BRYDGE PRO 12.9

STILL not a laptop.

I recently reviewed Logitech’s Slim Folio Pro for the latest 12.9” iPad and found it to be a pleasant experience overall…but given my history with Brydge and the recent release of their latest keyboard for the newest generation of iPads, I gave in to my curiosity and decided to buy one.

Back in 2017 I picked up a refurbished Surface Pro 3 base model and the accompanying Brydge keyboard, and while I overall enjoyed the product it had a few small issues: the key travel was a bit deep for my liking, the hinge feet dug into your legs if you weren’t using it on a table top, and the rubber spacers on the top of the keyboard, which protected the screen from making contact with the keyboard were in an awkward position that made typing in some instances uncomfortable.  2 years later, one of those issues gets fixed—and the other two remain.

But first, let’s talk about the specs: the Brydge Pro 12.9 comes in at 690 grams, very close to the Logitech Slim Folio Pro’s 709 grams…but this doesn’t wrap your device in the same way; instead, it aims to complement Apple’s already great product design by matching colors and not covering up too much.  It also includes an optional magnetic back that prevents scratching and helps to make the hinges closer to flush with the rest of the device (oh, and it covers up the sideways Apple so other people in the coffee shop don’t point and laugh at you).  It charges via USB Type-C and can also connect in a wired fashion (in those emergency scenarios) to your iPad, although you may not need to rely on this often with an alleged 12-month battery life on a single charge.  And yes, this is fully backlit with adjustable brightness, although I still don’t care much about that. 

When closed, it almost appears as if you’ve stacked two iPads on top of one another: the color, size and shape match perfectly between the keyboard and the iPad, with the exception of the magnetic back and the hinge feet.  Weight is a similar situation, where the keyboard adds (actually slightly more than) the weight of the iPad back on itself.  Along the base of the keyboard, there is a very slight sharp edge almost all the way around that points to one of the only flaws I can find in the design and quality of the keyboard; this edge is sometimes uncomfortable to the touch and does not perfectly mirror the iPad’s unibody feel.

The iPad itself connects via two “clamps” (for lack of better term) which hold the bottom corners of the device securely without any concern of looseness or accidental detaching.  The hinge feels as durable as the last time I reviewed a Brydge keyboard, and it may be worth mentioning that 2 years later that previous product is still in use and still has a very reliable hinge that doesn’t allow too much wobble.  Of course, you’ll always have a little bit of movement with touch screen devices in a laptop form factor, but I don’t find this any worse than an average laptop whose screen is substantially thinner and lighter than a 12.9” iPad.

The keyboard sports a full number row with dedicated function keys above it, including a single-press lock key, a home key, and the standard media keys for play/pause, volume up/down, etc.  It also has (in place of the ridiculous “emoji” key on other iPad keyboards) a dedicated Siri key, which is nice if you don’t find Siri almost entirely useless.  And no, there’s still no function key.

From a performance perspective, Brydge provides an extremely durable keyboard deck, keys that don’t feel spongy, and average-depth key travel in a chiclet-style keyboard.  Key spacing is adequate and doesn’t feel even a little bit cramped, and the keyboard stretches to within millimeters of the edge of the base.  The hinge itself allows viewing angles up to 180 degrees, and can be customized to your liking—this is a big deal for those looking for companion keyboards to their iPads.  I would have liked 360-degree functionality for a truly versatile product; in this way you could use the device in tent/display mode without removing the iPad from the keyboard and re-inserting it (although doing it that way works just fine).

As the screen gets closer to the 180 degree extension, the keyboard raises due to the hinge design and the position of rubber feet on the back of the clamps that provide traction on a flat surface.  On your lap, however, you will feel them, especially if you’re wearing shorts.

Speaking of friction—thanks to the four rubber feet on the bottom of the keyboard, when closed I found that it was very difficult to slide the unit across a desk or table, often finding myself needing to lift it to move it.  Even when open, the experience is a very stable one; this thing doesn’t move once you put it in place.

But there is one thing this keyboard definitely (and sadly) does not have: a trackpad.  I give Brydge a lot of credit for creating products that nearly seamlessly integrate with the devices to which they are attached, and with the Brydge Pro 12.9 they’ve done it again.  I have found myself on many instances, nearly every time I sit down to use my iPad, reaching for a non-existent track pad in an effort to move a non-existent mouse cursor. So no, it’s still not a laptop, but we are certainly getting closer.

One comment about the battery: a one-year battery life is phenomenal, if the claims are true (it’s not that kind of review).  That said, I think in some of the engineering, the great battery life comes at the cost of near-instant connectivity that we see from Apple’s keyboard case, or even Logitech’s Slim Folio Pro.  Eventually, after not using the keyboard long enough, it will power off—and the only way to turn it on is to (as you might imagine) press the power key in the upper right corner of the keyboard.  I’ll admit this is one of those first-world problems, but there is a beauty in the seamlessness of competing products, whether it be due to a direct connection, or some other mechanism that powers the unit on before the user needs to. 

It’s really hard to make anyone happy nowadays, especially when it comes to companion products for primary devices.  I will always find a flaw in a USB Type C dongle, or a cell phone case, or a laptop bag.  There is no one-size-fits-all, and I realize that.  It’s for this reason, though, that so many people are striving to turn their iPads into laptops; I work with someone who said that the iPad as a laptop could be the perfect work device for him, and I think the Brydge Pro keyboards can help him on that mission (once the software bugs get worked out).  When Apple gets fully onboard with mouse support, I’d love to see a version with a trackpad…but that’s another review.  As far as this one is concerned, I really like it—even more than the last Brydge product I reviewed—but I don’t know that I like it enough for it to be the keyboard attached to my iPad at all times. 

The Brydge Pro for the 12.9” iPad retails at $170, still cheaper than Apple’s solution, but maybe not in every way better for most people.  Even Logitech’s case is cheaper, albeit a bit heftier, but also provides a secure place to store the Apple Pencil.  In my opinion, though, one of the big reasons we buy and carry iPads is due to just how mobile they are—and anything I add to it in weight is going to be substantial as a result.  So, for the occasional coffee-house work session, if light is what you want, the Brydge Pro may not be for you.  That said, Brydge makes a sturdy, stunning product that very closely matches Apple’s design in a pretty special way—and that should not be understated…after all, isn’t that another reason we buy iPads?

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