While we were on vacation this week, I started testing out the Brydge Pro+ Keyboard. Again. Due to lack of updates, I eventually gave up on the first one I bought and it ended up in a drawer. I had high hopes when it was announced, but that was before Apple released its official trackpad support and Magic Keyboard last spring.
In fact, while the Pro+ was announced well before anyone knew what Apple was up to, it didn’t actually ship until after the Magic Keyboard was in early buyers’ hands, including my own. Considering that the Pro+ wasn’t designed with Apple’s new features in mind, that didn’t work out well for Brydge.
I gave the company a bit of a pass for a while because of the predicament they were in. And the Pro+ wasn’t all bad, by any means. The trackpad’s single-touch performance was very good and the keyboard was exactly what you would expect from Brydge. I hoped that they would be able to update the firmware in a timely manner to add the multi-touch capability needed for the Pro+ to be a serious alternative to the Magic Keyboard. However, after a couple of early updates and some promises that more were coming Brydge fell silent on the matter for months.
I assumed that the company had washed their hands of this hardware at that point and would just release a newer hardware version in the future. While I gave them a pass for how the Pro+ Was when it shipped, I can’t say I felt good about them practically abandoning a product that costs over $150. Because I assumed no more would happen with this device, I sold my Pro+ on eBay when I was clearing out some accessories that were sitting around collecting dust over a month ago.
Lo and beyond, around two weeks after my Pro+ sold, Brydge sent out invites to sign up for a new beta firmware that would open up full multitouch on the trackpad. Yeah, so that worked out well for me. That’s what I get for making assumptions without any facts.
Even though I gave up on the Pro+, I have been a fan of Brydge’s keyboards since I first bought and reviewed the Pro in 2019. It was my go-to keyboard case for several months before the Magic Keyboard arrived and was one of my favorite keyboard cases. I loved the construction, feel of the keys and the great battery life, even when using the backlight. The Pro and Pro+ also allow a lot more flexibility when it comes to positioning the iPad.
The only thing that held back the Pro+ was the trackpad performance, so the news that may be changing got me interested enough to jump back in. I ended up losing a few bucks in the exchange, but I found a replacement on eBay and it arrived right before we left for our vacation last week. I no longer have a 12.9” iPad Pro to fully test the Pro+ with, but I already know how it works as a case/stand for the iPad Pro. Since it uses Bluetooth to connect, I have been able to test the trackpad performance with my iPad Air.
I promptly installed the new beta firmware after unboxing the Pro+ and the difference is night and day. The trackpad offers an entirely new experience after this upgrade. Is it now equal to the Magic Keyboard or Apple’s Magic Trackpad? No. Not yet. Single-touch tracking on the Pro+ was already very close, but it was two-finger scrolling that was particularly bad before this new beta firmware. This is vastly improved, but it could still use a little more polish. There are some instances where scrolling stutters a bit when switching between scrolling and picking your fingers up and repositioning them. That, and flick scrolling with two fingers is also a tad inconsistent.
That said, this new firmware is still in beta and will hopefully continue to improve before a final public release comes. Because of that, I am not complaining about any remaining imperfections right now. What I have seen is enough to tell me that Brydge is back in the game and hasn’t given up on the Pro+ hardware or left their users high and dry. We need solid alternatives to Apple’s own accessories, especially ones that are less expensive, so Brydge getting its act together here is a good thing. I just hope they push a little harder and finish the job.
Based on my testing so far, the Pro+ with the new beta firmware is good enough today that I would start using it again as an alternative to the Magic Keyboard. If it gets a little better, I could even see it overtaking Apple’s MK as my preferred keyboard case at work. I’ve always felt the Pro+ offered a little more protection for the iPad Pro. I also prefer the positional flexibility and the feel of the keyboard over Apple’s.
If Brydge can just get the trackpad performance to 90-95% as good as the Magic Keyboard, then I will be using the Pro+ a lot more in the coming months. Well, when I actually have a 12.9” device again, that is. Hopefully that isn’t far off, either.