BrydgeAir Keyboard for iPad Air/Air 2: Almost Perfect

| In-Depth Review

The original Brydge Keyboard for iPad was a nice product, but the company had grave customer service issues. Now, under new ownership, Brydge Global, the BrydgeAir continues its tradition of physical excellence with a model for the iPad Air and Air 2. iPad color matching and many small refinements have been added.

The Brydge Concept

Simply put, the BrydgeAir  Keyboard is a matching aluminum Bluetooth keyboard that mates with your iPad Air or Air 2 and closes up, clamshell fashion, similar to a MacBook. A rich selection of function keys assists with typical iPad operations. When closed up, the iPad is protected for travel. A nice leather, zippered case is included.

For those on the go who prefer an iPad, this keyboard, combined with a nice selection of available iOS text editor and word processing apps allows the user, writer or business person, to get a lot of work done, including extensive email, with a very comfortable MacBook-like keyboard.

Background

Before I continue, those who are new to this product should be aware that it has a bit of history. Here are two of my articles that will bring you up to date. The first is the original product review from late 2012, which was very favorable, but with a boatload of customer service issues contributed in the comments. The second is my interview with Nicholas Smith about the rebirth of Brydge under new ownership.

What You Need to Know

There are several important things to know about a keyboard like this. Will the iPad too easily separate or fall out of the hinge? How easy is it to type on the keyboard? Do the keys touch the display? How heavy is the keyboard? I'll cover all this below.

It almost passes for a MacBook. Almost.

The Hinge and Shim System

The default configuration has white, silicone shims. You slide the iPad into the two hinges with their shims. The shims are very grabby but not sticky. The iPad is in place fairly securely, and you can grab the keyboard and shake it fairly vigorously without concern. The iPad is going nowhere.

The silicone shim is suitably grippy.

This is particularly helpful when resting the assembly on your lap. Unlike some BT keyboards with a gutter, there's no concern about the iPad tipping overboard even when a slight capsize angle is introduced. This is not a problem and never has been with the Brydge keyboard thanks to good engineering.

Inside the box where the microUSB cable is stored is another set of black shims for the iPad Air 2. There's a tutorial on how to swap out the shims. It's easy to do.

The Keyboard and Key Spacing

My Apple aluminum keyboard has a key spacing, center to center, of 19 mm. This is pretty much standard. The Brydge key spacing is 17 mm which isn't bad at all. In the process of testing, I could sense that the keys were a little bit closer together, but it didn't bother me very much. Because of the way I type, with fingers hovering over the keyboard before striking, I didn't really have any problem. In terms of key throw and feel, the keys feel pretty much like my Apple aluminum keyboard. If there's a difference, it's too close for me to call.

When one is typing on a portable keyboard, I think one subjectively expects that there's a slight trade of key size and speed against the convenience of size and portability.


Close-up of keyboard layout.

If the keys were to touch the display, one would see the telltale finger oil marks on the iPad display. I didn't see that because the keys are slightly recessed into the case. Little things like that count.

Finally, as of this writing, there is a small issue when using the alternative iOS keyboard called SwiftKey, version 1.2. It's something to be aware of. "iPad + Bluetooth Keyboard + SwiftKey = Problem." [Update: SwiftKey 1.2.1 released February 19 does not fix the problem.]

Next page:  Keyboard Design and Wrapup

Product: BrydgeAir

Company: Brydge Global

List Price: US$169.00 ($189.00 for gold)

Rating:

Pros:

Three models color matched to iPad Air colors, works with iPad Air or Air 2, recessed keys, magnetic sleep/wake, pairing buttons matched to iPad AIr design, matches shape and design of iPad Air, backlit keyboard, stereo speakers, leather, zippered case included.

Cons:

Keyboard indicator lights could be more explicit, moved to the surface. Speakers not as good as iPad's.

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Comments

ppartekim

How does it work when one needs the iPad in Portrait mode, while typing?

John Martellaro

Because of the spacing of the shims, the iPad won’t drop in with a portrait mode alignment.  However, if really necessary, one could mount the iPad on a vertical stand and place the Brydge underneath, still linked by BT.

Nicolas diPierro

I’m curious. How was the iPad’s battery life impacted by use of the BrydgeAir?

Jordy Jensky

At least with the Brydgeair, the case is NOT included with the keyboard—it’s a $59 option. Not a bad price for the quality, but if the rating was determined assuming a spectacular value given the case, do note it is not part of the $169 price.

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