Brydge+ keyboard with Bluetooth speakers for Apple iPad (review)

Brydge+ keyboard with Bluetooth speakers for Apple iPad (review)

Summary: The Brydge+ keyboard helps give your iPad a MacBook Air look and feel, but there are limits that prevent it from being the ultimate keyboard accessory.

TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, iPad, Reviews

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  • Retail package of the Brydge+ with speakers

    Fellow ZDNet blogger, Jason O'Grady wrote about his experiences with the Brydge keyboard back in November. Fellow MoTR podcast co-host, Kevin Tofel, sent along his Brydge+ keyboard for me to try and since this one has the integrated stereo speakers I thought I would share my experiences with it.

    The Brydge keyboard was a Kickstarter project that is now available via direct purchase from their site. There are three models available, as follows:

    • Brydge: Black composite keyboard with no speaker. Available now for $130 special price, $150 regular price.
    • Brydge+ (speakerless): Full aluminum body Brydge without speakers. Model reviewed by Jason. Backordered, $170 special price, $180 regular price.
    • Brydge+: Full aluminum body with integrated stereo Bluetooth speakers. Backordered, $210 special price, $220 regular price.

    The aluminum construction is fantastic with well machined grooves, curves, and openings. There are four rubber feet on the bottom to keep the keyboard in place on a table and a couple on the top to keep your display from resting directly on the keyboard. The speaker grille area has drilled holes for sound to up through so the speakers are well integrated into the keyboard.

    Your iPad is held in place by the two hinges. Rubber shims are provided for different iPad models and they have stickers on them to hold them into place. It's easy to slide your iPad in and move it into the perfect position. The hinges allow you to rotate your iPad nearly all the way back 180 degrees.

    I compared the Brydge+ keyboard with my favorite iPad keyboard, the ZAGGkeys PROPlus model, and note that most keys are about the same size. ZAGG does have a few on the bottom row that are taller, but spacing and placement is about the same. The Brydge+ keys do feel like they have a bit more travel. The key label stickers on the Brydge+ are in the upper left corner of each key and I do wonder if they will wear out over time.

    There are six rows of keys on the Brydge+, including a function row, a number row, and a bottom control row. The directional arrow keys are not set apart like they are on the ZAGG keyboard, but as I discuss below they are not that useful anyway.

    You can launch Siri by pressing and holding on the upper left Home button on the keyboard. Other functions work with the top row of keys, such as brightness, volume, media controls, and lock the display.

    Functionality of the keyboard is about the same as the ZAGG one and after diving into testing it, I have to say I am a bit disappointed in both of these keyboards because they require me to jump between tapping on the display and using the keyboard. It's probably a limitation imposed by Apple, but you cannot connect one of these keyboards and use it exclusively. Limitations include the following:

    • The web browser button, center in the top row, doesn't do anything on my iPad 3.
    • Cannot navigate to the next email using the directional arrows.
    • Cannot navigate between apps and folders on the home screen with the directional arrows.
    • Entering a letter on the keyboard does not filter your app list or jump to an app on the home screen.
    • There is not Alt-Tab function to launch a task manager.

    The Brydge+ keyboard is really just optimized for entering text and propping up your iPad to enjoy media. The Brydge+ has a right Shift key that bothers me since it is just the same size as all the other keys while on the ZAGG and my MacBook Pro it is at least double the size and much easier to strike. The Brydge+ aluminum models are priced $50 to $90 more than the ZAGGkeys PROPlus and IMH) text entry is not quite as good.

    One additional feature of the Brydge+ is the Bluetooth stereo speakers. I imagine most people will use this functionality to enjoy music while writing or audio while watching a movie in a private location (I sure hope people use headphones while on an airplane, bus, or train). You control the Bluetooth speakers by holding down Ctrl and B at the same time to toggle them on and off.

    I think audio does sound better from the Brydge+ speakers, but am not sure if it is because the speakers are right in front of me and the sound bounces a bit off the iPad display while the integrated iPad speaker faces towards the back. I never found the need to have my iPad speaker at maximum volume before so honestly don't have a need for the speaker on the Brydge+.

    The Brydge+ weighs in at 539 grams, compared to the ZAGGkeys PROPlus at 434 grams. As well designed as the Brydge+ keyboard is, I prefer the functionality and lower price of the ZAGGkeys PROPlus. It is definitely a premium product with a premium look and feel that I wish supported more control via the keyboard.

    Related ZDNet coverage

  • Back of the retail package

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPad, Reviews

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  • that's why surface exists...

