First Look: Brydge keyboard for iPad (Verdict: Decent)

There are a million keyboard options for the iPad, but this one is definitely one of the coolest. And it's a Kickstarter project, so there's that...

First Look: Brydge keyboard for iPad - Jason O'Grady

If you have an iPad, odds are that you sometimes wish it had a real keyboard. I know that I think that every time I use my iPad. But hey, that's me. 

One day, a Kickstarter project called Brydge caught my eye. No, it wasn't the horrible name, it was more about the fact that it was a keyboard with a hinge that effectively turned the full-size iPad into a 10-inch MacBook Air. (Albeit, without the trackpad, and OS X and, well... ok, so it's not a MacBook Air).

Instead of incorporating the iPad keyboard into a case, or into a cover , Brydge threw caution to the wind and said, "hell with it" and added two simple hinges and the keyboard is the case (or the cover, if you prefer), and it's rather Mac-like. From a distance, Brydge is easy to mistake for a MacBook Air.

I first wrote about Brydge in April 2012, shortly after the Kickstarter launched (back then it had a black hinge). The hinge got a reboot in August 2012 and people complained like crazy. The new hinge design was minimal and aluminum, and some people liked the chunkier, black 1.0 hinge. The new hinge design works pretty well and attaches very tightly to my iPad 3 in my initial testing. (Silicone shims are included for the iPad 2, 3 and 4).

Once attached to your iPad, just flip a switch on the side of Brydge, pair it to the iPad and you're off to the races. Brydge has a lithium lion battery which they claim will last for "months" (in the speakerless configuration) before a needing a recharge but I obviously haven't had a chance to verify that claim. 

Typing on Brydge is surprisingly good, although I've only used it for a grand total of about an hour since unboxing it. The keyboard layout is slightly different from the Apple MacBook and wireless keyboards (for example, the backspace key is smaller), but the shape, profile, and key travel are remarkably close to Apple's. Touch typists will require a little retraining, but not a horrible amount.

Brydge has a few extra function keys across the top of the keyboard that are welcome additions, including a "home" key that emulates the home button on the iPad -- a nice touch. One minor annoyance was that I kept reaching for the non-existent trackpad during my keyboard testing. But the fact that it so closely simulated a MacBook Air could also be considered a plus.

(Note to Apple: iOS need mouse/trackpad support really badly. That's one thing that Apple could learn from the otherwise awful Surface .)

The Kickstarter is long over, but you can pre-order your very own Brydge for $150 (black polycarbonate), $170 (aluminum), or $210 (aluminum with speakers) plus $10 domestic shipping from Pre-orders are expected to begin shipping on December 1, 2012.

What's your take on iPad keyboards? If you pair an $800 iPad to a $200 keyboard, does it equal a $1,000 MacBook Air?

First Look: Brydge keyboard for iPad - Jason O'Grady