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Brydge iPad Keyboard review

on March 3, 2013 12:00 pm

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Pairing a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad is not a new idea. Over the years, we’ve featured countless keyboards and all but one that I can recall, share a common problem… The iPad and keyboard combo can not easily be used on your lap – like a laptop. If you’re one of those people who like to argue that an iPad is not meant to be used as a laptop in the first place, you can kindly hit the Back button and go read another one of our awesome reviews. But for those of you who like to push the boundaries of what your Apple iOS tablet can do, you’ll want to read what I have to say about the Brydge keyboard for the iPad.

Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.

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What’s in the package?

Brydge Bluetooth keyboard
USB charging cable
Quick start guide
iPad 2 shims
iPad 3/4 shims

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There are 3 different models of the Brydge. I was sent the polycarbonate composite version with built in Bluetooth speakers. There is also an aluminum version without speakers and an aluminum version with speakers.

The keyboard has a matte finish, with a look and feel that reminds me of my Lenovo work laptop.

There are two rubber bumpers in the front corners that prevent the iPad’s display from pressing against the keys when iPad is in the “closed” position.

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There are also rubber feet on the bottom of the keyboard to keep the combo from sliding around on a desk or other smooth surface.

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What makes the Brydge one of the best iPad keyboards I’ve tried so far, is the unique holder/hinge design. There are two heavy metal clips on the back edge of the keyboard, that are covered with silicone pads.

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The hinges are designed to hold all current iPad models except for the original iPad and the mini.

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Depending on which iPad you will be using with this keyboard, you may be required to switch out the silicone covers.

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With the right hinge cover in place, the iPad easily and securely fits into the slots. Once inserted, you have a pseudo laptop that may remind you of an Macbook Air. By itself, the Brydge weighs 1 lb 3 oz. An iPad3 / Brydge combo, weighs in at 2 lbs 10.8 oz. My 13″ Macbook Air weights 2 lbs 14.8 oz.

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The hinges feel very strong and require some effort to open.

When the iPad is connected to the Brydge, you still have access to all the ports, switches and buttons as long as you remember to orient the iPad with the volume buttons along the top edge.

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When folded shut, the iPad will not flop open accidentally.

The keyboard has a built in magnet, so opening and closing it will activate the power toggle on the iPad.

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To use the Brydge, you must first charge its batteries using the included micro USB cable. Then you need to pair it with the iPad via Bluetooth. The built in speakers in the Brydge are also Bluetooth, so they will need to be paired if you want to take advantage of that feature.

People that use a hunt and peck style of typing usually don’t care that much about layout, key size, pitch, etc. But as a touch typist, I tend to be really picky about all that stuff. I’ll start by saying that other than Apple’s own wireless keyboard, the Brydge has the nicest feel of any iPad keyboard I’ve reviewed so far. The keys are slightly smaller than the keys on my 13″ Macbook Air, but they they have excellent tactile feedback. I can touch type just as comfortably and quick as I do on my MBA. All the normal keys are there including a full row of number keys and a row of special function keys that control brightness, volume, music playback, etc.

There’s only one thing that keeps me from loving this keyboard and it’s something I’ve seen on other iPad keyboards… it’s the location /size of the right shift key. If you look at the image above, you’ll see that the left and right shift keys are not the same size.

The right shift key is half the size of the left key. Next to the right shift key is the page up key, which I often press when I mean to press the shift button. This causes the cursor to jump up one line. If I’m not paying attention, I’ll start inserting text in the wrong place. It’s really frustrating. To alleviate this problem, I have to slow down my typing and really pay attention to what I’m doing when I need to use the right shift. I don’t like to slow down… :)

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The layout of the MBA is a lot better. The arrow keys are smaller so that the right shift can be full sized.