    All the limitations - The web browser button, center in the top row, doesn't do anything on my iPad 3.
    Cannot navigate to the next email using the directional arrows.
    Cannot navigate between apps and folders on the home screen with the directional arrows.
    Entering a letter on the keyboard does not filter your app list or jump to an app on the home screen.
    There is not Alt-Tab function to launch a task manager.

    are the ones imposed by iOS. Thats why apart from text entry, I see no use for a keyboard on the iPad. The Surface RT is infinitely more productive precisely because its superb keyboard integration. Any keyboard connected to the Surface RT is infinitely more useful than any keyboard connected to the iPad as of iOS 6.
    • Surface Keyboard

      The Surface keyboard (Touch and Type) are hardly usable when trying to balance it on your lap, unless you have tree trunks for legs. It's meant to be used on a flat surface such as a desk. I can get by with it on my lap, but it's not easy.

      I, for one, would welcome a clam shell case for my Surface.
  • The problem with iPad keyboards... that they're trying to to take a tablet that isn't designed to work with a keyboard and make it (sort of) work anyway, but with limitations, in this case, at a combined price of $850 (for a 32gb iPad plus retail price Brydge +) and with no trackpad either.

    By comparison, a 32gb Surface RT (including keyboard cover) costs $600, they keyboard shortcuts actually work (meaning you can get things done without touching the screen if you don't want to) and there's also a trackpad.

    A 64gb Envy x2 will cost you $700 (after rebate) and again, the keyboard shortcuts actually work and there's a trackpad.

    Obviously the question of whether either of the above alternatives is a better purchase for you depends on your use case, but given that using a keyboard likely means you are using your tablet for work (rather than just watching movies or playing angry birds) surely a tablet that (a) runs full-fat Office (AND LibreOffice, should you prefer) and (b) has an actual usable keyboard plus a trackpad has to be a better (and cheaper) way of doing things?
    • Sorry - typo

      The cost of the iPad & Brydge + is obviously $820, not $850. Point remains unchanged...
  • All iPad keyboards are doomed to the same fate

    iOS doesn't support keyboards so all the limitations will always be there unless someone can shim a layer over the OS between all APPs which I doubt is possible. Keyboard support is left to the APP and that makes it universally inconsistent at best with no navigational ability at the OS kevel at all and many APPs not supporting keyboarding at all either.

    Quit wasting your money on iOS keyboards they cannot give you the experience you are looking for.
    • Doomed the same fate?

      Yeah, I guess that's why Logitech and Zagg stopped making keyboards for it... Oh wait, they didn't.

      Here's what I want, a mouse (without jailbreak). Those that say a mouse is useless on a tablet has never used a Surface or Android tablet with a mouse.
      • @NickA55

        So your arguments is, "because companies are making things that guarantees that those things are good"? At best, this proves that those companies think customers are foolish enough to buy their product.

        Face it, a Windows Tablet works better with a keyboard & trackpad/mouse because that's something they are designed to do. The iPad isn't designed to do it, and doesn't support it. If you want a mouse, any Windows tablet will support pretty much whatever mouse you want.
        • No...

          My argument is that they keep making and upgrading their keyboards because people are buying them. There is obviously a need for them. Has nothing to do with a customer being foolish.

          Just because some do not see a need for a keyboard, doesn't mean others feel the same way. This goes for all things in technology. It's not a one size fits all industry, and there is no wrong or right...
      • Keyboards sell because users want more from an iPad

        They just won't get it until Apple decides to bestow them with their wish.

        "what I want, a mouse (without jailbreak)."

        It's possible on Android because the system is open and vendors can make it happen. iOS is closed so you're dependent on Apple to make it happen.
        • I wonder...

          I wonder if Apple were to make their own iPad Keyboard Case if they would better integrate keyboards into the OS. Or if they were to create a Mini "Magic Mouse", would they then integrate mouse support?

          I personally don't see a need for a keyboard on a tablet. I have a computer for that. Adding an expensive keyboard folding thing to my iPad just turns it into a "sort-of" computer. If I need to do something with a keyboard, I'm sitting down with an actual computer.

          I would guess that the reason Apple hasn't developed an iPad-friendly keyboard/mouse and integrated keyboard/mouse gestures is because 99.99999999999999% of iPad users, don't want or need a keyboard or mouse, especially on a tablet. I think tablets are typically a luxury secondary item for most purchasers. Not a primary computer.
  • Brydge+ Speakerless is amazing

    I know there are lots of people here saying that iPad keyboards are essentially useless, but I do disagree. I have had one of the Brydge keyboards for over a year and it allows be to have the best of both worlds. I'm in IT sales and having my iPad allows me to do demo's to clients but having the keyboard allows me to be able to write documents (in office) and respond to emails far faster than I could if I didn't have a keyboard. Realistically if I didn't have my keyboard I would need to take my laptop with me.

    My Brydge and iPad combined are as robust as my Macbook Pro, more than half the weight and when I open it up I have instant internet through 4G. Because of the hinge design my keyboard is tightly fixed to the iPad and it opens at any angle I want, just like my laptop.

    In the end its an individual thing, but the Brydge is a standout from the other cheap plastic keyboards on the market...