Since I bought it a few months ago, my iPad Air has become a key part of my daily working routine. I now use it to catch up on emails before bed, to work while out and about instead of lugging around my MacBook Pro, and in so many other cases. It may not be the best choice for everyone, but it's proving to be a great one for me, but that's also largely because of some accessories I've added to it. I recently wrote about the Zagg Rugged Messenger iPad keyboard, and while I do still love it I had always longed for something that looked a little nicer.
Meet the Brydge Keyboard. It's not something new, we've wrote about it a few times here at iMore, but I couldn't help but get excited when I got my hands on one.
- Extremely well constructed
- Long-lasting battery life
- Backlit keys
- Various color options to match your iPad choice
- Randomly misses keystrokes on various letters
- Charges via micro-USB
- Case has no storage option for Apple Pencil
Brydge II iPad Air Keyboard What I like
I was immediately taken back by the design and feel of the Brydge II keyboard when it arrived, and was insanely excited to get started with it. Pairing to Bluetooth was a simple process, though the first time it showed up in the menu it refused to connect. I ended up turning the keyboard off and then back on and it connected instantly. The iPad itself fits very snug inside the hinges, which at first made me a little uncomfortable. There are protective rubber pads to help prevent any damage from taking place, and the bezels on my iPad Air made it a bit easier to line up, but I still felt like I would put too much pressure on the display and potentially damage it.
Once connected, I immediately started typing and typing away, and for anyone familiar with an Apple keyboard, you'll feel right at home with this one. It offers nice key travel, the keys are large enough and pretty well spaced, but I did notice that some of the keys, like the delete, enter, and shift key felt a bit too small for my big fingers.
Having backlit keys has quickly turned into something that I find myself needing more and more. There are plenty of times that I'm working early in the morning, or late into the evening, so having the keys lit up makes it much easier to type. There are three levels of brightness that you can easily change between with a single tap on the keyboard. Speaking of shortcuts, there is a whole row of keys at the top which make things like accessing the home screen, multitasking, volume and brightness control, and more so much easier.
The industrial style design of the keyboard feels great in the hand, and the pads on the bottom of it help keep it in place on your desk without any troubles. One of my favorite things is that the hinge design allows for it to be used in a ton of different angle positions, like your laptop, which is great so you can move it slightly if you need to get rid of some glare or reflection.
Brydge says that the battery should last for about a year on a single charge, and while I haven't had it long enough to confirm that, I did notice that in the last few weeks of typing on the keyboard for various increments of time that I've only lost a few percent of the battery life. The long-lasting battery means that you can keep it attached to your iPad and take it with you everywhere without any worries that it won't be ready to type your next essay or email when you are.
One big perk of this keyboard over some of the others that I have used in the past was that the battery level integrates with the Batteries Widget, which allows you to see how much charge is left at a glance. There is also an on-keyboard battery indicator but it's much easier for me to be able to see the number on the screen and know whether I need to charge it or not without any guess work.
Brydge II iPad Air Keyboard What I don't like
There's so much to like about this keyboard that at first I thought it was the only one in existence that even mattered. After getting settled into the keyboard, though, and using it for a few weeks, some things started to bother me. There are a couple minor annoyances, but sometimes the addition of minor issues can ruin the overall experience.
The biggest complaint that I have with this keyboard is the random missed keystrokes. I type on the fast side, but I've never had an issue typing on any other iPad keyboard that missed multiple strokes. A quick search showed that I was not the only one who experienced this. It's not limited to any particular single key or set of keys either, which actually makes it even more annoying because you don't know whether what you're typing will give you an issue or not.
Second, the charging port is still micro-USB. It's not a huge thing since the battery life seems to last what feels like forever. Brydge says it should last on average about a year per charge, but your usage habits will affect that. A micro-USB cable is included in the box, but since so few things use it these days there's nothing that says finding it again in a year will be easy.
The hinge design of the keyboard is very sturdy, but because it makes the screen of the iPad sit nearly flush with the keys, I could no longer use some of my swipe gestures on the iPad. I prefer to swipe up to get the dock, or up and to the right to get to multitasking, and those are just impossible with the positioning. You can use the built-in keyboard shortcut to circumvent this, but depending how much muscle memory you have around the gestures it may be a bit of a pain for you as well. Since the hinge fits over the iPad itself very tight it does make it a bit hard to get in and out, and Brydge recommends you lift it straight up instead of at an angle. This makes it a two hand job, and docking it is much the same.
Brydge sells a back cover to add some protection to your iPad while out and about or traveling, which is great, but unfortunately it doesn't have any where to store your Apple Pencil. I use my Pencil daily for notes and annotations, so I love having it readily accessible. I wish Brydge would add a slot to the back cover, or even sell a little accessory that would allow you to secure the Pencil to the back.
Brydge II iPad Air Keyboard Should you buy it?
If you want your iPad to look and feel like a MacBook, this is the case for you. From the design to the feel of the keys, everything will make you feel right at home, right down to the missed key presses. The keyboard does not add any protection to your iPad, though, but neither does Apple's own Smart Keyboard and several other options
While the Brydge II keyboard looks and feels great, at the current price (plus the additional cost of a case to cover the back of your iPad, it's hard to say that this is the best option for most people. There are features that other keyboards do better, like multicolor backlighting, multiple Bluetooth connections, etc, so be sure to weigh all your options and look for one of these on sale if you can afford to wait a little for it.
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