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

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.
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By Matthew Miller, Contributor on
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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

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Back of the retail package

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Package contents

The Quick Start Guide is helpful for setting up your keyboard connection and also using the integrated speakers. Various hinge shims are provided for different iPad models.

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Brydge+ keyboard with speakers

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Power button and microUSB charging port

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Hinge

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Hinge and recess for closure

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Bluetooth speaker opening

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Right side of the Brydge+ keyboard

Notice the small Shift key on the right side with the directional arrows mixed into where the other keys are found.

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Left side of the Brydge+ keyboard

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Close up of key design

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Bottom of the Brydge+ keyboard

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The hinges let you lay the iPad nearly flat

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Using the Brydge+ to browse

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Back of my iPad with the Brydge+ hinges attached

My ZAGG leather skin works with the hinges of the Brydge+.

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iPad in the hinge

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Brydge+ compared to ZAGGkeys PROPlus

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ZAGGkeys PROPlus on the Brydge+

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Brydge+ compared to MacBook Pro

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Rubber feet hold the Brydge+ in place

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