Despite Tim Cook’s revelation that he uses the iPad’s virtual keyboard most of the time, anyone who writes for a living will still be using an external keyboard. And today’s test subject is the Brydge+, a $220 Bluetooth keyboard which does its best to turn your iPad into a tiny notebook.
The Brydge+ is exquisitely put together, and will almost certainly outlast the iPad it fits. Unfortunately, poor key positioning makes it almost impossible for this writer to use.
The aluminum case (there’s now a cheaper polycarbonate option, too) weighs in at 534 grams, which is almost identical to the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and the Incase Origami together (535 grams). This is a sturdy device, with over-engineered hinges which will hold the iPad at any angle including flat. This model also comes with a speaker.
If you ever need to type on your lap or in any other awkward position, the Brydge is ideal. Those big hinges come with a rubber lining (pick the right one for your iPad model) that holds the iPad in tight, so it won’t fall out, and can be set at any angle you like. This fixes a problem with almost all other iPad keyboards, which hold the iPad at too steep an angle, making it hard to type anywhere but at a table.
Also good is the decision to put in brightness keys instead of the useless cut/copy/paste keys usually seen on iPad keyboards. And the addition of a function key gives access to page up, page down, home and end keys (when used with the arrows keys) – although these functions can be had already using various age-old Apple and Emacs key combos.
Finally, the on-off switch is proper sliding switched, tucked away on the front right edge. It glows blue when powered up.Recharging is via microUSB.
The keys are slightly harder to press than those on the Zagg Pro Plus. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of preference. What is more concrete is the size of the modifier keys and the space bar. On the Brydge they’re the same size as the rest of the keys. On the Zagg and others they’re taller than they are wide. The shorter keys are quite a bit harder to hit, and I found myself typing whole sentences without spaces.
This would also be fine, if it weren’t for the Brydge’s biggest problem. The right shift key. It’s minute, and – worse – it sits right next to the up-arrow.
Other keyboards (including Apple’s full-sized models) squeeze the cursor keys into the height of the bottom row. That is, the up/down arrows combined are the same height as the spacebar. This works just fine.
The Brydge, perhaps because its bottom row is shallower, puts the up arrow on the row above, and shrinks the shift key to accommodate it. The result is that you hit the arrow key instead of the shift key a lot of the time. You might think that you’re capitalizing a letter and continuing your sentence, but in fact you just arrowed up into the middle of the line above and dropped your sentence there.
This only has to happen a few times before you start to get PC-like feelings about the Brydge, i.e. you want to hurl it against a wall.
Finally, the speaker. It’s adequate, but not worth the extra $40 you have to pay to get it (the speaker-less version is $180). It seemed a little louder than the iPad’s speaker, but otherwise it was hard to tell which one you were using.
I guess if I had spent the $220 I might force myself to get used to the horrible homunculus that is the right shift key, but why should I when there are better, lighter and much cheaper keyboards out there?
It’s a shame. If I could take the Brydge’s hinges and combine them with the superior keyboard and lesser weight of Zagg’s ProPlus, I think I’d have the perfect keyboard. Actually, maybe I could do that…