Review: Brydge Bluetooth keyboard for iPad Pro

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in iPad
The Brydge keyboard for Apple's 10.5-inch iPad Pro is a good way to make your beloved tablet look and feel closer to a MacBook, but a few curious design choices, like lack of support for Apple's Smart Connector, makes it less than perfect.




With iOS 11, Apple designed a mobile operating system to make iPad feel more like a Mac, further blurring the line between tablet and laptop. Despite the UI changes, if you're serious about replacing a MacBook with an iPad Pro, you're going to need a physical keyboard.

Enter the Brydge keyboard for Apple's 10.5-inch iPad Pro. While Brydge has been around for years (we reviewed an earlier Brydge model in 2014), this is the company's newest design sized for the slightly larger 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro.



Design

Right out of the box, you'll notice that the aluminum Brydge feels really solid. It is pretty lightweight as well, coming in at only 50 grams heavier than the iPad Pro itself, an ideal weight that won't cause balance issues.

The build quality is likewise impressive. The hinge feels solid and has a seemingly perfect amount of tension that allows the keyboard to snap right into place when closing.




Due to the hinge design, Brydge lacks a Smart Connector. This means the keyboard communicates with iPad via Bluetooth, which in turn requires the device have its own built-in battery. We were disappointed to see a micro-USB charging port instead of Lightning or USB-C, but Brydge claims 12 months of battery life at 2 hours of usage per day.

A USB to micro-USB charging cable is included in the box, but you'll have to provide your own charging brick if you want to charge from the wall.

Looking at the keys, I'm reminded of the MacBook Air's keyboard, which uses keys with smaller key tops than those found on Apple's most recent MacBooks. The newer, larger keys are definitely preferable, but for a portable tablet keyboard, these pint-sized versions are workable.




There's a satisfying amount of tension when sliding the iPad into the hinge. We even flipped the keyboard upside down and shook it -- the iPad didn't budge.

Since the hinge has such a tight and perfect fit, Brydge recommends that you don't use a screen protector with the keyboard installed. Both sides of the hinge are perfectly flush with the iPad's screen, so you can easily get the Pro centered each and every time. The bottom of the screen also fits perfectly flush with the edge of the keyboard.

More impressive, when you close the combo, you'll find that the keyboard matches the exterior dimensions of the 10.5" iPad Pro perfectly, so each edge is smooth and flush. Looking at it from a profile view, you'll find that the keyboard perfectly matches the iPads thickness as well.

The color also matches almost perfectly, so it seems as if it was made alongside the iPad. But we did notice that the keyboard has a bit more of that metallic/sparkly look compared to the iPad Pro. Brydge also offers this keyboard in every color that's available for the 10.5" iPad Pro, and they take every effort for it to match the color of the related iPad.




Opening it up, the hinge feels very smooth with a surprisingly small amount of opening resistance for how well it holds the iPad in place. You can adjust the hinge from a 0-180 degree viewing angle, allowing you to lay iPad flat on a table. Unfortunately, Brydge is unable to fold back behind iPad for tablet use.

The rubber pads on the bottom of the keyboard do a great job of keeping it in place while typing.

If you are only planning on using the keyboard at home, it's very quick and easy to remove the iPad Pro and take it on the go.

In use

Hitting the power button in the corner, a green LED flashes to confirm it's on. Pairing is made simple by holding the Bluetooth button until the LED starts flashing blue. From there, all you need to do is connect and pair within iPad's Bluetooth settings.

Pairing was instant, with no connection issues to speak of.

This keyboard features a backlight for working in the dark, but unlike MacBook, each key is not lighted individually. A backlight button toggles through 4 settings: Off, low, medium, and high backlighting.




The backlighting is brighter than expected, so you shouldn't ever need to go above medium. Having brighter options is a nice bonus, though the universal backlighting design means light will bleeds around the edges of the keys. Some may actually prefer this backlighting technique to help see each key, but I personally like individually backlit keys.

The built-in screen brightness and volume buttons are much more convenient than having to manage those controls in Control Center. These functions help the keyboard/iPad combo to feel like a MacBook, and I found myself using those keys often. The only downside is that you're missing a mute button for audio, but that's not really an option available on iOS in the first place.

