Review by Guest Author Desmond Fuller
I will start this review with an admission. I like the new MacBook Pro keyboard. It took me a few minutes to get accustomed to it, but I quickly reached my normal 110wpm speed. I use a membrane on top of the keyboard to protect it, but I will say that I’ve been burned by the space bar and the Y key not working correctly.
Isn’t this an iPad keyboard review? Yes it is, but bear with me. Low-travel keys on keyboard do not bother me, so when I bought my 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation) I went with Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio. The feeling between the MacBook Pro and the Folio are very similar (except you can not get crumbs inside the Folio’s keyboard).
Over the years, I have heard of the Brydge keyboards. I have heard podcasts about the “early years” of companies like Brydge, where it may take returning several keyboards before you find one that works properly. Honestly, I assumed Brydge was a flash in the pan Kickstarter type of company. I highly doubted that I would ever try one of their keyboards and frankly it didn’t bother me.
Something happened several months ago; Brydge announced they were making a keyboard for the new iPad Pro and were taking pre-orders. I had an internal battle about purchasing it. Did I really want to spend $170 on a laptop-style keyboard for my 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro? I finally came to the point when I figured I would try it an honest review of the product and give it away if I didn’t like it. I was also told by many colleagues that the quality had improved tremendously from the early days of Kickstarter.
Here’s the thing... I REALLY like it. Yes, I know it goes against everything I said about low-travel keyboards. As I’ve been using this keyboard (including using it to write this review) it just “feels” right.
Out of the box experience
The keyboard came in a very nice box that is sealed magnetically. Inside the box there was a USB-C to USB-C cable (to connect directly to the iPad Pro) and various documentation. The keyboard and magnetic cover (for the back of the iPad) were the focus. I will say kudos to Brydge for a simple yet classy box.
For people who have used a Brydge keyboard before I am sure they would have no problem setting it up, but I had to get use to it. Picture in your mind how this works — imagine you have your MacBook Pro laptop open, but can remove the screen by holding to the sides of the display and sliding it upwards. That is what this feels like. The iPad Pro fits into two small hinges at the back of the keyboard which you slide the iPad Pro into.
It took me a few minutes to get the iPad in the right place and lined up correctly. After it is seated correctly, it feel very laptop-like. Actually, it is a little disconcerting how much it feels like a laptop. When you close the iPad (that is still strange to say) it goes flat against the keyboard and they look like they belong together. There is even an indentation to open the iPad/Brydge combo like you would any other MacBook.
A common question is how easy is it to remove the iPad. It is not as easy as the Folio, which is held on by magnets, but it is close. I could take the iPad in and out of the Brydge keyboard in a few seconds after some time with it. I’ve also had enough practice so I get the alignment almost perfect every time when reinserting it.
Setup of the Brydge keyboard
After getting the iPad into place and the magnetic cover on the back of the iPad, I pulled out the user manual to learn how to pair the device. One strange thing is that there is a quick start guide, but it only tells you how to put the iPad into the clamps of the keyboard and remove it. You have to use the user manual to learn how to pair.
There are two ways to use the keyboard by physically attaching it to your iPad or via Bluetooth. The USB-C to USB-C cable that was included worked great and no issues. Unfortunately Bluetooth didn't pair immediately with my 12.9-inch iPad Pro. After several attempts, I turned off Bluetooth on the iPad and turned it backed on allowed me to pair. After that, I’ve had no future issues.
Out of the box the battery was not fully charged. There is no battery measurement integration with the iPad but a red LED on the power button said I had 10-24% battery (according to the manual). I charged it for a few hours and supposedly I should be able to get up to a year on one charge (depending on how much I use the backlighting of the keyboard).
The keyboard is solid aluminum; that means it is heavy, but in a good way. I use my laptop and my iPad when I'm sitting down with feet propped up on a table. The Apple folio is somewhat shaky. This keyboard allows multiple viewing angles and the screen barely moves when touched.
Using the keyboard
Your first sensation is that this feels very laptop-like. The first hour I started using it, I had several people ask what kind of laptop I was using. The keys require a little more work than the MacBook Pro since you need to press the keys harder to get them to travel further. At first, this bothered me because I had adjusted my typing to my laptop and the Apple Folio keyboard. You do not have to pound the keys, but you do need to dig in a little more. For a few days, I had this issue when I didn’t press down on the Shift key hard enough or was too light in my touch when typing fast. As with most things, you’ll adjust very quickly and after a couple of days I didn’t experience this issue any longer. I even found myself moving my thumbs to the trackpad (that does not exist) a few times to do something on the screen. As I said, it really does feel like you are using a laptop.
One of the main features I enjoy is the function key row at the top of the keyboard. This gives me access to functions such as screen brightness, media control and sound. I loved these keys on Logitech keyboards I’ve used in the past and I sorely miss them on Apple’s iPad keyboards. Also, a big shout-out to Brydge for having backlit keys. I don’t use this feature often, but when I need it, I’m glad it‘s there and miss it when I switch.
Is there anything in the negative column?
My biggest gripe about the Brydge Pro is the weight, but even that has its pros / cons. When the Brydge keyboard is on my desk or in my lap, the weight feels good and keeps it stable. Unfortunately, when hitting the road and throwing it in my bag, you come to the bad side of the weight. At over 1.5 lbs, the iPad Pro now weighs almost as much as a 13” MacBook Pro.
Turning the keyboard on/off is something that is easy to forget as well. It’s not a huge issue, but I have forgotten to turn it off a few times after removing the iPad and then wondered why I wasn’t getting an on-screen keyboard. I am accustomed to the Apple and Logitech keyboards that take care of unlinking the keyboard connection for you.
The last complaint I have isn’t Brydge’s fault, but Apple’s. Brydge does such a wonderful job of tricking your brain that your iPad Pro is a laptop that you want to use it as one. The iPad’s OS and software just aren’t there yet. When I start writing with the Brydge, I forget the iPad’s limitations but when I am doing something else, I quickly remember that I’m not using a laptop. The iPad Pro is a beautiful work of engineering and technology, but the OS still has some strides to make.
Is this keyboard for you?
Do you need a keyboard for an iPad? If you are using it just to watch videos and consume other media you don’t. I assume that if you bought an iPad Pro (which is the iPad this keyboard is made for), you want to do much more. The Apple Smart Keyboard Folio is easy to put on and take off, and is much lighter that the Brydge Pro. It is a keyboard that I have stuck with for the past several months and it is a good option. I have also been a fan of the Logitech keyboards, but they add bulk and you cannot easily remove your iPad once it is in its plastic shell.
In the end, the Brydge Pro is a keyboard that is well made and easily converts your iPad Pro into a laptop. You can just as quickly change it back to a tablet by removing it from the clips. If you want the best typing experience on an iPad, you can not beat the Brydge Pro keyboard.
Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★
About The Author: Desmond Fuller
Almost 30 years of experience in various sectors of the tech industry. Have been a technical writer for numerous magazines world-wide, written a book and have a US patent. Long-time Apple user starting from the Apple //e and have stuck with Apple through thick and thin.