Brydge Pro+ in box

The Brydge Pro+ Bluetooth Keyboard with Trackpad Arrives

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Brydge Pro+ in boxWhile 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.

Brydge Pro+ Keyboard

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.

Brydge Pro Cover

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.

 


James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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2 thoughts on “The Brydge Pro+ Bluetooth Keyboard with Trackpad Arrives”

  1. I think you’re underplaying how crucial the full blown trackpad support really is. The magic keyboard is the winner, every single time, for that reason alone. The choppiness with scrolling and no multi gesture support is a killer for this price point. I hope the updated version of the brydge pro + fixes these issues.

    1. It’s just my opinion, but I disagree. While I love the addition of trackpad support to iPadOS, it isn’t going to be THE critical feature for all iPad Pro users. This is still a touch-first platform and most users are still going to see it that way for a while. From my own perspective, I use the touchpad, but not as much as I use a keyboard. I also believe the Pro+ is a more versatile accessory than the MK. If you prefer to have more orientation and protection options for media viewing and tablet use, the Pro+ may be a better option. And you brought up price- the Pro+ is over $100 cheaper. Again, it comes down to what individual users value in an iPad Pro accessory.

      That said, this first article on the Pro+ was just that- a first look. If Brydge can fix their issues with scrolling, which I did point out, in their upcoming firmware update, then I will give them a solid review. It may not be the equal of the Magic Keyboard in every respect, but it offers enough that the ML doesn’t to be an attractive alternative with a lower price point. But it all comes down to whether they can fix two-finger scrolling and make it as smooth as standard one-finger cursor manipulation. If they can’t, then I will come away disappointed and say as much.

      It’s unfortunate that Brydge started on this product too early to use all of the new features that Apple just released. This is a knock against the Pro+ head to head with the Magic Keyboard, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to penalize them because Apple chose not to work with them. Make no mistake- that was an intentional choice on Apple’s part.

      That’s because it’s been widely confirmed that Apple DID work directly with Logitech on their new keyboard products. I find it interesting that they make great Smart Connector keyboards for all iPad models but the Pro, which they used to make Keyboard cases for. Their Slim Combo for the 2017 iPad Pro is still my favorite keyboard case of all time, but they never made a version for current gen models. Personally, I think working directly with Apple on trackpad products came with strings attached- don’t compete directly with the Magic Keyboard, at least for a set period of time.

      For me personally, the gesture support on the MK isn’t any more important than having the function row of keys on the Pro+, since several of the features are duplicated there. I also much prefer having direct control of the keyboard’s backlight, especially since the Magic Keyboard’s is killing my iPad Pro. I lost 50% of my battery with only 2.5 hours of screen time while writing last Thursday. It’s a trade off because both products are missing features that the other has.

      Call it grading on a curve if you choose, but I’m not going to penalize Brydge for not being able to retroactively add a feature that they didn’t know would exist. I will grade the Pro+ on what Brydge set out to do. Right now, cursor manipulation is as smooth on the Pro+ as on the Magic Keyboard. If they can make two-finger scrolling just as smooth, then I will give this product a positive review. If they can’t, then I will have to call it a C or C- and advise most users to wait for the next version. I don’t see that as unfair at all for a product that costs a lot less than the Magic Keyboard.

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