Brydge+ with Speakers iPad Keyboard

The Brydge iPad keyboard began as a Kickstarter project. New owners based in Singapore took over in 2014, and the current models are improved. You should look at the Brydge Keyboards Website for a high resolution tour of the Brydge keyboard models. Better still check out this video.

There are three versions of the Brydge iPad keyboard:

• Brydge+ with Speakers $$99.00 USD<
• Brydge+ Speakerless $89.00 USD
• Brydge+ Polycarbonate $79.00 USD

These prices are current as of today; the usual list prices are $149.99, $139.99, and $99.99. The keyboards are compatible with the iPad 2, 3rd and 4th Generations.

Brydge sent me a Brydge+ with Speakers and the Brydge case for the covered iPad for review. I’ve tried two iPad Bluetooth keyboards that function as a cover, the Adonit and the Zagg, and the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. The Brydge Keyboard is, for me, the best of the three. There’s a lot that I like about it, but the primary feature for me is the keyboard feel. The keys can stand up to serious typing, from a rapid typer. While it’s not as comfortable in some respects as using Apple’s standard Bluetooth keyboard, the Brydge is portable, and realistically, the Apple is not.

What’s In the Box

The package comes with the keyboard, a quick start guide, a micro USB charging cable, and shims. The shims are silicon caps that slide over the aluminum hinges on the Brydge depending on whether you’re using an iPad 2 or an iPad 3 or 4.

Setup

The Brydge + is made of anodized aluminum, with a look that matches the iPad case of my iPad 3 exceedingly well—it’s very Apple like in look and in feel. The Brydge has rubber feet on the bottom of the Brydge, and small rubber pads below the keyboard on the palm rest so that the screen of your iPad doesn’t contact the keyboard. Depending on which iPad you’re pairingBrydge iPad keyboard for iPad Air the Brydge with, you slide the shims on the aluminum hinges, then slide your iPad in the slot of the hinges, turning the iPad so the camera and controls are not covered by the hinge of the Brydge.

Pairing With Bluetooth on your iPad

The instructions for pairing the Brydge and an iPad are very clear, and fairly standard. However, the built-in speakers on the Brydge need to be paired separately, though, again, the process is standard and the directions are straight forward.

Keyboard

This is not a standard keyboard layout. It has a number of special function keys for the iPad:

Home

    Displays the iPad home screen

Brightness

    Up and Down keys control the iPad screen brightness.

Keyboard

    Hide/Show Hides or shows iPad on-screen keyboard

Slide-Show

    Plays a slide-show of saved pictures

Search

    Displays the iPad search screen

International Keyboard

    Toggles between international keyboards (Depending on the iPad’s Settings International panel).

iTunes keys

    Previous Track, Play/Pause, Next Track, Mute, Volume Up and Down.

Lock

    Toggles Wake/Sleep on the iPad and displays the Lock screen.

brydge

I really like the responsive feel of the keys on the Brydge. I’m accustomed to using a laptop keyboard, and am quite comfortable typing on an 11 inch keyboard. I adjusted very quickly to the Brydge keyboard. Now, having said that, the first hour or so I used the Brydge, I twice hit the special Lock key on the top right, which triggers the iPad’s lock screen. I very quickly adjusted to being slightly more cautious about which key I hit when aiming for the Backspace key. Some reviewers had difficulty hitting the Shift key, since the up-arrow cursor key is just to the left of the Shift key; this wasn’t a problem for me http://www.macworld.com/article/1164210/macworld-buying-guide-ipad-keyboards.html, but I routinely type on small keyboards. Even placing the iPad with the Brydge on my lap and keyboarding, the Brydge feels solid and stable. I did find myself forgetting that I wasn’t using a laptop in that I would attempt to use the non-existent touchpad, instead of using the iPad screen. I especially like the presence of the standard Mac Control, Option and Command keys; it’s one of the reasons I like Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard so much. It’s enormously efficient to use keyboard commands for Copy and Paste while editing images, for instance. You have the image editing advantages of the iPad’s touch screen, and the advantages of the keyboard as well. The cursor keys are also extremely useful.

Speakers

The sound is surprisingly good, much better than I expected. It’s certainly more than adequate for watching videos or films, playing games or casual music listening. The angle of the iPad seems to affect the acoustics in positive ways. You can turn toggle the Brydge speakers off and on by pressing Control-B on the iPad keyboard. Pressing and holding Control-B will un-pair the speakers so you can pair another device. The speakers don’t automatically pair; you need to deliberately pair them if you intend to use them.

Battery and Charging

Once the Brydge is paired and connected with your iPad, the back of the iPad becomes the top of a clamshell. “Closing” the clamshell by lowering the iPad until it touches the Brydge keyboard works much like closing a magnetic-hinged iPad cover; the magnetic hinge on the Brydge tells the iPad to sleep. The Brydge automatically sleeps if it’s on and not being used for a few minutes. Pressing a key (and waiting a second) wakes the Brydge. Pressing Ctrl and B on the keyboard for a few seconds turns the speakers back on.

I used the Brydge and the iPad for most of my computing this past week. That includes lots of writing, not only blog posts, but email and longer pieces using several apps. The fact that the Brydge supports standard Mac keyboard commands for italics and high ASCII characters makes it easy and efficient for serious writing. I also listened to music, watched videos, and finally, had to resort to streaming music for the last two hours in order to run down the battery and see how long it took to recharge. The recharge to a full battery was a little over two hours. I absolutely believe that casual use would allow the battery to remain charged for weeks.

