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By Jason Snell

Review: Brydge Pro+ iPad keyboard with trackpad

brydgeproplus

Back in January, Brydge—the maker of my favorite iPad keyboard—announced that it was going to make a version with an included trackpad. I’ve finally gotten a shipping version of the Brydge Pro+, and have been able to use it with a 2020 iPad Pro running iPadOS 13.4, which includes Apple’s new trackpad support.

When the product was announced, I pointed out that iPad trackpad support just wasn’t strong enough to make the Brydge Pro+ a good option for most people. Not only did Apple’s Assistive Touch accessibility feature offer a cursor that was really just an awkward virtual finger, but the MacBook-like construction of the Brydge keyboard deck just emphasized all the ways that the product couldn’t supply a smooth, MacBook-like pointing experience.

The good news is that iPadOS 13.4 means that Assistive Touch is no longer necessary to drive an iPad with a cursor. Attach a Magic Trackpad 2 to an iPad and you will get an experience that really is very close to what you’d get on a MacBook. And Apple’s forthcoming Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro will bring that to a portable design that challenges the need for a product like the Brydge Pro+.

Still, I figured that the Brydge Pro+ would find an ecological niche to fill. It’s going to be $100 or $120 cheaper than the Magic Keyboard, and will probably offer a more traditional laptop feel than Apple’s cantilevered design.

Unfortunately, none of that matters if Brydge doesn’t get the trackpad right on the Pro+, and I’m sorry to report that it hasn’t. The trackpad on the Pro+ isn’t remotely close to Apple’s trackpads in class. Sometimes I move my finger across the trackpad and the cursor appears, but doesn’t move. Other times it moves, hesitates, and then moves some more. Two-finger scrolling is similarly unpleasant. The result is an imprecise, jerky experience. It’s no good. And there’s no support for navigating between apps via three-finger gestures, either.

I’ve been using the Brydge Pro+ to write this article, and I find myself actively avoiding using the trackpad, because every time I try it, I just end up frustrated.

I would have been disappointed by the feel of the Brydge Pro+ trackpad regardless, but now that I’ve seen Apple’s Magic Trackpad 2 working flawlessly with iPadOS 13.4, it’s an even starker difference.

I feel for Brydge, which clearly engineered this product for a pre-iPadOS 13.4 world, but it’s been left behind. Perhaps if the company can find a way to update the trackpad firmware to function better, the product can be salvaged. But right now I can’t recommend the Brydge Pro+ to anyone.

If you don’t need cursor support, the regular Brydge Pro will provide you with a laptop-style typing feel that’s excellent. If you do want a laptop-like experience with a trackpad on an iPad Pro, I’d recommend waiting for the Magic Keyboard to ship in May. (And if you’re using an iPad on a table or desk, use a Magic Trackpad 2.)

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