I reviewed the Brydge Keyboard for the iPad Air/Air 2 back in March. At the time, I found it hard to choose between this and the ClamCase Pro, and for a while switched between them. However, the Brydge won the battle in the end, becoming my daily driver for my iPad Air 2.
Brydge has two models for the smaller iPad, one for the iPad mini 1/2/3 and a second version coming out next month for the iPad mini 4. Both have the same all-aluminum construction, the same matching colors (silver, space gray and gold), the same three-month battery life and weigh the same 300g.
One of the beauties of the original is that you pretty much get a full-size MacBook keyboard for your iPad, with key sizes and spacing very close to that of a MacBook Air. They keys are slightly narrower and a touch closer together, but the typing experience is very similar. With the much smaller footprint of the iPad mini, however, I wondered how the BrydgeMini would compare …
My immediate visual impressions were extremely favorable. It didn’t look like a dramatically smaller keyboard, and it actually took a couple of seconds to figure out how they’d managed to fit a decent-sized keyboard into such a small space.
What Brydge has opted to do is to keep the letter keys as large and well-spaced as possible, and to sacrifice the width of a handful of other keys to pull it off. Specifically, it has a half-width combined tab and caps-lock key, and even slimmer keys for left square/curly bracket, colon/semi-colon and quotation marks (single and double). The only oddity in the setup is that the number 1/exclamation point key is also one of the extra-thin ones.
The company also combined several keys, using a fn key to access the alternative functions – more on this later – and brought the front row of keys much closer to the edge of the casing.
The payoff for these compromises is that the main keys are remarkably similar in size to the keyboard for the full-size iPad.
The rest of the design is identical to the full-size version. As with that, it roughly doubles the thickness of the iPad. On the left is the slimmer iPad Air 2, while the iPad mini is the full-fat iPad mini 2, but you can see that the keyboard thickness is virtually identical.
You do have the same slightly messy visible hinges, but I very quickly got used to those and now don’t mind them at all.
And the back of the iPad is left exposed, but that’s one of those swings & roundabouts issues: no protection versus no extra bulk and nothing to spoil the look of the device.
My iPad Air 2 has been carried around with me in a variety of bags with no rear protection, and remains unmarked more than a year later, so it’s not something I worry about.
With my earlier review, I had remarkably little to say about the typing experience because it was so similar to typing on a MacBook. For this review, I switched back and forth between three keyboards – my Apple Wireless keyboard, full-size Brydge and BrydgeMini – and have a little more to say.
The feel of the keyboard is identical to that of the larger model, which in turn is extremely similar to that of any of the MacBooks bar the butterfly-key 12-inch MacBook. The stiff hinges allow you to position the iPad at any angle, and have it stay there reliably. The BrydgeMini is also perfectly stable when typing on your lap.
I scarcely noticed the switch between Apple and Brydge keyboards. The BrydgeMini does feel a little more cramped – more so, I have to say, than I expected from looking at it. But given the much smaller size of the device, I’d say the company has done a great job. My typing speed was a little down, but I wasn’t making any more errors than usual.
The only thing that did prove a minor pain was that very thin colon/semi-colon key; as regular readers will know, I’m a bit of a fan of the semi-colon in particular.
I mentioned earlier that Brydge had combined several keys. These are the tab/caps lock, the tilde (~)/grave accent (`) and right-square/curly brackets with backslash (\) and vertical bar (|). As a writer, and an English one, I have little call for most of these characters, so these weren’t issues. The tab key was awkward, but completing web forms is the only time I really use it (and then only if I can’t use autofill), so this wasn’t a big deal for me. If you do frequently tab, or use any of the other characters mentioned, you may want to try before you buy.
The BrydgeMini is a remarkable achievement. The company has delivered something that’s 90% as good as the original in a form factor that is, of necessity, significantly smaller.
It has approached the size reduction in an intelligent way which – for most people – involves very few compromises. As with the full-size model, it’s not cheap. The model for the iPad mini 1/2/3 is $129.99, while the iPad mini 4 version is currently available for pre-order for $99.99, with shipping in January. But you’re getting something which essentially turns your iPad mini into a tiny MacBook, with very Apple-like looks and a great typing experience. If you need to do a lot of typing on an iPad, I’d say that it’s well worth the investment.
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