It’s surprising to consider that I have had my current iPad for over two years. In that time, I have used it with various Apple, Zagg, Logitech and other wireless/Bluetooth keyboards. Some bare or separate, some as part of a case or cover combination. In the case of the Brydge+, I have encountered a Bluetooth® keyboard that is combined with a Bluetooth® speaker.
The Brydge+ keyboard/speaker combination normally lists for $149.99 but has been on sale recently for $99. There is a “speakerless” version which lists for $139.99 and has been on sale for $89. You get the Brydge+ with speakers unit, a Micro-USB charging cable, shims for the iPad 3/4 and sticker covers for the hinges (useful for those who want the hinges to blend better with black/slate iPads).
The premise is that, using shims to hold the iPad, you can use the keyboard as a cover for the iPad when transporting. The shims hold the iPad to the hinges, which swivel smoothly into various positions from closed to almost totally flat and open (there seems to be a default open position that which seems to be close to 90 degrees/right angle to the Brydge+, not necessarily a natural stopping point). The manual recommends that you don’t shake or dangle by just holding your iPad, as only friction is what holds the iPad to the Brydge+ unit.
Getting the iPad to recognize both the Bluetooth® keyboard and speakers was straight-forward. Reading the instructions is important. After putting the iPad in Bluetooth ®/discover mode, press Ctrl and K to make the keyboard discoverable. You will get a standard pairing code process to complete. Ctrl and B will make the speakers discoverable.
The anodised aluminum case feels very sturdy. The iPad 3 weighs 1.475 pounds without any other add-ons. With the Brydge+ with Speakers, it comes at a not-so-light 2.65 pounds.
The unit comes installed with shims for the iPad 2. These are securely attached by a pair of adhesive areas per shim. A warning card as well as the small manual admonished the user to carefully and fully remove the adhesive when switching to the shims provided for the iPad 3/4. I managed to scrape the top of my left index finger trying to rub off the adhesive. The hard aluminum won the battle against my finger. Not a good way to get started.
I would recommend to Brydge Keyboards that they do not install either set of shims. Augment the provided instructions to explain how to install the shims (a link to a streaming video clip perhaps?). Then you have no adhesive to rub off.
As a keyboard, it’s somewhat of a mixed bag. Steve Anderson, one of the key technotraveler.com contributors and our associate, Gary Gates, joined me in testing out the basic touch-typing use.
The various keys all functioned as depicted. As with many of my Bluetooth®-connected keyboards, there is a slight delay for recognition by the iPad if I hadn’t used for a period of time. The arrangement of the arrow keys and the shrinking of the right shift key to make room for the up arrow provided a challenge for all three of us. Both Gary and Steve found that they were spending a lot of time clicking on backspace to fix text that was altered because the up arrow key was struck instead of the intended shift key. Gary spends a lot of his professional work day typing, so being able to work without looking down at a keyboard just to type an “@“ or a capital “T” because the location of the shift key isn’t assured. The arrangement of the left, down and right key flush across the bottom row surely looks clean. I think that, for touch typists, this overall arrangement will take some getting used to. Having worked with other Bluetooth® keyboards, such as the Q-Madix and the Skech which also had small right-shift keys, this is not great. Otherwise, the keys being distinct does decrease accidental typing on other keys. We think that, while it is not optimal for fast touch typing of narrative, the Brydge+ keyboard is fine for light typing.
The speaker seems to provide a more robust sound that the iPad built-in speaker, when I am listening to music or streaming movie content. The direction of the speaker more directly aims the sound in my direction when I am using it while typing or while using the iPad as a viewer. To be more specific as to the different in maximum decibel I employed a basic audio meter. To compare the output, I played Adele’s Rolling In The Deep and the Main Titles theme for Star Wars.
I started the test with Adele’s tune. The built-in speaker at the bottom back of the iPad produces a maximum audio level that registers as 78.0 dB when I pointed my meter at the speaker from a distance of 10 inches. With the Star Wars theme, the meter registered 76.8 dB.
The two tunes were again played, this time with the Brydge+ speakers. The meter was positioned in front of the keyboard, 10 inches from the back of the speakers. Rolling In The Deep produced a 83.3 dB reading while the Star Wars theme had a maximum reading of 78.0 dB. The sound was not tinny at the high end and the aluminum must have helped produce a pleasant base but the difference was not huge. When in a noisy office, though – fan and/or air conditioning contributing significantly to the background – the Brydge+ was able to cut through with enough strength to justify its use.
The score tally started by taking into account the difficulty of switching the shims and the concern about the small right shift key and balancing these factors with the positives. The positives included the secure grip of the correct shims, the clarity of the available documentation, the general typing ease over all and the pleasant, robust sound produced by the integrated speaker.
We give the Brydge+ with Speakers, from Brydge Keyboards, an 8 out of 10.