A few months ago I got an email saying that Brydge was working on a new firmware that would bring multitouch to their Pro+ keyboard case’s trackpad and I got really excited. All of the sudden, this accessory that I had completely given up on was back in the game with a fully functional trackpad. The beta firmware was impressive and gave Brydge’s first iPad Pro keyboard with trackpad a whole new lease on life.
A few weeks later, I saw even better news from Brydge. They announced that they were coming out with a new keyboard case for 12.9” iPad Pros (including the new, slightly thicker 2021 version) that was very different than their previous models. It was the 12.9 Max+ Wireless Keyboard Case with Trackpad, and it looked like a legitimate competitor to Apple’s Magic Keyboard.
The folks at Brydge were kind enough to send me a Max+ review unit as they ramp up production and prepare to ship to those who have preordered this new keyboard case. I’ve only had the Max+ for a day, but that’s long enough to get the general feel of the hardware. Here is a taste of what I’ve found so far.
I will go ahead and just briefly say that I really like the design of this keyboard case. It’s solid, but not too heavy considering how substantial the keyboard is. I don’t mind a few extra ounces if it gets me a great keyboard and solid protection for the iPad Pro.
Also, I’ll certainly touch on this more in my final review, but even though I’m not sure how it will hold up over time vs dirt and grime, I really do like the white version of the Max+ that Brydge sent me. It looks great out of the box and pairs quite nicely with my silver iPad Pro.
All that said, let’s take a brief look at the stars of this show: the keyboard and the trackpad.
Tickling the keys
I love a good iPad Pro keyboard case, and I’ve been a big fan of Brydge’s keyboards for a while now. As such, I’m not surprised that I’m already a fan of the keyboard on the Max+, even though it’s different than the others I’ve been using recently.
I’ll start with a bit of comparison. I primarily used Apple’s Magic Keyboard last year after it was released and I’ve been testing Logitech’s Combo Touch Keyboard Case recently. Both products have fairly low profile keys with relatively short travel. They aren’t as flat and stiff as Apple’s now retired butterfly keyboards, but definitely have less travel than you get with many laptops and most desktop keyboards. I think this is done for the sake of thinness and portability, but they both still feel great to type on.
Brydge’s keyboards are notably different than the ones on the competing products I’ve been using recently. However, if you have used a Brydge product before, the Max+ falls right in line with what you should already expect. The keys are raised higher, similar to what you might find on some larger laptop keyboards or many desktop keyboards.
That means the keys also have more travel than the other iPad Pro keyboards, but that’s not an issue at all. The action is firm without being stiff and the the keys have a nice response and snappy feedback.
Another big thing for me, being a hamfisted key-pounder, is that I’ve had no doubled characters at all. I’ve had several keyboards double up letters and numbers on me because of the way that I type, but the better ones don’t. As with other Brydge keyboards that I’ve used, there have been no doubles here. That tells me this keyboard is built to take a pounding from a below average typist like myself.
So, while the Max+’s keyboard feels quite different from the Magic Keyboard and Combo Touch, I’ve had absolutely no problems shifting gears. The adjustment has been easy and I’m typing away with no issues at all.
Is bigger better?
One of the things that stood out in the first press pictures of the 12.9 Max+ was the massive size of the trackpad. It is easily bigger than the ones on its primary competitors, but does size alone matter? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt.
There is one aspect of the Max+’s trackpad that has to be considered first, and that’s how it connects to the iPad Pro. The Magic Keyboard and Combo Touch use Apple’s Smart Connector to connect to the tablet, while the Max+ uses Bluetooth. I will spend more talking about the pros and cons of this difference in my full review of this keyboard case, For today, let’s just stick to how this relates to the touchpad.
Wireless devices will often lag behind those with physical connections, so one of the big questions about the Max+ in the lead up to its launch has been how this trackpad would perform vs it’s closest competitors. It’s only been a day for me, but so far, so good. Brydge touts the Max’s Bluetooth 5 tech and their firmware as providing a comparable experience to Smart Connector products. I haven’t had enough time to weigh in on that bold claim, but I do think this is the fastest and most responsive Bluetooth keyboard case that I’ve used.
From my brief time testing the Max+’s trackpad, I have found it to be very smooth and responsive for the most part. There are occasional tiny lags and stutters, but it has worked quite well for me so far. In my opinion, it performs better than the Pro+‘s trackpad, even with that model’s upgraded firmware. That represents a solid improvement in both software and hardware on Brydge’s part over the last year.
The multitouch gestures for navigating between apps, bringing up the Dock, and accessing the Home Screen, the App Switcher, Notification Center and Control Center all work very well. Two-finger gestures are also smooth and accurate when scrolling web pages or documents. This never worked just right for me on the Pro+, but it feels much better and more consistent on the Max+. I think that bodes well for this product as I continue testing it.
I’m not sure if this trackpad can ultimately beat out the rest of the iPad Pro bunch. It will take a lot more testing and comparison to get that answer, but it’s definitely in the race. That alone is a notable step forward for Brydge’s iPad Pro products. It’s also high praise coming from me, because the trackpads on the Magic Keyboard and Combo Touch put many laptops to shame.
There is so much more to cover about the Brydge 12.9 Max+. However, I’m going to leave that for another day, as this is just a first look at a brand new product after limited use. However, one day has been enough to tell me that the Max+ is a serious entry into the highly competitive iPad Pro keyboard case market. I really like the Max’s design and the performance has been as good or better than expected, so far.
I’ll be back to talk more about the Brydge 12.9 Max+ once or twice more over the next couple of weeks before I post a final review of this very interesting new keyboard case. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the Max+, let me know in the Comments section below or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.
The 12.9 Max+ Wireless Keyboard Case with Trackpad was provided for review on iPad Insight by Brydge. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the About page.