When I tried the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, one of the things that put me off was the quality of the keyboards available at the time. The only one I could get hold of on day one was the Logitech Create, which I found ugly and not a great typing experience. The Apple Smart Keyboard, that I got to try later, was a bit prettier but still not fantastic to type on.
What I really wanted at the time was for Brydge to bring out a version of its iPad keyboard for the 12.9-inch model. It eventually did so, and I got the chance to try it this week …
The tl;dr version, though, is that Brydge keyboards look and feel like they were made by Apple. They have the same anodised aluminum finish, and the keyboard itself both looks and feels almost exactly like those in the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
Switching back and forth between my MacBook Pro and the Brydge keyboard, I found the experience seamless. The Brydge keys are actually even larger than the MacBook Pro ones, as the company has taken advantage of the extra space available when there’s no trackpad, though it does still have a comfortably-large wrist wrest area.
I do, though, have one complaint with this model: the hinges aren’t quite stiff enough. With the 9.7-inch and mini versions, the hinges hold the iPad securely at any angle you like. With the larger version, the extra weight of the iPad Pro meant that once you angle it back past about 40 degrees, it flops back rather than remaining in place.
This wasn’t an issue when using it on a desk, but for lap use I do find about 45 degrees is about right for me, and I wasn’t able to position it quite so far back. This is something I’d love to see the company fix as it spoils what is otherwise a perfect experience.
I understand Apple’s decision to opt for a lighter and slimmer keyboard, but honestly, if you really are going to use the iPad Pro as a ‘full PC replacement,’ as the company suggests, the quality of the keyboard shouldn’t be compromised.
The keyboard is available in matching colors of silver, space grey and gold. I tested the silver version, and this was a perfect match.
The Brydge keyboard does three drawbacks – or, I would say, trade-offs – against Apple’s own Smart Keyboard. The first is the lack of Smart Connector support. The Brydge is a Bluetooth keyboard, and its minimalist design would make it hard for it to use the Smart Connector without a significant redesign.
Second, the Brydge keyboard is heavier, being almost exactly the same as the weight of the iPad Pro, at 720g against 723g for the iPad itself. It’s also slightly more expensive, at $189 against $169, but viewed in the context of the total amount you’ll be laying out with the iPad itself, I don’t think that’s significant.
Third, it isn’t a case, so the keyboard offers no protection to the rear of the iPad when it’s in your bag. Personally, though, my iPads spend almost all of their time without a case and haven’t yet seen any scratches.
You’ll need to weigh the three factors for yourself, but for me the Smart Connector isn’t a big deal. I charge my 9.7-inch Brydge keyboard about once every couple of months, and this one will likely last even longer.
The weight may be more off-putting to some. Personally, I think it comes down to how much of your iPad usage involves typing. If you do very little typing, there’s honestly no reason to use anything other than the excellent on-screen keyboard. If you do enough to justify a physical keyboard but it’s not your primary use of the device, Apple’s own keyboard probably makes sense. But if you do a lot of typing, as I do, then I’d go for the Brydge every time. It delivers a laptop-standard typing experience.
Bottom-line, the Brydge keyboard is my daily-driver for my 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and if I’d decided to keep the 12.9-inch one, I’d be making the same choice again there. Stiffen the hinges a little, and this is the keyboard Apple should have made.