One of the biggest advantages to using a tablet is its portability and ease of use with processing applications like Word and OpenOffice, however this also leads to one of the main disadvantages to a tablet, and that is the lack of a physical keyboard. To solve this a lot of users go out and buy a case that adds keyboard functionality to their tablet, the problem is that most of these are normally made from plastic and don’t really offer a design that complements the tablet you are using.
Earlier last year a Kickstarter project launched to try to solve this, called Brydge the project was made to create a keyboard that would offer all the great advantages of a keyboard, but without losing the design aspect of the iPad.
Designed to be used with the iPad 2, 3 or 4, the keyboard case offers both a polycarbonate and an aluminum design, the latter of which being the one that is slightly more expensive, but also the one that goes the best with the design of the iPad, creating something that ends up like an 11-inch version of the MacBook Air, just with a little more portability.
To use the case you simply slot the iPad into the hinge units, which have been made with some magic technology that holds the iPad in place with friction. Once in place the iPad feels secure, however still remains easy to remove when needed.
After you have slotted the iPad in place, you can then connect the keyboard and the speakers to it using a Bluetooth connection, as the keyboard has its own internal battery, there’s no need to plug-in any extra cables are accessories, although you will have to charge it every now and again via the including Micro USB to USB cable.
Brydge say that once fully charged the lithium-ion battery should last for about several months without using the speaker, with the speaker the life of the battery will obviously drain faster.
On the side of the speaker you will find the on/ off switch, which includes a small light inside that will turn red once it needs to be charged, or when the cable is connected and charging, and will the blink blue periodically once unplugged and turned on. The unit will also aim to conserve battery by forcing the user to pair the device after turning it on, which seems useful, but the forgetfulness inside of me sometimes found this annoying.
The second main problem when in use is that you keep going to use a non-existant trackpad, however this is more of a plus because it means that Brydge’s design is so realistic that you can’t help but think you are using a MacBook, something which makes the action of touching the screen to control options a bit weird.
In fact Brydge’s design is so good that it manages to stay comfortable even when sat on the lap, and I found getting to the keys was an easy good in most positions, be it on a desk, on a lap or in bed.
Brydge continues the MacBook lookalike design with the keys, which are all pretty much the same as the laptop, aside from the function keys along the top which allow you to go home, control music playback, set the brightness, open search, view a slide show and lock the iPad, something which elevates from having to move away from the keys every time you want to control something.
The problem with the keyboard is its resistance which can make typing out large documents quite difficult, often having to go back and correct letters you might have skipped over, the keys also take a little getting used to, due to their margin on either side it can be hard to quickly jump from key to key, however that is something you will get used too after prolonged use.
Alongside that, there’s no LED light for the caps lock mode, which can make things a little awkward if you forget you pressed it. Also as is the same with the MacBook’s keyboard, the top right button (the lock key) is a little too close to the backspace button, which on the MacBook means you are constantly putting it to sleep, and that is the same on the Brydge keyboard.
One small problem that’s left is the weight of the keyboard, which can feel a little top-heavy due to most of the weight coming from the iPad itself, it’s a small problem, but one that you might notice when using the keyboard. By itself the Aluminum Brydge weighs 1.3 lbs, and once the iPad is in it will weigh a minimum of 2.74 lbs. In terms of width, once the iPad is attached it forms a thickness of about 19mm, making it small enough and light enough to fit in a bag perfectly.
All-in-all the Brydge keyboard for the iPad is a great option if you are looking to enhance your typing experience, however with small and lightweight options like Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard around, it certainly needs updating to be a little slimmer, lighter and even easier to use.
We do however think that the design of the Brydge isn’t really beaten by much else, and aside from the keys, we found the keyboard to be close to perfect, we just which the keys were a little more tactile.
You can check out the range of Brydge keyboards on their website here, where the polycarbonate version of the keyboard is available for $99 (currently $79*), the aluminum version without speakers is $139 (currently $89*) and the aluminum version with the speakers is $149 (currently $99*). *At time of writing.
Disclosure: Brydge sent us this keyboard for review purposes.