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The Brydge quickly wakes up after being idle. Even if you flip the power switch on the side of the keyboard, it will quickly pair and be ready for use. To use the speakers you have to toggle them on and off by holding down the Control and B keys till you hear a tone. It’s easy enough to do, but in all honesty, I don’t think the speakers built into the Brydge are any better than the iPad’s own speakers. Yes, the speakers on the Brydge are right in front of you and the iPad’s are facing away and to the rear, but after testing both, I think the iPad’s speakers sound better and fuller. The Brydge speaker’s are weaker and require you to increase the volume level.

Even though the shift key size issue will be annoying for touch typists, the Brydge is the best designed iPad keyboard and is the easiest and most comfortable keyboard accessory that you can use for typing on your lap. If you can get past the shift key and the price – it is very expensive when compared to other keyboards on the market, it’s a winner.

 

Product Information

Price:$130.00
Manufacturer:The Brydge
Requirements:
  • Apple iPad 2, iPad 3 or iPad 4.
Pros:
  • Real laptop feel
  • Built in speakers
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Built in speaker not any better than iPad's speakers
  • Separate charging required

Comments

  1. 1
    anson says:

    i considered the Brydge when i first saw it on Kickstarter… but when i factor in the cost of International/Canadian shipping- i had to pass.

    The aluminum version indeed makes it 2wice as macbook-esque ;)

  2. 2
    Pam T. says:

    I funded the Kickstarter project and got the alumium version w/speakers. I also have the Logitech tablet keyboard. I like the Brydge a lot and don’t have quite the same problem Julie does with the right shift key, although I am a touch typist too. (The Logitech does score better on that issue.)

    I’ll agree with Julie’s assessment on the speakers; there’s some usefulness in having sound closer to you, but not much.

    The Brydge does score serious style points, gets ease of use thumbs up, and has a solid build to it. While it’s a bit heavier than other keyboard/docks I’ve seen, the total package makes it worth it.

  3. 3
    Julie says:

    @Pam T thanks for sharing your comments. Good to know that the speakers on the Aluminum version are similar to the ones I tested.

  4. 4
    Adrian says:

    I funded the Kickstarter project too. But to date, I still have not received my Brydge =/.

  5. 5
    Mattias B. says:

    I did fund the kickstarter project and have since recieved my Aluminium Brydge with Speakers, but man I wished I had saved the extra money that went into the speakers, since they do really sound horrible. Loving everything else about Brydge though, just not the speakers.

  6. 6
    Rob O. says:

    I definitely fall into the “If you need a keyboard, you need a notebook” camp. In fact, I’m brash enough to say that if you need to do REAL work, you DON’T need a tablet.

    That said, I do love my iPad and I do have a Kensington Bluetooth keyboard that we’ve used a few times with our iPad 2. It works well enough and I have no device-specific complaints.

    But the thing that makes these keyboards less than ideal is their lack of a notebook-like touchpad. Oh sure, the whole iPad -IS- a touchpad, you say. Well yeah, and that’s terrific when you’re cradling the tablet in a mostly-horizontal orientation. That touchscreen becomes far less terrific when the tablet is docked with a keyboard and is situated in a mostly-vertical orientation.

    This is the same design flaw that works against Surface: Using a vertical touchscreen is very tiresome and much less accurate.

    So, once you’ve got your Bluetooth keyboard for your iPad, you’ll likely find yourself wishing you also had a Bluetooth mouse – if such a thing even works with the iPad. And even if you cobble all that together, it won’t have the portability or functionality of a true notebook PC.

    Just sayin…

  7. 7
    Brother David says:

    I was a Kickstarter Brydge+ backer as well. And fortunately when the original aluminum Brydge+ was finally shipped about 3 months late, I was one of the folks who got theirs quite quickly. That is not the case for many backers all over the world. There are still folks in Canada and other countries outside the USA waiting for their Brydge+ which was originally promised for OCT 2012.

