When I saw the first ad for the new Brydge 12.9 Max+ Wireless Keyboard with Trackpad, I knew I had to try it. I’ve been a fan of Brydge’s keyboards for a few years now, but just from a photo, I could tell this one is different. Very, very different. From the new design to the massive trackpad, the Max+ is a whole new ballgame. Let’s get into the reasons why and all of the fine details.
I already wrote up a First Look on this keyboard case a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve had the chance to use Max+ a lot more since then and get a much better sense of both the design and performance. I also had a chance to briefly talk to Brydge Co-Founder and CEO Nick Smith since then, which shed some additional light on the reasons for the Max+’s new direction. So, let’s get right into that.
Design and construction
As I said at the outset, the 12.9 Max+ represents a new design direction from Brydge.
Gone is the familiar clip holder design of their older keyboard cases, as seen above. Brydge is continuing to offer the Pro+ as a lower-priced (but still very capable) alternative, but the older look has been replaced by a new, integrated case design at the high end of their lineup. So why the change? Why now?
Mr. Smith shared some interesting insight on that with me when we spoke. The gist of it was that the team at Brydge sees the iPad Pro moving toward designs with smaller and smaller bezels in the future. That shift would eventually make the clip holder design of previous Brydge products unworkable, so they decided to start transitioning toward that future now. Overall, I’m very glad that they did.
Let’s get into a few of the pros and cons of the new design. One positive is that, like Apple’s Magic Keyboard, the Max+ excels in the role it was designed for. This keyboard case is just that. It’s just a great accessory that does that one job extremely well. On the flip side, the Max+ is a bit more limiting than previous Brydge designs as far as versatility goes. There are no more drawing or media viewing modes with the Max+, so be aware of that if you are familiar with the company’s earlier products.
Another pro of the Max+’s design is that it’s easier than ever to remove the iPad Pro from this case and use it alone. No more working your tablet out of the grip of the old, padded clips. Now it just pops right off of this case’s magnetic back. I’ll get into the details of how that works in just a moment.
Based on the success of Apple’s Magic Keyboard, I think most iPad Pro users prefer a design that makes it easy to pull your tablet off and use it “naked.” Personally, I prefer keeping my Pro in a case while at work for the extra protection, but I believe I am in the minority on this point. However, for those like me who prefer or need a case most of the time, be aware that leaving the Max+ behind means leaving your iPad Pro’s protection behind, as well. At the end of the day though, I do think most users are going to prefer this design.
It’s a snap
The biggest change to the Max+ is its new SnapFit case design.
This integrated plastic back doesn’t add too much weight to a case that already runs on the heavier side, which is a good thing. While the plastic is flexible without a tablet attached, it combines well with the rigidity of the iPad Pro once it’s docked.
One great feature of the plastic back is that the magnetic attachment to the iPad Pro is flawless.
The connection is strong and won’t release your device until you intentionally remove it. No worries about device safety here whatsoever.
This brings us to a unique design element that Mr. Smith spent a little time talking to me about. Since the entire surface of the iPad Pro stays docked to the SnapFit case, Brydge had to come up with a design element to make it easy to remove your tablet.
Their solution was to build in offset tabs on either side of the plastic back. They don’t stick out or inset too far as to be unsightly or intrusive, but they are still easy to find and press against.
As you can see here, you just push on the tab while pulling back on the iPad Pro with your index finger. It just works, which helps make the Max+’s new design effective.
The rest of the Max+’s new design is pretty straightforward. The hinge on the Max+ works just as well as previous Brydge keyboards.
It’s perfectly balanced. There’s no trouble moving your iPad Pro into the position you want, but then it stays in that spot and doesn’t move around after.
Like previous Brydge models, the SnapFit’s hinge design makes this keyboard case feel very much like a pro-level laptop. You have a wide positional range at your disposal, which is one of the few weaknesses of Apple’s Magic Keyboard.
This new design also remains just as “lapable” as other Brydge keyboard cases. In fact, up against the Magic Keyboard and Logitech Combo Touch, the Max+ is probably the best of the bunch when it comes to use in the lap.
