Review: Brydge Pro Keyboard

I’ve tried both Logitech and Zagg’s versions of the iPad keyboard/case combo before, and neither of them worked out for me. The Logitech version was rugged and had a good keyboard, but it was too hard to get the iPad out of the case when I wanted to use it as a tablet. The Zagg folio felt cheap, and wasn’t comfortable to type on.

I’m currently using the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio, and it’s…fine. The angle that it sets the screen at is too steep to be comfortable, and it doesn’t sit very stably on my lap, but it works, and I can type on it fast enough.

But I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Brydge keyboards, especially the “it makes it work just like a laptop” line. Comfortable to type on. Holds the screen at any angle you want. Easy to pull it out to become a tablet again.

So when they recently went on sale — because the new version, with a built-in trackpad, is coming — I snapped one up.

First Impressions

First off, this thing is absolutely gorgeous in the box. Like, I didn’t want to take it out, it was so pretty.

And the box itself is pretty impressive; it’s got a cheatsheet of what all the different function keys do printed right on the inside cover. There’s almost no need to refer to the included QuickStart instructions.

Getting the iPad in the clips isn’t too bad. They’re stiff, but moveable. Ditto taking it out again. You need a firm grip, and a willingness to pull hard on something you might have paid $1,000 for, but it can be done.

Typing

The typing experience on this keyboard is, in a word, miserable.

My accuracy immediately plunged when I tried typing anything at all on it. The keys are both small and very close together, making the whole thing feel cramped. I felt like I was typing with my hands basically overlapping, it’s that small.

On top of that, the keys sometimes stutter, or miss keystrokes. I had to strike each one much harder than I’m used to, which makes their small size and tight spacing even worse.

And the keyboard itself has a noticeable lag between when you open it to use it, and when it manages to pair with the iPad. It’s a small thing, to be sure, but when you’re used to the instantly-on nature of everything else on the iPad, it’s a drag to have to wait on your keyboard to catch up.

Oh, and did I mention the whole thing — keyboard, screen hinge, everything — lifts off the table as you tilt the screen back? So the further back the screen goes, the more the keys tilt away from the plane of the desk. Yes, that means you have to adjust your typing to the angle of the screen, which is…not normal?

Still, a proper Inverted-T for the arrow keys is nice to have back.

And controlling screen brightness from the keyboard is cool. Not worth losing all that space that could have been put into larger keys or better key gaps (or just better keys, period), but here we are.

Portability

Jesus, this thing is heavy. I mean, it feels as heavy as my 16″ work laptop. Definitely not feeling footloose and fancy-free while the iPad is locked into it.

As a bonus, it’s really slippery when closed, making it both heavy and hard to hold onto. Just an accidental drop waiting to happen.

And I don’t see how the tiny rubber things sticking up from the case are going to protect my screen when it’s closed, especially as the thing ages and those rubber nubs become…nubbier.

Using it as a Laptop

The clips holding the iPad in place are really stiff, except when they’re not. That is, anytime you forget it’s not a real laptop and pick it up by the ipad.

There’s also no way to open it when closed without knocking any Apple Pencil you have attached out of place.

It’s fairly stable on my lap, so long as I don’t tilt the screen back too far. There’s a point where the whole thing just starts to wobble.

While the iPad’s in it, it’s kind of hard to hit the bottom of the screen to dismiss the current application and get the home screen back. Thankfully, they included a dedicated Home button on the keyboard, a nice touch.

However, the “On-Screen Keyboard” key doesn’t work. At all.

Comparison with the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio

Using this made me realize things I want in an iPad keyboard that I never noticed before:

  • I don’t want to have to worry about plugging my keyboard in.
  • I don’t want to worry about having it come on and re-pair it with my iPad every time.
  • I don’t want to have to jerk on my iPad every time I want to convert it back to a tablet.

And the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio checks all of those boxes.

It’s also lighter, and the keys are spaced further apart, making it less cramped. They also don’t need as much pressure to activate.

Final Thoughts

So, yeah…I’ve returned the Brydge, and gone back to using the Smart Keyboard Folio.

I always thought of Apple’s version as the “default,” and that third-party keyboards would naturally be better. But it turns out weight, portability, and ease-of-use (no charging, always on) matters a lot more to me than I thought.