While all eyes, including my own, have been focused on Apple’s Magic Keyboard, Brydge has been starting to ship their new Pro+ Bluetooth Keyboard and Trackpad. While it was announced and preorders opened before iPadOS 13.4 and the Magic Keyboard were unveiled, Apple still beat them to market, putting them at a bit of a disadvantage. That’s the game, I guess.
That said, as popular as the new trackpad compatibility for the iPad has proven to be, there is still going to be a market for quality accessories that take advantage of it. That is especially true if said accessories can offer a contrasting experience or feature set to Apple’s. So does Brydge’s Pro+ make the grade? Well, I’ve only spent a couple of hours with it, but that’s been enough to form some initial opinions.
No worries with the keyboard
I wouldn’t expect any from a Brydge product, but there are no surprises here. The keys are a raised a little higher than the Magic Keyboard, which gives them a bit more feedback in my opinion. While I do like the Magic Keyboard, I prefer the feel of the Brydge by a nose. They are both really solid keyboards, though. I really have no complaints with either.
One advantage that the Brydge has is the row of function keys up top. Unlike the Magic Keyboard, I can easily adjust the keyboard’s backlight and my iPad’s screen brightness, as well as the on-screen keyboard and media controls. I can also use the Home key to get back to the Home screen, Dock or App Switcher. More on the importance of this key in a moment.
Speaking of the keyboard backlight, it has three brightness levels, with the brightest clearly visible in a well-lit room. It definitely gets the job done. The single key adjustment is a big help, mostly because it makes it very easy to turn the backlight off when you don’t need it to save battery life.
Some iPad users swear by the Smart Connector because it allows you to instantly start using a keyboard with no delay or potential lag. While I do appreciate this, it isn’t a must-have feature for me. The Brydge keyboard never takes more than a single keystroke to “wake up” and reconnect after a long period without use.
The flip side of this is that a Bluetooth keyboard has its own battery and as such, has very little impact on the iPad Pro’s battery life. I’ve been having issues with extreme battery drain while using the Magic Keyboard with the backlight on so far, so I appreciate this side of the trade off between the two products
A familiar design
Anyone who is familiar with recent Brydge designs will recognize the Pro+ right off the bat. Besides the obvious with the trackpad, the only major difference I see between this and the Brydge Pro That I’ve had for a few months is that the clips that hold the iPad Pro are larger in the back.
I am finding that the longer backside of the clips gives you more leverage and makes it easier to re-position the iPad Pro with a minimum of effort. The hinge on the Pro was fine, but this one is smoother and more stable. It’s a small, but solid improvement.
The Brydge Pro+‘s design is different than the Magic Keyboard‘s, in that it more closely approximates the experience of a laptop. You lose the pleasing effect of the IPad Pro floating above the screen, but in return, you get almost a full 180 degrees of iPad Pro angle adjustment and some other media and tablet-friendly positions and orientations. Which is better for you is all in how you use your iPad Pro.
While the Brydge Pro+ doesn’t offer the same level of enclosure protection as the Magic Keyboard, the metal keyboard does protect the screen when folded up. I also like the included magnetic cover for the back of the iPad Pro, which looks profession, feels good in the hand and is easy to remove. However, it only provides basic coverage and protection.
I guess it’s a bit of a pick your poison situation here. The Magic Keyboard gives you more protection and coverage while carrying the iPad around, but it gives you none when you use the iPad Pro as a tablet. The Brydge Pro+ doesn’t protect the back of the iPad as well, but it does give you some protection no matter how you use the Pro. Again, which is better comes down to your usage.
And now for the payoff
All over these features are what you expect from a Brydge product, which is really good, in my opinion. So how about the trackpad? Well, it’s a mixed bag and there are legitimate reasons for that. The Pro+ was originally meant to work with the iPad’s Assistive Touch mouse support features that were released last year. It was designed and built before iPadOS 13.4 was out in the open and we knew that full trackpad support was coming. As such, the Pro+ May never be capable of delivering the full experience that you get with a Magic Trackpad or a Magic Keyboard.
As for the specifics, basic mouse operation works great with this trackpad. I adjusted the pointer speed a bit higher after pairing the Pro+ with my iPad Pro. After that, I found the trackpad to be very responsive and to track accurately. I can move the cursor, navigate the OS and select text with ease. No problems here.
Things get a bit dicier when it comes to scrolling using the trackpad with a two-finger gesture. Even after dialing the speed down to the lowest setting, I am still having issues with it getting pretty jumpy at times. That said, Brydge has already committed to delivering a firmware update for this hardware to smooth some of these wrinkles out. According to an email I got a few days before my Pro+ shipped, the update should be out this month and will be delivered via an app.
The big missing piece with this trackpad is the lack of three-finger gesture support. You can work around most of this using the cursor and function keys, so it isn’t a dealbreaker necessarily. However, if you have used a Magic Keyboard or Magic Trackpad, then you will likely miss these handy gestures. You can also use Assistive Touch to set up some navigation shortcuts, but I’m not really interested in such workarounds. I’ve been able to get by, but this is an unfortunate consequence of Brydge trying hard to get there first with a keyboard accessory with a trackpad.
Unfortunately, in the little bit of correspondence I’ve had with Brydge, it sounds like the lack of three-finger support is NOT something that can be addressed with a firmware update. It sounds like that will have to wait for newer products. However, what we have today is still quite usable. The keyboard is very good, the design is solid, the battery life is great and the trackpad is at least ok. If Brydge can improve the smoothness of the trackpad scrolling experience in their coming firmware update, then the Pro+ will be a rock solid alternative to the Magic Keyboard for those who don’t fall into its more narrow use-case.
For now, I’m going to reserve final judgement on this accessory until the coming firmware is released. I also want to spend some more time using the Pro+ to get a better feels for it. I love the keyboard and the device as a whole fits the way I use the iPad Pro at work, so that won’t be an issue for me. I will continue to post some thoughts on the Pro+ as time goes on and give a final review after that firmware upgrade.
Until then, let me know if you have any questions about the Brydge Pro+ below in the Comments or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog. I would love to hear from you.