In a world of fairly plain looking iPad Pro keyboard accessories, the Max+ stands out in a good way. I really like the look of the white Max+ model with my silver iPad Pro.
The two-tone white vs off-white back looks more interesting than most other cases. However, if you prefer the more basic look, the silver and space gray Max+ models fit the bill.
I normally would have stuck with the more muted silver design, but I am happy the PR person I corresponded with suggested the white model instead. I like it a lot more than I expected. The only concern I have is how easy it will be to keep it clean over time. However, I haven’t had any issues with picking up dirt or scuffs so far over three weeks of use.
I do have one tiny scuff on the bottom side of the keyboard, but that’s actually on me.
I sat the Max+ down and didn’t realize there was something metallic sticking up under it. Like any aluminum laptop or tablet, this keyboard case’s aluminum exterior will scratch or scuff if you bring it into contact with sharp things. That’s just the nature of the material.
The shape of things
To close out talking about the Max+’s design, let’s briefly look at its shape. The aluminum frame of the keyboard is unique among iPad Pro keyboard cases. While we’re all used to the tapered designs of most laptop keyboard sections, the Max+’s flat keyboard surface and symmetrical design with rounded edges fits perfectly with the iPad Pro’s current look.
When you close this case, two become one from a visual perspective. It looks like you are carrying a single device, rather than two that are docked together. Any company whose products look this at home right up against a clean Apple hardware design is doing it right.
Before we get into the keyboard and trackpad specifically, we need to discuss the major difference that sets the Max+ apart from the competition- its use of Bluetooth over the iPad Pro’s integrated Smart Connector. This is a major distinction that affects every aspect of the keyboard case, from size and weight to performance.
Brydge’s 12.9 Max+ uses Bluetooth 5 wireless technology, which allows for faster connection times and better background, low-power mode performance. That last bit is critical, because Brydge has put a lot of thought into how to bridge the gap between the technologies in terms of latency and seamless performance (Sorry, couldn’t resist).
During our aforementioned conversation, Mr. Smith mentioned that Brydge has designed the Max+ to sustain a background connection to the iPad Pro for a full four hours after last use. This means that any keystroke can wake the iPad Pro and immediately get you back to work. After the four-hour window, the keyboard will re-connect to the iPad Pro within 3-5 seconds of a keystroke, like most other Bluetooth keyboards.
One thing potential buyers need to be aware of is that the trackpad cannot wake the iPad Pro or re-establish an active Bluetooth connection. There is a specific reason for this. According to Mr. Smith, the keys on the keyboard respond to the movement of a passive switch, which doesn’t require a constant flow of electricity unless it is being pressed. That’s very important, because it means that the keyboard doesn’t drain the Max+’s battery when not in use.
Unfortunately, monitoring the trackpad during low power mode or while disconnected would require an active sensor, which in turn requires electricity to function. Having a sensor constantly monitor the trackpad would drain the Max+’s battery at all times. In other words, Brydge’s decision to only allow the keys to initiate a connection to or wake the iPad Pro was the right call. It’s a trade-off, but one that fits with the overall design and advantages of the Max+
The reason I say that is because, for whatever small drawbacks Bluetooth may have over a physical connection, it has a HUGE advantage in battery life, both for the Max+ and the iPad Pro. As a heavy keyboard user who had a LOT of trouble with excessive battery drain on my first Apple Magic Keyboard, this can’t be discounted.
The Max+ has its own battery and doesn’t draw any power from the iPad Pro. That makes this keyboard case a little bigger and heavier than the competition, but you get a real benefit in return. I have noticed a significant difference in my iPad Pro’s battery usage with the Max+ in comparison to others that rely on the Smart Connector and the iPad Pro’s juice. I use the keyboard backlight often no matter what keyboard case I’m using at any given time, and that definitely takes a bite out of the iPad Pro’s battery using the Smart Connector.
As for Brydge’s specs on the battery, it’s rated for 3 months with the backlight off and 40 hours with it on. I have only had the keyboard case for three weeks, but I haven’t seen anything to make me believe the stated battery life isn’t accurate. I charged the Max+ when I first got it, have used it regularly, and haven’t had any issues. I use the backlight most of the time and I still have 41% battery life remaining.