There's even a sleep/wake button, although you'll need to hit the home button on your iPad to get to the home screen after waking. This button is useful for when you need to walk away for a while but don't want to fold the iPad down.




Like Apple's first-party Smart Keyboards, Brydge can be configured to automatically lock and unlock iPad when closing and opening the keyboard. If for some reason you don't like that feature, it can be disabled in system settings.

There's a keyboard button, which works pretty well for things like the notes app, instantly bringing up and hiding the onscreen keyboard. This can be useful for adding emojis or enabling dictation.

Of course you've also got some buttons for controlling media and playback, and they function just like their MacBook counterparts.




Typing on the keyboard, the hinge stays very solid and the combo doesn't wobble or move at all. The keys feel pretty good, but I definitely prefer the clickier feeling of the keys on a 2016 MacBook Pro.

There's quite a bit more key travel compared to that laptop, but less so as compared to a MacBook Air. As mentioned above, the keys are smaller than a MacBook's since they have to fit in a smaller frame, and typing on the device could take some getting used to.

I noticed that some of my keystrokes weren't registering because I wasn't applying enough pressure when typing. After a few days of use, however, we got used to the pressure threshold.

Conclusion

When closed, they keyboard and iPad Pro combo is pretty comfortable to carry around, and it looks amazingly clean and stylish.

The downside of having such a simple and clean look is that while the screen is protected, the aluminum body isn't. So if you're the clumsy type and really care about keeping your iPad Pro like new, this keyboard might not be for you.




The Brydge keyboard for the 10.5" iPad Pro is priced at $140, almost $20 less than Apple's 10.5" Smart Keyboard, which utilizes the smart connector so you don't have to charge it. Since it doesn't need a battery, the Smart Keyboard is a lot thinner, lighter and more portable, but we've got to admit that the Brydge feels more solid and the adjustable viewing angles really help with ergonomics.

Overall, the Brydge keyboard boasts impressive build quality, a very solid yet smooth hinge, and a perfectly flush and clean design. The keys aren't the best, but all the shortcuts and control buttons work perfectly, with nice and bright key backlighting. For now, Brydge might be the closest to achieving a MacBook experience on iPad.

Score: 4 out of 5

Where to buy

The Brydge Bluetooth Keyboard for Apple's 10.5-inch iPad Pro is available for $139.99 at Amazon.com with free shipping. B&H Photo also has the keyboard for $139.99 with free expedited shipping and no sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ, although there is a 7 to 10 day wait.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    I really wish Apple would bring back the original iPad keyboard, updated for the Smartphone Connector.

  • Reply 2 of 22
    I have one of these.
    1) It's great, possibly the best on the market,
    2) Battery charging is NOT an issue. Mine arrived @ 95% charged, and after 1.5 months it is @ 92%,
    3) The iPad on-screen keyboard is just better enough, especially with the keys now multifunction, that the usefulness of external keyboards is somewhat diminished.
    GeorgeBMacappleric
  • Reply 3 of 22
    I've wondered about the purpose of the smart connector.   Apparently its just to eliminate a battery in keyboard...

    And something I never thought about:  But it seems that the online keyboard is prevented from popping up when the external keyboard is attached (unless its requested).   That's cool!  Very smooth!
  • Reply 4 of 22
    This keyboard has had some teething problems-- I've heard several reviewers (I believe Jason Snell was among them) who have had to replace their keyboards multiple times due to manufacturing and reliability issues.

    I have not found any newer comments on this or any specifically oriented towards the 10.5" keyboard-- has anyone found reliability issues with this keyboard lately?




  • Reply 5 of 22
    I had purchased a Brydge keyboard for my iPad Air a year and a half ago (before I got my iPad Pro). Found that they had a problem with keys making repeated entries (commonly known as sticky keys). I’m a touch typist and type very fast, which may have contributed to the issue with the Brydge keyboard, but I’ve not had this problem with any other keyboard before or after. After the replacement keyboard had the same problem I tried to return the keyboard to get my money back. They gave me the runaround for several months until I got my credit card company involved and THEN they agreed to give me a refund. Caveat emptor.

