Keyboard cases used to be one of the most popular third party accessory categories for Apple tablets. From 2011 to 2017, this was a booming field with several companies like Belkin, Logitech and ZAGG offering strong alternatives for all models of iPad.
However, they haven’t taken off quite the same way for the iPad Pro, as Apple introduced the Smart Connector and its own keyboard product in the Smart Keyboard. There were at least a few third party options for the first two generations of the iPad Pro, but new models became scarce after Apple’s major redesign came in 2018. Other than a couple of options from Logitech and Brydge, the well seemed to dry up for newer iPad Pros.
Things only seemed to get worse with the release of Apple’s Magic Keyboard last year. Logitech offered keyboard cases with trackpads for other iPads, but avoided the Pro models. They added an option for 11″ Pro and iPad Air months later, but never did release a version for the 12.9″ Pro.
Brydge was in the process of developing and releasing the Pro+, a keyboard with trackpad based on 2018’s Assistive Touch features, when full trackpad support and the Magic Keyboard were announced by Apple. While the keyboard was great, as anyone who’s used a Brydge product would expect, the trackpad unfortunately paled in comparison to Apple’s. It wasn’t designed for multitouch and the company’s early attempts to add it were less than successful.
I understand that Apple’s Magic Keyboard is a tough act to follow. I’m sure that’s what has scared some other accessory makers away. However, that doesn’t mean that iPad Pro owners don’t want alternatives, especially at lower price points.
I’ll give Brydge credit here- while it seemed like they had abandoned their Pro+, that was not the case. I think a lot of people wouldn’t have been surprised if they walked away based on how things went with the Pro+ launch, but they took the better path.
It took a long time, but Brydge announced a beta program to test multitouch-compatible firmware for their top-tier model a couple of months ago and the results make the Pro+ a completely new experience. With the new firmware installed, the trackpad performance is just a notch below the Magic Keyboard, which means very good. However, the Brydge Pro+ costs more than $100 less than the MK, making it a great value option that I can now recommend to any buyer. The only question now is whether it’s clips that hold the iPad Pro can accommodate the new 12.9″ version.
The more, the merrier
Since Apple revealed the new 2021 iPad Pros, there have been a couple of product announcements for two nice looking keyboard case alternatives with trackpads. First off was Logitech with their new Combo Touch for both the 11″ and 12.9″ iPad Pros.
I’m excited about this one, because the design is based on one of my favorite keyboard cases of all time- Logitech’s Slim Combo that was released in 2017.
That keyboard case was compatible with the older 2015/2017 iPad Pro design and featured a keyboard that could be removed from the case, adding a lot of versatility.
I understand that some buyers won’t care for the adjustable kickstand on the back of the case. However, it does add positional flexibility that the Magic Keyboard can’t match in a case that isn’t too thick or heavy. And at $199 for 11″ Pros and $229 for 12.9″ models, it is also an excellent value in comparison with the Magic Keyboard.
I’m happy to say that Logitech will be sending me a 12.9″ version of the Combo Touch to review when I get my new iPad Pro. It will be several weeks before I have it and a new iPad together, but I’m really looking forward to taking a look at this new keyboard case option.
Another Brydge to cross
While Brydge’s Pro+ is much improved with its new firmware and should still be compatible with the new 12.9″ iPad Pro despite the extra thickness, they aren’t stopping there. They just announced the new Brydge 12.9 Max+, a premium keyboard case with a new design.
Former Brydge and Brydge Pro products were more attachable Bluetooth keyboards than full keyboard cases. Older models didn’t offer any protection for the back of the iPad and newer models come with magnetic covers to offer nominal scratch and drop protection, but aren’t fully integrated with the keyboard.
The new Max+ design offers an integrated case design that’s new for Brydge.
This looks like a good one. One notable feature that Brydge’s website calls out is the trackpad. It’s larger than the Magic Keyboard’s, or any other iPad Pro keyboard case’s. That should provide an even more laptop-like experience, which is interesting. The integrated design should also offer more protection than previous Brydge keyboards, but we will have to wait and see if device positioning is more limited with this model. That will be hard to tell until people start getting their hands on it.
There’s one notable similarity between Brydge’s new product and the Magic Keyboard. Both have White as a color option- an odd color option in the opinion of many I’ve seen comment about it online. I have to agree. Most of my keyboard cases show dust, dirt and wear even though they all have neutral color exteriors. I can’t imagine what a white version that does anything beyond desk duty will look like after a year. But hey- to each their own, right?
At $249, this keyboard is a bit more expensive than other options, but it still comes in a lot cheaper than the 12.9″ Magic Keyboard. It also offers a much different design than either the MK or Logitech’s Combo Touch, which is a good thing.
Coming soon to an iPad Pro near you
Options are a good thing, so seeing two new keyboard cases from established accessory makers is great news. Hopefully others will follow in time, but if nothing else, Pro owners will have quality alternatives beyond just the Magic Keyboard when the new iPad Pro hits store shelves.
This is especially true if the report that Apple’s current Magic Keyboard will be incompatible with the new 12.9″ iPad Pro due to the new model’s small increase in thickness. I’m looking at having to possibly dump my one year old MK for likely half of what I paid for it and then turn around and buy a new one, and I know I’m not the only Apple writer or fan looking at doing this right now. I already own a Brydge Pro+, will be reviewing the new Logitech Keyboard Case and will likely buy Brydge’s new Max+ to review later on. Maybe this is a good year to not bother with Apple’s more expensive MK. The presence of other good options makes that choice a lot easier.