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BrydgeAir turns the iPad Air 2 into a MacBook clone (hands on)

  • Editors' rating
    10.0 Spectacular
  • $169.00

Pros

  • Unibody aluminum construction
  • Matches iPad Air 2 perfectly
  • Laptop quality keyboard
  • Integrated speakers

Cons

  • Expensive

Pairing an iPad Air 2 with a capable keyboard turns it into a laptop replacement for some of us. That's why I've tried dozens of keyboards in a seemingly endless quest for the best. That quest may be over with the BrydgeAir. It turns the iPad Air 2 into a small MacBook clone.

The BrydgeAir is not a typical keyboard case; in fact, it's not a case at all. It is a unibody aluminum keyboard with firm hinges slotted to accept a naked iPad Air 2, turning it into the thinnest and lightest clamshell configuration. It also fits the thicker iPad Air by switching rubber shims (included) in the hinges to fit that tablet; it ships configured for the iPad Air 2. The rubber shims protect the front of the iPad from scratches when used in the hinges.

Unibody construction

It is clear from the unboxing that the BrydgeAir is a premium accessory. It is designed and constructed like the new MacBook, and matches the iPad exactly. If Apple made a keyboard for the iPad Airs, it would be just like this, right down to the four round rubber feet on the bottom for stability.

It is available in three colors that match the iPad Air 2, sliver, space gray, and gold. Mine is gold and matches the gold iPad Air 2 exactly. With the iPad attached and the BrydgeAir closed it looks just like a laptop. The combo is lighter than the 11-inch MacBook Air and much smaller.

The naked iPad Air 2 is inserted into the two hinges which hold it firmly in place. Opening the clamshell and pushing the iPad Air 2 into a laptop configuration causes the hinges to tilt the keyboard into an angle more ergonomic for typing. The hinges can be pushed back 180 degrees so it supports any viewing angle for the iPad. Removing the iPad Air 2 for using without the keyboard is as easy as pulling up and away. Opening and closing the clamshell turns the iPad Air 2 on and off, respectively.

Typing is the thing

Looks aside, the BrydgeAir works wonderfully. The keyboard is virtually indistinguishable from MacBook keyboard -- and works just as well. In fact, when I get working on the BrydgeAir I forget I'm not using a MacBook. The backlit keys have good tactile feedback and are spaced nicely to facilitate rapid typing. The backlighting has three brightness levels, cycled by hitting the backlight key on the top row of the keyboard. It's one of the few keyboards that can be used in the lap like most laptops.

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The keys on the BrydgeAir are laid out like those on a MacBook, and there is no adjustment period moving back and forth between the two devices. The space bar is nice and big which is much appreciated. The top row of keys contain the expected iPad control keys, including media controls. These are particularly important given a special feature of the BrydgeAir.

Special feature

The BrydgeAir has a feature not found on other iPad keyboards: integrated stereo Bluetooth speakers. These are paired with the iPad separately from the keyboard and can be toggled on and off with a button on the front of the keyboard. The speakers play quite a bit louder than the internal speakers on the iPad, but they don't sound as good when playing music; I prefer leaving them off for such playback. Voice playback is not bad and I find the BrydgeAir speakers to be fine for listening to podcasts.

When the speakers are turned on and off the keyboard plays a little chime to confirm the action. Using the keyboard speakers will impact the 3-month battery life of the BrydgeAir.

Important: I ran into an issue with the Bluetooth sound of the BrydgeAir that I believe is a problem with iOS 9. After listening to some podcasts with the keyboard speakers, the ability to type in Apple's iOS apps (e.g. Notes, Safari) went away. Control keys on the keyboard worked fine and typing worked in third-party apps. I unpaired the Bluetooth speakers in the iPad's settings and everything returned to normal.

To keep an eye on the battery life, the BrydgeAir uses an innovative scheme. According to the user guide included with the device, the backslash key (\) changes color when the charge is low, and also indicates when the battery is charging. The light goes out when fully charged and when it has a sufficient charge for operation.

This is not the way it works on the unit I received. There is a tiny LED on the right shift key that works as described in the guide for the backslash key.

The best option

The BrydgeAir keyboard is the highest quality, best option for the iPad Air 2 that I have used. It turns the iPad into a full laptop without compromise, except tor the slightly smaller keyboard compared to MacBooks. The utility comes at a price as the BrydgeAir is the Most expensive option currently available. The two gray models are $169 and the gold is $189.

The iPad Air 2 with the BrydgeAir is so good that I'm rethinking about getting an iPad Pro. It's also sidelined my previous favorite keyboards -- the Typo and Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro -- probably for good.

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Specifications

Input Device
Connectivity Technology wireless
Features 180° hinge, Bluetooth 3.0 compatible, aluminum housing, battery life up to 3 months, built-in rechargeable battery, built-in speakers
Product Type keyboard
Interface Bluetooth
Keyboard Layout QWERTY
Backlit Yes
Layout QWERTY
Weight 18.34 oz
Miscellaneous
Color silver
Color Category silver
System Requirements
OS Required Apple iOS
Header
Brand Brydge
Product Line BrydgeAir
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility Apple iOS
Dimensions & Weight
Weight 18.34 oz
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Full Contract Period 1 year
Software & System Requirements
OS Required Apple iOS

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