I see absolutely no problem with this.
There is one more advantage you get with a Bluetooth keyboard that a Smart Connector can’t match- you can use the Max+ with the iPad Pro undocked or even with other devices.
As you can see here, if I want to type with the iPad Pro in portrait orientation, I have that option with the Max+.
Keyboard and Trackpad Performance
I covered the keyboard and trackpad pretty extensively in my Quick Look. However, just to summarize here, I will say that both are VERY impressive.
I’ve always liked Brydge’s keyboards, but according to Mr. Smith, the key mechanism on the Max+ is a new, higher end version that has a provides a smother, better action than the company’s earlier keyboards like the Pro+. Again, Brydge’s previous models are great as well, so better is just that. Better.
My experience with the Max+’s keyboard continues to be just as good as when I wrote the first article. I’ve had no issues with key double-strokes or keys not registering, and really no issues with typing at all. Add in the row of functions keys and an effective backlight and you have a formidable keyboard that matches up with any available for the iPad Pro. Basically, if you loved the 2010s era MacBook Pro keyboards (and many people did), then you will be over the moon for the Max+.
As for the trackpad, I have also found it to be comparable to other iPad Pro keyboard cases in performance. All of the single strokes and multitouch gestures work as expected. The major advantage it offers is that it’s significantly larger than any other keyboard case trackpad, which does come in very handy when dragging things around the 12.9″ Pro’s large screen.
The one disadvantage is that you can’t use it to wake your iPad or re-establish a Bluetooth connection, as already discussed. However, if I have to choose, I will take the much better battery life over tapping the trackpad to wake my iPad Pro. Pressing a key is just as easy.
This is an aspect of iPad Pro keyboard cases that can’t be ignored. They’ve always tended to be expensive accessories, but Apple’s Magic Keyboard really set a different standard when it was released last year. You can often find them on sale now, but the $359 retail price is a LOT of money for a keyboard case. ANY keyboard case.
The Brydge 12.9 Max+ retails for $249.99, a full $110 cheaper than the Magic Keyboard. For what it offers, I think that price makes it an excellent value. What you should buy should ultimately come down to what you prefer in a keyboard case. That said, the Max+’s features and design more than justify its price tag and it is an excellent value for those who don’t want to pay the Apple tax for the MK.
I plan on doing some kind of comparison article with the “big three” iPad Pro keyboard cases in the near future. However, even then, you aren’t going to hear me say that one is definitively better than the others. The fact is all of them are very different products with different designs, strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion, it’s a win for iPad Pro users that we have three strong competitors in this market selling three very different products.
So, instead of worrying about the other products in closing, let’s just talk about what the Max+ brings to the table. I think the advantages of this keyboard case are clear. If battery life is a big priority for you, then the Max+ is the best keyboard case for you. If looks and design matter to you, this product is right there with Apple’s own. If you want a bigger trackpad, then definitely look no further. If you loved the design and feel of the 2010s MacBook Pro keyboards, then you will absolutely love the Max+’s. If using a keyboard case in your lap and positional flexibility are key for you, then this is your best choice.
However, I also can’t say the Max+’s design is for every iPad Pro user. If you need a case on your tablet at all times, the Max+ won’t give you that. There are some users who are going to prefer sticking with the Smart Connector, even though Brydge has come as close to the same performance as you can get via Bluetooth. Others who prioritize a thinner, lighter solution may not prefer the Max+’s extra size and weight.
Here’s the thing. Each of those “cons’ I just listed will be pros to other iPad Pro users. They are all more than balanced out by the Max+’s positive features and great design. If this keyboard case’s strengths line up with your priorities, then I think you will be very happy with the Max+. Add in the competitive price tag, and Brydge’s 12.9 Max+ can stand toe-to-toe with any other keyboard case available for the iPad Pro today.
The 12.9 Max+ Wireless Keyboard with Trackpad is available from Brydge for $249.99.
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.