    I am extremely happy with the Apple Smart Keyboard on my iPad Pro. Not having to sync or charge batteries is fantastic, and the keyboard is lightweight and responsive. I’ve tried several third party keyboards for iPad and none are better than Apple’s Smart Keyboard in my opinion.
    qwwera
  • Reply 6 of 22
    qwweraqwwera Posts: 230member
    I bought one a few years ago, and it mostly works and looks very nice, but it's just to much of a fuss and it gathered dust mostly. This time around when i got the new 12.9 iPad Pro went with the Apple one. Much much better in real life use. Doesn't "look" as good, or is made of shiny aloo-minium, but it does what it's supposed to do and it's not a clunky thing i have to worry about.
  • Reply 7 of 22
    qwweraqwwera Posts: 230member
    firelock said:
    I had purchased a Brydge keyboard for my iPad Air a year and a half ago (before I got my iPad Pro). Found that they had a problem with keys making repeated entries (commonly known as sticky keys). I’m a touch typist and type very fast, which may have contributed to the issue with the Brydge keyboard, but I’ve not had this problem with any other keyboard before or after. After the replacement keyboard had the same problem I tried to return the keyboard to get my money back. They gave me the runaround for several months until I got my credit card company involved and THEN they agreed to give me a refund. Caveat emptor.

    I am extremely happy with the Apple Smart Keyboard on my iPad Pro. Not having to sync or charge batteries is fantastic, and the keyboard is lightweight and responsive. I’ve tried several third party keyboards for iPad and none are better than Apple’s Smart Keyboard in my opinion.
    Same here. I kept mine and admire it for what they tried to do, but the Apple smart keyboard is the only way to go.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    If you actually type on your iPad and have any intention to write anything of length, or are sitting somewhere forced to use your actual lap as surface... This is the only keyboard you should be considering. Apples is crap, it's shaky and shifts and about 100$ more than its worth. Oh and forget about typing on the dark.

    If a Mac is out of your budget and you need to keep it tighter financially for a minute -the 10.5 pro, pencil, and Brydge will easily replace a Macbook. Perhaps there are some professionals here this wouldn't be the case but id fight u and win. Books are written the way. Add the Nimbus and you can game too... It's also 1000$. Is that fair ? Since that's what macbook costs ? Probably not. But I have both.

    Having said that - this accessory should have launched 6 months ago, isn't all that different from its original design and it doesn't get the love Logitech gets from Apple when Logi (really?) Is always Plan c. I don't get that.

    It's got a bit of that lovely Chinese metallic sheen but the damn thing doesn't wobble on my actual lap. 

    Wins. Not even apple back lit it's keyboard. But they still have to sell MacBooks so - theres where this always goes. The iPad pro should replace the air. Get on with it. Converge before MS and Android do... It's coming and doesn't that sound awful... - let us figure it out. 

    And put thunderbolt on the entry macbook. Stop F**** around. OR GIVE THE AIR A RETINA SCREEN.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 9 of 22
    qwweraqwwera Posts: 230member
    If you actually type on your iPad and have any intention to write anything of length, or are sitting somewhere forced to use your actual lap as surface... This is the only keyboard you should be considering. Apples is crap, it's shaky and shifts and about 100$ more than its worth. Oh and forget about typing on the dark.

    If a Mac is out of your budget and you need to keep it tighter financially for a minute -the 10.5 pro, pencil, and Brydge will easily replace a Macbook. Perhaps there are some professionals here this wouldn't be the case but id fight u and win. Books are written the way. Add the Nimbus and you can game too... It's also 1000$. Is that fair ? Since that's what macbook costs ? Probably not. But I have both.

    Having said that - this accessory should have launched 6 months ago, isn't all that different from its original design and it doesn't get the love Logitech gets from Apple when Logi (really?) Is always Plan c. I don't get that.

    It's got a bit of that lovely Chinese metallic sheen but the damn thing doesn't wobble on my actual lap. 

