While the Apple Magic Keyboard is an outstanding way to transform an iPad Pro into laptop, it’s not necessarily the best option. The Brydge 12.9 Max+ is also a very capable keyboard case for Apple’s premier tablet. I use both and pitted them against each other. And I found definite advantages to Brydge’s offering.
This post contains affiliate links. Cult of Mac may earn a commission when you use our links to buy items.
To be clear, I’m not arguing that the 12.9 Max+ is the best iPad keyboard case either. Both it and Apple’s have their strengths. I’m hoping people will weigh the pros and cons so they can choose the right one for their specific needs.
Truly enormous trackpad
The trackpad in the Brydge 12.9 Max+ is the largest I’ve seen on any iPad accessory: a whopping 5.5 inches by 3.3 in.
The Apple Magic Keyboard has a reasonably-sized trackpad. But it’s 3.9 in. by 2 in. — less than half the area. Even the 2020 MacBook Pro 13’ doesn’t offer a trackpad as big as Brydge’s.
And it supports the native iPadOS trackpad gestures, just like Apple’s keyboard case. You can switch apps, open the Home screen, scroll, or enlarge images without ever going near the touchscreen.
Traditional clamshell design
The Brydge 12.9 Max+ is a classic clamshell. Place the iPad Pro in the keyboard case and you can angle the screen over a wide range. It’ll go as far back as far as 130 degrees (40 degrees past vertical).
That puts it ahead of the Magic Keyboard. But this is not so much a strength of Brydge’s design as a weakness of the Apple’s keyboard case. It’s not a traditional clamshell, but one that has that eye-popping floating effect. As cool as it is, the design limits the viewing angles. The farthest back it’ll go is 110 degrees (20 degrees past vertical). That’s not far enough — I find myself frequently pushing on the top of the iPad screen trying to get it to tilt back more.
Also, I find that the bottom of the iPad crowds the top row of the Apple keyboard. The 12.9 Max+ doesn’t do that at all.
If you’ve been a Brydge user before, this new model doesn’t use the hinge/clamps that used to be a highlight of this company‘s products. Now, you just place the iPad in the clamshell and it’ll attach itself with magnets. That’s the same system used by the Magic Keyboard, so there’s no advantage on either side. With either acccessory, when you don’t need the keyboard you can just grab the tablet and go.
Convenient iPad function keys
Brydge adds a top row of half-size function keys that make it a snap to control music playing in the background, adjust the screen backlight, lock the device, or even open the app switcher. These are wonderfully convenient.
Apple refuses to put something similar in any of its iPad keyboards.
Here’s how the difference plays out in everyday use. When I want to adjust the backlight for the keyboard in the Brydge 12.9 Max+, I push a button in the row of function keys. But when I want to adjust the backlight for the keyboard on the Apple Magic Keyboard, I need to open the Settings app, go to General, tap on Keyboard, tap on Hardware Keyboard, then adjust the Keyboard Brightness. That’s a ridiculously complicated process for a change I make frequently.
But in other ways, the keyboards for these two accessories are essentially the same. And I find both equally easy to use. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro gives plenty of room for a full-size keyboard. I have both keyboard and switch between them all the time. Really, there’s no significant difference in the typing experience.
Save yourself $100
The Brydge 12.9 Max+ is $249.99. That’s a whopping amount of cash… but consider that the Apple Magic Keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is $349. That’s 40% more expensive.
If Apple’s accessory was dramatically better than Brydge’s the additional cost would make sense. But it isn’t. I’ve just described mutiple ways the Brydge 12.9 Max+ is better.
3 ways the Apple Magic Keyboard beats the Brydge 12.9 Max+
It would be unfair to only highlight the advantages of the Brydge 12.9 Max+ without giving its rival equal time. Here’s how the Apple Magic Keyboard is better than Brydge’s.
Apple’s accessory is 1.6 pounds, while the Brydge keyboard case is 2.2 lbs. That’s nearly 40% heavier.
The difference comes down to the design. Because the 12.9 Max+ is a traditional clamshell, the base must weigh more than the tablet. If it didn’t, the accessory would flop over when the screen is tilted back.
By contrast, the Magic Keyboard’s cool “floating” design moves the weight of the tablet nearer the center of the base. So the base doesn’t have to be as heavy.
Smart Connector vs. Bluetooth
Apple’s Magic Keyboard uses the Smart Connector. This port makes a hardware connection to the iPad Pro. All that’s necessary to get tablet and keyboard working together is to magnetically connect them. And the accessory pulls its power from the iPad.
The Brydge 12.9 Max+ uses Bluetooth. Having to fool around with turning the accessory on and off when I take my iPad Pro out of the keyboard is not as convenient as the Smart Connector. But this also means the Brydge device doesn’t draw power from the tablet. It has its own battery.
I prefer the Smart Connector, but it’s a very narrow victory.
An extra charging port
The iPad Pro is a powerful computer hampered by having only a single USB-C port. The Apple Magic Keyboard adds a second port. It’s only for charging the tablet, but still… it’s a very welcome addition.
The charging port is built into the hinge of the keyboard case. And it’s on the left side — the opposite side from the iPad Pro’s own USB-C port. So if your charging cable won‘t easily reach one, it might make it to the other.
This is a trick the Brydge 12.9 Max+ can’t duplicate.
Make your choice
There’s an understandable bias toward Apple accessories among users of Apple devices, whether it be iPad, iPhone or Mac. That’s why many people will automatically assume the Magic Keyboard must be the best option. I hope I’ve convinced people to not jump to that conclusion.
While Apple’s keyboard case really is excellent, so is the Brydge 12.9 Max+. Take a look at the pros and cons of each and make a decision based on facts, not preconceptions.
For more information, be sure to read Cult of Mac’s review of the Brydge 12.9 Max+, as well as our review of the Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad.