Technologizer

Brydge, the Kickstarter iPad Keyboard Case, Is Here

Some first impressions of the long-awaited aluminum keyboard which turns Apple's tablet into a clamshell computing device.

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Brydge

Back in April, I read a TIME.com story by my colleague Jared Newman about a Kickstarter project called Brydge. It was an anodized aluminum-cased rechargaable Bluetooth keyboard with a clamshell hinger which could be clamped securely to an iPad, turning Apple‘s tablet into a stylish, MacBook Air-like mini-laptop. My iPad was already my main computer, so I got excited and pledged $170, joining 3265 other backers and entitling me to the base-model Brydge. (A $210 model has built-in wireless speakers.)

As is normal with Kickstarter-funded gadgets, Brydge showed up later than planned, in somewhat different form than shown in the initial pitch. Its designers decided to ditch their original plastic hinge in favor of dual finger-like clamps, with shims which allow the keyboard to be used with the second-, third- and fourth-generation iPads. They also used a different keyboard layout than shown in their original video. And they missed their target of shipping in October.

But only by a few weeks — my Brydge arrived today. Before I had a chance to try it, though, I read a review over at Gdgt by my friend and fellow Brydge backer Peter Rojas and panicked a little bit. Peter gave it a score of 2.0 on a scale from 1 to 10 and said his was unusable — when he pressed the keys, they squeaked, stuck, or simply got jammed inside the case. Had I invested my $170 in a lemon?

Apparently not. I’ve set up my Brydge — I’m typing this post on it — and haven’t encountered any of the gremlins which Peter did. I’m hopeful that his unit was simply defective, and that when a Brydge functions properly, it…functions properly.

So far, I’m pretty happy with mine. I’ve tried most of the major iPad keyboards and lately have been using Logitech’s Solar Keyboard Folio. But the Brydge is the most laptop-like one I’ve seen, since it turns the iPad into a clamshell device rather than having you prop the tablet up in one way or another. You can adjust the screen angle to your liking, and as far as I can tell, there’s no risk of the set-up falling apart, either when closed or open. (Other designs can get a tad wobbly at times, especially if you rest them on your lap while you type.)

The keyboard is wide enough to be comfy, with keys that actually travel; the only issue I have with it is that the right-hand Shift key is too dinky. Curiously, it was roomier in the prototype video: In the finished product, it got smaller to make room for the arrow keys.

Assuming that Peter Rojas’s Brydge is abnormal — I’m curious to see what other backers say — this keyboard’s biggest gotcha may be its pricetag. You have to be awfully serious about turning an iPad into a notebook to plunk down $170 to $210 for a Brydge. Or even to pay $150, which is what the Brydge folks are charging for a new polycarbonate model with speakers.

Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover and Zagg’s ZaggFolio are only a hundred bucks apiece. They’re plastic, not aluminum, but I’ve typed many thousands of words on them and recommend both. I want to use the Brydge a bit longer before I decide whether I recommend it, too.

11 comments
JohnWulf
JohnWulf

I have the Brydge, works well enough but the keys stick/shift for me. additionally I found the speakers rather poor but better then just the iPad's speakers. Additionally rather appalled at how the company has handled communication with those of us on kick starter and the "free" neoprene sleeve.

bmwluvd
bmwluvd

"There is no doubt this keyboard is good.However,after a hard search,I found Sharksucker Keyboard Case for my i Pad 3.It is the latest keyboard case for i Pad which is made of high end of aluminum and marks up my i Pad on the look and the style and the quality. href="http://www.jsxltech.com/blogs/review/6757690-sharksucker-keyboard-review-from-jsxl-technology">Sharksucker Keyboard Case. I share it here just because I think the more choices of keyboard cases for iPad,the better for us consumers.".

uxuios
uxuios

Harry, thanks for the article. I'm stuck between the Brydge and the Clamcase in terms of "laptopping" an iPad. Have you tried the Clamcase at all? Any opinion one vs. the other? Need to make a decision before Christmas. =) Thanks again!

uxuios
uxuios

oh, perhaps google should've been my friend -- see in earlier posts that you've used the Clamcase. So yeah ... your pros/cons would be very useful indeed!!!

jeffreytz
jeffreytz

I received mine today (just the normal Brydge, no speakers) and in an hour have decided it's not for me. While the travel of the keys is perfect, the design of the right shift key is a showstopper for me - apparently I'm not "re-trainable" after 30 years of touch typing and having to reach over the up arrow cursor key to hit the shift has been a 100% failure rate for me.

It's too bad, because the Brydge functions as a really nice clam shell cover for the iPad and it is still surprisingly easy to "dock" (I thought there would be more resistance with the rubber shims but its fine). However, it's much heavier than the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard I've been using since I funded this Kickstarter project and it doesn't have the useful extra function keys like cut, copy, paste and left and right highlighting keys that the Logitech keyboard has.

The biggest design flaw remains the hinge design. The Logitech mates via a magnetic hinge similar to a Smart Cover and looks seamless - the Brydge looks like something someone fashioned up in shop class and bolted on with those two hinges that just kill the lines of the iPad. Yes, it's mainly an aesthetic issue, but it's ugly and looks kludged together.

If you need really solid protection for your iPad and can somehow live with that deformed right shift key, the Brydge is worth looking into. For me however the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard wins on price, design and functionality. 

Robinson
Robinson

Nope!  Now, he has both a laptop and an iPad--and the magic of touch.

A couple of questions, though.  

How easy is it to remove the iPad?  I.e., is this a real convertible?

Does it fold together as a protective case?  How risky is that to the screen?

You mentioned two alternatives... but what about Apple's own bluetooth keyboard?  How do the three compare to this?

harrymccracken
harrymccracken moderator

@Robinson Answers:

1) It's easy to tug it out. When you put it back, you do need to make sure that you've aligned it properly. But it's not a big deal.

2) It protects the screen side of the iPad -- but not the back -- and as far as I can tell, it shouldn't harm the display. (Rubber pads prevent the keys from touching the glass.)

3) If you don't need a one-piece, carry-anywhere solution, Apple's own keyboard is a good option -- it's nice and wide.

WallySirFatty
WallySirFatty

Nice!  Now you have a laptop... and you could have saved a lot of money just admitting the iPad is a toy and purchased a notebook to begin with... I think you're in denial.

harrymccracken
harrymccracken moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

@WallySirFatty Maybe it's just me, but I think the moment you call something someone else likes "a toy," you've lost your argument.

(Also: I own an embarrassing number of notebooks. For many things -- not everything -- I prefer the iPad.)