    I loved my aluminum Brydge+ paired with my iPad 2. Even though the current hinge design is not the design originally promised in the Kickstarter project, the two of them looked cool together and whenever I used it at the local Starbucks folks constantly asked where I got the little Apple laptop. But I was disappointed in the audio quality of the built-in speakers. Especially after the developers had made such a big deal about going the extra mile for high audio quality speakers in their few-and-far-between Kickstarter updates. Unfortunately my joy was short lived as my Brydge+iPad 2 combo was stolen the week before Christmas, less than 3 weeks after I received the Brydge+. The thief is doing 6 months to a year in jail, but the police didn’t recover the combo.

    In JAN I was going into the hospital for bypass surgery so I bought a Polycarbonate Byrdge+ iPad 4, so that I would be connected to the world during my week of recovery. I really like the polycarb version also. And I think that the speakers do better in the polycard version than they do in the aluminum version. So folks may certainly wish to think twice about spending the extra cash for the aluminum Brydge+ with speakers.

    All told, the product is good. The guys who are the developers are horrible businessmen who really need to learn much about customer relations. The developers promised everyone who was a Kickstarter backer a free neoprene sleeve for their loyalty in backing the project. It has taken months for the sleeves to arrive in the warehouse. The sleeves are supposed to be perfect for carrying a Brydge+iPad combo. The sleeves weigh a few ounces. They charged those of us in the US $11 for shipping by USPS and $35 to overseas folks. You can ship up to 70 pounds in the US through the USPS for less than $6. I ordered mine 11 MAR. My PayPal account was immediately charged the $11 but I still haven’t received notice of shipment, a tracking number or anything.

  8. 8
    Dr Jan A Bergeron says:

    I’m afraid I don’t share the enthusiasm of the reviewer or those providing comments. I also donated to the KickStarter project, and eventually received one of the early “numbered” Brydge keyboards. The first one I received was essentially useless. Many of the keys would stick down, and some couldn’t be activated at all. After several e-mails and a moderate wait, the initial Brydge was replaced, sans engraved number (big deal).

    It took me a while to finally install my iPad (3rd generation) and pair it, which was relatively simple. Pairing the speaker is not quite so simple, and certainly not worth the effort because the speaker on the iPad is far better than the one on the Brydge.

    I found the Brydge/iPad combo to be heavier and more cumbersome to use than my 11″ Macbook Air. I also use my iPad more frequently in the “portrait” position than in the “landscape” position, so the Brydge is often just a very heavy cover. I don’t really like the feel of the keyboard, and although I am a proficient “touch” typist, I find I can actually type faster on the iPad virtual keyboard than on the Brydge.

    I guess I will stick with the Macbook Air as a laptop, and the iPad as a tablet. They each have their advantages, and trying to turn the iPad into a quasi laptop by attaching a Brydge, was a waste of money for me. Since my Brydge with speaker (that was a waste) is essentially useless for me, and is basically new, I’m going to donate it to my local Mac Users Group for a prize in our annual raffle. There has to be someone who will like it more than I do.

  9. 9
    Forrester says:

    I came here to report on Byrdge’s absolutely HORRIBLE customer service. They have had my return for 24 days and are still “processing” my refund. They are slow to respond to email and their lag in issuing my refund is totally inexcusable. Make no mistake, these are amateurs, who have a way to go before they deserve anyone’s hard-earned money.

  10. 10
    Altan says:

    My keys shifted (still not sure how, it seems to randomly move when I close the iPad) around about 2 weeks after receiving p mine, making it nearly unusable. I was finally able to shift them over, but now my play/pause, 9, O,L, and period buttons do not work at all. When it works, it is great, but as of now, I am extremely disappointed, especially considering the price tag of this.

  11. 11
    LJG says:

    I’ve had two Brydge keyboards fail in under a year — the first in four months, the second in six months. It took more than a month for them to replace the first. Now, I’m told I can only get a refund within 15 days of the original purchase (which was an Xmas gift last year, making the time period nearly impossible to satisfy). Saw yourself the aggravation.

