Brydge made its name creating high-end keyboards for iPads, but the company just announced that it’s branching out to Microsoft’s Surface Pro models. We went hands-on with the Brydge 12.3 at CES 2017.
Brydge 12.3 Design and Build
The prototype of the 12.3-inch version we tried out at this trade show looks much like the Brydge 12.9 we recently reviewed: it attaches to one side of the computer with a pair of clips that do double duty as hinges. This converts Microsoft’s tablet into a 2-in-1 laptop. It is compatible with both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Pro 3.
UPDATE: Brydge promises that this accessory is compatible with the newly-announced Surface Pro (2017).
This add-on is 0.3 in. thick and weighs in a 1.3 lbs. We found it feels surprisingly light when held in the hand, but still solidly constructed, as its chassis is solid aluminum.
Microsoft dominates the market for Surface Pro add-on keyboards with its Type Cover, even though this accessory isn’t sold bundled with the computer. This means Brydge has offer a product superior to Microsoft’s to have a hope of succeeding. One of the ways it is attempting to stand out is by removing the need for the tablet’s kickstand, instead going with a more traditional clamshell design with 180-degree screen rotation.
Beyond that, there will be a version of the Brydge 12.3 with a built-in 128GB SSD, bringing additional storage that can be used as a back-up drive.
Keyboard and Trackpad
We typed for a while on the prototype and found it to be a similar experience to using the Brydge 12.9: the need to protect the entire front of Microsoft’s full-size tablet provides plenty of room for a large keyboard with plenty of key separation.
Like the rival Type Cover, the key area has a built-in backlight with a range of brightness levels.
The trackpad in the Brydge 12.3 is average size, and we had no issues with it in our short testing period.
Rather than using Microsoft’s smart connector, the Brydge 12.3 connects over Bluetooth 3.0. This generally doesn’t affect the typing experience, other than the accessory will go to sleep to save its internal battery if it’s not used for a few minutes.
The version with a built-in SSD hard drive connects to the tablet via USB cable, not a wireless connection.
We hope to write a full review of the Brydge 12.3 before it begins shipping this spring. Our experience with the prototype, and previous keyboards from this company, makes us hopeful it will be a serious competitor for the Microsoft Type Cover.
This product is available for pre-order now at $129.99, and the regular MSRP will be $149.99.