For those less familiar with the Brydge Keyboards, the company made headlines a couple of years ago with a very successful and well funded Kickstarter project ($797,979 received vs $90,000 goal), quite an achievement. The promised product was an anodized aluminum keyboard that will transform your iPad in a laptop for around $150. Now, two years later the Brydge keyboards are not only a reality, but the company is producing several different models including one featuring Bluetooth speakers and a black poly-carbonate model for the budget minded users. The model we received is Brydge+ with Speakers currently selling for $149.99 (reduced from an original $199) , the company’s most luxurious product to date. I had the chance to play with it for several days at which point my wife made it clear that she wants it…You can never win! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, jump ahead for the full review.
What’s in the Box
The box contains the Brydge keyboard itself, a micro USB cable for charging (no charger included, but at this point you have to have several laying around and you can use a PC’s USB port just as well), the quick start guide booklet and some additional rubber shims for the hinges, designed to fit the iPad 2nd generation securely. I happen to own an iPad 2 which my wife is currently using (I recently switched to a mini) so I replaced the existing rubber shims for the iPad 2 ones. For iPad 3 & 4, just use the keyboard as it comes out of the box. The new iPad Air is not supported yet.
Design and Functionality
At a quick glance, it is obvious that the Brydge keyboards were designed specifically for the iPad (it actually feels like it was designed by Apple themselves), and it is clear that they belong together. There are two hinges that connect to the iPad and they are covered with rubber shims designed to protect your iPad from scratches. The hinges are very stiff and hold the iPad at any desired angle with no issues while the keyboard itself is heavy enough to provide a good balance ensuring the iPad won’t topple over. The LED indicator, the microUSB connector and the power button are located on the right side, the same side with iPad’s power connector. On top, above the keys you will find the speakers. The keyboard has dedicated buttons for Home, Volume, Brightness, Photos, Web, Search, etc. As the weight goes, the Brydge keyboard is quite substantial at around 1.28 pounds, approaching the weight of the iPad itself (together with my iPad 2 will be around 2.59 pounds). The weight is necessary to ensure the proper balance while in the table and ironically, improves the resemblance to a full featured laptop. The keyboard also acts as a smart cover, closing it will put your iPad to sleep, opening it will wake it from sleep. The pairing process consists from two steps, pairing the keyboard itself and pairing the Bluetooth speakers which seem to be an independent system. For the keyboard, the process is no different than any other Bluetooth device in the world, you turn the Bluetooth ON on the iPad, turn the keyboard and press Ctrl+K to turn on pairing mode making it discoverable. As soon as the keyboard is detected, the iPad will prompt you to enter a 4 digit code form the keyboard followed by Enter. That’s it, it only takes about 30 seconds. For the speaker pairing, the process is similar but guided by sounds. Since there is a bit a delay between pairing and feedback sounds and I am an impatient human being, I managed to turn ON/OFF the speakers several time during the process until I was able to pair them successfully. If you follow the manual to the letter though you should have no problems at all.
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 7.3 x 0.2 inches ; 1.2 pounds
- Made of aerospace-grade aluminum
- Includes quality Bluetooth stereo speakers
- Connects to your iPad with a patent-pending hinge and holds it securely
- Hinge allows for close to 180 degrees of iPad positioning
- Anodized to match the look and feel of the iPad precisely
When I test a product, I am looking at it from several different points of view: overall design, build quality, how easy is to use and ergonomics. As a keyboard, after the initial pairing, there is really nothing else to do other than just typing. If left unused after a while it goes in standby mode and next time you start typing it will need several seconds to wake up and connect to the iPad again. Battery Life: This is something I couldn’t really test since under a normal usage the battery should last at least a month. It charges very quickly though, around one hour to full charge so no complaints here. Using the speakers will cut into that, how much will really depend on your usage. The keys are very well made, the travel distance is longer than average making it for a more satisfying typing. I am using it to edit this review and before exporting it to WordPress I am writing it in Microsoft Word for iPad. The combination really feels like a laptop with extended battery life and if Brydge will also release a model for iPad mini I’ll adopt it as my main editing solution. The speakers are certainly louder and better sounding that the iPad original ones but the difference is smaller than expected. This is one of the parts that Brydge can certainly improve for future models. The modern DSP technology evolved to the point where tiny speakers can reproduce surprisingly good sound and there no excuse for Brydge not to improve it for the upcoming models.
I like it, I like it a lot. If you are looking to convert your iPad / iPad Air into a laptop, look no further. Extremely well manufactured, the Brydge iPad Keyboard truly provides a laptop/notebook experience to iPad owners and as I mentioned before, my significant half promptly stole it. While I cannot vouch yet for its long term durability, the hinges seem very sturdy, can hold your iPad in any angle you desire and the entire iPad-Brydge assembly is quite a looker. The speaker leaves somewhat to be desired and while better than the iPad embedded one, it cannot compare with a dedicated Bluetooth speaker. The battery lasts quite a while, I did not have to recharge it in the week I tested it. Sure it is not cheap at $150, and there are certainly cheaper alternatives, but in my opinion the Brydge iPad Keyboard is the best iPad keyboard we have ever tested and it qualifies for Review Horizon’s Highly Recommended rating. There is one thing I would wish at this point, for Brydge to release the iPad mini version for my own tablet. You can visit Brydge Keyboards at www.brydgekeyboards.com.
- VERY good looking
- can hold your iPad at any angle
- comes with rubber shims for iPad 2, 3& 4
- acts as a smart cover, the iPad goes in standby when closed
- the best way to turn your iPad into a laptop
- Rather high price, but in line with the current prices for external keyboards (see Microsoft’s keyboards for Surface line)
- The speakers could be better
- Not really a cons and not a fault of Brydge either, but I would have loved an extended battery as part of the keyboard. However, iPads don’t have a long side feature connector so this is a no go by design.