New Toy: The Brydge iPad Keyboard – Updated
Posted by Wes Brown
Finally a REAL keyboard for my iPad!
I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted a real keyboard that my iPad could dock with easily. I have always hated lugging around a laptop everywhere to do any real typing. When I got the first iPad I really thought it was going to allow me to cut the need for a laptop way down but without a solid portable keyboard and the smaller 1024×768 screen it basically became a gaming and reading machine. I found myself using my then Galaxy with the sliding keyboard to do almost all my real typing for emails.
Redoubling my effort.
When the New-now old, but not 3rd generation but the third release, iPad came out with an incredible screen resolution I vowed to try to cut my usage down again. I could use VPN and RDP into any box and see the whole screen but typing out T-SQL commands was still very painful on the touchscreen. So, I started testing every bluetooth keyboard or keyboard case out there. I found a few like the Logitech and the apple keyboard more than adequate for the job but they were bulky and I still needed a stand and a case of some sort. Oh, and they aren’t cheap ether. I eventually found a keyboard/case that the keyboard was wafer thin and detached from the crappy case so I carried that when I HAD to have a keyboard and left my laptop behind. At the end of April I found out about Brydge on Kickstarter. It looked like exactly what I’ve always wanted in a keyboard dock for my iPad. I decided to take a risk and support the project. It was funded with an expected ship date in October, just in time for the PASS Summit! WOO HOO! Well, the project was really successful and they had to delay a bit as they tooled up for a much larger production run. That meant I didn’t get it until the 28th of November.
So, Was It Worth It?
The Keyboard is generally OK I love the fact it has solid tactile feedback. I LOVE buckling key keyboards so having a keyboard with some feedback and that takes a bit of force to actually type a letter suits me just fine. The keyboard is also recessed into the frame so you don’t have smudges on your beautiful retina display. I really hated the fact that my 50 dollar official iPad magnetic cover always left lines and helped spread my oily fingerprints evenly over the screen. It also has a pretty full complement of keys on it and generally are pretty easy to reach without too many typo’s. I also love the full alt, shift and arrow keys so I don’t have to touch my iPad screen to select text to cut and paste.
I’m also good with the hinging system. They altered it a bit from the initial prototype to make it easier to future-proof it. Out of the gate it works very well with the iPad 2,3 and 4 body styles. The hinges are also stiff enough to position the screen at any angle and you don’t have to worry about it tilting on its own. It will also lay
completely almost completely flat.
It has some weight to it. At first I was mildly put off with the extra heft but quickly realized it helped stabilize the whole setup nicely. Unlike a laptop where the screen is the lightest part of the device here the iPad has some heft to it and on a couple of other keyboard/case combos it would flip over onto it’s back if the angle was bad.
It is about the size of a Macbook air which is also nice. It doesn’t taper to that razors edge but I can live with that.
The keyboard is a little cramped and if you have big hands it may be difficult to type accurately and fast at the same time. The space bar is also a bit touchy. I use just one thumb on my right hand to trigger it and sometimes it doesn’t respond. I think the problem is they have two springs holding up the space bar but only one switch under it. It also seems to be worse under the left thumb than the right.
There are also two rubber pads for the iPad to rest on when it is fully closed that kind of rub on my wrists if I’m laying my hands flat.
It doesn’t seem to have the magnetic trigger. When I open it up I have to push the home button on the iPad or on the keypad to wake up my iPad. Not a huge thing but I really like that feature on the newer iPads. Well, it does when you set it up right. I had aligned the home button on the iPad with the home button on the keyboard. As a lefty it looked good to me.
If you look the back facing camera now is unrestricted and usable.
Landscape only. I know, it is mimicking a laptop experience but it would have been cool to rotate the iPad between portrait and landscape. It isn’t hard to pull the iPad from the keyboard just a little wishful thinking on my part.
The hinge pads. Since you can use the iPad 2,3 or 4 the hinges use rubber pads to grip your iPad. They have little sticky pads on the back and the Brydge ships with the iPad 2 shims already attached. When I removed them it completely ruined the sticky pads and cleaning up the hinges was a bit of a pain.
The hinge stickers. That’s right, stickers… The hinges themselves are aluminium and silver accordingly if you have a black iPad they are stark against the frame so the black stickers help correct that. I don’t have the best skills when applying stickers so mine are just a smidge off. They do ship two sets and I will probably redo mine again or get someone with steamer hands to do it.
The hinge partially covers the rear facing camera. Again, not a huge deal just an observation if you plan on using the camera you will have to remove it from the Brydge. Not if you rotate it see above.
It is made out of aluminium but doesn’t have the smooth finish like the rest of the Apple products which was a disappointment aesthetically.
I have revived several comments that it matches the iPad well and several people asked if it was a new Macbook Air.
It can be difficult to open the hinges are stiff but they did put a groove to help with that.
It also as a small wobble. When the iPad isn’t attached it sits flat on a level surface. When I put the iPad in though the right front is just a little raised so it will move just a bit. I shaved the left hand side rubber foot down about the width of two business cards and it fixed the issue.
You can see there are four rubber feet on the bottom.
It isn’t cheap. I got in the early bird at 150.00 dollars but it will be selling for more than that at retail. That is about a 50.00 dollar premium over any other keyboard I’ve bought so far.
Since it feels like a netbook or a little laptop I keep going down under the keyboard to touch the scroll pad to move the mouse around. It will take a bit of time but I’m sure I’ll get past that.
As with any new keyboard, it takes time to get use to the layout and feel of it. Since it feels like a netbook I also want to use my keyboard shortcuts to do things like cut and paste. There may be a way to set this up and I’ll dig into it a bit more and report back.
Initial Verdict: WIN!
Even though it looks like my dislikes out number the likes I really do dig it so far. I even wrote this blog post using Blogsy for iPad. I’ve NEVER written this much text on my iPad in one setting. It is pricy, but if I use it as much as I think I will I’m not sweating it. The Brydge was made for people like me and I’m glad I backed the project.
Go check them out at http://www.thebrydge.com if you buy one drop me a line and let me know what you think about it.