By Jason Snell
August 24, 2018 5:11 PM PT
Brydge 12.9 Series II Keyboard: This is the one… at least for now
A year and a half ago, I reviewed the $149 Brydge Keyboard 12.9 and said it was the best mobile iPad Pro keyboard I’d tried1. In the intervening time, I haven’t found any other device that has come close to working as well. I still use my Brydge 12.9 keyboard all the time.
There was one thing that kept me from giving a full-throated recommendation for the product, though—I had to try three units to find one that worked properly, and several of my friends reported the same experience.
I’ve got some good news. Brydge has built a second-generation 12.9 Keyboard, and it worked perfectly for me right out of the box. There are a few minor changes here and there, including very slightly reduced key travel, but it’s still an excellent keyboard more reminiscent of the MacBook Air or the Magic Keyboard than Apple’s more recent-generation laptops. I think I like the feel of the Brydge 12.9 Series II even more than the original.
Just to revisit what I like so much about the Brydge 12.9:
It’s an aluminum-bodied Bluetooth keyboard with the same surface area as the iPad Pro. At the top of the keyboard, there are two padded hinges into which you slide the iPad Pro. Once the two devices are attached, the iPad Pro is effectively a 13-inch laptop, albeit one with a touchscreen and no trackpad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been using my iPad only to hear exclamations of shock the moment I start touching the screen, because up until that moment someone had been assuming that I was using a MacBook.
The Brydge excels when it comes to ease of attachment and removal. I never want to commit to my iPad remaining a laptop for an extended period of time—I switch back and forth between modes all the time. If I want to go keyboardless, I want to be able to do it in a heartbeat—and all I have to do is pull my iPad right out of the Brydge to turn it back into a tablet. Inserting the iPad into the hinge clips on the Brydge takes a little training, but after I’d tried it a couple of times I could do it.
Because the Brydge has a flat bottom (thanks to the clips holding the iPad Pro in place) it works in my lap. So many tablet keyboards use a kickstand to stay up on flat surfaces, which works well on tables and desks, but not nearly as well on laps. The Brydge keyboard makes my iPad Pro a true laptop. And thanks to that hinge, I can adjust the view of my iPad screen to pretty much any angle I want—unlike many cases and stands, which only support one or two viewing angles.
I’m also impressed by Brydge’s looks. This is an aluminum deck that’s been color matched to the silver, space gray, and gold color of the iPad Pros. Because it’s aluminum, it does weigh about the same as the iPad Pro itself—meaning that when you’re carrying it around in laptop mode, it’s as heavy as a laptop. This doesn’t bother me, because when I want to use something lighter, I pull the iPad Pro out of the clips and walk away.
The Brydge keyboard does have couple of ergonomic challenges, ones exacerbated by iOS 11 and 12. To go to the home screen in iOS 12 or to display the dock and begin multitasking in iOS 11, you need to perform a flip-up gesture from the very bottom edge of the iPad Pro screen. The iPad Pro sits down so low in the clips that you basically can’t do that gesture without smashing your finger or slightly pulling the iPad up out of its clips.
This would seem like a big deal, but it’s not—because there’s a Home key on the keyboard itself. You just have to remember to press it rather than doing the flip-up gesture. And if you want to bring up the dock, iOS has you covered there—the same Command-Option-D shortcut that shows and hides the Dock on macOS works on iOS! So if I want to launch an app from the Dock or kick off a multitasking session, I start by displaying the Dock via a keyboard shortcut.
Also, it’s worth noting that this is not a Smart Connector-based keyboard… it uses Bluetooth. That means its battery will drain, though I can go months without needing to charge it. Once you’ve paired it with your iPad Pro, I’ve found that it’s pretty reliable at staying connected. When you close the clamshell by lowering the iPad onto the keyboard, both the iPad and keyboard turn off, and when you open the clamshell back up, the keyboard will turn itself on.
So everything’s great! This is an amazing keyboard for the iPad Pro 12.9 and I highly recommend it.
There’s just one thing… rumors are that Apple will be releasing a new round of iPad Pros this fall, ones with new dimensions and without the large bezels that the Brydge uses to hold the iPad Pro in place. This means that if you buy the Brydge 12.9 keyboard, you’re unlikely to be able to use it (at least without some adapters or some fuss) with future iPad Pro models. That’s a bummer, but if you’re planning on holding on to your current 12.9 iPad Pro for some time, it’s not a dealbreaker.
Now that it (apparently) has its quality-control issues behind it, I hope that Brydge finds some way to bring its line of iPad keyboards to the new models, despite the potentially very different ergonomics. As much as I really like the Smart Keyboard, it doesn’t give me the typing experience I want when I’m in bed, on the couch, or in a chair in my backyard.
But that’s something to worry about for this fall. For right now, the Brydge 12.9 is the iPad Pro typing champion of the world.
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