    Wins. Not even apple back lit it's keyboard. But they still have to sell MacBooks so - theres where this always goes. The iPad pro should replace the air. Get on with it. Converge before MS and Android do... It's coming and doesn't that sound awful... - let us figure it out. 

    And put thunderbolt on the entry macbook. Stop F**** around. OR GIVE THE AIR A RETINA SCREEN.
    As you say yourself, once said and done it's better if you just get a laptop if you are going to be using it primarily as a laptop, With the pencil, people are using it in different ways, and the Apple smart keyboard keeps everything compact and clean if you need to sit down somewhere and type. I mean who actually buys a tablet to primarily type on their lap? lol
    GeorgeBMacStrangeDays
  • Reply 10 of 22
    Brydge makes an excellent product but if you’re in the habit of reselling your iPad Pro to pay for the next upgrade, the lack of protection for the back of the iPad is a dealbreakeer. The inevitable minor scratches will significantly downgrade what services like Gazelle are willing to pay.
  • Reply 11 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 1,995member
    I still just don't get Apple's iPad keyboard...
    Bluetooth in keyboards was perfected eons ago and made keyboard cords obsolete.  When was the last time you saw one?
    But effectively, Apple's smart connector is just a very short cord -- the worst of all options:  it's a cord and a short one at that.

    Add to that Apple's holder for the iPad which neither allows it to tilt nor holds it securely, and you have a very clunky solution.

    Then also add that it effectively makes the iPad a touchscreen laptop without a cursor...  (heavy sigh...)

    So, Apple continues to advertise its iPad as a laptop replacement.  But, as currently configured, it makes a pretty shitty laptop -- even though the technology is there to make it an outstanding one (at least for the average user typing a term paper or filling out a spreadsheet).

    To quote Jobs:  "This is crap!   FIX IT!"
  • Reply 12 of 22
    I love the look of this keyboard, but I'm still baffled at the lack of Smart Connector options in the market. I've got a Zagg Folio Keyboard (Bluetooth) for my iPad which I actually have loved very much, the biggest advantage of which being the choice of viewing angles, which so many options don't allow due to design decisions. I'd really love to see some Smart Connector options that allow for any viewing angle - that in my opinion would be the best of all worlds.
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 13 of 22
    qwweraqwwera Posts: 230member
    I still just don't get Apple's iPad keyboard...
    Bluetooth in keyboards was perfected eons ago and made keyboard cords obsolete.  When was the last time you saw one?
    But effectively, Apple's smart connector is just a very short cord -- the worst of all options:  it's a cord and a short one at that.

    Add to that Apple's holder for the iPad which neither allows it to tilt nor holds it securely, and you have a very clunky solution.

    Then also add that it effectively makes the iPad a touchscreen laptop without a cursor...  (heavy sigh...)

    So, Apple continues to advertise its iPad as a laptop replacement.  But, as currently configured, it makes a pretty shitty laptop -- even though the technology is there to make it an outstanding one (at least for the average user typing a term paper or filling out a spreadsheet).

    To quote Jobs:  "This is crap!   FIX IT!"
    The problem is the lag you get between the devices, the charging of the device and the pairing of the devices. These are all big problems that the Smart Keyboard does not have.
    Like I said, i admire my Brydge keyboard for what it tries to do and on looks, but ultimately it is not a practical solution. The Smart Keyboard is.
    williamlondonfirelock
  • Reply 14 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 1,995member
    qwwera said:
    I still just don't get Apple's iPad keyboard...
    Bluetooth in keyboards was perfected eons ago and made keyboard cords obsolete.  When was the last time you saw one?
    But effectively, Apple's smart connector is just a very short cord -- the worst of all options:  it's a cord and a short one at that.

    Add to that Apple's holder for the iPad which neither allows it to tilt nor holds it securely, and you have a very clunky solution.

    Then also add that it effectively makes the iPad a touchscreen laptop without a cursor...  (heavy sigh...)

    So, Apple continues to advertise its iPad as a laptop replacement.  But, as currently configured, it makes a pretty shitty laptop -- even though the technology is there to make it an outstanding one (at least for the average user typing a term paper or filling out a spreadsheet).