  12. 12
    John Hall says:

    I was a big fan of the Brydge. I have a Brydge plus that I got as a gift last Christmas.

    Unfortunately the connectivity of a number of keys are no longer working.

    I contacted Brydge support to see if they could do anything about it, and they gave me some trouble shooting tips that worked for other people with similar problems.

    It did not work. I was told by customer support that they were looking at options. It has been a couple weeks since I last heard from them.

    I have tried numerous times to see if they can repair it or have an option for replacement.

    Just Silence. So know I have to resort to publicly posting about the poor customer service, and poor quality of the product.

    I would expect an investment of $220 to last more than 10 months.

    I do not recommend this product because of the customer service and performance issues I have experienced.

  13. 13
    Loreen says:

    I agree with many who commented on the HORRIBLE service of Brydge. I would never recommend this product again.

    My husband purchased a Brydge for me last year, and initially I loved it. We recently started having issues with charging, as is appears as though the charging port has moved and is misaligned (perhaps the same issue many others addressed with the keypad itself moving.)

    I think the company may be out of business, or simply decided not to respond to customers. We have tried numerous times to contact the company via email (seven emails), the only contact method they have on their website. We’ve also tried to send comments/messages via FB. We have yet to recieve a response. As you know, this is an expensive item…the BRYDGE is highly NOT recommended!

  14. 14
    Susan Palmer says:

    BIG CHANGES AT BRYDGE!!! I got my keyboard last November (aluminum with speakers) and was in love with it until I tried to contact them about a few problems. Starting in late February I tried their site, their Facebook page, Facebook PMs–any way I could think of to try to reach them. No success. It continued to work and my issue (Sticking keys) seems to have cured itself. But two of the rubber bumpers/feet fell off. So I went to their site last week and saw that they are under new management. Figured what the heck–I’d ask about a few replacement bumpers and mention the sticky keys. Low and behold, THEY RESPONDED!!! Within 24 hours!

    New management is alive and well!! They respond promptly and have already taken care of my issue with exemplary customer service. They’re as helpful as the old crew was unhelpful. I think they really do want to try to resolve their, self acknowledged, terrible customer service problem.

    If you don’t care for your Brydge for other than perfomance/quality issues there probably isn’t much they can do for you. But if you, like me, actually really like the device and were frustrated with the quality/performance issues and their failure to act on complaints–give the new team a try. I was going to write a scathing review of their customer service. Glad I gave them one last try before hitting send.

  15. 15
    Reg says:

    I’ve had a number of keyboards, namely the Zagg and the Logitech, after seeing a friend with a Brydge I had to get one.

    When it arrived last month I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. It truly amazing and feels just like my macbook. The speakers are ok. They are not like my bose but because they’re on the keyboard they sound just fine and are great for when I’m travelling.

    I saw all the posts about the Kickstarter project with late deliveries and a high cost ($200+ I think) for the keyboard, but at $149.99 the Brydge is now much better value.

    If anyone is a serious user of their iPad, particularly emails, I would highly recommend the Brydge.

  16. 16
    Paul Glover says:

    Guys,

    I am a serial iPad keyboard user. I started with the Zagg, then Clamcase, back to Zagg, then Brydge+

    Everything has been great with the brydge until the update to ios7 when it stopped working with my 4th gen iPad. I contacted the guys at brydge and they said they had a few reported issues with this, but despite the last 6 months, I have not seen a fix. So, sadly, I’m about to go to Belkin!

    Two other minor gripes about the unit. The speaker – its Sint that great quality and not worth the extra money and lastly, the little rubber protectors on the unit are stuck on with glue slightly more sticky that old chewing gum, although I suspect the latter would last longer. All the rubber protectors have long disappeared on my unit.

    Anyway enjoy or not, I’m off to review my new Belkin QODE Ultimate (white/alimunimum).

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