I am really impressed with the quality of the Brydge manufacturing and design. It feels really solid, though I would have expected a warranty longer than six months. This is by far my favorite of the portable iPad keyboards I’ve tried, and compares very favorably with a quality laptop keyboard. I’m now deeply curious about the low-end polycarbonate model; it strikes me as the perfect companion for a student using the iPad to take notes etc.

For more information, see the Brydge site, and especially, their Brydge FAQs. I’m impressed enough that I’m not only telling everyone I know to check them out, I’ve become an affiliate.

Writing on an iPad is Different

Jason Snell of Macworld and TechHive has written an interesting thoughtful essay “Why I’m writing on the iPad” about how writing using his iPad and the on-screen keyboard has changed his writing process, and, he thinks, the final text. You should go read his essay; it’s well written, and thoughtful.

I want to pick up a few specific ideas that struck a chord with me. First this bit:

I’m no Oliver Sacks, but I’d wager that I’m just not taking more time to choose my words, but I’m actually using different parts of my brain when I write this way. And not only does the actual act of writing feel different, but the end result feels different to me too.

I’m no Oliver Sacks either, but I do know a lot about the writing process, writing systems, and, through an odd neurological quirk, my own neurological text processing. I’m profoundly dyslexic and dysphonetic ( I know, I know, but by the time I discovered why writing was so hard for me, I was already a Ph.D. candidate in English). I moved to writing on a computer when my older brother told me about WordStar and started bringing home Trash-80s, Exidy Sorcerers and Apple IIs to debug code for Instant Software games.

I prefer to write on a keyboard because the letters are automatically always facing the right way, and it’s easier for me to put the correct letters in the correct order. When I write in longhand, or I print, no matter how carefully or slowly I write, I’m much more likely to put the right letters in the wrong order. It’s an entirely different kinesthetic memory for me.

But when I started taking classes in paleography and calligraphy as all good medievalists do, I noticed that the discipline required to write the letters correctly using the correct stroke order made me inclined to make far fewer errors. In my case it wasn’t a matter of speed as much as it was a matter of using different parts of my brain. And eventually, via participation in a live functional MRI scan, I discovered that at least in my case, I’m using different areas of my brain when I write with a pen on paper, when I write as a paleographer and when I keyboard.

Lately, as I’ve experimented with using a stylus (rather than a keyboard) on my iPad to write, or dictation, I’m noticing that those also affect my composition process. Dictation especially makes me inclined to write less academic and more casual prose because of my desire to avoid punctuation.

Jason Snell also notes:

The iPad also offers a remarkable lack of distractions. When I write on my Mac I find I am endlessly checking Twitter and email and my weather station’s current conditions page and anything else I can find to distract myself from the difficult task of putting one word in front of another. On the iPad, I am more focused—and when I do finally take a break to check my email, it feels like an actual break, not a distraction.

In the last several years I’ve noticed a number of smaller word processors designed for writers that feature the ability to devote the full screen to the texteditor as a way to remove distractions. WriteRoom is one of those. I suspect that that’s part of the attraction of the OS X Full Screen mode for many. But while I understand the importance of keeping a mind on task, and not being distracted by Twitter, email, or YouTube, I also know that for many writers doing something else is not so much being distracted as letting their hind brain work on writing and (especially for fiction writers, but not exclusively) figuring out what happens next.

As someone who doesn’t write fiction, I know that there are times that stepping away from the text in question and doing something unrelated, whether it’s playing a game, writing a short email or blog post, or going for a walk, or washing dishes, helps me figure out the next thing to write, or unravel a structural knot I’ve created for myself.

Which iPad Case and Keyboard Should I Get?

Image of an Adonit Writer 1 iPad keyboard and caseI’m looking for an iPad keyboard and case combination. It’s for a first generation iPad, and I’m trying to decide between the Zaggmate and the Adonit Writer for iPad 1. They’re both about the same price. Here’s the official Zaggmate page, and here’s the official Adonit Writer page. I note that the Adonit for the iPad 1 is a bit scarce, though you can still Writer for iPad 1buy the Adonit Writer for iPad 1 at Amazon.

Charlie Stross says of the Zaggmate:

If you can cope with a small keyboard with non-standard cursor keys and want a keyboard case, the Logitech/ZaggMate case wins hands-down. With the iPad in the case, its dimensions are very similar to the iPad with a standard cover. Probably not as good for sustained typing as the Apple and Targus keyboards.

But Alex Piper brought the Adonit to my attention, so now I’m looking really really hard at it. Alex notes:

My issue with the various soft Bluetooth keyboard cases was that they felt strange and mushy. My issue with the Zaggmate was that awful lip on the edge of the keyboard. Neither applies here.

The keyboard feels good and solid, at least with the use I’ve put it through so far; better than the keyboard on my real netbook (Dell mini 9), in all honesty. When you open the case, it ‘sticks’ magnetically into whatever position you’ve picked, so it stays put. The response is excellent, and if you can type on a small keyboard like an eee PC or a mini 9, you’ll have no problem with it.

This is a review of the Adonit Writer.

I want an iPad keyboard and case combo for travel purposes—or I’d just buy an Apple Bluetooth keyboard, because for someone used to typing on laptops, it’s a limousine.

And yes, I’m even open to buying Apple’s Wireless Keyboard and a separate case for the iPad and keyboard.

So: What are you using? Do you like it? What do you suggest?