    To quote Jobs:  "This is crap!   FIX IT!"
    The problem is the lag you get between the devices, the charging of the device and the pairing of the devices. These are all big problems that the Smart Keyboard does not have.
    Like I said, i admire my Brydge keyboard for what it tries to do and on looks, but ultimately it is not a practical solution. The Smart Keyboard is.
    I see no "lag" on bluetooth keyboards (or mice) connected to desktops or laptops.  Why would there be one with iPads?  That makes no sense -- particularly with the advances Apple has made with bluetooth type connections with the AirPods and Watch. 

    I see pairing as a minor issue.  Same with charging...

    Or, we could just go back to corded keyboards on desktops and laptops because...  Well just because -- we all love cords...   And, while we're at it, scrap WiFi and use Cat5 cables.
  • Reply 15 of 22
    pcmofopcmofo Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    I picked up the new Zagg 10.5" model after wanting a Brydge for a while. The Zagg model has a protective case, can be flipped around to be used in a drawing mode, has a clip for the pencil, can be detached from the keyboard quickly and used as a tablet, and even has a keyed connection so the tablet aligns perfectly with the hinge every time it is snapped back into place. As a bonus to this design it is easier to hold (grippy plastic) and has small cutouts that redirect sound forward around the 4 speaker cutouts. None of these keyboard cases are ideal for everyone or every situation but this one is close.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 16 of 22
    >I see pairing as a minor issue.  Same with charging... 

    Others, like myself, may feel differently. Given the success of Apple’s Smart Keyboard seems that I am not alone. I’ve tried at least four different third-party iPad keyboards, and none are nearly as convenient, lightweight, thin and effective as Apple’s. I also like how easy it is to detach when needed. The Smart Keyboard does not protect the back of the device, but I don’t want the added weight or thickness that that sort of protection would bring.
  • Reply 17 of 22
    I have the Brydge for 10.5” iPad, and I’m still moderately frustrated with the lack of key sensitivity after over a month of use. Worst I’ve ever seen in a iPad keyboard (hopefully they’ll respond and tweak the design). I’m resigned to keeping it though - for now. In all other ways it’s nearly ideal for me (although poor sentitivity to fast touch typing is a major design fowl up in my opinion). The hinges are smooth, seemingly very durable, and properly tensioned, with one caveat - I purchased a $7 clear soft silicon back cover for the iPad and modified it to work with this keyboard (i.e. hinge/holder cutouts with a scissors, knife and then dremeled it to further adjust the cut), and the added weight overwhelms the hinge tension once past about 30-45 degrees. Brydge has recently come out with their own protective back in black or red, and hopefully it’s a few grams lighter than my modified silicon back. It costs $29.99 extra, should be $10, or should be included for the price of the keyboard alone, IMHO. (I eventually plan to modify a <$10 hopefully lighter but rigid plastic back.) After using Zagg keyboards for several years, I’ve given up on them due to their hinges wearing out much too quickly. I would have preferred an Incipio Clamcase+ (eventual hands down favorite for my iPad Air 2) but, for whatever reason, they haven’t made one for the 10.5” iPad yet (dang it!). Never tried Apple’s Smart Keyboard (partly due to COST!), and I really wish more keyboards had Smart Connectors (~3-5 second key-response-lag on most - all?? -bluetooth keyboards after they’ve gone to “sleep”, due to 5+ minutes of non typing, is a 1st world pain in the arse), but I don’t want to be w/o backlight, “function keys”, a true “laptop” lap experience, etc., etc.. (whine, whine whine, why hasn’t anyone designed the “perfect” keyboard for me yet? Guess I’ll have to do it.) 
  • Reply 18 of 22
    qwweraqwwera Posts: 230member
    qwwera said:
    I still just don't get Apple's iPad keyboard...
    Bluetooth in keyboards was perfected eons ago and made keyboard cords obsolete.  When was the last time you saw one?
    But effectively, Apple's smart connector is just a very short cord -- the worst of all options:  it's a cord and a short one at that.

    Add to that Apple's holder for the iPad which neither allows it to tilt nor holds it securely, and you have a very clunky solution.

    Then also add that it effectively makes the iPad a touchscreen laptop without a cursor...  (heavy sigh...)

