The Brydge – an awesome iPad external keyboard – turn the iPad into a laptop!

by planetmitchLeave a Comment

UPDATE: 2014-04-13 – The Brydge has been purchased from the original owners and there's a new website: www.brydgekeyboards.com as well as new lower pricing! The full keyboard with speakers is now just $149

Yes, this is a bit off topic of HDSLRs or even filmmaking, but, if you ever travel with an iPad and wish it worked more like a small laptop and had an external keyboard, then you should consider the Brydge iPad keyboard.

I've been using one for about a year and every time I take it out in a public place, people ask me what it is and where I got it. On the shuttle at NAB this past spring, I think I sold 10 of them because everyone wanted to know about it!

the Brydge iPad keyboard - photo from their kickstarter page

the Brydge iPad keyboard – photo from their kickstarter page


The Brydge iPad keyboard review

the text version:

Can you live your life with nothing but an iPad? Well, as many of you would expect, the answer is “it depends” – no, the iPad isn't perfect of every usage, but one thing that I quickly learned when I wanted to live without a laptop was that you definitely need a keyboard!

So I bought a wireless Apple keyboard – and that worked pretty well. But recently, I was asked if i wanted to try out one of the new “Brydge” keyboards – and I jumped at the chance.

So what makes the Brydge different? Well, the main thing is that it is attached to your iPad! Seems rather trivial, but having the Brydge makes your iPad into a mini-laptop and it is much more convenient than using the wireless keyboard. I can just hear your brain working thinking to yourself “that planetMitch guy is crazy!” Well, right now, i'm sitting at the Dentist office while my daughter gets some work done… and i'm using my new mini-iPad-laptop on my lap to type this review! Try that with your iPad and wireless keyboard – it can't be done! You've got to have a way to have your iPad propped up and there's just no way to do it without the Brydge.

The keyboard is smaller than any laptop you're used to, but it doesn't take long to get used to the smaller size. Even with my big hands.

The hardest thing to get used to is that it isn't a laptop! I'm very very used to typing and changing apps on a lapto with the alt-tab keyboard command on my MacBook Pro… and I keep trying to do that with this! And well, it just doesn't work – ha! And there are those pesky things you do on an ipad with your fingers – swiping and tapping etc. Well, you still have to do those things with the mini-iPad-laptop, but I am so used to the laptop motif, that my brain is having a hard time realizing this isn't a laptop.

Oh, and I keep reaching for the trackpad – which isn't there! This is NOT a laptop silly!

I wish Apple would set up the iPad to recognize the keyboard is physically connected and to allow keystrokes like the command-tab to switch applications like OS X does! For power keyboard users, it would be a great addition!

the Brydge iPad keyboard - photo from their kickstarter page

the Brydge iPad keyboard – photo from their kickstarter page

The Brydge has some great little keyboard functions that work on the ipad as well – up on the top row where your normal ‘function' keys are. The first one takes you to the iPad home screen – which of course doesn't have a laptop equivalent. Also unique are the ‘search' (takes you to the very first iPad screen to do a search) and the ‘slide show' functions. There are brightness up and down, music functions, international keyboard swap, as well as volume keys.

Positives:
Attached keyboard is great – feels like a laptop
Works like the Smart Cover and sleeps when closed.

Potential negatives:

I won't call them complete negatives as it all depends on your needs and the way you use your iPad.

First, you're stuck in landscape (as you are with a laptop). If you have any apps that are portrait only (some iPhone apps are like that – which i think is lame, but that's another rant for another time), then you might have a problem there.

Second, if you have your iPad in a case, it won't fit – so you have to take the case off to attach the Brydge. You can still swap back and forth for different uses of the iPad, but you might also want to buy a ‘bag' case that you can slip the whole kit and kaboodle into if you intend to keep the Brydge attached most or all of the time.

Build:

The Brydge folks sent both the aluminum and the new plastic keyboards. I test the aluminum one and my daughter took the plastic. The feel of the aluminum one is just like the Apple laptops – it feels really nice. And sturdy. Doesn't feel like it is going to fall apart any time soon.

One concern i have is the lettering on the keyboard, they do seem to be stickers (not embossed in the keys themselves) and in the long term, there might be some rubbing off. I didn't have time to really put that to the test and i didn't want to try to scratch one off to see the durability. Note: after nearly a year of use, they've not shown any sign of coming off.

The keyboard itself is a bit different than the Apple keyboard on the iMac and the wireless keyboard i have. The keys are a bit taller and actually feel a bit harder to press. Typing for long periods seems a little bit more tiring on the Brydge. But for most work, it is just fine – tho like i said, it is a bit on the small side (but you can get used to it).

Summary:
There are so may times where the iPad really needs a keyboard – like writing reviews LOL. The Brydge is almost perfect for me! When I'm going to be away from the office/home and don't want to take my laptop, the Brydge goes with me so I can work on my “laptop” without lugging a 15″ macbook pro and power cord. I can process email (assuming I have wifi or have the cell service activated on my iPad), write, work with Evernote or any of the other things that just would be a lot better with a keyboard instead of the on-screen monstrosity on the iPad. Especially if you're a touch typist – just try that on the iPad screen!

I don't use it every day, but when I need it, it is fantastic to have.

The speakers aren't something I needed often (I tend to use headphones when away from the house anyway). But the keyboard works wonderfully and comes in two varieties. My daughter uses hers all the time as well since she doesn't have a laptop. Heck, I've thought about getting one for my 86 year old mother!

Note: the vast majority of this review was written on the iPad with the Brydge keyboard while sitting at the orthodontist office waiting for my daughter to get braces! No table was anywhere nearby, this was done on my lap.

     
  Disclaimer: planet5D was given two Brydge keyboards to evaluate. Our policy is to give honest opinions and just because we were given the product to keep doesn't mean we're going to give it a glowing review. The vendor knows up front that we won't hold any punches if there are things we don't like about their product.  
     

(cover photo credit: snap from the brydge website – other photos from their kickstarter page)


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