I’m typing this post on the Brydge keyboard that I got in the mail on Friday. This keyboard effectively converts your iPad into a small laptop. The iPad slips into the brackets on the keyboard. As simple as that, you now have a folding laptop thingy. I’ve used other portable keyboards for the iPad in the past, and the big failing of all of them was that you could never use them on your lap since the iPad was either at the wrong angle or you had nothing to lean it on. In the case of the Brydge the hinge has enough friction to hold the iPad in whatever position you like. It almost opens up to where the iPad is in the same plane as the keyboard, if that’s what you want. The interesting thing is that the illusion that I’m using a laptop is so good that I found myself reaching my thumb over to the touchpad as though I was using a regular laptop. Completing the picture, the keyboard has the appropriate magnets that turn on the iPad when you open up the iPad “lid” of the combo.

The main “win” that I’m looking for is a keyboard that I can use to comfortably bang out longer documents than I could using the on-screen keyboard. The Brydge delivers this!

I have to say that this is an easy keyboard to type on. The key pitch is a little tighter than a regular keyboard, but it’s not at all uncomfortable to type on. My general typing rate is just about the same as it is on a “normal” keyboard with very few missed letters. This is the most important feature to me since the main “win” that I’m looking for is a keyboard that I can use to comfortably bang out longer documents than I could using the on-screen keyboard. The feel of the keyboard is solid given the form factor. The keys have enough travel to let you know if you’ve properly pressed the key or not. This is important to me because in some other keyboards I’ve used the keys don’t have any feedback at all, and I wind up missing letters since I’m not really a keyboard masher. Another feature that might be handy is the built-in speaker that also pairs over bluetooth. It gets a bit louder than the iPad keyboard in my case, but the sound, oddly, isn’t as rich. It works well enough though. Something that’s neither a pro or a con really is that it uses a micro USB connector for charging. I can’t fault Brydge for using that connector since it’s pretty much an industry standard. If not for the fact that Apple would never license the lightning connector, it would have been super cool to be able to use that and not have to carry around extra cables. I know that the chance of that happening is zero, so I can’t hold it against them. (Honestly, I just really dislike the micro USB format, but that’s a rant for another day.) The micro USB cable is provided with the keyboard so you don’t need to get a cable you might not have. On a longer term basis I’ll have another writeup after some more time using this combo. One of the things I’m looking forward to is taking this with me on my summer motorcycle trip to lighten my load even more. A laptop is at the same time more fragile and heavier than this combo which makes this pretty much ideal. The bonus for me is I have the cellular-capable iPad so all I have to do is open up the iPad and I’m generally on the internet. :-)

Pros:

  • Almost like having a laptop in an even smaller package
  • Keys do work really well — I’m being a lot more productive than with the on-screen keyboard
  • Switching back and forth from using it (sometimes I want just the iPad without a keyboard) is easy
  • Great screen protection when folded up.
  • Holds the iPad in a comfortable position for using like a real computer.
  • Little touches like magnets that automatically wake up the iPad when you open it up and the hinges acting like stands when it’s open.

Cons:

  • Weight — total combo weighs almost as much as a 13″ MacBook Air. Weight alone 542g.
  • Cost — $100, but this is in line with the Microsoft Surface keyboard.
  • Bluetooth audio doesn’t sound much better than iPad’s in-built speaker, though it is in stereo.
  • No protection of the iPad’s back.

Unknowns so far:

  • Battery life – I’ve used this for a while and it’s not run out of juice. This is going to be part of a longer-term evaluation. My intuition says this should be really rather long-lasting given that most bluetooth connections are fairly low power.

I’d like to thank Brydge Keyboards for the unit I’m reviewing — I’m quite the fan so far. This entire review was typed up on the Brydge using the iPad. The only thing I did on my desktop was insert the pictures and fine-tune the formatting since the WordPress app on the iPad is only so competent at that task.