    So, Apple continues to advertise its iPad as a laptop replacement.  But, as currently configured, it makes a pretty shitty laptop -- even though the technology is there to make it an outstanding one (at least for the average user typing a term paper or filling out a spreadsheet).

    To quote Jobs:  "This is crap!   FIX IT!"
    The problem is the lag you get between the devices, the charging of the device and the pairing of the devices. These are all big problems that the Smart Keyboard does not have.
    Like I said, i admire my Brydge keyboard for what it tries to do and on looks, but ultimately it is not a practical solution. The Smart Keyboard is.
    I see no "lag" on bluetooth keyboards (or mice) connected to desktops or laptops.  Why would there be one with iPads?  That makes no sense -- particularly with the advances Apple has made with bluetooth type connections with the AirPods and Watch. 

    I see pairing as a minor issue.  Same with charging...

    Or, we could just go back to corded keyboards on desktops and laptops because...  Well just because -- we all love cords...   And, while we're at it, scrap WiFi and use Cat5 cables.
    I get plenty of lag and it's the biggest frustration. Charging and pairing are big frustrations. I love my Beats X and the lag isn't as important with it as it's mostly a passive experience with Bluetooth on headphones. And what Apple has done with their W1 chip takes a lot of the pain of pairing and connecting.
    And again,  i don't want to come off as hating on the Brydge keyboard as I do think it's great what they have "tried" to do.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    fred1fred1 Posts: 236member
    A question from a rookie:

    Is the use of Bluetooth keyboards allowed on commercial flights?  

    Thanks
  • Reply 20 of 22
    qwwera said:
    qwwera said:
    I still just don't get Apple's iPad keyboard...
    Bluetooth in keyboards was perfected eons ago and made keyboard cords obsolete.  When was the last time you saw one?
    But effectively, Apple's smart connector is just a very short cord -- the worst of all options:  it's a cord and a short one at that.

    Add to that Apple's holder for the iPad which neither allows it to tilt nor holds it securely, and you have a very clunky solution.

    Then also add that it effectively makes the iPad a touchscreen laptop without a cursor...  (heavy sigh...)

    So, Apple continues to advertise its iPad as a laptop replacement.  But, as currently configured, it makes a pretty shitty laptop -- even though the technology is there to make it an outstanding one (at least for the average user typing a term paper or filling out a spreadsheet).

    To quote Jobs:  "This is crap!   FIX IT!"
    The problem is the lag you get between the devices, the charging of the device and the pairing of the devices. These are all big problems that the Smart Keyboard does not have.
    Like I said, i admire my Brydge keyboard for what it tries to do and on looks, but ultimately it is not a practical solution. The Smart Keyboard is.
    I see no "lag" on bluetooth keyboards (or mice) connected to desktops or laptops.  Why would there be one with iPads?  That makes no sense -- particularly with the advances Apple has made with bluetooth type connections with the AirPods and Watch. 

    I see pairing as a minor issue.  Same with charging...

    Or, we could just go back to corded keyboards on desktops and laptops because...  Well just because -- we all love cords...   And, while we're at it, scrap WiFi and use Cat5 cables.
    I get plenty of lag and it's the biggest frustration. Charging and pairing are big frustrations. I love my Beats X and the lag isn't as important with it as it's mostly a passive experience with Bluetooth on headphones. And what Apple has done with their W1 chip takes a lot of the pain of pairing and connecting.
    And again,  i don't want to come off as hating on the Brydge keyboard as I do think it's great what they have "tried" to do.
    "Charging and pairing are big frustrations."
    From the article:
    "Brydge claims 12 months of battery life at 2 hours of usage per day."
    ... So, I feel your pain!   Charging it every year or so must be so very inconvenient.

    "Pairing was instant, with no connection issues to speak of."
    ... Yeh!  We want something faster than instant!  Instant is so very frustratingly slow!

    As for your claim that the bluetooth keyboard has serious lag:  The article made no mention at all of any lag at all so that suggests there was none.  Nada.   Zero...

    So, why is it that your experience with the keyboard is seemingly the exact opposite of the reviewers?


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