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Brydge Air Max Plus keyboard first take: Multi-touch trackpad and protective case for work on the go

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I just recently picked up a new M1 Apple iPad Pro and immediately started looking for keyboards to help me get work done on my daily train commute, on the airplane, and around the office. Brydge just launched the Brydge Air Max Plus keyboard that is now shipping and I've had one for the last couple of days. I'll be putting this new keyboard through its paces over the next couple of weeks when I will update this first take to an in-depth review.

This new keyboard is named Brydge Air Max Plus and is focused on the iPad Air customer, but the keyboard is also fully compatible with all three generations of the iPad Pro 11-inch tablet. I don't have an iPad Air, but the keyboard experience is the same on the iPad Pro. The recently announced Brydge 11 Max Plus keyboard is targeted to the iPad Pro customer and we'll be taking a closer look at that keyboard in September.

The new Brydge Air Max Plus is available now for $149.99 and is the first Brydge keyboard I've used that does not have the two clamp hinge design. I've tested a few with the Microsoft Surface, Google Pixel Slate, and older iPads so am interested in trying out their new hinge design. There are several other features in this keyboard that makes it an attractive option for iPad Air and Pro users who want to enjoy a hardware keyboard experience.

Also: Best iPad in 2021: Which iPad model should you buy?

Key features

Before we take a closer look at the new keyboard, here are a few key features I will explore further in my in-depth review:

  • Multi-touch trackpad: While Apple's own keyboards naturally support this capability, it's interesting to see a third party provide true native multi-touch trackpad functionality. My first impressions are that using multiple fingers are going to be a joy with this keyboard.
  • Detachable magnetic tablet case: At first I didn't realize the back shell case for the iPad popped out to serve as a minimalist, but protective case for the iPad in tablet mode.
  • 4-foot drop protection: The case has been certified to meet the MIL-STD-810G 4-foot test so it's nice to see there is some level of protection in case you accidentally drop your iPad off a table or other furniture.
  • Instant-On connectivity: We'll explore this more as it's an interesting approach to match the Smart Connector experience.
  • Anti-microbial: The entire case and keyboard contain an active antimicrobial ingredient to help inhibit the growth of organisms and keep your keyboard experience clean.

Hardware

Brydge advertises up to three months of battery life at two hours of use per day with no backlight use. With the backlight on (there are three levels of brightness) Brydge advertises up to 40 hours of use per charge. I typically use the backlight on the keyboard so we will see how it performs over the next few weeks.

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The USB-C port is on the right side about an inch back from the front. There are no feet on the bottom since the protective edge extends down to the bottom to prevent the keyboard from sliding off a table. The keyboard is constructed of polycarbonate/rubber material, which is different than the aluminum I am used to seeing on Brydge keyboards. This material was likely selected due to the focus on the protection of your iPad. It's a keyboard fit for enterprise and field use.

The hinge is a long hinge with brackets on either end. It lets you open the top with your iPad up to 130 degrees. The multi-touch trackpad is quite large at 4 inches by 2.4 inches in size.

The keyboard has five full rows and one smaller button top row for various controls like backlighting, iPad brightness, media controls, and more. It's a smaller keyboard to match the iPad Air and 11 Pro size, but so far works just fine for my fingers. We'll definitely pay attention to the overall size in our evaluation.

There are also three levels of backlighting with a single white LED color. A single button on the top rows controls backlighting.

The iPad Pro fits into the top shell and then with a simple pull forward you can remove it from the back plate. Strong magnets hold the iPad and shell case in place so you don't have to worry about the keyboard falling off if you pick it up from the iPad. It's nice to have a simple protective case to use the iPad in tablet mode.

The Apple Pencil also mounts to your iPad with an opening that is cut perfectly for the Pencil.

Also: Best iPhone in 2021: Which model is right for you?

First usage experiences

After charging up the keyboard, I connected it to my iPad through its Bluetooth 5.0 connection. Apple's keyboards use the Smart Connector approach, but Bluetooth makes sense here for the enterprise where you might want to mount the iPad and use the keyboard separated from a direct connection to the iPad. Brydge has come up with its Instant-On connectivity solution that provides an experience similar to a Smart Connector through the Bluetooth 5.0 connection. I understand a low-level active connection is maintained for up to four hours and beyond that, it is still just a simple tap on the trackpad to activate the connection. So far, so good with the Bluetooth connection.

I quickly learned the latest multi-finger gestures and am enjoying the fluid experience on the large trackpad. I can see it greatly improving productivity to move around quickly without having to interact with the touchscreen of the iPad.

The trackpad also offers a very nice trackpad, not simply a mouse, experience for the iPad that helps to give the iPad a feeling that it truly is a computer and not simply a tablet. As we continue to test out the keyboard, please let us know if you have any questions we can answer in our full review.

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