After a long busy holiday season we’re back! Healthcare is one of the few careers that can actually be busier during the holidays, hence the lack of posts.
Like all technophiles new gadgets and accessories were on the top of my Christmas want list, and I wasn’t disappointed. The crown jewel of my accessory desires arrived just after Christmas- my new Brydge iPad keyboard. I’ve written before about this Kickstarter-funded gem, but hadn’t had a chance to jump on the bandwagon before the campaign had ended. Thankfully the manufacturers opened up for preorders in time for the holidays.
The concept behind the Brydge is enticing: an aluminum-bodied Bluetooth keyboard for your iPad that holds your tablet securely via a hinge, providing the same instant sleep functionality as Apple’s Smart Cover. The Plus model even provides speakers built into the keyboard’s chassis, touting improved volume and sound quality over the iPad’s integrated mono speaker.
I’ve been using a Zagg Folio keyboard case for about a year now and have been satisfied overall. The case provides adequate protection and access to all ports, and while they keyboard isn’t full sized it was comfortable to type on and provides a far better experience when typing extensively than he iPad’s on screen keyboard. The shortcomings were what inspired me to want to upgrade to the Brydge: a chassis that wasn’t plastic (making the keyboard somewhat flexible when typing), and a way of securely holding my iPad. The Zagg Folio propped the iPad in a slot backed by the case. This worked well provided that you placed the case on a stable surface and didn’t move it; picking up the iPad or moving it the wrong way would slip the iPad out of the mounting groove and cause the whole setup to collapse like a house of cards.
After unboxing two things stood out about the Brydge: it’s comparative sturdiness and mass. It feels remarkably better constructed than any other keyboard I’ve sampled (the manufacturer touts it as the only one with a completely aluminum frame). The tradeoff for this soundness is added mass, as the Brydge also feels heavier than any of its competitors. The combination of the iPad and Brydge not only look like a MacBook Air, it’s similar in weight too. While it’s still relatively light and easy to carry, I wouldn’t want to hold it in one hand while trying to type with the other as you can when typing via the iPad’s screen keyboard.
The Brydge cradles your iPad securely via two hinge points that have been redesigned from the original Kickstarter model in order to be forward compatible with newer models of iPads. The hinges still work on the same principle; the clips hold your iPad via a combination of elastic grip and friction courtesy of silicone inserts inside the hinge clips. The unit comes with two sets, one for the iPad 2 and a second for the two latest versions. As new models of iPad are introduced Brydge will offer additional custom shims to accommodate them, allowing the sturdily-made Brydge to be a long term solution for your tablet.
The speakers in the model I ordered didn’t impress me; they perform as billed by offering better volume than the iPad’s integrated speaker, but as most small laptop-style speakers the sound quality isn’t the best. The speakers add about $30 to the price of the Brydge, while I don’t regret getting the speaker-equipped Plus model those that want premium sound would be better served with a specifically designed accessory like a Jawbone Jambox.
The user experience so far has been very positive; the keyboard (like all iPad-specific keyboards) is a bit small, but I am accustomed to the size and have been able to touch type as effectively on it as my iMac’s keyboard. The keyboard sports iPad-specific function keys for common tasks, like screen brightness, copy/paste, and control of audio apps. The only complaint I have so far concerns the right shift key (the one I tend to use most often)- it’s been reduced in size to accommodate the arrow/directional keys, making it hard to press. I’ve accidentally hit the up arrow key several times while typing this post, but I assume that I’ll grow accustomed to this quirk quickly.
Another minor concern is the lack of case to protect the iPad’s back casing. When using the Zagg folio my iPad was covered from every angle; the Brydge protects the screen of the iPad when closed but lacks any protection for the aluminum shell when closed. The construction of the hinges prevents the use of just about any but the slimmest of cases; the best option would likely be a skin or Zagg’s Invisible Sheild, but neither provide much impact from drops. To address this concern I chose a padded messenger bag style sleeve; the ability to carry a sync cable and other small items made the choice an easy one.
In closing, the Brydge is every bit as useful as the Kickstarter campaign’s video made it out to be. It is very soundly made, comfortable to type on, holds my iPad securely enough to make it feel like a defacto laptop, and provides a sturdy and well balanced base to allow typing in just about any setting, from desktop to lap (as I’m currently using it). While far from the least expensive keyboard, the Brydge definitely matches the aesthetic and spirit of Apple’s design, and looks perfectly at home paired with the iPad.
Addendum: While the original Brydge was a choice of either the keyboard ($180) or the Plus model sporting speakers ($220), the manufacturers have expanded their lineup to include a version encased in a polycarbonate shell. The polycarbonate version also has the speakers but is a much more affordable $150. The organization had all three models on sale for the holidays; as of the day after Christmas the sale prices were still posted on their webpage; if you act quickly you may still be able to take advantage of the discounts.