Bottom line: If you're looking for a keyboard case that offers some protection and an excellent typing experience, the Brydge Air MAX+ is a fantastic option. It does add a little more bulk, but I think it's well worth the added weight.
Great typing experience
Fantastic multi-touch trackpad
Excellent battery life
Offers some protection
A bit bulky
The rugged look isn't for everyone
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If you want to use your iPad to do any serious writing, whether that be for work or leisure, a keyboard case is a must-have accessory. Typing on an iPad screen just isn't feasible for long-form writing, especially if you want to do it fast. A great keyboard case needs to provide an excellent typing experience, at the very least, but now that iPadOS has trackpad support, the best keyboard cases have a great trackpad, too. If you want to take advantage of that new functionality, that's where the Brydge Air MAX+ comes in.
I wrote this entire review using the Brydge Air MAX+ with my iPad Air 5 on top of using it consistently for the past month or so. Let me tell you, I didn't miss my Mac at all while I was typing it up.
Brydge Air Max+: Price and availability
The Brydge Air Max+ is available on Amazon and directly from Brydge. Its normal retail price is $149, but it's often on sale. For example, at the time of writing this review, you could get a Brydge Air Max+ for only $120.
It only comes in one color, but you can use it with the iPad Air 5 (like I did), the iPad Pro 11-inch, or even the iPad Air 4.
Brydge Air Max+: What you'll like
The Brydge Air Max+ really knocks the typing experience out of the park, offering a keyboard that isn't too clicky but also not too mushy. You can clearly feel the feedback as you press down on the keys, and the keys stick out enough to let your fingers feel the proper positions. It's certainly not a mechanical keyboard (nor should it be), but it's a way better typing experience than those flat keys you get on Apple's own Magic Keyboard.
Not only are the keys backlit, but there are also three different levels of lighting. Typing in the dark? Use the lowest setting. Need some extra visual help? Turn the backlights up. Plus, even with the backlights on most of the time, the battery life is phenomenal. The Brydge Air Max+ will get a couple of months of typing time before you'll have to worry about recharging it.
The trackpad is equally as impressive and works flawlessly with iPadOS 15 to ensure you have the best control of the on-screen cursor. It's also multi-touch, meaning it can take advantage of all the Apple-centric shortcuts that iPadOS offer — like swiping up on the trackpad with three fingers to get to the App Switcher. You can just fly through the software with incredible ease.
Unlike many other attachable keyboard options, Brydge offers a full QWERTY keyboard that has a shortcut/function row as well. The easy access Home button in the top left corner is handy for when you need to get out of an app, and of course, the power button and Bluetooth button make it easy to check the battery levels or ensure your device is connected.
Lastly, Brydge doesn't just give you a keyboard case; it also has a detachable magnetic case that you can snap on and off the keyboard whenever you want. It even offers your best iPad a little bit of protection — rating for drops of about 4 feet— which is a nice safety bonus that I certainly appreciate.
Brydge Air Max+: What you won't like
There isn't really anything I find problematic with the Brydge Air Max+, but I could certainly see how the design and feel of the case may be off-putting.
It certainly adds a bit of heft and bulkiness to your iPad, and that's especially noticeable with the iPad Air 5, which is designed to be so lightweight. Plus, the black, rugged appearance isn't the most flattering. Do keep in mind though the case is designed to offer some protection, so it's not like the look doesn't have a function.
On top of the looks, it's not as convenient as the Magic Keyboard since you do have to connect the Brydge Air Max+ via Bluetooth, so if you really want that effortless pairing (not that pairing the Brydge Air Max+ is difficult), you can only get that from Apple.
Brydge Air Max+: Competition
There's no doubt that the main competition for the Brydge Air Max+ is Apple's own Magic Keyboard. The main differences really come down to the look and feel of each device, and the Magic Keyboard is very slender and sleek. While you may not have to pair the Magic Keyboard — just slap your iPad on it, and you're ready to go — I personally like the travel of the keys on the Brydge Air Max+ a bit more. That said, I do think the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard is just a touch better than the one of the Brydge.
Most importantly for many people, though, the Magic Keyboard is at least $70 more expensive on average, and it can be over $100 more depending on sales. If you're going just on price, the Brydge Air Max+ is the better bet.
Brydge Air Max+: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You want a backlit keyboard case.
- Don't mind the rugged look and feel.
- Don't want to spend the money on the Magic Keyboard.
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You think it looks ugly.
- Don't enjoy extra weight added to your iPad.
Brydge Air Max+ is a great alternative to Apple's Magic Keyboard. It's cheaper, so if you're looking for a keyboard case with as many features as you can get without the Appel price tag, I would say this is your best bet. However, the rugged look and feel is a very specific look, and if you don't want to spend $120 on something you think looks ugly, I don't blame you.
However, we feel the Brydge Air Max+ really does check all the boxes.
It provides a great typing experience out of the box with keys that feel nice and responsive. They are backlit and have three different settings, so you can use them in many lighting conditions. It's a full QWERTY keyboard and even has a row of shortcut keys for important functions, making it even easier to use your iPad without having to touch the screen.
It may not be as sleek as the Magic Keyboard, and you do have to pair it with Bluetooth rather than just snapping it on the case, but it's hard to complain when the price tag of the Brydge Air Max+ is so reasonable.
Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.