almost as much as the 4th generation iPad (652g) we’re using for this review. Most of the weight is towards the front of the keyboard, and we’re told that, due to the weight of older iPads, the extra weight is necessary to stop the iPad from toppling over.
At the back of the keyboard, two hinges lined with soft silicone create a tight enough fit to lock the iPad in place. As mentioned, we’re using a 4th gen iPad for this review, but a thinner iPad 2 will fit too, albeit slightly less snugly – the packaging also includes a pair of iPad 2 shims that can be fitted into the hinges to provide a tighter fit.
While the hinges are large and provide a secure fit, they’re perhaps the only area of the Brydge+ that isn’t too attractive. Due to the size of the hinges, they’re rather conspicuous and, as they’re also quite thick and an odd shape, they somewhat spoil the clean lines of the rest of the device.
The hinges themselves feel very robust, and are quite stiff, which lets the iPad be tilted through a full 180-degree range, from closed all the way to completely open and level with the keyboard. This gives the Brydge+ a distinct advantage over almost all other keyboard cases out there, most of which use a slot or stand to position the iPad at specific angles. With the Brydge+, working with the iPad in your lap or on a table is equally comfortable, as the display can easily be adjusted with an ideal viewing angle. The hinges also extend slightly past the base of the keyboard, which lets them act as feet when the display is open, slightly elevating the rear of the keyboard to provide a more
comfortable typing angle. The base of the keyboard also has four rubber strips, which help keep the device from sliding around on the table.
With the hinges closed, the iPad closes neatly over the top of the keyboard, fully protecting the front display and, thanks to a magnet, putting the iPad - as well as the keyboard itself - to sleep. Thin rubber strips on the wristrest area protect the display by preventing it from fully touching the keyboard. Unfortunately, the rear of the iPad is completely exposed, so you might want a carrying case to protect it from scratches during travel.
Of all the iPad keyboards we’ve tested, the Brydge+ definitely offers the best typing experience, and easily rivals or surpasses many notebook keyboards. The keys are very firm, bordering on slightly stiff, with a surprisingly generous amount of travel, resulting in a very satisfying and comfortable typing experience. Despite the slightly smaller size of the keyboard - roughly 88% the size of a full-size keyboard - spacing between each key is quite generous and it shouldn’t take too long to become fully proficient. Anyone with experience typing on a netbook will have no trouble transitioning to the Brydge+. The lower right area of the keyboard, where Brydge has squeezed in full-size arrow keys, does feel slightly cramped, and the right shift key is a bit undersized as a result.
The top row of the keyboard has dedicated iPad and media control keys, including keys for the home button, display brightness, and finder. Unfortunately, a few of the buttons no longer work in iOS7, such as the Photos and Internet button.
The Brydge+ includes built-in stereo speakers, positioned above the keyboard’s top row. The speakers are quite loud, and a definite step up from the iPad’s own speaker, but not as good as the audio you would get from a standalone portable Bluetooth speaker like an X-Mini. While the tonal range was a bit limited, with thin bass, and slightly muddy treble, nevertheless, if you’re using your iPad as a personal movie watching device, the Brydge+’s central speaker is still far better than the weak one-sided audio of the iPad’s own speaker.
Overall, the Brydge+ keyboard probably isn’t for everyone. While most other iPad keyboard cases try to keep their designs as slim and light as possible, the Brydge+ nearly doubles the iPad’s weight and thickness. But what you get in return is a full notebook experience - something you just can’t find with any other iPad keyboard case - thanks to the Brydge+’s adjustable viewing angle, open and close clamshell design and superior keyboard. With Microsoft Office now available for iOS, a Brydgeequipped iPad is one of the best compact-sized productivity devices you can buy.